Ask Yoast: Too many links in navigation menu?

Andrew Raynor

 

 

Doing your internal linking well has quite a few SEO benefits. Connecting related posts with each other lets Google know that you’ve created content on various aspects of a certain topic. This can make you a stronger candidate to rank for that topic. But, can internal links also be detrimental to your site? Is it possible to create too many internal links, for example by having lots of links in your navigation? That’s what this Ask Yoast is about!

Jeroen Custers of Agrifirm emailed us with a question regarding navigation links:

“We have a top menu with a sub menu on every page of our online shop and in Google Search Console I see that some pages are linked more than 15,000 times. And our homepage is linked 25,000 times. Is this a problem?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

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Navigation links and SEO

Well yes and no. If your menu structure, overall, is so big and it’s loaded in the top of your page, then that might not always be the best idea for your SEO. One of the things that we used to do in the old days – that I still like to do sometimes now – is load the menu at the bottom of the page. Why?

Because that means that you’re showing the content first and you’re showing the links in the content to Google first, and then you’re showing them the entire menu. Not even thinking about page rank, this order of things makes slightly more sense to Google. And it might also make more sense to blind people and other people that visit your website. So, if you can do that, then that would be beneficial.

Also, if your menu is too big, I don’t always really appreciate that as a customer. But that’s something that you have to test with your customers and visitors. Investigate what works best and whether your navigation menu isn’t too big and cumbersome to work with. But that’s more of a UX question, than really an SEO question.

Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

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

Read more: ‘Site structure: the ultimate guide’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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Analyzing your audience: a how-to

Andrew Raynor

 

 

To write appealing text for your audience, you need to know them. Who are those people that read your stories? Who are the people that search for the terms you want to be found for? Where do they come from? How old are they? What are they interested in? And how will you be able to reach those people again? In this post I’ll help you with analyzing your audience.

Why should I analyze my audience?

If you don’t know much about your audience, it can be quite hard to write texts for them. Should you write texts that are difficult or very easy to read? Which topics will interest them the most? What blogpost will make them come back to your site? These questions are especially important if you want your audience to become regular visitors of your website or if you want them to buy something in your online shop. If you know a lot about your audience, it will be much easier to adapt your texts to your audience. As a result, you’ll become more successful in selling your stuff and gaining those return visitors. 

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How do I analyze my audience?

There are several ways of analyzing your audience. We’ve listed the ones we like to use below. To really get to know the people who come to your website, we’d advise to use all these different ways of analyzing.

1. Google Analytics

The best way to start analyzing your audience is by using Google Analytics. Google Analytics will tell you at what time a day your audience is on your site; where they’re from (at least from which country); which pages they like most and whether they use a desktop or a mobile device. That’s all valuable and usable information.

Closely monitor which pages and blog post generate much traffic and investigate possible patterns. Perhaps posts about a certain topic generate a lot of traffic, while posts about other topics don’t get many visitors. Use that information when choosing the topic of your next blog post.

2. Facebook Insights

Google Analytics can tell you a lot about the visitors on your website, but if you want to know more about the people you reach on Facebook you’ll need to use Facebook Insights. Check which posts get many views and which posts don’t get attention from your audience. Experiment with buying adds on Facebook too. Read all about Facebook Insights in Michiel’s post. Of course, every social media platform has its own analytics (we’ve also written about YouTube Analytics, Twitter Analytics and Pinterest Analytics). Monitor the analytics of the channels you use on a regular basis.

3. Surveys

A great way of getting to know your audience is to have them fill out an online questionnaire. In a survey, you can ask them anything you want.  You can, for instance, set up a survey that pops up when someone enters your site or you can send a survey invitation to your newsletter subscribers or to the buyers of your products. There are lots of packages that allow for online questionnaires. We have used Polldaddy.com in the past. They offer a free account, which will suffice for most small companies. What I really like about Polldaddy is the way they instantly present their results. They show frequencies and percentages in an easy to grasp format.

Remember that most people do not participate in online surveys. Still, if your audience is large, you’ll easily get a decent amount of people to fill out your questionnaire. To get more participants you can always try to win them over by raffling a nice incentive among the respondents.

Please note that it’s always a certain group of people that’ll be willing to fill out a survey. That group is highly selective and not representative for your entire audience.

4. Talking to your audience

Just having a conversation with a part of your audience also remains a great way to find out more about them. In an online questionnaire, you can ask a lot of people about your product, but their answers will probably remain shallow. If you’re able to really talk to some of the people from your audience in person, that could help you to get a better idea about who your audience are. Ask them what they like best about your website, your products, or your blog posts. Ask them why they come back to your website. Invite them to talk about their experience and don’t be scared of some criticism.

If I’m at a WordCamp or a congres somewhere and I encounter people using our Yoast SEO plugin, I always like to ask them what they appreciate most about our product. It helps me to understand our users. And, by understanding our users, we’re better able to anticipate upon their needs. If we know which features in Yoast SEO they like best, we should optimize or expand those features for sure.

5. Comments

If you want to analyze your audience and find out what kind of people it consists of, you should analyze the comments on your blogpost. What are people saying about you or about your post in the comments below your articles? Which aspects of your blog post are they talking about in their comments? Which topics are so important to them, that they are willing to engage? Analyze comments on your website, and don’t forget to monitor comments on social media either!

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Conclusion: analyzing is hard

Analyzing your audience can be a tough nut to crack. Google Analytics and the analytic tools of the numerous social media platforms are useful, but don’t tell much about the intentions or desires of your audiences. Surveys are great, but as most people won’t fill out an online questionnaire, the data aren’t that valid and representative for your entire audience. Talking to your audience can bring useful insights, but you won’t be able to have a conversation with all of them either.

All the different ways of analyzing your audience do add value in their own way though. Using them all will give you a clear impression of your audience.

Read more: ‘SEO copywriting: the ultimate guide’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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Tracking your SEO with Google Analytics: a how-to

Andrew Raynor

 

 

At Yoast, we’re known for giving you numerous tips to improve your site’s SEO. However, how do you know whether those tips are actually working for you? There are a number of tools out there that can help you track your SEO, but most of them will cost you money. And, in the end, it’s obviously just about increasing your website’s traffic. There’s this great free tool that gives a lot of insight in how your website’s traffic is doing: Google Analytics! Almost everyone uses it – but perhaps not to its full potential. That’s why, in this post, I’ll explain how to keep track of your SEO using Google Analytics.

