Ask Yoast: Word order of your focus keyword

Andrew Raynor

 

 

If you’re using Yoast SEO to optimize your posts and pages, it’ll ask you to fill out a focus keyword. This is the search term you want your content to rank for. Deciding on a focus keyword can be challenging. For example, if you want to optimize your content for a long tail keyword – existing of multiple words –  what is the exact key phrase you should use? Does word order matter? In this Ask Yoast, you’ll learn how to use Yoast SEO when optimizing for long tail keywords.

Stefan Junestrand has emailed us asking:

“For long tail keywords that will be searched for with equal frequency with the words in different order, which would be best practice?
a. Use one long tail focus keyword
b. Use 5 different focus keywords with one focus keyword”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

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Word order of your focus keyword

In the video, we help you decide on the word order of your long tail focus keyword and how to use the multiple focus keyword functionality of Yoast SEO Premium.

” So you mean for example ‘WordPress SEO’ and ‘SEO WordPress’. Which one would be best practice to use? One focus keyword for each page? Or should you combine them all into one page?

You really should combine them into one page. SEO for WordPress and WordPress SEO are basically the same thing. Of course, if you’re writing naturally, you’ll probably use both combinations already. So just write one longer page and use different word orders.

If you have Yoast SEO Premium you can have up to 5 focus keywords: try and optimize for the most common variants in word order of your long tail keyword. But don’t overdo the optimizing! It might even be better to not get green bullets for all 5 combinations, if you’re optimizing for similar combinations with just a different word order. Because then your copy would become pretty hard to read. So write a natural text, make sure that you use different versions a couple of times and you should be good.

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: ‘Why should you focus on multiple focus keywords’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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Why Preordering a Book Helps Both the Author and Reader

Andrew Raynor

Today is the day many of you have been waiting for, where I tell you it’s finally time to preorder my new book. If you order Real Artists Don’t Starve before midnight on June 6, you’re going get some great bonuses.

Why Preordering a Book Helps Both the Author and Reader

But first things first, why should you preorder a book in the first place? Maybe you’ve seen authors asking for this and don’t know why they do it. Well, here are a few reasons (in no particular order):

1. Pre-ordering a book helps the author

Maybe you don’t really care about this. But if you like this author and want this person to keep writing books, then supporting them during a book launch isn’t such a bad idea.

Preordering helps the author like this: When you preorder a book, it tells bookstores people want this book, which makes them typically stock more copies of the book, which of course means more people see it and buy it.

2. When you pre-order, you often get the lowest price

Many book stores including Amazon offer a “preorder price guarantee” which means if you preorder a book and the price drops, you will get the best price. It’s like buying something at full price then seeing a discount the next week.

If you preorder, the book store will honor the lowest price. In the case of my book, it’s currently 34% off on Amazon right now.

3. When you pre-order, you sometimes get bonuses

Authors will occasionally give away a special bonus with their new book. This can be something small like a bookmark or sticker, which is cool if you like sticky stuff.

But in the case of my books, I always try to give away a ton of value as a way of saying “thanks” to all the book’s early adopters. With Real Artists Don’t Starve, I am giving away an entire online video course absolutely for free, plus other cool stuff. It’s $200 worth of bonuses.

So those are three reasons why you should preorder a book. Now, here it is. If you pre-order my new book by 11:59 PM PST June 6, 2017, you will receive these bonuses:

Bonus #1: Real Artists Don’t Starve online course ($100 value)

In this 12-part video course, I will share how you can make a living off your art, whatever it is, elaborating on the principles in the book and sharing my own knowledge and experience from working with thousands of writers and creatives over the years.

It really is possible to make a living doing this stuff. I’ll show you how.

Bonus #2: Expert interview transcripts ($50 value)

Learn from the hundreds of experts and Thriving Artists I interviewed during the research of my book. These are people you’ve never heard of before who are killing it!

Not just famous musicians and artists and authors, but everyday people just like you who are thriving in their creative work.

Bonus #3: Exclusive community access ($50 value)

Get special access to a private Facebook group where I will answer your questions regularly and you can connect with others reading the book.

I do a group like this for each of my books, and they’re always a fun way to connect with each other around the ideas in the book and dig a little deeper. Think online book club where you get exclusive access to the author — at no extra cost.

