Website construction: the best information

Andrew Raynor

 

 

Your site needs a certain structure. Otherwise, it’ll just be a collection of pages and blog posts. Your users needs the structure to navigate through your site, to click from one page to the other. And Google uses the structure of your site in order to determine what content is important and what content is less important. In this ultimate guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about site structure.

Are you struggling with setting up your site’s structure? Don’t know exactly what the best strategy is to link from one post to another? Early december 2016, we’ll release a brand new Site structure training. After following this course, you’ll be able to manage your own site structure.

Why is site structure important?

Structuring your website is of great importance for both usability and findability. A lot of sites lack a decent structure to guide visitors to the product they’re looking for. Apart from that, having a clear site structure leads to better understanding of your site by Google, so it’s really important for your SEO. In this chapter, we’ll explain the importance of having a good site structure in detail.

1 Importance for usability

The structure of your website is of great importance for the User eXperience (UX) on your website. If visitors are able to find the products and information they’re looking for, chances increase that they’ll become customers. In other words, you should help them navigate through your shop. A good site structure will help you do that.

Navigating should be easy. You need to categorize your posts and products in a way that they will be easy to find. New audiences should be able to instantly grasp what kind of products you’re selling.

2 Importance for SEO

The structure of a website or a shop is of great importance for its chances to rank in search engines. In our opinion, there are three main reasons for this:

1. It helps Google ‘understand’ your site

The way you structure your site will give Google important clues about where to find the most important content. Your site’s structure determines whether a search engine can understand what your site is about and what you’re selling. It also determines how easily a search engine will find and index the content on certain products. A good structure could, therefore, lead to a higher ranking in Google.

2. It prevents competing with your own content

In your site, you might have blogposts that are quite alike. Perhaps you write a lot about SEO. You could have multiple blog posts about site structure (each covering a different aspect). Consequently, Google would not know which of the product pages is the most important one. So you’d be competing with your pages for a high ranking in Google. You should let Google know which page you deem most important. To do this, you need a good internal linking structure and taxonomy structure, so you can make all those pages work for you, instead of against you.

3. It deals with changes in your website

The products you sell in your shop will probably change over time. So could the content you’re writing. A new collection will be added, as the old one is sold out. Or perhaps you think the information of outdated blogpost should disappear from your site. You do not want Google to show outdated products or blogposts which are no longer available.  You’ll have to deal with these kinds of changes in the structure of your site.

How to set up the structure of your site?

So, how do you construct a decent site structure? We’ll first explain what an ideal site structure looks like and then explain to you how to achieve that for your own site.

Ideal blog structure

The structure of your site should be like a pyramid. On the top of the pyramid is your homepage, and under the homepage are a number of category pages. For larger sites, one should make subcategories or custom taxonomies (more on that later). Within the categories and subcategories you will have a number of blog posts, pages or product pages.

Read more: ‘Intelligent site structure for better SEO’ »

Dividing your pages into categories

If you’ve not yet divided the blog posts or product pages on your site into a number of categories, you should definitely do so (right away). Make sure to add these categories to the main menu of your site.

Equally large categories

Make sure that categories are about equally large. If a category becomes too large because you are blogging a lot about a certain topic, you should divide that category into two main categories. A good rule of thumb for the size of categories is to make sure that no category is more than twice the size of any other category. If you have one such category, dividing it into two separate ones would result in a more accurate reflection of the content on your website. Note that if your category name is reflected in your website’s permalink structure, you should make sure URLs are properly redirected after splitting up a category.

Internal link structure

Your linking structure is of great importance. Each page in the top of a pyramid should link to its subpages. And vice versa, all the subpages should link to the pages on top of the pyramid. There should be really important content (cornerstone articles) at the top of your pyramid, and these should be the articles you link to from all of your blog posts.

Because you’re linking from pages that are closely related to each other content-wise, you’re increasing your site’s possibility to rank. Linking this way will help out search engines by showing them what’s related and what isn’t.

On top of that, with all subpages linking to that one main page at the very top of your pyramid, you are creating cornerstone pages (read more about cornerstone content later on). These will make it easy for search engines to determine what your main pages per subject are.

How to incorporate cornerstone content[/readmore]

Your site will also benefit by adding tags. Tags and taxonomies will give your site more structure (or at least Google will understand it better).

In WordPress there are two standard ways of adding taxonomies: you can use the aforementioned categories (which will give you the pyramid-like structure) and you can use tags. The difference has to do with structure. Categories are hierarchical; you can have subcategories and sub-subcategories, whereas tags don’t have that hierarchy. Think of it like this: categories are the table of contents of your website, and tags are the index.

Try not to create too many tags. If every post or article receives yet another new unique tag, you are not structuring anything. Make sure tags are used more than once or twice. Make sure tags group articles together that really belong together.

In some WordPress themes, tags are displayed with each post. But, some themes neglect to do so. You should make sure your tags are in fact available to your visitors somewhere, preferably at the bottom of your article. Tags are really useful for your visitors (and not just for Google) to read more about the same topic.

Keep reading: ‘Tagging post properly for users and SEO’ »

Cornerstone content

Really important content pages are called cornerstone content. Cornerstone articles are the most important articles on your website. This is the content that exactly reflects your business or the mission of your business. But focusing on the field around your business could also be a fine strategy to increase your audience and potential buyers.

As we’ve discussed before, cornerstone articles should be relatively high in your site structure, focusing on the most ‘head’ and competitive keywords. If you think of four specific pages you would like someone to read in order to tell them about your site or company, these would need to be the cornerstone articles. In most cases, the homepage would link to these articles.

Websites should have a minimum of one or two cornerstone articles and a maximum of eight to ten. If you want to write more than ten cornerstone articles, you should probably start a second website.

Read on: ‘What type of content should a cornerstone article be?’ »

Category pages or tag pages could make great cornerstone ‘articles’ as well. If you want to optimize your category pages for cornerstone content, it is of great importance to provide really awesome introductory content. You should make sure that this page is a compelling overview of the subject and invites visitors to read even more articles on your sites.

Practical tips and quick wins

Your structure is dynamic. Your business might change over the years, and it makes sense your site’s structure will reflect this change. When you don’t think about your website’s structure on a regular basis, it could grow into this monstrous collection of pages. Your pages or products might not fit in your navigation anymore, and the coherence of your website is nowhere to be found.

Remove and redirect!

Lots of shops will sell a different collection of products (clothes; shoes) every season. The old products could go on sale for a while, but eventually they will be sold out. If you don’t expect to sell the exact same product again, you should remove the page. Also, if content is completely outdated, remove that page!

However, you may have had some valuable links to that exact page. You want to make sure you benefit from these links, even though the page does not exist anymore. That’s why you should redirect the URL.

Redirecting pages is not that hard. If you use WordPress, our Yoast SEO Premium plugin can help you to take care of redirects. Preferably you should redirect the URL (301) to the product that replaced the product or, if there is no replacement, a related page. That could be the category page of the specific product,  as a last resort to your homepage. This way the (outdated) page won’t interfere with your site structure anymore.

When your business goals or your website changes, your menu should probably change as well. When you start restructuring your site, making a visual presentation (like an organogram) will pay off. Start with your desired (one or two level) menu and see if you can fit in more of the pages you have created over the years. You’ll find that some pages are still valid, but don’t seem suitable for your menu anymore. No problem, just make sure to link them on related pages and in your sitemaps. This way Google and your visitors can still find these pages. Perhaps the organogram will also show you the gaps in the site structure.

Rethink your taxonomy

Creating an overview of your categories, subcategories and products or posts will also help you to reconsider your site’s taxonomy. Do your product categories and subcategories still provide a logical overview of your product portfolio? Perhaps you’ve noticed somewhere down the line that one product category has been far more successful than others.Or perhaps you wrote many blog posts about one subject and very few about the others.

If one category grows much larger than others your site’s pyramid might get off balance. Think about splitting this category into different categories. But, if some product lines tend to become much smaller than others you might want to merge them. Try to create eight to ten top level categories max to keep your site and structure focused. And don’t forget to redirect the ones you delete.

Tell Google about it

In the unlikely event you have constructed your HTML sitemap manually, update that sitemap after changing your site structure. In the likely event you have an XML sitemap, re-submit it to Google Search Console.

Read more: ‘The structure of a growing blog’ »

Duplicate content

The same content is shown on multiple locations on your site. As a reader, you don’t mind: you’ll get the content you came for. But a search engine has to pick which one to show in the search results, as it doesn’t want to show the same content twice.

Above that, when other websites link to your product, chances are some of them link to the first URL, and others link to the second URL. If these duplicates were all linking to the same URL, though your chance of ranking in the top 10 for the relevant keyword would be much higher. Joost wrote a huge article about this on our website that you should definitely read.

SEO New Hampshire

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131: Have You Been a Genuine Author In The Event That You Don’t Create Misinformation?

Andrew Raynor

Writing is a challenge regardless of whether it’s fiction or non-fiction. But can non-fiction writers successfully explore fiction? Are you really a “writer” if you never publish a novel?

131: Are You a True Writer If You Don’t Write Fiction?

When you look back through history and think about the writers we remember and quote, precious few are non-fiction authors.

This week on The Portfolio Life, Andy and I wrestle with controversial questions about the rivalry between different kinds of writers, and the enduring nature of one form over another.

Listen in as we discuss the nature of storytelling and why it makes both fiction and non-fiction more compelling to the reader.

Listen to the podcast

To listen to the show, click the player below (If you’re reading this via email, please click here).

Show highlights

In this episode, we discuss:

  • What makes writing powerful
  • How to write words that endure
  • The dynamic between humor, facts, and stories
  • Where some of the best stories come from
  • Two dangerous voices to listen to when you’re approaching something new
  • Becoming a better storyteller whether or not you author a novel

Quotes and takeaways

  • What makes fiction so interesting is the complexity and challenge of writing it.
  • No. You don’t have to write fiction to be a great writer. But… you do have to be able to tell stories.” —Joel J. Miller
  • A story, if it’s told well and right, immediately connects with people.
  • If you want to hold people’s attention, you have to harness the skill of storytelling.
  • Just because you’ve always done something, doesn’t mean you have to keep doing it.
  • Pay your dues without staying stuck wherever you are.