I’ll give you a step by step instruction on how to find the data that will help you track your SEO using Google Analytics. The videos in this post (without sound so you can watch them everywhere) show you exactly which steps to take. Please note that the post is quite long, but hey! it’s about your SEO so it’s probably worth your while.

Tracking your overall SEO

One of the first indications of how your website’s SEO is doing is looking at the amount of traffic coming to your website. In Google Analytics, you can find the overview of your traffic in the Audience section. This tells you how many sessions there were on your website in a given time period.

However, this doesn’t tell you which part of that traffic results from your SEO efforts. It just shows you all traffic to your site. To find the traffic that’s coming directly from search engines (called ‘organic’ in Google Analytics), you’ll need to go somewhere else. These steps are all taken in the video below. If you go to Acquisition > All Traffic, you’ll see a list of sources where your traffic comes from. Usually, the traffic from search engines (more specifically, Google) is somewhere to be found in the top 3. Find the search engines you want to know the volume of traffic for – recognizable as medium=organic – and select those check boxes. If you hit “Plot Rows” after that, you’ll get a nice graph showing you the total traffic and lines in other colors for the sources you’ve selected.

If you want a view that’s a bit more precise, you can click the pie chart icon to see exact numbers and percentages of the total. And if you want to see all the organic traffic combined into one, simply click the medium tab. Of course you can again plot the row for the line graph here as well. 

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Unfortunately, the organic keyword tab that’s listed under the campaign tab doesn’t do much anymore nowadays. Apart from showing (not set) it just shows you where people end up and doesn’t provide many keywords (np = not provided).

What does organic traffic say about my SEO?

Now you know what to look at in Google Analytics to see how much traffic you’re getting from search engines. If you’re not getting a lot of traffic from search engines, then that tells you that you need to work on your SEO. There’s a lot of potential traffic you may be missing out!

If you notice the number of organic traffic is declining, then you need to work on your SEO as well. Especially if the decline is large. Perhaps you’ve got a crawlability or another technical SEO issue. If the decrease is drastic, all alarm bells should go off. Dive into your Google Search Console and check if you can find what’s causing the decline.

If you’re noticing an increase in organic traffic, well done! Think about what you’ve been doing lately that might have caused this increase. You want to know these kinds of things, because it’ll help you understand your own SEO better.

The above only tells you how your overall SEO is doing. However, most times, you’d want to focus on something more specific than your entire site. You’d want to focus on a specific page or post.

Page-specific SEO monitoring

If you want to see your analytics at a per page level, you have to go to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. Here you’ll see your site’s top 10 pages, ranked on amount of pageviews. If you have a specific page you want look at, you can simply fill in the URL (without domain name) in the search bar. You’ll now be able to see that page’s data. However, these are still all the pageviews, not specified to traffic coming from search engines. To find the traffic originating from search engines there are two ways to go.

The first one is via filtering the data in the table: you have to click the “Secondary dimension” dropdown and click Acquisition > Medium. Additionally, you can click Source/Medium if you want to specify per search engine. Clicking the check box for “Organic” medium and hitting “Plot Rows” again, will give you the line graph for your total and organic traffic. It’ll also show you other traffic sources, which is always interesting.

Again, if you want a more specific view, click on the pie chart icon. Comparing the percentages of organic traffic for your specific page to your total organic traffic can also give you a good idea of how your page is doing. And obviously, ideally, you’d want to see a line that’s moving up (or at least not downward).

Tip: To make the data even clearer, you can add another filter (using the search bar) to only include medium containing “Organic”. This will give you just the organic traffic data for every page.

The second way to go is creating a segment that only includes ‘Organic traffic’. I absolutely adore segments, because it makes Google Analytics so much easier to use. You can read more about my love for segments in the ‘Why use segments in Google Analytics‘ post. Google Analytics offers you a ready-made segment called ‘Organic traffic’. Choose that segment from the list and voila, you’ll only see traffic coming from search engines. Now you can analyze all pages in the Behavior section and check if you see an upward trend (or not).

Obviously, everything I mentioned here is related to monitoring your SEO and not actually finding issues that might be related to your SEO. To find possible issues we always look at a lot of things, a few of which I’ll explain now. These things will help you find issues that might be related to your SEO.

Bounce rate

If you click on Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages, you’ll get a list of pages through which people enter your site. Landing pages are important, because they’re the first thing your visitors will see. They’re literally pages people land on coming from a traffic source. An important metric on this screen is the ‘Bounce Rate’. This metric gives you the percentage of people that left your landing page without having done anything on that page. And although Google doesn’t take the Google Analytics bounce rate into account as a ranking factor, it does look at how quick people hit the back button and return to the search results page. So you want visitors to spend more time on your pages and, preferably, even engage with your site.

To get a good idea of which pages have a high bounce rate, click the Comparison icon. In the last column, select bounce rate. This will give the bounce rate compared to the site average for all your pages starting from the most visited page. Any page that has a red bar is below your site’s average bounce rate. Anywhere between 0-10% in red is basically fine, but anything above 20-30% should definitely be looked at. Especially, if it concerns pages in the top 10.

The bounce rate is important because it tells you something about the quality of your traffic and/or the quality of the page. It has an indirect influence on your SEO. If people quickly jump back to the search results after a glimpse on your page, that means they probably haven’t found what they’re looking for. Google takes this to mean your page isn’t relevant enough for the keyword the person has searched for, and rightfully so.

Internal site search

If you click on Behavior > Site Search > Overview, you’ll find a list of search terms people have searched for on your site, using your site’s search. This is always a good dataset to keep track of as well since it can give you a good idea of what your audience expects to find on your site. If there are any search terms there that you haven’t created a page for yet, it’s probably a good idea to try and fit a page on that subject in. Plus, it gives great insight in the words people are using. Do they match the keywords you’re using?

Obviously, you do need to have your Site Search set up the right way. You have to enable site search and fill in the right query string for searches. You can check this Google Analytics documentation for more information.

Mobile traffic

Perhaps you’ve heard about “Mobilegeddon“? Is a Google mobile update; if your website isn’t mobile-friendly then chances are it won’t rank in mobile search results. Especially if a large portion of your audience visits your site using a mobile phone, optimizing for mobile is key!