To claim these bonuses, all you have to do is:

  1. Go preorder the book (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound)
  2. Forward your receipt to rads@goinswriter.com
  3. Check your inbox for a link to collect your bonuses!

That’s it!

I have waited years to write this book and can’t wait for you to get your hands on it. You don’t have to starve for your craft. You can do more than survive as an artist, you can thrive!

These bonuses go away completely on June 6. Go to DontStarve.com before then to not miss out.

What is your craft? What would your life look like as a Thriving Artist? Share in the comments.

Andrew Raynor

How do I determine what my cornerstone articles are?

Andrew Raynor

 

 

Cornerstone articles are those articles that are most important to your website. These are the articles you would like to rank high in the search engines. Cornerstone articles are usually explainers; relatively long articles combining insights from different blog posts.

Perhaps you never thought about cornerstone articles before, even if you have your website for quite some time already. Still, you have a few articles that do really well in the search engines. How should you decide which articles are your cornerstones? And once you’ve identified your cornerstone content, what should you do to optimize these articles? Here, I’ll help you to determine which articles are your cornerstones and I’ll give some tips to optimize them to increase their chance of ranking. 

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5 steps towards a pragmatic cornerstone approach

Ideally, you should do extensive keyword research, after which you can produce really awesome, long, informative and beautifully written cornerstone articles. But you’ve probably written tons of articles already. Follow these five steps to turn some into killer cornerstone content:

Step 1: Think about your keywords

You have to determine the essential keywords you want to rank for. Make sure you use the words your audience search for. Trying to rank for words nobody uses, is utterly useless. Your cornerstone articles should be optimized for the most ‘head’ or most competitive keywords you’re aiming for.

Read more: ‘Keyword research: the complete guide’ »

Step 2: Choose the best post

Go through the posts that are optimized for keywords closest to the most important, most competitive keywords. Which post do you think is the best? That’ll be your cornerstone from now on!

Step 3: Rewrite it

Rewrite your cornerstone article. Make it awesome and SEO-friendly. Expand it and make sure it’s totally up to date. You should check it and expand that article regularly. Make sure that this article covers all the information that is relevant to that topic.

Also, make sure the article is incredibly nice and easy to read. Reading from a screen is challenging. Cornerstone articles tend to be longer than regular articles. You should, therefore, focus even more on readability. Think about the structure of your text, present topics in a logical order, write clear and short paragraphs.

Keep reading: ‘5 tips for a readable blogpost’ »

Step 4: Optimize your other posts on long tail variants

Once you’ve chosen and improved your cornerstone content article, you should pay some attention to the blog posts that are about similar topics as your cornerstone article. These other blog posts should be optimized for long tail variants of the ‘head’ keyword you’re focusing on in your cornerstone article. So, if the keyword of your cornerstone article is ‘ballet shoes’, the keywords of the other blog post could be: ‘ballet shoes for kids’, ‘cheap ballet shoes’, ‘classical ballet shoes’ and ‘ballet shoes for men’.

Read on: ‘Why you should focus on long tail keywords’ »

Step 5: Linking from those tails to your head

An important reason why you should use a cornerstone content approach is because you do not want to compete with your own content for ranking in Google. That’s why you have to tell Google that your new cornerstone article is the most important one on your site. You can do that by linking from all the long tail articles to your cornerstone article!

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

SEO New Hampshire

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5 Tips from Hemingway that Will Make You a Better Writer

Andrew Raynor

In the spring of 1934, an aspiring writer named Arnold Samuelson hitchhiked from Minnesota to Florida to see if he could land a meeting with his favorite author. Feeling discouraged over his writing, Samuelson believed he needed a mentor to help him improve his craft.

The writer he had picked to be his mentor? Ernest Hemingway.

5 Tips from Ernest Hemingway That Will Make You a Better Writer

Samuelson showed up at Hemingway’s front door and begged the famous author for just a few minutes of conversation. Much to Samuelson’s delight, Hemingway agreed to talk with him and read some of his work. Although Hemingway wasn’t particularly impressed by Samuelson’s writing, he was impressed by the 22-year-old’s seriousness and dedication.