Resources

Do you think non-fiction writers can write fiction? Are you really a writer if you only write non-fiction? Share in the comments

Click here to download a PDF of the full transcript or scroll down to read it below.

[INTRODUCTION]

[00:00:19.9] AT: Welcome to The Portfolio Life Podcast with Jeff Goins. I’m your host, Andy Traub, and Jeff believes that every creative should live a portfolio life; a life full of pursuing work that matters, making the difference with your art and discovering your true voice. Jeff is committed to helping you find, develop, and live out your unique world view so that you too can live a portfolio life.

Writing is difficult whether it’s fiction or non-fiction. That’s not under debate. Today, Jeff and I discuss and wrestle with some more difficult questions. “Can non-fiction authors write fiction?” And, “Are you really a writer if you only write non-fiction?” These are the controversial questions, let’s see how controversial the answers are.

Here is my conversation with Jeff Goins.

[EPISODE]

[00:01:16.5] AT: So, I’m going to be difficult on you today Jeff Goins, because this is a difficult question and the question is this: Can non-fiction writers automatically switch over and write fiction?

[00:01:28.5] JG: Can they? I don’t know that any non-fiction writer can necessarily just pick up and write fiction. Should they? Maybe. I think what makes fiction so interesting is the complexities of it and the challenge of writing it and this is a challenge that I’ve undertaken recently, based on conversation that I had with a friend of mine, I don’t know maybe a year ago? Joel Miller is a great writer and editor, one of those few remaining lovers of the craft of writing.

You know, with the world today and the ability to build a platform and become an instant expert and publish a book, I think there are fewer and fewer people who just love the craft of writing and Joel is one of those people that has an affinity for great books and great writers and at the same time understands the challenges and demands of the market place. Anyway, I was having one of these crisis of identity where I was wondering which of my words were going to endure for eternity and it was like that movie Genius. Have you seen that movie? It’s about an editor.

[00:02:39.8] AT: I haven’t. I’ll make sure we link to it in the show notes. You’re talking about — it came up pretty recently like 2016.

[00:02:45.5] JG: Yeah, Colin Firth and Jude Law. Colin Firth plays this guy named Maxwell Perkins who, there’s a book about it called Editor of Genius and it’s about this guy, Max Perkins, who edited all these great writers including Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe and the movie is about his relationship with Tom Wolfe and how he published the next promising writer after Hemingway and after Fitzgerald.

And Wolfe and Fitzgerald end up meeting through Max Perkins, and they had this conversation where Tom is probably in his mid to late 20’s and Fitzgerald is approaching 40 probably and Tom Wolfe is basically talking about how he’s really, really concerned about creating enduring literature, writing books that will be here and will be read a hundred years from now and Fitzgerald, who’s his elder at this point says, “Yeah, I remember that. I remember worrying about my legacy and which of my words are going to endure a hundred years from now and I don’t worry about that anymore. These days, I just worry about trying to write one good sentence.”

And I love that scene because the Tom Wolfe character really spoke to what I was feeling when I talk to Joel, which is ego I think. Like, I want my writing to endure. I want to be a great writer. I want to be remembered and so I was having this conversation with Joel because he just tells it to you straight and I said, “You know, I really want to be a great writer and I don’t know that I am there yet.” I’m not there but I am willing to do the work and as I look back on the past hundred or two hundred years of great writers, the people whom we quote and remember, there’s not many non-fiction writers.

I can’t really think of any. There are a few bestselling non-fiction books that have stood the test of time bit most of them are fiction or they’re based on real life events like Moby Dick, but then they’re fictionalized into some great story. And so I asked in earnest, “Can you be a great writer without writing fiction?”

[00:05:09.7] AT: So actually saying that — that’s a gutsy thing to ask. That’s like saying, “Am I a good husband?” Right? So you asked this person who you deeply trust because I believed he worked with a publisher for a time so he’s seen enough fiction and non-fiction that you felt like you could actually sufficiently answer the question, “Are you a true writer if you don’t write fiction?”

[00:05:34.7] JG: Yeah and really what I was asking is that “Am I a true writer?” Because I don’t know fiction, do I have any hope of being a great writer?” and the truth is I have heard this from people who read my blog or ran to people on Facebook or whatever saying, “You’re not a real writer. Where are your novels?” For a lot of people…

[00:05:53.5] AT: Wow.

[00:05:54.5] JG: Because the fiction market is so big and writing fiction I think is really hard, and we can get more into that. Like if you don’t do this, I mean are you a real writer and again, if you look back at history, I had to wonder the same thing. So I asked Joel. I said, “Can you be a great writer without writing fiction? In other words, do you have to write fiction to be great?”, was what I wanted to know and he said, “No, you don’t have to write fiction to be a great writer but…”

[00:06:23.1] AT: I was waiting, yeah, waiting for that.

[00:06:24.7] JG: “But, you do have to be able to tell stories,” and that really challenged me and I think that’s true. I think that what makes writing powerful and I’m talking about transformational, change your life kind of stuff is it’s often either driven by a story or supported by a story or the writing itself is entirely just one long narrative and stories connect with and entertain and inspire us in ways that I don’t believe any other medium, any other piece of content does.

Jokes are great, facts are fine, statistics can be motivational. But a story, if it’s told well and right, immediately connects with people. So if you want to be a great writer, if you just want to hold people’s attention, I do think you have to harness the skill of storytelling and then what you do with it from there is up to you. And so taking that challenge from Joel, I decided, “Okay, I want to become a better storyteller, whether or not I ever write a novel and where are some of the best stories in the world come from?” Well they come from novels, they come from fiction. They come from the world of fiction and so I decided, “Okay, I want to figure this out so I am going to write a novel.”

[00:07:49.2] AT: Wow so when you think back to reading books in school, not that schools and the books they choose are the be-all-end-all of literature, but did you read any non-fiction books in school. Like were you assigned? I mean other than your text books, I’m just thinking of literature classes. I don’t remember any non-fiction books.

[00:08:08.7] JG: Right, yeah of course. Yeah I mean because literature is typically considered fiction, you know?

[00:08:16.5] AT: It’s just fascinating to me. I just was thinking like, “Oh what about that great…” wait a minute, they never legitimized non-fiction as actual good writing.

[00:08:25.6] JG: Yeah and I mean there are some books that are non-fiction that have stood the test of time like The Prince by Machiavelli, which is not necessarily an entertaining read. It’s just a list of rules and principles on politics and power. The same thing with Sun Tzu’s, The Art of War and then there are historical documents and histories of the rise and fall of the Roman Empire and you’ve got some non-fiction that has stuck around for a long, long time. But for the past few hundred years, writers have communicated deep and profound and important truths through the novel.

Click here to download a PDF of the full transcript.

[00:09:15.9] AT: All right, so do you feel like you could be a great writer if you can’t write fiction?

[00:09:20.4] JG: I don’t know, and because I don’t know that sort of unnerves me and maybe I don’t need to be a great writer for me to fulfill my calling, I don’t know? But it scares me enough, like trying it scares me enough that I feel like it’s something that I need to lean into and I think, “Well, worst case scenario, I’m going to be able to tell better stories.”

[00:09:43.8] AT: Yeah so maybe you don’t become a great fiction writer but along the way you learn at least the craft of storytelling a little better.

[00:09:53.7] JG: Yeah, I think a lot better. Because I think what it takes to hold the reader’s attention with a novel is incredibly useful for speaking, podcasting, blogging and certainly for writing. The kind of non-fiction books I read, I mean I have always loved stories. So this is in a departure in that sense, I love stories, I love telling real life stories from my own life and for the longest time, I thought to be a fiction writer, you had to dream up worlds and be like J.R. Tolkien, invent languages and have maps and I don’t think that way. I’m kind of a realist. I love those stories, I love fantasy, I love science fiction but the idea of making something up and people going, “Yeah that could probably happen in an alternate world.” I just don’t feel competent and confident if I could do that.

[00:10:43.3] AT: But who does? Who’s like, “You know I am really excited about NaNoWriMo because I’m looking to create a new language and new world.”

[00:10:51.5] JG: Well I think some people geek out on that, I really do.

[00:10:54.2] AT: I know but how many people are you going to meet where like, “Do you want to do National Novel Writing Month?” And you’re like, “Gosh I don’t know. It sounds pretty intimidating.” “Well, to actually qualify to be a part of NaNoWriMo, you need to actually create a new language.” I mean, we create these pictures of like, “Can I have 38 characters?” There’s all different levels of fiction. There’s so many books that have beautiful, powerful works of fiction that have three or four characters not 412 with names and languages you make up like Tolkien or whatever, right?

[00:11:26.0] JG: Right. Yeah and so the kind of fiction that felt approachable for me is basically realistic true life drama that’s based on real life events and then fictionalizing pieces of it and if you turn this into a novel, the technical term is a roman à clef and there are lots of books that were basically based on true life experiences and then the authors changed them. Changed names, certain parts of the events or whatever to protect the innocent or whatever and then use that story to communicate whatever their message or argument was.

That felt doable to me. Creating a world, not so much. But taking bits and pieces from my life or things that I have heard that other people went through and just piecing that together in a story based on what I understand the story to be at this point, that felt doable and lots of writers have done this. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway was a roman à clef. It was based on this trip that he and his friends took to Spain to go watch the running of the bulls in Pamplona and he just changed people’s names and changed some of the details. But it was so closely based on the truth that a lot of his friends that went on that trip with him stopped being his friend after the book was published.

[00:12:50.5] AT: Whoa, really?

[00:12:51.4] JG: Yeah.

[00:12:52.1] AT: He was too honest about their faults or?

[00:12:55.1] JG: Yeah or he painted them in a bad light that they didn’t feel like they deserved.

[00:12:58.5] AT: Yeah.

[00:12:59.4] JG: Yeah, I mean when everybody is…

[00:13:00.2] AT: Whoa, whoa, whoa, are you going to do that to me?