If you go to Audience > Mobile > Overview, you’ll get a dataset that shows you how many people are entering your site using a desktop, a mobile phone or a tablet. Once again, click on the pie chart icon to get a good view of how many mobile visitors you have. If that’s more than 10%, you should definitely make sure your website looks good and works fine on a mobile phone. Also, if you’re noticing your bounce rate on mobile is significantly higher than on desktop, this can indicate that your mobile site isn’t all that mobile-friendly.

As said before, Google is taking responsiveness of websites more and more seriously and it has become a true ranking factor in mobile search results, so it’s really imperative that you improve your mobile site as much as possible and keep tracking this for your SEO. 

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Site speed

Next to mobile-friendliness is site speed a ranking factor as well. Not only is it a ranking factor, it has its impact on conversion and the usability of your site as well. Checking speed performance of your pages and improving it, is a big win for your entire site. Google Analytics has a special Site Speed section which you can find under Behavior > Site Speed. If you click on Page Timings, you can see the Average Page Load Time compared to the site average. Additionally, you’ll get a quick overview of pages that are ‘slow’ so this immediately gives you a to-do list of pages you need to optimize first. There are a couple of site speed tools that can help you with optimizing your site’s speed.

Have I missed anything?

Do you think I’ve missed anything? Or do you have some other great tools you use to track your SEO? Let us know in the comments!

Read more: ‘Understanding bounce rate in Google Analytics’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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148: How to Become a Prolific Writer and Publish Over 200 Books: Interview with Jerry B. Jenkins

Andrew Raynor

Writing your first book is like running a marathon. When it’s finally over, you’re equally excited and exhausted. You might even be a little sick (of your book). Now, imagine doing that almost 200 times.

148: How to Become a Prolific Writer and Publish Over 200 Books: Interview with Jerry B. Jenkins

With my fifth book getting ready to release this summer, I can barely fathom the level of discipline and creativity required to produce 20 books in a lifetime, let alone a couple hundred.

This week’s guest on The Portfolio Life, has sold over 70 million copies of his 189 books (and counting) and yet maintains a humble demeanor, works diligently at his craft, and encourages other writers on their journey.

Listen in as Jerry B. Jenkins and I talk about how he got started writing at a young age, the hyperbole of public perception of writers, and the advantage of experiencing success later in life.

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, Jerry and I discuss:

  • How writing was his answer to a calling
  • Achieving the freedom to write leisurely because you love it
  • Rejecting the idea of retirement
  • Not measuring success by sales or accolades
  • How not to get on the bestseller lists
  • The relationship between passion and purpose
  • What is within your control as a writer
  • If it gets easier to write as you publish more
  • When to say “no” to a writing project
  • Why deadlines are a writer’s best friend
  • How writing a book is like giving birth
  • Treating fear as a healthy motivator
  • What role procrastination plays in getting writing done
  • The myth of writer’s block and the truth behind it
  • Why perfectionism is a mask for fear
  • Getting a phone call from Stephen King
  • Writing without guilt and still being present for his kids

Quotes and takeaways

  • Writing may be the vehicle through which you answer your calling.
  • “You don’t get on the bestseller lists by trying to get on the bestseller list.” –Jerry B. Jenkins
  • Writing books doesn’t get easier. It gets harder.
  • “Writers don’t write because they are writers, they write because they have something to say.” –Jerry B. Jenkins
  • Schedule your procrastination
  • “Procrastination may be a prerequisite to being a writer.” –Jerry B. Jenkins
  • Just write something. It doesn’t have to be pretty.
  • “Writers are the only profession in the world who allow themselves the conceit of writer’s block.” –Jerry B. Jenkins

Resources

What is writing to you? How are you answering a calling as a writer? Share in the comments

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

Andrew Raynor

Sliders suck and should be banned from your website

Andrew Raynor

 

 

Two years ago, we wrote about why we really don’t like sliders. We still don’t like sliders. If your theme forces you to include a slider (also named carousels) on your homepage, please realize that it’s making you use a feature that has no value for SEO. A feature that is probably slowing down your site by loading extra JavaScript. And prevents your user from reading the good stuff (your content) immediately. It will most probably account for less conversion as well.

Even though both SEO experts and conversion experts agree on the fact that sliders have little use 99% of the time, website developers insist on adding sliders to their themes. Some customers refer to sliderless themes as “outdated” but we strongly disagree. Let’s make one thing very clear: sliders suck. Of course, I entitle myself to my own opinion, and you’re entitled to yours. But let me explain once more why they suck.

Science and experiments

It’s not often that science is conclusive in their findings. However, sliders seem to be one topic on which it is. There’s literally not one study that we’ve found that says sliders are a good idea. I often point people to shouldiuseacarousel.com when wanting to explain why not to use a slider. This simple website does an awesome job at showing the statistics as well as trigger the annoyance sliders usually evoke.

Sliders: better use static images or copy

Let’s look at some of the findings:

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Over the years, many studies have shown that sliders should be avoided.

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But… I need a slider!

Ok, so you’re, for instance, a photographer. You need that slider, right? Wrong. People tend to act as if there’s no other way to show their images but by sliders. This simply isn’t true. If you can’t have a slider and you’re a photographer, would you just give up having a website altogether? Of course not, you would look for other options, such as the revolutionary idea of showing static pictures. If you want moving pictures, you should change careers and become a filmmaker.

Seriously, whatever makes people think that having stuff move on your website is a good idea, ever, is still beyond me. Auto-playing videos are also annoying, right? You can create awesome collages through which people can browse at will. The pictures won’t be forced onto them (if they even notice them in the first place), they’ll just notice the ones they like. And trust me, that will sell better.

If you’re a photographer, it’s likely you’re a creative person. You probably make photo albums for people from time to time, which presumably don’t have sliding images. So how about you showcase that skill and creativity by designing your web pages with static images?

Focus

What you’re saying with a slider is basically: “I really don’t know which product or picture I should put on display on my homepage, so I’ll just grab 10 of them!” In that case, you really need to add focus. If you don’t know what to choose, how would your visitors or clients?
You should know what your own business is about and what product or picture deserves that front page spotlight.