Unfortunately, Hemingway had planned to leave Florida soon on his boat Pilar. But luckily for Samuelson, Hemingway invited him to join the crew. While at sea, Samuelson had the rare opportunity to pick Hemingway’s brains about writing.

In a 1935 article for Esquire magazine, Hemingway shared some of the advice he had given Samuelson. Read on for five of Hemingway’s tips that we can use to improve our own writing:

1. Always stop when you’re going good

Samuelson wanted to be sure he was devoting enough time to writing. He asked Hemingway, “How much should you write in a day?”

Instead of giving Samuelson an arbitrary word-count goal or a number of hours to shoot for, Hemingway answered,

The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck. That is the most valuable thing I can tell you so try to remember it.

Essentially, Hemingway was warning us writers not to worry so much about reaching a word count goal that it depletes our creative energy.

Instead, end your writing sessions mid-paragraph while you still have a clear idea of what you want to write next. That way you’ll maintain your momentum and avoid showing up to a blank page the next day with no idea how to move forward.

2. Block out negative thoughts

For those of you who are novelists or are considering writing a novel, Hemingway had one very important tip.

Samuelson apparently had doubts about whether he could finish a book-length project. This prompted Hemingway to discuss how writers can stop themselves from worrying about whether they can maintain the creative process day to day.

Here’s what he told Samuelson:

Once you are into the novel it is as cowardly to worry about whether you can go on to the next day as to worry about having to go into inevitable action. You have to go on. So there is no sense to worry… As soon as you start to think about it stop it. Think about something else. You have to learn that to write a novel. The hard part about a novel is to finish it.

Hemingway compared writing a novel to a war. When a battle is about to take place, a brave soldier casts all negative thoughts of the battle aside. As a soldier, it’s his duty to enter the battle and see it through.

Hemingway believed that writing a novel requires that kind of courage, especially once the process has begun. There will be days when it seems like you can’t go on. Maybe you’ve run into a problem with your plot or you don’t know how to write a certain scene or you feel like you’re running out of ideas.

Writing a novel is hard. But you’ve entered the battle, and now you need to win it.

Although Hemingway was talking specifically about writing a novel, his advice can apply to any kind of creative writing, whether it’s blogging, short story writing, or even poetry. Whenever you come to a place where you feel like quitting because you’re stuck, banish those thoughts.

Those negative thoughts are a distraction from getting your words down on paper. Fill your head with positive thoughts instead and keep moving forward. (And to avoid the danger of getting stuck, see tip #1.)

When I begin to worry over my writing, I like to remember a quote from Hemingway’s book The Old Man and the Sea. The protagonist Santiago muses, “Perhaps I should not have been a fisherman… But that was the thing that I was born for.”

Just as Santiago had to struggle to bring in his catch each day, writers have to write and see their projects through to the end because we were born to write.

3. Study the greats

Hemingway gave Samuelson a long list of books to read (all classic novels) and told him,

[A writer] should have read everything so that he knows what he has to beat… The only people for a serious writer to compete with are the dead that he knows are good. It is like a miler running against the clock rather than simply trying to beat whoever is in the race with him. Unless he runs against time he will never know what he is capable of attaining.

By studying the work of the greatest writers, you’ll have a standard to judge your own work against. Is your plot too simple or does it have intriguing twists and turns like a Dickens novel? Is your dialogue too stiff or do your characters have unique voices like a Mark Twain novel? Can you tackle complex themes in your work, provoking your readers to consider their own deeply held beliefs, like a Dostoevsky novel?

Don’t just try to be better than average. Push yourself to keep improving your craft. If you’re not sure where to start with reading the classics, you could try reading through the books of Nobel Prize winners or pick books from a list like The 100 Greatest Novels compiled by The Guardian.

4. Sharpen your observational skills

You’ve probably heard the old adage “show, don’t tell” countless times. But often it can be difficult to apply this advice to our writing. Hemingway gave Samuelson this exercise for honing his descriptive skills,

Watch what happens today. If we get into a fish see exact it is that everyone does. If you get a kick out of it while he is jumping remember back until you see exactly what the action was that gave you that emotion. Whether it was the rising of the line from the water and the way it tightened like a fiddle string until drops started from it, or the way he smashed and threw water when he jumped.