[00:13:02.8] JG: Maybe.

[00:13:03.6] AT: That’s going to be fascinating. That is going to be awesome. I am looking forward to living a different life through your writing. So Jeff, what’s fear telling you about this experiment, this adventure, this work? For those who are listening, you’re wondering, “Okay, this is interesting for Jeff, but what could go wrong?” So the question is, what could go wrong?

[00:13:29.5] JG: Well, you know, what’s interesting about that is I’ve gotten a couple of responses from people and one was like, “You can’t do this,” you know? Either implied or explicitly stated like, “You just can’t do this,” and I was watching this TV Show recently where these two brothers are both lawyers. One is a very legitimate lawyer. He’s been practicing law, graduated from Harvard or something and has all these credentials and the other brother just went and got his law degree online and is not as black and white in terms of ethics.

The older brother tells the younger brother, “You’re not a real lawyer because you haven’t done what I did the way that I did it and so you’re never going to make partner at this firm, you’re never going to practice real law. You’re not a real lawyer.” Because in his mind, this was the younger brother who was always a screw up and the younger brother was actually starting to succeed and yeah, it probably threatened the older brother, I don’t know?

I watched and I thought, “Well this is interesting,” and how often do we find ourselves in this position in life on both sides where somebody who’s further along says, “You can’t do this because you don’t work as hard on me and it’s going to take just as long for you as it did for me.” Or we find ourselves and I find myself in the position of being the older brother sometimes telling new writers, “Oh, you know, it’s going to take you five years and eight blogs just like it took me so get ready to pay your dues.”

And the truth is sometimes it doesn’t work that way but I’ve gotten that voice where again, either implied or explicitly stated, “Hey this isn’t really your thing. You are the non-fiction guy” or the opposite which is, “You can totally do this,” and I have several friends who are encouraging me and I find that there are two dangerous voices to listen to that will be tempting you. Both of which you need to sort of avoid. These are two different sirens in approaching any new thing and certainly approaching fiction if you’re just a non-fiction writer like me.

I think the two dangerous voices anytime you’re approaching something new are, one, “I could do this. This is going to be easy. If so and so can do this, I’m going to kill it. In fact, I’m going to do it faster and better than all of these others.”

[00:15:56.3] AT: Than it’s ever been done before.

[00:15:59.0] JG: Yeah like, “All of these people are wrong and they don’t know what I know and they’re not gifted. I’m gifted.”

[00:16:06.4] AT: Just to be clear, if you have just started listening to the episode right now, Jeff is not actually saying it and believe in what he’s saying, you know?

[00:16:13.0] JG: Well to be honest, there is that voice in my head that goes, “Yeah but those rules don’t apply to you. That’s for everybody else,” and then on the other side it’s, “I can’t do this new thing because I’ve always done that thing. I can’t write fiction because I have always written non-fiction.” I can’t write non-fiction because I’ve always written fiction and I think both of those are dangerous voices because just because you’ve always done something doesn’t mean you have to keep doing it.

Your past doesn’t define your future. I recently ran a half marathon with a couple of friends, John Acuff and Grant Baldwin, and we were all training together, sharing our best times and then I got hurt about half way through the training and I stopped running because I was either train up to the race and maybe not being able to run the race because I hurt my leg, or stopped training and just hope that you’re in good enough shape to run the race once the race approaches and then run it then.

So I basically took a month and a half off before the race and then started training the last few days before the race and spent most of that training time indulging in Netflix and pizza, which I thought was a solid training regimen. I even joked about it on Twitter.

[00:17:33.7] AT: I remember that.

[00:17:34.2] JG: And was being sort of self-effacing but the truth is, there was a voice in my head that says, “You’re going to be fine. Just because all of these other people actually train, you’re going to be able to stay on pace with them,” and that’s what I believed with Grant and John. We both started out at the same pace and we were going to run the whole race together and we had this goal and mile three, every inch of my body was burning. It was not working because I didn’t train. I didn’t pay my dues.

And so there is a reality that if everybody who’s done this thing that you want to do, if they’re saying, “This is going to be hard and this is what it takes,” it’s worth listening and going, “Okay what don’t I know?” Yes, it’s probably true that dumber people then you have done this but it’s also true that smarter people have struggled through this and if they struggled, how much more are you going to struggle and so listening to those voices I think is important in terms of learning how to practice.

And on the other hand, if somebody is going, “Well you can’t do this because I paid my dues 20 years ago and this just isn’t going to work for you and you just need to go back to doing such and such,” — I have a friend who wrote a novel and shared it with a friend of his who had written lots of great books and knew the industry really well and he said, to my friend, he said, “Yeah, this isn’t your thing. Just stop. This isn’t going to work,” and I mean this really upset my friend.

He went into this six month tail spin going, “Should I not do this? Does this mean I’m wrong?” and finally, he came out of it and said, “Screw him! I’m going to try. I’m going to show him,” and so I think those are the two voices that “because you have always done something else you can’t do this”. Don’t listen to that, and at the same time, “those rules don’t apply to me”, that’s the other voice, neither of those are healthy voices. I think you do need to pay your dues without staying stuck and wherever you are. At the same time, learn from the people who have gone before you.

And so for me, with this project I was so stressed because it had to be great and I had lunch with a friend telling him about this and I said, “Man, I’m so scared” And he goes, “Why?” And I was like, “Well, because I am the non-fiction guy.” He’s like, “Whatever, you can do whatever you want man,” and I realized that some people might be going, “Whoa, this is crazy.” Other people are going, “Yeah, it’s just fiction. It’s not a big deal just tell a story.”

I realized my goal here is not to become the next Hemingway. My goal here is to have fun and to learn and to grow. Those are my goals, it’s to do something enjoy the process, learn a new skill through the experience and because it’s challenging, I know that I am going to grow as a writer through it even if it means I never write another piece of fiction for the rest of my life and so, those are the reasons I am doing it and when I put those in the right terms, it takes a lot of pressure off.

[00:20:43.2] AT: Yeah and I mean this in the nicest way possible, but I am looking forward to seeing what happens and I really don’t know what’s going to happen but I’m confident that you’ll tell us what happens. We’ll talk about it here on the show. I’m sure we’ll read about it at goinswriter.com. That will probably make a great medium post as well, you know? And I look forward to hearing more about it and appreciate your time today.

[00:21:09.8] JG: Yeah man, thanks.

[END OF EPISODE]

Andrew Raynor

Yoast

Andrew Raynor

 

 

It’s high time for a new release of our SEO plugins. Since moving to a two-week release schedule, we’ve fixed more bugs than ever and added some awesome new features. With version 3.9, we are gearing up for the big four-oh. In that last release of this year, we will add something remarkable.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Right now, we’re talking about Yoast SEO 3.9 and the changes and enhancements it brings. So, let’s get right to it, ok?

Yoast SEO 3.9

If you use the free version of Yoast SEO, then the first things you’ll notice are the new banners. These are slightly less annoying, while still informing you of our premium products. Besides that, we’ve moved the reload button for Google Search Console from the header. It is now easier to find and use.

We’ve made it possible for other plugins and themes to add HTML namespaces, via the wpseo_html_namespace filter. By doing so, we’ve also made sure to prevent conflicts with other plugins and themes that also add HTML namespaces.

Yoast SEO 3.9 Premium received the same updates and fixes as the regular one, plus a better title update in the social preview section.

Video SEO 3.9

The Video plugin also received some great updates. We’ve added support for traditional Wistia video URL’s and embed codes. To use this, it is recommended to re-index your video’s. There’s now a fallback for the detail retrieval of private Vimeo video’s, so they will be recognized. The plugin now recognizes //player.vimeo.com/… type URL’s. Force a re-index to use it on existing posts.

Local SEO 3.9

Our Local SEO plugin is undergoing some changes as well. The import function has been overhauled, and there is a new export for Yoast Local SEO locations. You can also find a second address line for business addresses that you can use for room numbers or floors, for instance.

Yoast SEO 4.0

In December, we’ll be releasing version 4.0 of Yoast SEO. This release will come with a genuinely awesome new feature for Premium. We can’t tell you too much about it. However, it is something a lot of you will find extremely valuable. Just a few more weeks…

SEO New Hampshire

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Dark Friday, Monday Internet, and What

Andrew Raynor

Spoiler alert: There’s a Cyber Monday deal in here that will probably go fast. So if you want it, click here to find out more.

We just finished up a retreat with the team where I told everyone our goal for next year:

“I want to help more writers and creatives succeed.”

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and What Really Matters

Not make more money, sell more courses, or even reach more people. I want to take the influence we already have – the students in our courses, the people who come to our events, and the readers of my books – and actually help them.

You see, it’s easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of business and start optimizing for your own success. To sell more books, make more money, reach more people. Fame is a drug, and the more of it you get, the more you need. I know that from personal experience. But like any drug, after a while you start to wonder if this is actually any good for you – and if it’s making you any happier.

So I don’t want to optimize for my success. That’s not what business, and certainly not what art, should be about. The gifts we have to offer the world – whether they’re courses, books, or just our ideas – are not meant to be hoarded. They’re meant to be shared.

My goal is to help more people. Sure, I have a business to run and a family to support, and people tend to take things that they pay for more seriously than things they get for free. But I’m no longer interested in just selling more widgets. I don’t want to optimize for my success; I want to optimize for yours.

So that’s my commitment to you on this day of consumption that ironically follows a day of thanks. I want to help you reach your next breakthrough.

One way I know how to do that is to make hard things simple, and one of the hardest things writers face is setting up their blog and using it to grow an email list. This is the one of the very first steps that all the other steps point back to, but it can be a lot of work and scary if you aren’t very tech savvy.

So… I’ve decided to create an easy button for writers and creatives who want the fastest way to launch a professional blog. For this Cyber Monday, I’m offering 100 – yes, only 100 – doorbuster deals on a bundle that will include everything you need to get started blogging.

Why only 100? Because I am confident we can get 100 started blogging, building an email list, and headed in the right direction. I don’t know that we can do that with 200 or 500 or 1000 people. So we’re cutting it off at 100.