By focusing on the right (static) image or message, you will give people a far better feel of your business, and you as a person, than a slider ever could. Not in the least because sliders, as we’ve said twice now, are simply ignored in most cases. And a message that’s ignored hardly ever comes across (notice the sarcasm).

SEO and Conversion Rate Optimization

There is another reason why we recommend against sliders. Sliders push down your main content, plain and simple. In fact, most sliders we encounter in our consultancy these days, are big enough to fill out any screen. This means the content won’t even be visible above the fold. And this backfires on your SEO efforts, which we’ve already shown through the article linked in the list of findings above.

There’s not a CRO expert that will disagree with us on this: sliders kill your conversions. So simply having a slider on your website, will get you less sales than without that slider! If that’s not a deal breaker, I seriously don’t know what is.

Just combine the two and realize what a monstrosity the slider actually is. It kills your rankings and your conversions!

Mobile websites and sliders

It’s really convenient to include a slider on a mobile website. It allows you to add more content to that page, that smaller screen, without the page becoming too long. What if people have to scroll, right? Well, quite frankly, they are used to that. That’s just one myth you can forget about. It’s not just that. Lots of times, things go wrong when using a slider on a mobile website. Some of the other pitfalls you’ll encounter when adding a slider to a mobile website:

  • Image sliders tend to load the desktop site images, not optimized for mobile speed or in fact ruining it for phones on 3g or less.
  • The same goes for sliders running on JavaScript. Why add JavaScript for something people will treat as a banner or simply skip to get to your content instead?
  • If your slider isn’t responsive, it will ruin your otherwise responsive website. This happens all too often, unfortunately.

Bottom line is that sliders might break more than they add in value for your website. But the main question you should ask yourself when using that slider on your mobile website, even if it’s responsive and optimized, is: do I really need that slider? I can’t imagine you do.

Why should you believe us?

If you don’t believe us, believe these experts who we’ve asked for their opinion and experience with sliders:

Sliders never converted and never will

“Sliders only exist because web designers love them. And because they make the life of the web team easy: they can give every department or product division a place on the homepage. And they don’t have to make choices.

But it’s not your job to make your colleagues happy. It’s your job to make your visitors happy. And to sell.
And that’s the biggest problem with sliders: they don’t convert. Never did and never will.”

Karl Gilis, Owner of AG Consult and renowned conversion expert

Use static images and copy instead

“It’s extremely rare to see sliders work. You’re better off using static images and copy.”

Peep Laja, Owner of ConversionXL.com and Markitekt


Just for portfolio displays

“I think sliders are interesting but somewhat problematic. The biggest problem I see is that if visitors are bouncing from the page in a second or two, they will never see the other options on the slider. If you use a slider for navigation, be sure the same choices are visible in static form, too. I think sliders work best for portfolio displays where several large, strong images can be displayed in the same space without impeding the visitor’s ability to navigate or determine what other content is on the site.”

Roger Dooley, Author of Brainfluence (also available on Kindle) and owner of Neurosciencemarketing.com


Sliders are distracting

“I think sliders are distracting. It’s a way to put extra crap on a page that’s typically not best for visitors. If it’s important in most cases you should just put it on the page without sliders or extra clicks.”

Hiten Shah, Co-Founder of Crazyegg and KISSMetrics


Sliders suck 99.8% of the time

“Sliders suck 99.8% of the time! We once did a test with a client where we changed their slider to a static image with 3 core benefits and lifted conversions by a nice amount.”

Bryan Eisenberg, Author of Brand Like Amazon: Even a Lemonade Stand Can Do It and Waiting For Your Cat to Bark (also available on Kindle)


Sliders are evil

“This popular design element is – for many – the go-to solution when there are more messages to put on the home page than there is room to put them. Rather than make the tough decisions that require prioritizing conversion goals, web teams turn to the rotating banner as an offer of compromise.

Sliders are absolutely evil and should be removed immediately.”

Tim Ash, CEO at SiteTuners, Author of Landing Page Optimization (also available on Kindle)


Use a static image instead

“In A/B tests, sliders tend to lose. In fact, one of the easiest ways to grow a page’s conversion rate is to remove the slider, and to replace it with a static image. If you want to be really lazy, you can just test the slider against the static version of each of the slider’s options. The static version usually wins.”

Karl Blanks, Chairman and Co-Founder of Conversion Rate Experts


Sliders deliver little to no value to the customer

“Sliders please the owner of the site, but they deliver little to no value to the customers. The reason is that we are not going to sit there and wait for your ‘movie’ to play out. I’m also not a fan of sliders because for most businesses they provide an excuse not to think about personalization and being good at giving the customer the right answer, right away.”

Avinash Kaushik, Digital Marketing Evangelist for Google, Author of Web Analytics 2.0 (Also available on Kindle)


Sliders are hardly accessible

Conversion is one thing, but from an accessibility stand, sliders suck as well. Here’s what our own Andrea has to say about this:

Though there are examples and recommendations to follow to make sliders as accessible as possible, I’ve rarely seen a fully accessible slider being used in production. Sometimes sliders are just not coded with accessibility in mind, sometimes they are but there are so many accessibility requirements to address that missing just a couple of them can be disastrous for accessibility. Interaction with keyboards and assistive technologies is so hard that static content is always preferable. It’s no coincidence that shouldiuseacarousel.com was launched by Jared Smith of WebAIM, one of the most influential and respected organizations committed to spreading out accessibility culture and developing accessible web content.

Andrea Fercia, accessibility expert at Yoast

Honestly, we could go on and on. So no matter how pretty you think sliders are, know this: sliders simply suck

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Epilogue

When we first published our (unchanged) opinion on sliders back in 2014,  UX designer Ian Armstrong commented that “in some cases, sliders make sense. A slider can be used effectively if it a) tells a story and b) doesn’t auto-forward.” Imagine a real estate page that has a slider for images of a house. It’s not auto-forwarding and helps you to get an idea of the entire house – it tells that story.

Ian also states that “if you properly set expectations and really stress the slider as a story mechanism, you’ll probably see a major uptick in interest.” He’s probably right, or, as Rich Page stated below that initial 2014 post: “If in doubt, TEST IT!” Most of us are used to sliders like that on real estate sites. There is always an exception to the rule, right? Although in this specific case, one might even argue if the ‘slider’ even qualifies as a slider.

Your 2 cents are welcome.