…Then write it down making it clear so the reader will see it too and have the same feeling you had. Thatʼs a five finger exercise.

Hemingway’s exercise forces you to avoid vague generalities in your writing. Don’t just tell us catching a fish is exciting. Be specific. Show us why. Whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction, descriptive storytelling draws your readers into the story and allows them to connect with your writing on a more intimate level.

For example, Hemingway’s experiences as a deep sea fisherman were the inspiration for The Old Man and The Sea. By using vivid description, Hemingway transports us to Santiago’s boat. He makes us feel the salt spray, the sun on Santiago’s face, and Santiago’s strength and then exhaustion as he desperately tries to reel in a marlin. After reading the book, we know a lot more about what it means to be a fisherman.

Writing more descriptively can be learned. Hemingway told Samuelson that, “There are a thousand ways to practice.” Go into a room and try to describe it. Observe people getting in and out of cars.

Hemingway told Samuelson to pay special attention to the small details and the way things made him feel. It’s these things that can make all the difference in your writing.

5. Practice empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and be sensitive to the feelings of others, to be able to see the world through another person’s eyes. Hemingway told Samuelson that it was vital for a writer to develop a sense of empathy,

Then get in somebody elseʼs head for a change. If I bawl you out try to figure out what Iʼm thinking about as well as how you feel about it. If Carlos curses Juan think what both their sides of it are. Donʼt just think who is right…As a man you know who is right and who is wrong… As a writer you should not judge. You should understand…Listen now. When people talk listen completely. Donʼt be thinking what youʼre going to say. Most people never listen.

Practicing empathy forces you to consider the motivations of others.

If you write fiction, it helps you to create well-developed characters instead of caricatures. To use The Old Man and the Sea as an example again, Hemingway describes Santiago so well that the character feels like an old friend by the time we finish the story. Hemingway lets us get into Santiago’s mind and see his dreams and passions, his courage and his loneliness.

If you write nonfiction, you can use empathy to think more deeply about the subjects you are writing. Why would others have a different opinion to yours? How can you respond to that opinion in your writing?

Above all, practicing empathy encourages you to think about your readers. How can your writing engage and entertain your readers? How can you weave universal themes into your writing that they can relate to and be inspired by?

The Takeaway

Samuelson didn’t end up pursuing a writing career (the memoir he wrote about the year he spent at sea wasn’t published until after his death). But we owe him a debt of gratitude for getting Hemingway to share these insights about writing.

Most of us will never have an opportunity like Samuelson’s to receive personal feedback on our writing from our favorite author. If you’re like me, many of your favorite authors might be long dead, in which case you’d have to find a way to time travel like Gil Pender in the movie Midnight in Paris.

But we can study the great writers who went before us. They have a lot to teach us. If we wish to become better writers and inspire more people with our words, there is always more we can learn, always more time to spend practicing.

As Hemingway once observed, “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”

Who is an author you’d like to have as a personal mentor? What is the best writing wisdom someone has bestowed on you? Share in the comments.

Andrew Raynor

Internal linking for SEO: why and how

Andrew Raynor

 

 

Your content needs links to be able to rank. Google can only find your posts and pages when they’re linked to from somewhere on the web. In addition to that, internal links connect your content and give Google an idea of the structure of your website. They can establish hierarchy on your site, which enables you to give the most important pages and posts more link value than other, less valuable, pages. This means that the right internal linking strategy can boost your SEO!

Internal links vs external links

Every website consists of internal and external links. Internal links connect pages and posts on your own website and external links connect your page to other websites. In this post, we’ll focus on internal links and what they mean for SEO. Want to get more external links to your site? Read our posts on link building.

Why are links important to Google?

Google crawls websites by following links, internal and external, using a bot: Google bot. This bot first enters the homepage of a website, starts to render the homepage and follows the first link. By following links Google determines what the relation is between certain pages, posts and other content. This way Google finds out which pages on your site are topically related.

In addition to understanding the relation between content, Google divides link value over all links on a website. Often, the homepage of a website has most link value because it has most backlinks. This link value will be spread over all the links found on that homepage. The link value that is passed to a following page will be divided over the links on that page, and so on.