Here’s what you get:

1. Tribe Theme: A WordPress Theme for Writers

Tribe Theme is a shortcut for writers who want to have a sharp website. Basically, it allows you to have a website that looks like mine because I use Tribe Theme too. Tribe Theme is easy to install, it looks great, and it allows you to have a website controlled by simple buttons instead of complicated code.

Retail value: $200

2. Blog Launch Live Workshop

On December 13, 2016, I’ll be hosting a live online masterclass where I’ll show you how to set up a great looking website. I’ll teach you how Tribe Theme works and show you how to make your blog professional and fun to read. Instead of struggling through this stuff on your own, we can do it together with live Q&A! We’ll be recording this in case you miss the live event.

Retail value: $100

3. Intentional Blog Course

In this course, I teach you how to grow an email list using your blog. This may not sound sexy, but it’s absolutely wonderful because it empowers you to have get published and paid for your writing. You don’t need to hope for a publisher to pick you anymore. You just need to show that people crave your writing. Blogging is the secret. I’ll show you how to get your blog humming in 30 days.

Retail value: $300

4. Rapid List Builder Course

In this course, my friend Bryan Harris teaches you everything you need to know to start growing your email list from 0 to 1000 people. He is the smartest guy on list-building that I know and someone I have personally hired to coach me in growing my own email list. This course will get you headed in the right direction.

Retail value: $350

5. ConvertKit

The power of Infusionsoft but the simplicity of MailChimp. ConvertKit is the hottest new tool to automate and monetize your email list. You get 1 month of ConvertKit for FREE.

Retail value: $29

Here’s the deal

The bundle is worth $1,328, but as a Cyber Monday special, 100 people get it for almost 80% off. You can get the entire blog launch bundle for $297 or three payments of $117.

If you’ve been procrastinating on launching your blog because it sounds hard, this is your easy button. Design a great looking blog with me there to help you for over half off the normal price.

We have 100 bundles available. Only 100. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. After that, everything goes back to full price.

Claim your blog launch bundle here.

BONUS: The Art of Speaking

Speaking is a great way to get paid as a writer. Wouldn’t it be cool if someone would pay you $1000 to give a speech? Learn how to create your first speech and find your first paid gig in this online video course by Grant Baldwin.

Retail value: $349

Andrew Raynor

Request Yoast: Copy information on LinkedIn Heartbeat

Andrew Raynor

 

 

Social media is not only an important part of your marketing strategy, but it’s important for your SEO strategy as well. LinkedIn publishing platform Pulse is one of the many content publishing platforms out there. You can read stories and news from other publishers, and you can publish your own content. But could you publish the same blog post on Pulse, as the one you post on your own site? Or should you post an excerpt and link back to your site? Does Google consider content on Pulse as duplicate content? Joost will answer this question in this Ask Yoast.

Guy Andefors from Stockholm in Sweden emailed us the following question:

“Can we safely republish an entire blog post on Pulse or should we post an excerpt and link back to our site?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

LinkedIn Pulse

Read the transcript of the video here:

To be honest, if you post your own blog post first, make sure that it’s indexed in Google and then post it on Pulse with a link underneath the posting: “This post originally appeared on…” linking back to your blog post. If you do this, you should be okay.

It’s not rel=canonical, but Google is smart enough to understand most of that and work its way through, so you should be okay. It might still rank the LinkedIn one higher, if your own domain is not that strong, because it might think that it actually gets a better interaction on LinkedIn. If that’s the case you should think about maybe using excerpts, but try it a bit, see how it works for you. It really depends on how strong your own domain is and on what you want to achieve. If it works on LinkedIn, maybe leave it on LinkedIn and then make people click from LinkedIn to your site. That’s just as good for you, if it works. 

Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we do our best to answer your SEO question! Need some help with your site’s SEO? Send your question to ask@yoast.com. You might get a personal answer on video!

Read more: ‘DIY: Duplicate content check’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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Nearby company entries with JSON LD and Schema.org

Andrew Raynor

 

 

One of the things you can do to present your local business better in search results is Schema.org data for rich snippets. By adding structured data to your site, you can help search engines understand what your business is about and how it performs. For this reason, you have to add your NAP details, a map to your store/location, reviews, and images. Find out how it all starts with Schema.org.

Modern day customers use search engines not just to find your specific business, but also businesses around their current location. Customers using their phones looking for ‘italian restaurants’, will get a rich search result of local businesses. The results will include distance, reviews, opening hours and maybe a possibility to make a reservation.

Local SEO for WordPress

Before we dive into the world of Schema.org, we’d like to remind you that our Local SEO for WordPress plugin does all of this. If you don’t want to mess with the technical side of things or if you think it’s too difficult, then this is the plugin for you. It’s easy to install, easy to work with and keeps you from having to add code yourself. It is actively developed and will get many more features in the near future.

Improve local rankings

Getting a good ranking for your local business means offering search engines as much data about your business as possible. Besides that, you need a good mobile-friendly website, quality content, links, and reviews.

To improve your rankings, you should focus on being the most relevant result for a specific query. In addition to that, your business has to be the best result. One way of getting this kind of recognition is by asking your customers for reviews. Reviews help search engines figure out which business is legit and which isn’t.

Why Schema.org

The main thing to remember is that Schema.org tells search engines what your data means, not just what it reads. Search engines can find out a lot about your site by crawling it. However, if you add structured data, you can give everything meaning. This way, search engines instantly grasp what the data means and how they should present it. In addition to that, Schema.org is a shared initiative by the big search engines, so using it will lead to consistent results in the respective search engines.

Rich search results for businesses

So, when we mean rich search results, we are talking about the information about a business you can directly see in search results, without clicking a link. There are a couple of different results here: a regular organic search result for a business can feature breadcrumbs, highlighted pages or even a search box. In Google, there’s also the Knowledge Panel on the right-hand side. Here you’ll find lots of metadata about a business, from opening hours to photos. Last but not least, the results you see when you search for a specific term, rather than a business. See the screenshots below for the different results you can get for a specific or generic search.

local listings 1

Searching for a specific business

local-listings-2

Searching for a specific business, including location

local-listings-3

Looking for a local business using a specific term

Why you should use JSON-LD

To get rich results, you need to use structured data in the form of Schema.org. In the past, it was fairly difficult to add Schema.org data to your post, because it had to be embedded in your HTML code. Now, with the advent of JSON-LD, you just have to add a block of JavaScript code anywhere on your page. Plus, the code is readable and easy to change.

With JSON-LD you don’t have code wrapping around your HTML elements anymore, with less possibility of messing things up. In addition to that, Google advises you to use it. Now, let’s see how it’s done.

How to add Schema.org to your local business listing

The most important thing to keep in mind when you are working on your listing is to pick the correct business type. Make sure to pick a specific one, not a broad one. So if you own a barber shop, you can use the Local Business Type Hair Salon. There are over 400 types of businesses, so you’ll probably find one that matches closely. If not, try using the product types ontology. This site uses Wikipedia pages for describing products or services with GoodRelations and Schema.org. Here, you can get more specific information if your listing is too broad.

While it’s possible to write Schema.org JSON-LD code by hand, it’s not recommended. Use a generator like this JSON-LD Schema Generator or Google’s Structured Data Helper. Always validate your Schema.org data in the Structured Data Test Tool. Using Synup’s Schema Scanner, you can check your site to see if the Schema.org data is implemented correctly. Don’t forget to add your site to Search Console, so you can check how Google presents your site.

Required properties for local businesses

There’s one main Schema.org at play here: Schema.org/LocalBusiness. In this Schema.org, you’ll find everything you need to inform search engines about your local business. To get started, you need at least the following properties:

  • @id (globally unique id of the specific business in the form of a URL)
  • name of business
  • image (as of now, you have to supply a logo)
  • address
    • address.streetAddress
    • address.addressLocality
    • address.addressRegion
    • address.postalCode
    • address.addressCountry

Recommended properties

The properties mentioned in the previous paragraph don’t get you very far, though. To make the most of structured data for your site, you need to go further. Be sure to add the following properties as well, if applicable. This is just the beginning, on Schema.org/LocalBusiness you’ll find loads more.

  • url (unlike the @id, should be a working link)
  •  geo
    • geo.latitude
    • geo.longitude
  • telephone
  • potentialAction
    • ReserveAction
    • OrderAction
  • openingHoursSpecification
    • openingHoursSpecification,opens
    • openingHoursSpecification.closes
    • openingHoursSpecification.dayOfWeek
    • openingHoursSpecification.validFrom
    • openingHoursSpecification.validThrough
  • menu
  • acceptsReservations (true/false)
  • priceRange (how many $?)

Example code for local business Schema.org

To clarify how all of this works, we will use a real local business: Unique Vintage in Burbank, CA. This makes it a bit easier to validate the data we enter. In the code below, you’ll find all the NAP details, URL’s, geolocation data, maps, opening hours and reviews you might need.

<script type='application/ld+json'> 
{
   "@context": "http://www.schema.org",
   "@type": "ClothingStore",
   "@id": "http://unique-vintage.example.com",
   "name": "Unique Vintage",
   "url": "http://www.unique-vintage.com",
   "logo": "http://www.unique-vintage.com/example_logo.jpg",
   "image": "http://www.unique-vintage.com/example_image.jpg",
   "description": "Clothing store featuring vintage-inspired women's separates & dresses plus men's shirts & hats.",
   "telephone": " +1 818-848-1540",
   "address": {
    "@type": "PostalAddress",
    "streetAddress": "2011 W Magnolia Blvd",
    "addressLocality": "Burbank",
    "addressRegion": "CA",
    "postalCode": "91506",
    "addressCountry": "USA"
      },
 "geo": {
   "@type": "GeoCoordinates",
    "latitude": "34.1736486",
    "longitude": "-118.332408"
      },
   "hasMap": "https://www.google.nl/maps/place/Unique+Vintage/@34.1736486,-118.332408,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x47a3a037cf1e183b!8m2!3d34.173649!4d-118.3302131",
   "openingHours": "Mo, Tu, We, Th, Fr 11:00-19:00 Sa 10:00-18:00 Su 12:00-17:00",
   "priceRange": "$$",
   "aggregateRating": {
   "@type": "AggregateRating",
     "ratingValue": "4",
     "reviewCount": "250"
  }
}
 </script>

Reviews

Reviews are a major driver for new clientele. Scoring well in Google means your business provides quality, and this can eventually lead to better local rankings. Think about how you pick the next business to visit. Will it be the one with three two star reviews or the one with eighty five star reviews?