Read more: ‘eCommerce usability: the ultimate guide’ »

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Ask Yoast: Impact of host location on SEO?

Andrew Raynor

 

 

Do you want to set up a brand new website or move your website to a new host? Choosing a web host can be hard, because there are thousands of hosting companies out there. So it’s a tough decision to make, but a very important one too. When you’re comparing various hosting aspects, should you consider the location of the web host too? Is the geographic location of their web server important for SEO? Hear what we have to say about this, in this Ask Yoast.

Gerardo Garcia emailed us, asking:

“Do you consider the location of the web server as something important for SEO?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

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Impact of server location on SEO

“Gerardo Garcia is from Spain and he has found web servers in Germany and England that are cheaper than the ones in Spain. He’s wondering if the location of a web server is important for SEO.

First of all, no, not really. But that’s not the entire truth. Because for your visitors you want the most speed, and you’ll get the most speed by hosting as close as possible to them. And you can achieve that by hosting your site in the country where your visitors are coming from.

We’re Dutch, but our main servers are in the US. Why? Well, because the majority of our visitors are from the US. We also have a server in Europe, because we get many visitors from Europe too. So think about that. Of course, we are on a slightly more expensive set up than you would probably be, and need to be. So focus on the country you think is the most valuable.

To be honest, if you’re looking at price too much for you hosting, you probably not doing yourself any service anyway. Don’t go for the cheapest hosting, go for the best hosting. Paying a couple of bucks more per month, really is worth it, When your site is down otherwise, stuff is just not working.

So, I would suggest going with a host that has servers in Spain or at the very least have people that can service you in Spanish in Spain. And then, whether these servers are located in Barcelona or in London, the technical existence of these servers doesn’t make too much of a difference.

Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

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

Read more: ‘Yoast’s WordPress hosting list’ »

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The Most Important Marketing Decision You’ll Make as an Author

Andrew Raynor

While working on my latest book, I hired media strategist Ryan Holiday to help me promote it. When I did that, he asked for something I didn’t expect. He asked to see my manuscript.

How to Title a Book: The Most Important Book Marketing Decision You'll Make

“Why?” I asked.

“Because,” he said, “once a book is finished, the marketing is done.”

Thus began a year-long journey of writing and rewriting my next book, which comes out later this year. It was a painful, grueling effort but one that resulted in something I’m proud of.

The place where we began working, though, was not where I expected.

After I finished a rough draft of the book, Ryan told me to not write another word until making a very important decision. In fact, this just might be the most important marketing decision you’ll make as an author. He told me I had to decide what the book was actually about. I had to give it a title.

In this post, I want to share with you the step-by-step process I followed to get a very rough idea out of my head and onto paper and how I refined it into a compelling argument and title. I want to share with you what I learned and why I will be using this process for every single book I write after this and why I will always begin with the title from here on out.

I recommend you apply as much of this as possible, gleaning what you can for your own journey. I hope it helps.

Choosing an argument

“It seems to me that this is two books,” Ryan told me. “One about creativity and the other about how to not be a starving artist. The first is a category that is already over-crowded, and the second sounds interesting. I think you have to pick one. It can’t be two books.”

Ryan was right. I was writing two books. Fascinated with the research behind creativity and why it had become a popular subject of study lately, I wanted to know how the brain worked and how that influenced our creative efforts. But that book had already been written — a few times.

This other idea, however, was something new. Maybe even something fresh. Something I could get excited about. So I chose to focus on the starving artist angle, and that decision made a world of difference. Now that I had an argument — you don’t have to starve to be an artist — it was now time to find a title.

What is your book about? Can you capture the argument in a single sentence? As my friend Marion likes to say, all great writing is about something, and that something is not me. Your big idea needs to be something memorable and interesting. For more on this, check out this podcast episode.

Brainstorming book titles

The first title of my book was The Creative Advantage.

It was based on the idea that maybe what makes many creatives and artists starve is the same set of tools that can help them succeed. But when I shared that title with people, I heard more than a few times, “I feel like I’ve read that book already. Didn’t I already buy it?”

Seriously. I probably heard that a dozen times.

So it got scrapped.

While working with my agent Stephen Hanselman (who has worked with Tim Ferriss, Dallas Willard, Jack Canfield, and others), what really excited both of us was Michelangelo’s story of how he was secretly a millionaire.

I found that interesting and thought it said something about what’s possible with art and business. Maybe you can be both, and perhaps Michelangelo is the example to follow.

So, we started calling it The Michelangelo Factor. I liked that. It was catchy intriguing. But I also secretly worried about folks who weren’t artists or didn’t know much about Michelangelo. Would they be intrigued, too? Plus whenever I told people that title, they kept calling it something else, like The Michelangelo Effect. Which worried me.

Maybe it wasn’t that catchy, after all.

So I kept considering alternative titles but nothing seemed to stick. So I went back to writing. Maybe the title would emerge the more I wrote.

When considering a title for your book, don’t settle. Make sure you have a clear argument and everything in the book, including the cover and title, point back to that one central idea.

When in doubt, be interesting

So I wrote the starving artist book instead. It was another draft of the book I’d been working on, but this time more focused (I typically write about five drafts of a book before doing any serious editing). When he read that version, Ryan said, “It’s sort of like what you’re saying is: ‘Real artists don’t starve.’”

As soon as he said it, I knew that was the book title: Real Artists Don’t Starve.

It both scared and excited me at the same time. What would people think? Would it push them away? Would it stir up controversy? Was it actually true? When I ran the idea by my friend Marion, she said, “You don’t have to be right. You just have to be interesting.”

That took a lot of pressure off, but I wanted to dig a little deeper. I needed to test this idea. So I ran a series of polls on both Twitter and PickFu and was startled by the results: when people liked the book title, they loved it, but when they didn’t like it, they hated it.

I thought that was interesting.

Then I started asking friends — but not just random people off the street. I polled bestselling authors and popular bloggers and book marketers. I asked my friend Joe, who is an author and popular blogger. “That’s the title,” he said one day as a group of us sat down to eat brunch at a restaurant in Portland. “It has to be. I’m telling you right now. That’s what the title is going to be. I just know it.”

I wasn’t so sure, though. Because everyone I talked to either loved the title or absolutely hated it. And that worried me. The publisher wasn’t sure, either. In fact, all my marketing-savvy friends loved it, but some did not. So, I waited and waited, worrying about the right thing to do.