If you understand this, you’ll understand that having lots of (internal) links to a page, will pass more link value to that page. Because Google deems a page with lots of valuable links more important, you’ll increase the chance of ranking for that page. 

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Setting up an internal linking strategy

It’s crucial for SEO to evaluate and improve your internal linking strategy on a regular basis. By adding the right internal links you make sure Google understands the relevance of pages, the relationship between pages and the value of pages.

The ideal structure

We always advise website owners to imagine their website to be a pyramid with the most important content on top. We call those articles cornerstone content. There should be lots of links from topically related pages in the pyramid to that most essential content. By doing that, most link value is passed to those pages. On the other hand, you should also link from those top pages to subpages about related topics. Linking internally to related content shows Google what pages hold information about similar topics.

The ideal site looks like a pyramid

Linking your cornerstone content: an example

We’ve written a cornerstone content article, called ‘The ultimate guide to keyword research’. We want this post to rank for all related search queries about [keyword research] in Google search results. By adding internal links from other relevant articles, like ‘How to start with keyword research’ and ‘7 keyword research mistakes to avoid‘ to the main article, Google will start to understand that the cornerstone content article holds most information about this keyword. So after a while, Google will rank the cornerstone content above the other, smaller posts about keyword research.

Don’t forget to link from the top too

Besides linking from topically related posts and pages, it’s possible to make your cornerstone content more authoritative by adding links to it from the homepage or the top navigation. If you do this, you make sure that the most important posts or pages get a lot of link value and will become stronger in the eyes of Google.

Linking to taxonomies

If you run a blog it could be beneficial to add internal links to the taxonomies the post belongs to. Adding links to the category and tags, helps Google to understand the structure of your blog and helps visitors to easily navigate to related posts. At Yoast, we always link to the matching categories and tags in the sidebar of the specific post:

taxonomies for internal linking

Linking to taxonomies helps Google and users to understand your site

Linking to related posts

Linking to related posts helps Google to understand your site structure, as mentioned before. To read more about a certain subject you can link to one or more related posts at the end of your article. There are plugins and modules that add complete related posts sections to your posts. If you use such a tool, we do recommend testing whether the related posts are actually the best related posts. When you’re not sure, linking to posts manually would probably be a better solution. In this post about linking to related posts, Michiel tells everything about it.

Linking to popular or recent posts

The last option we want to mention is linking internally to the most popular or to the newest posts on the website. This section could be added to the sidebar of your blog or the footer of the website to show it on all pages and posts.

The benefit of creating such a popular or recent posts section, is that link value passes to the linked posts from lots of pages and posts. Moreover, visitors will easier visit the posts and getting more traffic is a positive sign to Google as well.

More on internal links

No-follow links

Probably you’re also showing links on a page that aren’t very important for SEO. If you have a login link for your clients on the homepage, for example, you don’t want that link to leak link value to your login page: that page doesn’t need to rank high in the search results.

In the past, you could prevent losing link value to such links by giving them a ‘no-follow’ tag. A ‘no-follow’ tag means that Google shouldn’t follow the link to the target page: so no link value would pass through this link. Now you might think: I’m going to ‘no-follow’ less important links to give the most important links more link value. This used worked in the past indeed, but Google has become smarter. It seems that the link value now just completely disappears when you add a ‘no-follow’ tag to a certain link. Therefore it makes more sense to have fewer links on a page instead of ‘no-following’ some of the links.

Lastly, adding a ‘no-follow’ tag doesn’t mean that people can’t find those target pages in Google’s search results. If you don’t want pages or posts to show up in the search results you should give them a ‘no-index’ tag as well. The ‘no-index’ tag means that Google shouldn’t render the page and shouldn’t give the content a place in the Google index to show up in the search results.

Anchor texts

If you have decided which links should be on a page and which pages should get link value, it’s important to use the right anchor texts. The anchor text is the text that visitors see and where they can click on, so the link is added to this part of the text. For example, the anchor texts of the two internal links in the text below are ‘link schemes’ and ‘paid links’:

Anchor texts

You can see the anchor text containing the link in this image

It might hurt your website if you over optimize anchor text. With over optimizing we mean keyword stuffing. In the past, you could give all anchor texts the same keyword and Google made your website rank higher for that specific keyword. Nowadays, Google is smart enough to understand that the content around the anchor texts is telling more about the relevancy of a keyword than the anchor text does. So make sure the anchor text looks natural in your copy: you can definitely use keywords but don’t add the exact same keywords to each and every one of your anchor texts. 