In the example above, we’ve added a review section. If you want to use reviews in your Schema.org data, you have to keep in mind that these reviews have to live on your site. You cannot use sites like Yelp or TripAdvisor to generate reviews to show in the search engines. Simply ask your customers to leave a review. Make a review page, collect the reviews and present them to the world.

Social

Another element to add to complete your online profile, are links to your social media accounts. To do this, you must specify an organization or a person. The URL has to lead to your main site, while the sameAs links lead to your social media profiles.

<script type="application/ld+json">
{
 "@context": "http://schema.org",
 "@type": "Organization",
 "name": "Example shop",
 "url": "http://www.exampleshop.com",
 "sameAs": [
 "http://www.facebook.com/exampleshop",
 "http://instagram.com/exampleshop",
 "http://twitter.com/exampleshop"
 ]
}
</script>

Place Action

Google is currently working on an interesting new feature for local businesses, especially for local searches: direct actions from the search results. If you have a restaurant or a hair salon, you can use it to book an appointment or reserve a seat. Shortly, you can use reserveAction or orderAction to trigger this event. Eventually, you’ll see a nice call-to-action in your rich results that let customers contact you directly. Google is working with a small number of businesses to develop this.

Google My Business

There is another way to add your local business to Google. By opening a Google My Business account, you will be able to verify that you are in fact the owner of your business. After that, you can add or edit all relevant information about your business, such as address information, opening hours and photos. In addition to that, you can even manage the reviews people add to Google and see how your local listing performs.

Conversely, this only applies to Google. Every search engine can interpret Schema.org, so it is still advisable to add structured data to your site. Additionally, Schema.org can do so much more than just add relevant local business locations. Therefore, Schema.org should be your main focus.

In spite of all this, you’re still very much in Google’s hands. Some businesses appear in the Knowledge Panel, while others don’t. Some products get rich listings, including prices, reviews and availability, in the search results, while the same product from a different vendor doesn’t. It’s hard to predict what will happen. However, don’t let this stop you.

Structured data for your local business

As we’ve shown, Schema.org can play an important part in the optimization of your site and in your SEO strategy. Structured data can do much more, just look at all those properties on Schema.org. We’ll keep an eye on what structured data can do for your site and keep you in the loop!

And don’t forget, if you want an easier way to add your local business data to your pages, than you should check out our Local SEO for WordPress plugin.

Read more: ‘New plugin: Local SEO for WooCommerce’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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Request Yoast: just how many (inner) links on the site?

Andrew Raynor

 

 

Links are valuable for search engines. Therefore, it’s important to understand how Google and other search engines use links. They use the number of links pointing to a webpage to determine how important that page is. Not only external links could help in the ranking of a page in Google, but the internal links could help as well. In this Ask Yoast, Joost explains how many links per page you should have and which one should be nofollowed.

In this Ask Yoast we answer this anonymous question:

“Internal links: How many links per page should I have? And which one should be nofollowed?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

Internal links

Read this transcript to learn how you’ll benefit from using internal links.

“Well, how many links per page is always a weird question. As long as your links are useful for your users, it’s okay. There used to be a rule of no more than 100 links on a page in the Google Webmaster Guidelines, they’ve removed that rule though. 100 links might seem like a lot if your site is a content site. But if you look at very long Wikipedia articles, they might have 300-400 URLs in there, linking to other articles and all those links are useful. So, if your links are useful like that, by all means, have them on the page.

Which links should you nofollow? As a general rule, we don’t nofollow anything other than links where a bot can’t really do anything. So, we normally nofollow login links and links to admin areas where Google can’t get into. But other than that, I would not nofollow anything.

Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from followers! Need help with SEO? Let us help you out! Send your question to ask@yoast.com.

Read more: ‘Using cornerstone content to make your site rank’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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SEO fundamentals: What’s SEO?

Andrew Raynor

 

 

SEO is the acronym for Search Engine Optimization. It’s the practice of optimizing websites to make them reach a high position in Google’s – or another search engine’s – search results. SEO focuses on rankings in the organic (non-paid) search results. In this post, I’ll answer the question “What is SEO?” and I’ll explain how we perform SEO at Yoast.

Google’s algorithm

In order to make web pages appear in high positions in the search results, SEO tries to shape a website according to Google’s algorithm. Although Google’s algorithm remains secret, over a decade of experience in SEO has resulted in a pretty good idea about the important factors.

Read more: ‘What does Google do?’ »

In our view, the factors in Google’s algorithm can be divided into two categories, which determine the ranking of your website together:

1 On-page SEO factors

On-page SEO factors are all the things you can influence on your own website. All kinds of technical aspects of your website are important for the chances of your website to rank in the search engines. WordPress actually is a rather SEO-friendly platform. Combined with our Yoast SEO plugin, most technical challenges are covered.

The structure of your website, your site speed and the content of your site are other important on-page SEO factors. Just browse through the different categories of our SEO blog to find all those important on-page ranking factors.

2 Off-page SEO factors

Next to on-page SEO factors, there are off-page SEO factors. These off-page SEO factors are a bit more difficult to influence, though. The most important off-page factor are the links to your site. The more (relevant) sites link to your website, the higher your ranking in Google will be.

Keep reading: ‘Link building from a holistic SEO perspective’ »

Another off-page factor is the competition or the niche of your specific website. In some niches, it is much harder to rank, than in other niches. The competitiveness of your market therefore also has a large influence on your chances to rank.

Yoast on “What is SEO?”

At Yoast, we believe in what we call holistic SEO. SEO should never be a trick. It should be a sustainable long-term strategy. Using tricks in order to fit Google’s algorithm only works in the short run. Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Google wants to show their users the best result for a specific keyword. If you want to rank for that keyword, you should simply try to be the best result.

Be the best result!

Being the best result means focusing on technical excellence, great User Experience, flawless website security, and really awesome content. You should focus on all the aspects of website optimization in order to be the best result. That’s what our holistic SEO strategy is all about!

Read on: ‘10 tips for an awesome and SEO-friendly blogpost’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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130 Running From Your Tale: Meeting with

Andrew Raynor

Everybody has an origin story. The heroes and villains of your favorite novels have one. And so do you. But perhaps it’s not the same story you’re telling to the world.

130: Stop Running Away From Your Story: Interview with John O’Leary

This week on The Portfolio Life, John O’Leary and I talk about a defining moment when an explosion launched John 20 feet across his garage with third degree burns covering almost 90% of his body.

Listen in as we discuss how John ran from this story for three decades until it finally caught up with him.

Listen to the podcast

To listen to the show, click the player below (If you’re reading this via email, please click here).

Show highlights

In this episode, John and I discuss:

  • Trying to live a normal childhood after the explosion
  • How his parents sold 75,000 copies of an unauthorized biography
  • John’s first speaking invitation from a few girl scouts
  • The ultimate question to ask about your book, speech, or blog
  • Why vulnerability disarms people
  • Who we always look for in our third grade class photo
  • Using story to build bridges

Quotes

  • “We frequently confuse being out of bed with being awake.” —John O’Leary
  • “When you make your story an excuse to get other people sharing their story, powerful things can happen.” —John O’Leary
  • “Wake up from accidental living.” —John O’Leary
  • “Do the next best thing right now.” —John O’Leary

Resources

Click here to download a PDF of the full transcript or scroll down to read it below.

What is your story? Are you running from it or telling it? Share in the comments


[INTRODUCTION]

Today’s guest survived burns on 100% of his body. 87% of those burns were third degree burns and it happened when he was 9 years old. He then spent the next three decades running from that story, until finally it caught up with him.

Here’s Jeff Goins and John O’Leary.

[INTERVIEW]

[00:01:07] JG: John, welcome to the show.

[00:01:09] JO: Jeff, delighted to be with you, man.

[00:01:11] JG: Glad you’re here. It’s been fun to connect. I want to just jump into your story. You called me up, gosh, several months ago now and started sharing your story and I just thought it was so incredible. It’s touched a lot of people I know, and we’re going to talk about that, your book, and all kinds of other things. But let’s, you know, take us back to really where your story begins.

[00:01:33] JO: Yeah, so it’s my belief now that everybody has a story, just frequently not the story we’re telling the world. I’m a living example of that truth. I spent the majority of my life, almost three decades not really knowing what my story was, and what it is is this Jeff: when I was nine years old, I was involved in an explosion in my garage that split a can of gasoline in two, it picked me up, launched me 20 feet against the far side of the garage, literally set my world on fire.

I ended up with burns on 100% of my body, 87% were third degree, and then would eventually spend the next five months in hospital, the next several years recovering and going through surgeries, and therapy, and all the arduous efforts involved in this. But then the rest of my life, trying my very best to forget about it all and pretend like it never happened. So that’s the baseline, that’s the foundation, that’s the beginning of my story.

[00:02:33] JG: It’s incredible, because this is such an important part of what you do as an author, as a speaker. You’ve got this national bestselling book, On Fire: The seven choices to ignite a radically inspired life, and yet this was a story that you thought, “Oh, that just happened to me. I want to move on from that.”

[00:02:54] JO: When it first happened, my mom came into the room where I was, in the emergency room. She has not seen me yet, she walked over to me, she takes my hand and my hand is completely burnt up. I’m eventually going to lose all my fingers to amputation. We don’t know that then, but we know it’s not good. So she takes my hand, she pats my bald head and she says, “I love you. I love you, John.”