Then I started asking potential readers, people I met at events and conferences. One was accomplished fine artist, Cassia Cogger, who when she heard the title said, “Well, yeah. I mean, it’s true. You can’t starve. You have to make a living if you want to create art.”

Then she went and created an amazing piece of sketch note artwork that said, “Jeff Goins says… Real artists don’t STARVE!!!”

Finally, I asked Joel Miller, who edited my previous book, and he said, “Nope. All those other titles are dumb and this one just works. That’s the title.” He didn’t couch it in any formalities or niceties. That’s what I love about Joel. And so, because he knew it, I knew it.

Which is how my book became: Real Artists Don’t Starve.

Lessons learned and how to title your book

How did I know this was the right title? Well, I didn’t. But I chose it, anyway, because I believed it encapsulated the argument I wanted to say and because I did the work to validate the idea. That doesn’t mean some people didn’t disagree with it, but ultimately it felt like the right choice.

Here’s why (and what you should be looking for when you title your own book):

  • Feedback. Whenever I talked to someone whom I thought was the ideal reader for the book (think artists, creatives, writers), they almost always loved it. Not only did they love it; it challenged them. They resonated with it. People who didn’t care for it were rarely the target audience, but they said they were considering how someone in their shoes might interpret it. Also, people I respected were more sure about the decision than I was.
  • Controversy. When people liked the book title, they loved it; and when they didn’t like it, they really didn’t like it. I figured anything that was getting that strong of a reaction was bound to generate some conversation. A risk, of course, but one worth taking.
  • Risk. Finally, I figured it was better to say something strong that some people might disagree with than it was to pick something safe and forgettable.

So, that’s how I came to title my latest book. Now, here’s what I learned…

4 rules for titling books

  1. Choosing a title for your book is the most important marketing decision you will make. If you get it right, it makes everything easier. If you get it wrong, it makes everything harder.
  2. A book title needs to dare readers to pick up the book. That’s its one and only job — to get someone who’s never heard of you to consider spending $25 on a book they’ve never heard of before. So, err on the side of saying something controversial or unbelievable. Think The 4-Hour Workweek. You want people seeing your title, saying, “Wow, there’s no way that’s true!”
  3. Make your title one part intrigue, one part description. Don’t make people guess what your book is about. Tell them. Consider Think and Grow Rich or How to Win Friends and Influence People, two of the best-selling business books of all time. These titles tell you exactly what is in them. For fiction, you can get away with something a little more poetic, but you’re still balancing intrigue with description. For example, To Kill a Mockingbird is not actually about killing birds, but it is about killing something innocent.
  4. Make a counterintuitive promise. Include something surprising in the title or subtitle. Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist is an example of this, as is Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle Is the Way. Again, the title is a dare to the reader to pick it up, so make them think. If you don’t do it in the title, do it in subtitle. Malcolm Gladwell’s books all have relatively short titles but longer subtitles that follow this rule of mixing intrigue with description.

One person I asked about the book title said, “Man, I would pick up that book just to prove you wrong. I mean, I’m thinking, ‘Who does he think he is!?’”

What do you think? How does Real Artists Starve strike you? What are some of your favorite book titles? Share in the comments.

Andrew Raynor

SEO basics: How to use social media

Andrew Raynor

 

 

Social media endeavors should be a part of your SEO strategy. As social media usage increased in popularity, Google and other search engines couldn’t ignore them any longer. This means that your site’s popularity on social media ties in with your SEO more and more. The reason for this is simple: if people talk about you, online or offline, you’re relevant to the topic at hand. In addition to that, you’ll want to know about these conversations. In this post, I’ll give you some fundamental tips on how to use social media.

How to use social media

Below are some tips you can use in order to set up or to improve your social media strategy:

1. Keep your account alive

The most crucial advice in the use of social media is that you need to keep your account ‘alive’. Make sure you post on a regular basis. Sharing your new blog posts is a good start, but also let people know what you’re working on or what interests you. If you go on vacation, schedule posts for the time you are away, or at least let people know when you’ll be back. And, after a while, you could repost older content to draw people to your website with existing content.

2. Write captivating excerpts

When you decide to share your blog post on social media, make sure to select or write a short and appealing excerpt in order to draw people in. You could, for instance, choose the most important sentence or the main point of your post. Or you could simply choose to share the introduction of the blog post, if you feel that is captivating enough. You want this piece of text to get people to click on the link and read the whole post. And do ensure that people can easily navigate to other pages on your website, once they are there.

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3. Diversify

You can share different types of posts on your social media account. As mentioned in point 1, you could share your blog posts, but you could also share short news items, videos or simply some (behind-the-scenes) pictures. These kind of posts can make our brand more fun and personal.

In order to decide which posts do well on social media, you should analyze the number of views, shares and likes. Of course, we’d advise to share types of posts that receive a lot of views and likes more often.

4. Handle comments

If you share your posts on social media, you could also receive comments. Don’t forget to monitor this. You should handle these comments swiftly.

Read more: ‘How to handle comments on your blog’ »

5. Use awesome illustrations

For some social media (Pinterest and Instagram) it is all about the illustrations. But also on Facebook visual content is really important. They make your post stand out from all of the other posts in someone’s timeline, and can boost clickthrough.

When you use Yoast SEO Premium you can check what your blog post or product page will look like, before sharing it on Facebook and Twitter. See how easy that is!

6. Be part of the community

If you’re active in a certain community or niche, you’ll soon discover other interesting people in that area that your audience follows. Follow them too and interact with them, this could help your and their audiences grow.

7. Add metadata

Smart use of (hash)tags can also help your growth immensely. For instance if you are at an event, include the hashtag for that event in your post, so everyone searching for that event will come across it. There are also hashtags for certain interests or technology. Some people might even retweet everything that is posted in a certain hashtag, which is a great way to boost your post. But don’t go overboard! Nobody likes a post that is filled with all kinds of random hashtags.

Conclusion

Social media is a key aspect of every SEO strategy. Setting up a decent social media strategy can be hard and will ask for a bit of creativity. And, it’ll definitely consume much of your time. But, it’ll be worth it! And if you think about it, social media and blogging are very similar in many aspects.