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Easy internal linking with Yoast SEO Premium

Our Yoast SEO Premium plugin helps to improve your internal linking structure. The plugin contains an internal linking suggestion tool which helps you to find related posts to link to. When you’re writing a post, you can immediately link to a related post by dragging the link into the editor. On top of that, there is an option to mark your most important articles as cornerstone content in the plugin. If you do this, the suggestion tool will show those cornerstone content articles on top, so you’ll never forget to link to those!

Go link your content

Without links your content can’t rank! With a solid internal linking strategy you can show which content is related and which of your articles are most informative and valuable. If you follow the guidelines in this post both Google and users will understand your site better, which will increase your chance of ranking.

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

SEO New Hampshire

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151: Leveraging the Power of SEO to Sell Your Books on Amazon: Interview with Dave Chesson

Andrew Raynor

A few years ago, I was speaking a conference and a woman came up to me afterwards asking for advice about a book she wanted to publish. Not being familiar with her genre, I asked if there were any other books on the subject. Her answer scared me.

151: How to Validate Your Book Idea: Interview with Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur

“None,” she said. “There are no books out there like this. This is a completely original idea.”

Why would this scare me?

Because this isn’t how you successfully launch a book. If you release your work into a vacuum there is no one there to buy it.

This week on The Portfolio Life, Dave Chesson and I talk about how to research your book before you write it and nearly guarantee it’s success.

As a top authority on self-publishing through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), and founder of Kindlepreneur, Dave shares his insights into the parallels between building profitable niche websites and writing relevant books that create a continuous income stream for the author.

Listen in as we talk about riding elephants, keyword research, how to use your ideal reader’s words to build your book, and quick tips for aspiring authors and new writers.

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, Dave and I discuss:

  • Why a strategy that for Malcolm Gladwell won’t necessarily work for you
  • The impact of the Amazon “honeymoon” period
  • How to avoid book sales feeling like blowing air into a deflated balloon with a hole in it
  • Our wives being right at least 80% of the time
  • Assessing your definition of success and determining if you’re on the right path
  • How building a business or writing books can fit into the margins of your day job
  • The process for writing and self-publishing your book
  • Creating content that centers around a topic people like and is better than the competition
  • The similarities between Google and Amazon search
  • How to reverse engineer Amazon’s algorithm
  • Using Google to determine the degree of competition for an idea

Takeaways

  • Find the words your target market is using.
  • Do research to determine if anyone is looking for and buying the kind of book you want to write.
  • Creating a book that people are actively searching for on Amazon can create a continuous stream of income.
  • If you try to rank for a term that’s too popular, every second a new book will come out on Amazon targeting that market.
  • Don’t write into a competitive market where no one is making any money.
  • The most important number Amazon can give any writer is the Amazon “best seller” rank.
  • Write a blog post or article to test your book idea.
  • Every new book is an experiment. If the idea doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.

Resources

What book are you trying to write? Who is the audience you’re trying to reach? Are they searching for your topic? Share your results in the comments

Andrew Raynor

Block your site’s search result pages

Andrew Raynor

 

 

Why should you block your internal search result pages for Google? Well, how would you feel if you are in dire need for the answer to your search query and end up on the internal search pages of a certain website? That’s one crappy experience. Google thinks so too. And prefers you not to have these internal search pages indexed.

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Google considers these search results pages to be of lower quality than your actual informational pages. That doesn’t mean these internal search pages are useless, but it makes sense to block these internal search pages.

Back in 2007

10 Years ago, Google, or more specifically Matt Cutts, told us that we should block these pages in our robots.txt. The reason for that:

Typically, web search results don’t add value to users, and since our core goal is to provide the best search results possible, we generally exclude search results from our web search index. (Not all URLs that contains things like “/results” or “/search” are search results, of course.)
– Matt Cutts (2007)

Nothing changed, really. Even after 10 years of SEO changes, this remains the same. The Google Webmaster Guidelines still state that you should “Use the robots.txt file on your web server to manage your crawling budget by preventing crawling of infinite spaces such as search result pages.” Furthermore, the guidelines state that webmasters should avoid techniques like automatically generated content, in this case, “Stitching or combining content from different web pages without adding sufficient value”.