And I just remember thinking, “Gosh, I can’t believe she’s not furious with me,” you know? I blew up the garage, I blew up this can of gasoline, I caught the house on fire, I thought she’d be irate. And when she said, “I love you,” I remember thinking, “Gosh, it’s actually serious. It’s not just about the garage or the gasoline can, it’s much more.” So I looked up at my mom and I said, “Mom, knock it off with the love. Am I going to die?” And this lady, and I was one of six kids, six babies, but this is her favorite laying in front of her, so she’s got a lot at stake right now. And I remember she looked back at me and she says, “Honey, do you want to die? Your choice, it’s not mine.”

[00:03:56] JG: Oh my gosh.

[00:03:57] JO: And I just remember thinking, “Oh, gosh, how cold-hearted are you, lady?” I was looking for the milkshake promise. I thought she would say, “Baby, everything is going to be okay and we’re going to get you out of here today and we’ll swing through McDonald’s on the way home.” But that woman that day set in front of me truth, “Your choice, not mine.” And I remember saying something like, “Mom, I do not want to die. I want to live.”

And her response was, “Good, baby. I’m glad. You made the right call. Then take the hand of God, you walk the journey with him, but you fight like you have never, ever, ever fought before.” And Jeff, on January 17th, 1987 a 9-year-old boy now flanked by his mom and dad, decided to fight on having no clue what the 18th of January or the 19th, or the first round of surgeries, or the first round of amputations, or the bandage changes would look like.

All we knew was the fight was on, and as the fight continued, I made a decision that once I got out of this hospital I was going to be ordinary, I was going to fit in. I was going to be like everybody else. This weird, kind of healthy decision while in the hospital, but then this ultimately unhealthy decision, this goal to fit in is ultimately why I hid from the scars, and I hid from that story, and I hid from the beauty of it all candidly, for three decades.

[00:05:17] JG: Wow. And then what eventually woke you up, made you want to tell the story?

[00:05:23] JO: Gosh, and I love that term, “wake up”. I think frequently we confuse being out of bed with being awake.

[00:05:29] JG: Yeah.

[00:05:30] JO: You know, we confuse being married to being in love or we confuse having a child and us being a parent. And hey, don’t confuse these things. So yeah, waking up is a great way to say it, Jeff. What woke me up, what really changed literally my life, and my mindset, and what I do professionally today, and how I look in the mirror, and how I treat others, was 11 years ago when my mom and dad wrote a book about what happened to their son two decades earlier. This unauthorized biography of my life, essentially.

I remember thinking, “Gosh, guys, why are you writing this? You’re not writers. You don’t know what you’re doing. I’m not even sure you know how to use a PC at this point.” And yet they wrote a book, it came from their heart, and I know that’s a lot of what you write about and you preach about, “Have a story and then tell it to the world. Come from your heart though. Share your knowledge.” That’s what they did, they shared their heart.

They printed 100 copies and in the 11 years since, they have sold more than 75,000 copies, which is a huge hit for stay at home mother and a fella who today is inaudible, because he’s got Parkinson’s Disease. You can’t even really understand my father anymore. But they wrote this story, they shared their scars, they shared mine, and they changed my world. I remember looking at that book the first night it came out, I read it. This picture of me on the front of it from when I was 9-years-old, the first night home, this big ol’ smile on my face.

But this picture for me, for decades, it always reminded me of the wheelchair. Because if you look really closely, you can see the handle in the background. It reminded me of the neck brace and the scars and the challenges of the previous five months. But after reading their book, instead of seeing all that was wrong, for the first time ever I saw the gift and the miracle. The fact that, yes, the majority of my body was burned, but my face was saved. And that is nothing short of a miracle.

I saw a smile on this kid’s face, I saw a twinkle, and hope and faith and boldness still in his eyes. I saw this optimism and this resiliency and this grit that I had never acknowledged before. Maybe even more than that, in reading their story, I realized I was not the only one that got burnt. I read about my mom and dad and all that they struggled through, and my five siblings and all that they lost. This gift of empathy came out of reading that, which freed me finally to fully embrace my shadow and the great gift of my life and to change really the manner in which I operated, change my MO, change the way I looked in the mirror.

And it opens me up about three months later when a group of Girl Scouts, Jeff, there were a grand total of four third grade Girl Scouts that asked me to speak for their group. I’m an introvert by nature, I’m not a writer, never written anything except in college and high school when I had to. I hated writing back then. But I’ve always thought in life, when opportunities knock, whether it’s Jeff saying, “Hey, will you come on my podcast,” or four Girl Scouts saying, “Will you speak to our class, Mr. O’Leary?” The answer is “yes”.

So this introverted guy who had never told anybody his story, shows up. I practiced the talk, Jeff. It was a 10 minute talk. Practiced the talk for more than 45 hours, preparing to speak, and I’m not exaggerating.

[00:08:42] JG: That’s amazing.

[00:08:43] JO: Preparing to speak to these girls. I walked into the classroom, never looked at the little monsters, read from my notes the entire time, that’s my first talk. There were no Samoas exchanged, there was no compensation granted, I got nothing for it, except a general applause and hugs on the way out the door. But that’s my first talk, and I’ll never forget it, man. I’ve given 1,600 since, but my first one was to four Girl Scouts in the third grade and again, it changed my life.

[00:09:12] JG: I’m a little disappointed that there were no Samoas. I mean…

[00:09:15] JO: I remain crushed, and that’s my currency.

[00:09:18] JG: Yeah. Those are dangerous. So you’ve got this incredible book and it’s touching lots of peoples’ lives. It’s obviously an amazing story, and yet it took your parents telling it first, and you just being touched by the empathy of that to realize that this is something that other people needed to hear.

[00:09:41] JO: That’s still what touches our hearts and motivates us to write and podcast, and blog, and create, and innovate in ways that we did not yesterday. This empathy, and realize that people need to hear a story of hope, perspective, persistence, and the truth that in spite of what all these candidates are yelling about, the best is yet to come. We live in a charmed and a blessed time, but the media has us focused and fixated on fear, and what you focus on in life begins to grow everywhere around you.

So in comes this guy who’s a little bit beat down by the scars of his life, sharing stories not about me – the reason I love writing, the reasons I love speaking is because the stories I share have actually nothing to do with me. I happen to be one of the characters, but I’m more like one of the observers. I’m paying attention to what’s happening around me, or to me, and then sharing the good news. And even in speaking, I don’t talk about, “Gosh, then a burn patient goes through this, and then the poor burn patient goes through this surgery, and oh the poor guy. But I climbed on.”

The word “I” is seldom used. It’s stories of parents who walk into emergency rooms and it’s a story of siblings who show up when a little boy is still on fire, and the actions they take that saved that little boy’s life. The story of volunteers and announcers, and servants, and doctors, and nurses, and people I’ll never meet again who showed up to the next best thing, right on time and through their generosity, you and I are on the show today. So I get to brag about others and then share what I learned from them and what it means for the rest of us in our writing, in our speaking, in our parenting, and in our lives.

[00:11:19] JG: That’s really interesting John, because you know, you’ve probably encountered people especially out speaking, but when you write a book eventually you find other people who want to be writers, or they find you. And I often hear this and they go, “I’ve got this great story that I need to tell,” and the truth is, that isn’t always, perhaps often, what makes a great book. And it seems to me that you intuitively understood that you had this extreme story, which is incredible, but extreme stories have this ability sometimes to make people feel like, you know, “My problems are not that big.” Or, “I could never do that.” Or, “I’m just trying to lose 10 lbs.” Or whatever it is.

And yet you’ve taken a very extreme, incredible story and just by virtue of the success of your book, it’s evident that you’ve translated this into other people’s stories and practical things that people can do today to live more fully alive. Is that something that you intuitively just understood, like people are going to disconnect from something so extreme if it’s all about me and all the stuff that I went through and how I overcame all this stuff? Or did you have to learn that?

[00:12:30] JO: Right, it’s a great question. Even the question shows a lot of insight, Jeff. When we get an old class picture in front of us, so take yourself back to third grade, now look at your class picture. Who are you looking for first? Are you really looking for the cute girl that you were in love with? Are you looking for the teacher? Are you looking for your best friend? Always, you look for yourself.

[00:12:53] JG: Yeah.

[00:12:53] JO: I think it’s important we recognize that and the way we view third grade class pictures, but also the way we read books, the way we sit in audiences, the way we read blogs, the way we listen to podcasts, the way we do almost anything in life. And I say this with great candor and great love, but we are a selfish people, and that’s okay. Once we realize, “Hey, love wins but you’ve got to first sell them something that will turn them on to the great possibility in their own lives and what they can do for the lives around them.

The most phenomenally greatest story ever told is only about one person. That story will never be told well, because it lives and dies with the person telling it. It’s when that story ripples out and says, “And this is what it means for you, and this is how it’s going to touch your life, and this is how you’ll be a better spouse, or a partner, or a parent, or sell more books, or whatever else you’re doing.” That’s when we sit up, that’s when we take notice, that’s when we stand in line to meet that person and say, “Gosh, my story is nothing like yours, but you’ve got to hear it.”

The more I find that I share vulnerably my story from the lens of the other heroes that show up, because Jeff, when you hear me speak or you read my stuff, I’m not the hero. I’m the storyteller. It’s everyone else that’s the hero. But it disarms people, it allows them to remove their mask, to come up to you afterwards and then to share boldly theirs. And then through empathy and connection you can build a bridge to say, “Gosh, what can we do with this together?”

[00:14:12] JG: Yeah, I love that. Really smart, not something that is intuitive or natural to a lot of people. Even, frankly, probably some people that you’re sharing the stage with. But as you’ve seen, John, and as you practice, which I love, when you really make your story an excuse to get other people sharing their story, I just think that’s when really powerful connection happens. And I think that’s what most of us want anyway, when we’re writing books, giving speeches, creating stuff, it’s we want to not feel so alone; we want to connect with people.

[00:14:47] JO: And I think the idea is to take the microphone, take the megaphone, take the typewriter, take whatever vehicle you’re using to share your knowledge. You’ve got a lot of people listening right now who have an awful lot of knowledge to share, but making sure as they share, as they type, as they speak, that they identify who the hero of the story is.