Keep reading: ‘Social media strategy: where to begin’ »

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3 Proven Book Marketing Tactics that You Should Probably Avoid

Andrew Raynor

You finally emerge from the dark jungle of self-doubt and the tangled undergrowth of self-loathing that is the typical interior landscape of writing your book (it’s not just me, surely?)

Congratulations! Your “pub date” is inked on to the calendar and it’s exciting to think of this artifact, crafted in the smithy of your soul, out in the world at last.

Until you realized what you’ve always known. Creating the book is easy compared to figuring out how to market and sell the thing.

3 Proven Book Marketing Tactics that You Should Probably Avoid

The rule of thumb I’ve heard is that 93% of books sell less than 1,000 copies. As I first heard those numbers more than five years ago and before the advent of dead-easy self-publishing, they may be overly optimistic.

Now, there are plenty of guides to help you prepare for this second stage. Jeff Goins and Tim Grahl are a dynamic duo. Michael Hyatt. Ryan Holiday. These are all people with the scars of success and failure whose stories are worth listening to. I’ve had some success too. My most recent book, self-published, sold over 180,000 copies in its first year, and a previous book, published by a New York publisher, has sold about 90,000 copies.

But as you consider what to do, it’s useful to consider what you won’t do as well. As I planned the campaign to make The Coaching Habit successful, there were three well-known tactics that I took off the table.

Why? Because when I admitted the truth to myself, I could see that pursuing them was magical thinking, the fantasy that somehow my book would be recognized, plucked from obscurity, and elevated to best-seller status.

Crossing these off my list, help me roll up my sleeves and get down to the hard work of making the tactics I could control have as much impact as possible.

Here are those three tactics (plus one other that might make you smile), so you can weigh the pros and cons for yourself.

1. The bestseller-list hack

Who doesn’t want “New York Times bestseller” splashed across their book’s cover? I certainly do. (So did Jeff.) But it’s not easy to achieve. The rule of thumb, at least for adult nonfiction books like mine, is that you need to sell 10,000 copies a week for two weeks, but — and here’s the twist — you also need to sell them through the right channels.

No one is entirely sure what those channels are (it’s not ebooks; it is certain mysterious bookstores). So while most of us like to think of the NYT bestseller list as a scientific calculation, it’s actually a bit of an art.

Now, this ranking on the NYT list is an almost impossible task if you’re not famous, or don’t have a big crowd at your back or a mega–TED Talk. But it is something you can buy if you know how. For a certain amount of money — it’s either high five figures or, more likely, low six — you can find a partner to facilitate copies of your books being sold through those NYT channels.

Is that ethical? It’s much debated among authors I know. There are some authors who are just making sure that real books that are really sold get counted towards the list, which seems OK. And then there are others who buy their own books and then get them counted, which doesn’t. (Here’s an in-depth article, if you’re curious.)

Anyway, I knew from the start this wasn’t something I wanted to pursue. For one reason, I’m keeping that $150,000 stacked in used twenty-dollar bills in my air-conditioning vents for something else. And, in all seriousness, I got clear that the goal was for this book to be considered a “coaching classic”, which meant I was playing a long game.

A week on a bestseller list wasn’t nearly as important as a commitment to keeping the book alive and important for at least five years. I bet that this long-term mindset (and willingness to invest over that time) was going to pay a better return.

Ironically and delightfully, I accidentally made it on to a list after all. The book spent one week on a Wall Street Journal list (#3 business ebook!) after we ran a BookBub campaign that managed to shift about 7,000 ebooks in a week.

2. The Burchard giveaway

Brendon Burchard is masterful at writing successful books. His books all end up on the NYT best-seller list, and he’s done a brilliant job at leveraging that fame for on-going success.

I’ve looked at what he does, and while I’m only guessing here, I think the essential parts of his book launch system are —

  • Building a huge and loyal list over multiple years.
  • Building long-term partnerships with others who’ve done the same (such as Jeff Walker). They cross-promote each other’s programs, and grow their lists (and sales) from these “Super Affiliates”.
  • Giving his book away for free + shipping and handling (about $7, so they’re sold at a loss, but not a huge loss) and adding the recipients to his mailing list.
  • Channelling these book sales through some sort of system, perhaps like the bestseller hack mentioned above, so the book hits the NYT list.
  • Having a wide range of programs to upsell to the people on his mailing list, so the book acts as a loss leader or at least a small signal of commitment and engagement. These programs also offer affiliate payments to his partners, so there’s the potential financial upside to promoting the original book.

It’s impressive. And even if I had wanted to, I couldn’t have pulled it off. I didn’t have the size of a list (ah, it’s always about the size), nor did I have a post-book upsell to offer to help my partners make some “real money.”

But even if this is beyond you, it’s worth seeing the genius in the system that Burchard’s built. Each book has credibility, and provides an easy and safe way onto his mailing list. He knows that the big win is not the book sale but having that person become a regular customer of his programs.

As you think about your book, it’s worth defining what role it plays in your business model. It’s almost guaranteed not to be a big “revenue source” on its own. So how does your book provide an introduction to the real way you make your money?

3. The Tim Ferriss blessing

In the good old days, you dreamed of being summoned by Oprah to come talk about your book. With the Oprah aura (or so the fantasy went), your book would surge to the top of every bestseller list.

For nonfiction books, Tim Ferriss is the new Oprah. Through his blog, his email list and his lengthy yet excellent podcast interviews, Tim has the eyes and ears of a huge fan base. One interview has helped a book hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. One tweet has helped a certain brand of sardines disappear from shelves. (It’s all laid out here.)

I haven’t used this strategy mostly because I haven’t found a way (yet) to get Tim’s attention. Only a personal introduction will do it with Tim, of course, and that still may not be enough: I’m sure the man is besieged with introductions from people he both knows and trusts.

I’ve not abandoned this one. But it’s a little like the Queen of the Andes plant, which only blossoms once in a hundred years. I’m keeping my eye on the opportunity. Who knows, something may happen and I may get a text from Tim saying “let’s talk.” But I’m assuming not, and I’m wasting no time hoping this will somehow happen.