However, blocking internal search pages in your robots.txt doesn’t seem the right solution. In 2007, it even made more sense to simply redirect the user to the first result of these internal search pages. These days, I’d rather use a slightly different solution.

Blocking internal search pages in 2017

I believe nowadays, using a noindex, follow meta robots tag is the way to go instead. It seems Google ‘listens’ to that meta robots tag and sometimes ignores the robots.txt. That happens, for instance, when a surplus of backlinks to a blocked page tells Google it is of interest to the public anyway. We’ve already mentioned this in our Ultimate guide to robots.txt.

The 2007 reason is still the same in 2017, by the way: linking to search pages from search pages delivers a poor experience for a visitor. For Google, on a mission to deliver the best result for your query, it makes a lot more sense to link directly to an article or another informative page.

Yoast SEO will block internal search pages for you

If you’re on WordPress and using our plugin, you’re fine. We’ve got you covered:

Block internal search pages

That’s located at SEO › Titles & Metas › Archives. Most other content management systems allow for templates for your site’s search results as well, so adding a simple line of code to that template will suffice:
<meta name="robots" content="noindex,follow"/>

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Meta robots AND robots.txt?

If you try to block internal search pages by adding that meta robots tag and disallowing these in your robots.txt, please think again. Just the meta robots will do. Otherwise, you’ll risk losing the link value of these pages (hence the follow in the meta tag). If Google listens to your robots.txt, they will ignore the meta robots tag, right? And that’s not what you want. So just use the meta robots tag!

Back to you

Did you block your internal search results? And how did you do that? Go check for yourself! Any further insights or experiences are appreciated; just drop us a line in the comments.

Read more: ‘Robots.txt: the ultimate guide’ »

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What is Google’s Knowledge Graph?

Andrew Raynor

 

 

Google’s Knowledge Graph is hard to find, but its results are not. Take for instance that big block of information that appears on the right-hand side of your desktop screen after entering a search term. This block – also known as the Knowledge Graph Card – contains relevant, context-specific information regarding your search, powered by the Knowledge Graph.

If you search for a specific company, the Knowledge Graph will show an almost complete profile, depending on how well they did their SEO work. Searching for a recently released movie will show posters, reviews and screening times for your local cinema. As you see, the graph is a powerful and fascinating tool. But what can you do to get your information in the Knowledge Graph?

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It’s Google’s way of connecting information

Google’s core business is providing people with a correct answer to all their questions. To do that, it doesn’t just present the result that closest matches a search term, but also by making broader connections between data. Google, therefore, collects and analyzes massive amounts of data on people, places, things and facts and develops ways to present the findings in an accessible way. These are often rich results, like featured snippets, images carrousels or the famous Knowledge Graph Card mentioned in the intro of this text.

The Knowledge Graph and its card

This is where it might get confusing: many people mix up the Knowledge Graph and the panel you see on the right-hand side of your screen. The Knowledge Graph is the engine that powers the panel that’s officially called the Knowledge Graph Card. In this card, you’ll find the most visible result of the work the graph does. When there’s enough data about a subject, the card will be filled with all kinds of relevant facts, images, and related searches.

Check out Target’s card in the screenshot below, and you’ll see how much information it provides.

Anatomy of the Knowledge Graph

When Google released the Knowledge Graph in 2012, they made an excellent introductory video and supporting website. These explain in easy to understand language how exactly the graph works and how it influences the results you get when you search for a specific term. Check out the site and video; they are still as relevant today as they were then:

Examples of search results

In recent years, content presented by the Knowledge Graph has become much more interactive. At first, it featured only static content, like images, social media profiles, and general information about the search. Today, it is continually expanding in possibilities. If you search for a movie, you can directly book tickets to see it at your local cinema. Search for a local store, and you know exactly when the busiest times are. Google likes to experiment with the graph, what it shows and how it’s presented.

Let’s look at some examples of recent listings.

Recipes:

knowledge graph chocolate
Movies:

knowledge graph alien

 Music:

knowledge graph music
Image slider:
knowledge graph slider

These are just a few of the possible variations of information that can be found. What you see might even change depending on where you are in the world.