And if they’re striving to make themselves the smartest, the fastest, the brashest, it’s a story that has a short shelf-life. If we’re striving to share in a way to elevate the way others do work and do life, they win. And the beauty is this: and then we win too. So I think, yes, you can wear the cape in the story, but make sure you put it on someone else first.

[00:15:29] JG: I like that. Yeah, that makes sense. Were you afraid, ashamed, embarrassed? Did you struggle at all when it came to first going out there and telling your story? And I’m thinking especially when it comes to speaking, but writing as well?

[00:15:45] JO: And the answer is “yes” to both. I was shocked first of all that anybody would want to hear it, and I think all of it, like I said in the opening remarks, we all have a magnificent story and magnificent knowledge. I think we just need to figure out ways to package it more effectively so that others will want to hear it and that we’ll be passionate to share it. So I was amazed that anybody would want to hear this story, and I think that lack of confidence came across the first four years. I did not really know who I was, I did not really know the beauty of this story, and if you don’t really know it for yourself you can’t possibly multiply it to impact that lives you’re trying to share it in front of.

It’s when you can wholeheartedly share the beauty of your knowledge, and your story, and your life, that it can have other people sitting up and again, standing up eventually realizing the beauty of their own life, which is ultimately what we’re all trying to move people towards. I don’t think anybody writes a book or gives a speech for an audience of one. You’re not just doing it so that you can have it eventually on your night stand and say, “My god, I am the best author I know. Just ask me. Just ask me. I fricken rock!” Which brings up another point; writing a good book or giving a good speech is not enough. How do you market it? How do you package it? Who do you know?

I remember years ago I did some research before I wrote my book on leadership and leadership books, and I think in 2011 there were 36,000 plus books written on leadership alone. That’s a crowded marketplace to swim in. If you think your leadership is that much better than everybody else, maybe? But how are you going to tell us all about it? And I think as we share our stories, as we share our mind — mindshare — part of what we ought to be thinking is, “And how best can I share this message to a marketplace hungry for it?”

[00:17:23] JG: Yeah. Well your book is one of those books, it’s connected with a lot of people in just a matter of months. It was an instant number one national bestseller. Why do you think it connected with people? What have people told you that has been useful feedback for you, and how did that align with your own expectations of the book?

[00:17:42] JO: So Jeff, when I give speeches, before I sit down to write it and, you know, I’ve provided quite a few now so it’s almost second nature. It’s almost who I am. I still always ask the question before I sit down to bullet point it out, “Why does this matter to the lady, the gentleman, the person in the back row?” And in answering that, you can create a speech that will get the lady, the gentleman, the whomever in the back row to uncross their arms, open up their heart and take notice for what’s possible in their life.

If you can do that as a speaker, well then you also should probably ask yourself, because I write a newsletter every Monday, “Why does this matter to the 100,000 people that are going to read this this week? What does it mean to them?” And if I can’t answer that, throw it in the trash because it’s not worthy. So I ask myself that as a blogger. When I do podcasts, I ask the same. I post daily on Facebook and Twitter, I ask the same, “Why does this matter, man?” Not to me, but to others.

So in writing the book, it wasn’t, “Um, how can I sell copies?” Or, “How can I make myself seem great?” Every single word, literally every single sentence and paragraph, and then chapter, and then the entirety of the book, was focused on “why does this matter?”. And one of the ways that I was able to really focus this energy, maybe this is something your experts can take on if they choose, I wrote every chapter for an individual person in mind.

[00:19:02] JG: Oh, interesting. Like each chapter was for a different person?

[00:19:05] JO: Absolutely.

[00:19:06] JG: Oh cool.

[00:19:06] JO: I wrote one chapter for a person that I know, and I won’t say who, has an absolutely brutal attitude. And I love this person, I want this person to realize how beautiful they are, and how blessed they are in live, and how amazing the gifts in front of them each day is, but they don’t. Every day is brutal for them. There’s no reason for that. And so all of chapter four was around this person and I was trying to think of, “What is the best love letter that I could provide this person? Here it is.”

I have four children, so all of my four babies — they don’t even know this, but I wrote chapters for each of them. I wrote a chapter for my wife, I wrote a chapter for my mother, and I wrote a chapter for my father. So being focused on “why”, who’s the end user? It allowed me to write a love letter in language that connected, I hoped, maybe with seven people. But in writing it for them, it’s amazing. I think it connected with maybe people they knew and it may be people they knew.

Even the cover of the book, On Fire, I’m not on the front of it. When you flip it over to the back, O’Leary and his four kids and his gorgeous wife, they’re not on the back. There’s no Golden Retriever Pictured. It’s all about the reader. You’ve got to open it up to see a couple of pictures of John, and a couple of pictures of the fire, and a couple pictures of his kids. But we begin with the most important person in mind, which is the user, man. The buyer, the reader, that’s who’s life we’re trying to change.

[00:20:23] JG: Yeah. I love that. I love that idea of just writing piece of your book for different people. That’s brilliant. That’s a great, great tip. Well, so you’ve got this book, you’ve got this message, you’re sharing it with crowds and companies and large audiences and conferences, and it’s all kind of couched around this idea of being radically inspired. Now as a writer who talks about a lot of other writers and creatives, that maybe even kind of means something different in the context of like, “How do you get your inspiration?” Right?

This is a question that I hear all the time and one I really struggle to answer. And I’m curious, because here you are living a radically inspired life, inspiring others to do the same, what does that word “inspiration” mean to you? Because in the writing community it is sort of polarizing. Like some people believe in inspiration, they wait for the muse before they go create or do their work and other people don’t believe in it, then they just go to work and they go, “Yeah, whatever. Like, I don’t wait for inspiration. I just do it.”

[00:21:22] JO: Yes.

Click here to download a PDF of the full transcript.

[00:21:24] JG: What does that word “inspiration” mean to you? You’re helping other people find it, how do you find it for yourself as well?

[00:21:30] JO: Awesome, and the answer to your question on the front side is “yes”. So there are days where I’m highly lit up for life, and there are days where I look at the screen wondering, “What in the world am I going to type next? I think they’ve heard it all from me already.” Sometimes you’ve got to dig deep for inspiration. Your specific question, “What does inspiration mean for you?” In the old Webster dictionary, and I’m a pretty faithful guy, but one of the definitions was simply “spirit”. Another definition was “to breathe life and possibility into those around us”.

How can you argue that there’s not a need in the marketplace for these two things? I mean, it’s really difficult for me to say, “Dude, we don’t need people to wake up to the possibility of their lives.” Well, really? Have you taken a look around the subway? Have you seen how closed off people are in Starbucks today? Have you seen the animosity and the vigor with which we hate things online and then we judge and we have chaos all around us? So I think the marketplace is starved, starved for hope and inspiration.

So then the next question is, “Okay, good O’Leary, we might agree with you on that, but where do you find yours?” And it’s odd to say this, for a guy who communicates a lot online like I do and like I know you do too, but I think frequently we’ve got to shut the laptop, we’ve got to keep the phone off, and you’ve got to keep your eyes wide open and you’ve got to cut away the cataracts. You’ve got to really look to understand, and really listen to hear. And the more our eyes are opened to see what is really happening around us, the more we’ll see things through a lens that the rest of the world is not.

And in the more articulate way we are able to share that with those around us, they will sit up, they’ll take notice, and they’ll say, “Gosh, we’re not hearing this very frequently. Who is this guy? Who is this gal? What is it they’re talking about? What is it they’re writing about?” And then all of a sudden now we start to build this tribe, and we start to build this movement, a movement that with the wars and the shooting and the casualties that are around us all day, I think now is the time for it. So I am trading in inspiration. I am unapologetic about it, and I am looking for some followers and some evangelists to share the stadium with me.

[00:23:35] JG: Yeah. No, I love that. Is there a time, and maybe this happens on a regular basis, when you were sharing your story through your book or your blog or your videos that you do, your podcast or anything like that, speaking to an audience, whatever it might be, where somebody came up to you and was inspired by you in a way that surprised you?

[00:23:56] JO: So it happens, and I say this with the greatest amount of humility but honesty too, every day when I’m speaking. In sharing the story, you know, I’m burned. Just to kind of — because we didn’t talk much about the burn story. But this kid’s burned on 100% of his body, 87% third degree. The math on this my friends, is you take the percentage of the body burned, you add the age of the victim, and you figure out mortality. So in 2016 there is 109% likelihood of this kid dying. in 1987 there is no chance.

So you’ve got to understand, it’s a crazy story no matter what. But the way it’s shared is all about the people who come into this little boy’s world. What they do, the roadblocks they bump into, the challenges they face, the adversity that they must overcome and how they seek to move through it anyway. It’s me learning as a kid about it, it’s me then sharing this as a man, and it’s me encouraging readers and audience members on what they can do in their own lives.

And so it’s a highly, and we’ve used this word already but here it comes again, highly inspirational story of what is possible in all our lives. Because it’s not a burn story, it’s actually a life story. It’s an overcoming story. So then afterwards the beauty is people come up, they stick around in line, they give me a hug and the very first thing they usually say is, “Man, my story is not like your, but…” and then they go on and sometimes it’s about divorce, sometimes it’s about child abuse, sometimes it’s about things we can’t even talk about on this show.

Other times it’s about, “I’m struggling in sales. I don’t know where to turn next in creativity. I’m not sure how to build following.” Whatever. But it’s their story and it’s real, and it’s our opportunity in that sacred moment to poor into it and to invest in them the best that we have. So I’m always amazed at the awe and the beauty that people are willing to share their stories with me.

[00:25:50] JG: Looking back on it all, John, do you have any regrets?

[00:25:56] JO: There’s a lot of ways to answer that. The answer’s always “yes”, even the way I left my house this morning, you know?

[00:26:01] JG: Sure.