4. The most expensive book in the world

So here’s the bonus, non-obvious idea. And you need to know, I really REALLY liked this idea. Inspired by British artist Damien Hirst and by the rap group Wu-Tang Clan, I thought I’d create the most expensive business book ever. A cover encrusted with diamonds à la For the Love of God. Pages handwritten on vellum by a calligraphy master. Presented in a box made of gold or perhaps of beautifully carved wood. Only one made, à la The Wu — Once upon a Time in Shaolin.

I wasn’t entirely sure how production would go. I think I’d have put it out as part of a Kickstarter campaign for a million dollars — or maybe two — and created only if someone actually bought it.

And think of the press!

My team put the kibosh on the idea. It was, they rightly pointed out, against our core values of Elegance and Tread Lightly. It was a vanity project. It was ridiculous. That said, Marlene, my awesome assistant, did make me a couple of bedazzled versions to help me feel better about it all.

bedazzled book marketing

But the lesson to take from this isn’t about being pro- or anti-bling. It’s about thinking about the marketing of the book right from the start. Rest assured, no-one and I mean NO-ONE cares about a press release saying your book has appeared on the planet. If you want press, you need to find a story. You need to rise about the noise and provide something that grabs their attention. Be funny. Be different. Be controversial.

Whatever your idea, you should probably expect it to fail. Almost nothing catches on. But occasionally it does. Scott Stratten is a guy to watch here. He’s launched a number of memes that have taken off, from this video to this story to the quoted-by-and-now-attributed-to-Brené Brown “Jackass Whisperer”.

How long is a piece of string?

There are an endless number of ways to market in your book. When you’re not sure, when you’re feeling vulnerable, when you’re feeling a little desperate, they can all sound good.

Strategy, in its essence, is taking a deep breath and saying Yes to a few things and in doing so, saying No to many things.

My wish for you: the courage to boldly pick a few marketing tactics and do them deeply, fully, madly. You of course will be taking your best guess at what works, and not all of it will. But don’t try and do everything. And start by crossing these tactics off your list.

What book are you working on? Which book marketing strategies interest you the most? Share in the comments

Andrew Raynor

Social buttons: How to add and track them on your site

Andrew Raynor

 

 

To help your blog gain more readers, you can make use of social buttons which allow your current readers to share interesting posts on their social media accounts. But how should you go about implementing them? In this post we’ll explain how we’ve done this at Yoast and will give you some pointers on how to get started.

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What are social buttons?

For those that don’t know what social buttons are: They’re the buttons that you’ve seen around the internet that are usually placed somewhere below a blog post that allow readers to share articles on various social media platforms. This is great for gaining extra exposure and thus also getting more traffic to your website.

At Yoast, our social buttons look as follow:

Social Buttons

How did you implement these social buttons in WordPress?

Now you might be wondering about how these buttons were implemented. Your initial thought might be that this was added with some kind of plugin. However, at Yoast we decided to add it to our theme. This gives us extra control in how we style and display things. Of course we could have decided to add these buttons to a plugin, but the added benefit would be minimal for us.

We’ve decided to place the code for the social buttons in a template partial. This way we can easily embed it throughout the website without having to drastically edit template files or having to embed the buttons manually per post.

Here’s a basic example of how we implemented a social button for Facebook. Note that not all the code is actual production code and has been replaced with psuedo-code to make implementation easier to understand.

<?php
// File: <theme_folder>/html_includes/partials/social-share.php
function facebook_social_button() {
$article_url = get_article_url(); // Psuedo-code method to retrieve the article's URL.
$article_url .= '#utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=social_buttons';

$title = html_entity_decode( get_og_title() ); // Psuedo-code method to retrieve the og_title.
$description = html_entity_decode( get_og_description() ); // Psuedo-code method to retrieve the og_description.
$og_image = get_og_image(); // Psuedo-code method to retrieve the og_image assigned to a post.

$images   = $og_image->get_images();
$url = 'http://www.facebook.com/sharer/sharer.php?s=100';
$url .= '&p[url]=' . urlencode( $article_url );
$url .= '&p[title]=' . urlencode( $title );
$url .= '&p[images][0]=' . urlencode( $images[0] );
$url .= '&p[summary]=' . urlencode( $description );
$url .= '&u=' . urlencode( $article_url );
$url .= '&t=' . urlencode( $title );
echo esc_attr( $url );
}
?>
<div id="social-share">
<div class="socialbox">
<a rel="nofollow" target="_blank" data-name="facebook" aria-label="Share on Facebook" data-action="share" href="<?php facebook_social_button(); ?>">
<i class="fa fa-facebook-square text-icon--facebook"></i>
</a>
</div>
</div>

The above code could be used in a similar fashion for other social media platforms, but it can vary greatly in terms of URL structure. We advise you look at the documentation of your desired platforms to ensure compatibility.

To include these social buttons in your blog posts, open up single.php in your theme’s folder and paste the following snippet where you want the buttons to appear:

<?php get_template_part( 'html_includes/partials/social-share' ); ?>

That’s it! If you don’t want to collect interaction data from these buttons, then this is all you need. If you want interactions to be tracked, then read on.

Tracking Interaction with Social Buttons

Having nicely styled social buttons in your website is one thing, but tracking the actual interactions with them would be even better.
At Yoast, we use JavaScript to ensure the tracking of the social media sharing is done correctly so we can easily see what social media platforms are popular among our readers.

The code for this is relatively simple and depends on the Google Analytics Tracker being properly implemented into your website. Assuming this is the case, the following code will be of great help:

jQuery( document ).ready( function( $ ) {
	$( '.socialbox a' ).click( function( e ) {
		e.preventDefault();
		
		if ( typeof __gaTracker !== "undefined" ) {
			__gaTracker( 'send', 'social', $( this ).data( 'name' ), $( this ).data( 'action' ), document.querySelector( "link[rel='canonical']" ).getAttribute( "href" ) );
		}
	});	
});

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The above JavaScript snippet passes in some of the extra information we passed along to the anchor tag. This extra information can be identified by the data- prefix and is retrieved by calling $( this ).data( [...] ). This method allows us to easily extend the social-share div and add more buttons.

If you want more information on how Google tracks this information, you can read about it here.

Conclusion

As you can see, it’s not very difficult to add social buttons to your blog. Even tracking them in Google Analytics has become a breeze compared to past implementations.

All that’s left is to go and implement the buttons and allow your readers help promote your posts. Good luck!

Read more: ‘Social media optimization with Yoast SEO’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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