[00:26:02] JO: And I say that sincerely. I could have done a better job with my wife and I could have done a better job with my kids, I could have. I could have done a more effective job this morning at work. I could have been more effective in jumping into work and doing the next best thing. So constant regrets, but it’s not living in there. The regret I had for 20 years was blowing myself up, for a litany of reasons. One is, every time I look in the mirror it’s a reminder. Secondly, every time I feel an ache or a pang on my body, I realize why. Thirdly, I spent the majority of my life with no close love. I never dated until after college, and that’s painful.

But now looking back on it, I’ve realized that the best of my life was the result of that explosion. It led to where I went to college, it led to a chance encounter — I don’t believe in coincidences — with a brunette with brown eyes named Elizabeth Grace. It took a while to court her, but I found that, truly man go online, Google O’Leary and you’ll believe me once you see her. She’s stunning. But as pretty as she is physically, it’s her heart that I’m really referring to there.

She’s just got a beautiful heart, she’s blessed me with four kids, I have work that matters, we’re well compensated for it, we’re touching lives each day, we live in the freest, wealthiest country in the history of the world. Are you kidding me? So today I have no major regrets, it’s just a desire. Like, I encourage my friends and followers to do, to continually wake up from accidental living, to choose to be inspired, and to do the next best thing right now.

[00:27:28] JG: Yeah, I love that. What does tomorrow look like for you? What is the next best thing?

[00:27:35] JO: So, I’ve earned my frequent flyer miles from all the major airlines and you sometimes sit next to people flying through the night, from LA to New York, bragging on how many miles they’ve collected while they drink their gin and tonic. And I’m looking at my phone at pictures of my kids, homesick. So, yes I love my work. I imagine that I’ll always be a presenter, as long as I have a voice to share and people to listen to it, so I’m looking forward to that.

But it is pulling back on the travel, it’s speaking maybe a bit less frequently to maybe larger audiences intentionally. It’s writing more, it’s having a podcast, it’s having a radio show that we just started. It’s touching more, and more, and more lives, not from the platform in some random city that I love, but touching lives from my den, which is a room away from our kitchen, which is a room away from my kids’ bedroom, which is the room that I want to spend the majority of my life in.

So I am now focused not only on what I want to do, which is touch lives around the world, to wake people up from accidental living, but also where I want to do it. I think, frequently, we can become the victims of our own success. I wanted, in the early stages, to become a speaker. Well, two years ago I spoke 169 times, the year before 194 times. That number continues to fall downward because we’re saying “yes” less often, we’re saying “yes” to the more appropriate groups, we’ve having a greater impact because we’re pulling back our time and reinvesting that time in areas of work, in areas of life that matter more.

[00:29:03] JG: Well, John, you inspire me, not just with your story but with the choices that you’re making today with your life and I aspire to do a lot of those things as well and so maybe we can hold each other accountable?

[00:29:15] JO: Man, I’m in. I’m a St. Louis, Missouri guy and I know we’re communicating through email all the time. I’m also a follower of yours online. I love what you do. I not only hop on your podcast, but I drink the Kool-Aid. So I am honored to be on, I’m delighted to help mix it today and looking forward to drinking more going forward.

[00:29:31] JG: Well, thanks John. Hopefully we’ll combine that Kool-Aid with a couple of Samoas. I eat Samoas like Brian Regan talks about eating Fig Newtons. Like he looked at the package, and I don’t know if you know this bit, but he is like, it’s like one Newton cake, one Fig bar or whatever they call them, is a serving. He goes, “One? I eat those things by the sleeve!” That’s how I eat Samoas, by the half a box.

[00:29:59] JO: Well, that’s how I do it too. And I also usually do it from a random room in my house where my kids can’t find. Because the Samoas man, they go quick.

[00:30:07] JG: Yeah. It’s not a quiet experience either with the crinkling of the paper and, yeah.

[00:30:10] JO: No.

[00:30:11] JG: Well, John this was a pleasure. Thanks so much for your time and sharing your story. The book is, On Fire. A lot of people are loving it, I am one of those people. You’re inspiring a lot of people, thousands of people, and I’m grateful to be on of them. So thank you.

[END OF INTERVIEW]

[00:30:30] AT: So, what’s your story? And are you running from it, or are you telling it? Let us know by going to goinswriter.com/130. Or message Jeff on Twitter @jeffgoins. We appreciate the time you take to listen to our show. I’m Andy Traub and on behalf of Jeff Goins, thanks for spending some time with us.

Now, go build your portfolio.

“JO: We all have a magnificent story and magnificent knowledge. I think we just need to figure out ways to package it more effectively so that others will want to hear it, and that we’ll be passionate to share it.”

[END]

Andrew Raynor

Google-Search System: Research Look

Andrew Raynor

 

 

There are a lot of ways to check how your website’s doing these days. The most common one people use is probably Google Analytics. Google Analytics is definitely a great tool for monitoring your site. However, since the ‘not provided’ development, it’s become pretty hard to monitor your SEO efforts. And unfortunately, most tools that can monitor your SEO efforts come at a costly price. Today I’ll be highlighting one of the free tools; Google Search Console.

This is actually the first post in a series on Google Search Console. We’ll be going over every major menu item in Google Search Console, starting with Search Appearance.

What is Google Search Console?

Before going into Google Search Console, you might be wondering, what is it in the first place? Google themselves explain it the following way in their meta description of Google Search Console:

“Google Search Console provides you with detailed reports about your pages’ visibility on Google.”

This is definitely true, but it’s leaving out quite a lot of other things. Google Search Console looks at a lot more than ‘just’ your pages’ visibility on Google. It looks at everything that’s causing that visibility, such as backlinks, crawling (errors), robots.txt, sitemaps, etc. And on top of that, Google Search Console actually still shows you quite some search query data.

You can find your own Google Search Console by logging into your Google account here. And if you haven’t set up your GSC yet, you can follow the steps here.

Search Appearance

Google Webmaster Tools menu

The Search Appearance menu item gives you a lot of insight into just that: what your website appears like in the search results. You can actually click the ‘i’ for more information on the search appearance:

Google Webmaster Tools - Sitelinks

You can select every part of a search result to get more information on that specific part and how to influence how it looks.

Structured Data

Under Structured Data you’ll find a number of all the pages that have some kind of structured data attached to them, such as schema.org or RDFa. Structured data means you give certain elements on a page a sort of label, such as ‘Product‘.  This will make it clear to the big search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo) that there’s a product on this page. On top of that, you can add things such as ratings or prices of your product that might also show up in the search results. The best way to add schema.org data is using JSON-LD.

Google Search Console: Search Appearance - structured data

If any pages on your site don’t have the structured data set up right, Google Search Console will give you a red line named “Items with Errors”. GSC automatically sorts by the number of “Items with Errors”, so the most important faults will be on top. To view what specific pages have these errors, just click one of the lines in the table. This will take you to a list of all the specific pages that have errors with the Data Type you selected. You’ll probably be able to create a nice list of to-do’s for your site, just based on these URLs.

Rich Cards

Sometimes Google tries to answer the user’s question right in the search result pages. It does that by presenting the user with so-called Rich Card. That could be a recipe, restaurant listing with a rating, or even a product result that has just that bit of extra information on availability or pricing. These are just examples.

If your website is set up the right way, it’s using structured data to set up these rich cards. In Google Search Console, under Search Appearance, you’ll find any and all errors Google has found in the data you provided for this. That is if Google has detected any rich card structured data on your site. These errors are divided into three levels:

  1. The top level lists a sum of errors or recommendations. These are conveniently grouped by card type and you can click a row for more details.
  2. second level in the report gives you a list of all the critical (errors in required fields) and non-critical errors for a selected card type. Again, you will find more details after clicking a row.
    There are three kinds of statuses here: Invalid (critical, fix now), Enhanceable (nice to fix) and Fully-Enhanced (job well done).
  3. The third level allows you to view all pages with cards of a selected type affected by the selected rule. After clicking a row, you’ll find a suggested fix.

Data Highlighter

The Data Highlighter actually makes fixing the issues you’ve found in the Structured Data section a lot easier. For instance, choose one of the URLs that had a faulty Structured Data setup and tell GSC what kind of information you want to highlight:

Google Webmaster Tools Data Highlighter

This will bring you to a live view of that page and you’ll be able to select any element on the page. By selecting an element you’ll be given a choice of what you want to highlight that specific element for. For example, for an Article, you’ll be given these markups to add to the corresponding element on the page:

Data Highlighter Tagger

This makes adding Structured Data, for Google at least, really as easy as a few clicks.

HTML Improvements

This page is really straight forward. This basically checks all your website’s meta descriptions, title tags, and content that wasn’t indexable. If Google Search Console finds meta descriptions that are too long, too short or duplicate, it will show a number of pages higher than 0, and the link will become clickable:

The same goes for missing, duplicate, too long, too short or non-informative title tags and for any content that GSC thought was non-indexable. Clicking the linked word will take you to a list of meta descriptions or page titles that are faulty. You’ll be able to find on which pages exactly this is happening. Some more to-do’s to add to that list! If you’re having issues writing decent meta descriptions, read Michiel’s post to learn how!

Accelerated Mobile Pages

Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP, is a way to make your pages easier accessible on mobile devices. Note that for AMP to work properly, you need to create matching, valid AMP pages with the right schema.org markup. And you need to make sure these AMP pages are properly linked. We have written a number of articles on the subject:

Go read these. While it might seem like you need to set up a second website, there are obviously tools that will help you keep up with the (im-)possibilities and future development of AMP.

Search Console: accelerated mobile pages

In Google Search Console you will find a debug report for your AMP pages. Google set up this report as the first layer of information about your AMP pages: there is more to come in this report. The current report provides a quick overview of your AMP errors, which you can analyze per specific error type and URL. It will help you find the most common AMP issues on your website, so you can fix these.

Optimize your search appearance!

So you see there’s a lot you can do about what your search results in Google look like and a lot to optimize to make it more clear for Google. Optimizing your search appearance might only have a minor impact on your ranking, but it will definitely increase the click-through rate from Google. And that’s worth a little effort!

What do you think? Do you have experience using Google Search Console like this? Or do you have some additional tips? Let us know in the comments!


Read on: ‘Google Search Console: crawl ’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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