Getting your content in

To get your content in the Knowledge Graph, you need to become an authority on your subject. Find out what people search for by doing keyword research, write excellent content and make sure your site is fully optimized and mobile-friendly. Use structured data to mark up important elements of your site to make it easier for Google to understand what it is all about. Register your site with Google Search Console and My Business. Keep in mind, structured data in the form of Schema.org is becoming increasingly important.

Yoast SEO and the Knowledge Graph

If you have a business and need help getting your information in the Knowledge Graph, fear no more, because Yoast SEO can help. Just by setting up Yoast SEO – optionally supported by Local SEO – and filling out the information on your site, you automatically enable the data that Google needs to fill the Knowledge Graph. After that, you can use regular SEO tactics and structured data to fill in the missing pieces. Keep in mind though that it’s Google that determines what it adds to its Knowledge Graph.

Conclusion

The Knowledge Graph is an important part of the search experience in Google. It powers many of the innovative new ways data shows up in the search engine. Getting your information in there is of the essence, especially if you have a business. If so, you have to make sure your business details are correct, sign up for Google My Business and add everything you possibly can. Many other parts of the Knowledge Graph are generated from structured data, like reviews, movie information, events, so be sure to mark up your data in any which way you can.

Read more: ‘Structured data: the ultimate guide’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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Ask Yoast: Create profiles on online platforms?

Andrew Raynor

 

 

Nowadays there are a lot of online platforms where you can create your business profile. The idea is that you can be found on those platforms and that the backlinks to your site will benefit your SEO. But is it really worth investing your time and money in those kind of directories? Get the answer in this Ask Yoast!

Marcial Bollinger emailed us asking:

“There are a lot of possibilities nowadays to add an online profile for your site on all sorts of directories, etc. It might give you a lot of backlinks, but are these worth anything for SEO?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

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Add an online profile for your business

In the video, we help you decide whether your should invest time in creating profiles on online directories. Do they boost your SEO?

“To be honest, probably not. The only reason to create profiles on sites like that is if those sites actually have traffic. If they have traffic, then having the profile probably has an SEO benefit too. Because, in that case, probably the links are worth something to Google, as they see that that site is a living thing and people really use it as a reference.

So if you can make a profile on one of those sites, by all means do. If you can make a profile on a site that you don’t think anyone would ever get to and you’re just doing it for Google, stop doing it. Stuff like that doesn’t work anymore, so don’t. Focus on sites that people might actually will find you on and if those sites are in your area or in your niche, then use them. If they don’t exist, then focus on something else.

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: ‘6 steps to a successful link building strategy’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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Why the Story of the Starving Artist Needs to Die

Andrew Raynor

In my latest book, Real Artists Don’t Starve, I debunk the myth of the starving artist and lay out a plan for how you can make a living off your creative talents. Here’s an excerpt from the book.

Why the Story of the Starving Artist Needs to Die

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” —Michelangelo Buonarotti

In 1995, an American professor made an unusual discovery. At Syracuse University in Florence, Rab Hatfield was trying to match the scenes of the Sistine Chapel to the dates Michelangelo had painted each of them.

Since the artist had received commissions in various installments, the professor thought there might be a paper trail, so he went to the city archives. Surprised at how easy it was to locate five-hundred-year-old bank records, he began reconstructing a more accurate timeline for how the most famous ceiling in the world came to be.

That’s when he saw it.

“I was really looking for something else!” the professor yelled into the phone from his office in Italy, decades later. “Every time I run across something, it’s because I was looking for something else, which I consider real discovery. It’s when you don’t expect it that you really discover something.”

With a PhD from Harvard, Professor Hatfield had begun his career at Yale in 1966 before moving to Syracuse University in 1971, and in all that time of teaching art history, he had never encountered anything like this.

What he found in those records was not what you would expect to find digging around in the bank account of an artist, even one whose fame would grow with each passing century.

“I don’t know how much you know about Michelangelo,” he told me, “but usually they taught us that he kind of struggled like Vincent van Gogh.”

For centuries, this is what historians believed about the great Renaissance master. He was just another Starving Artist, struggling to make ends meet. Michelangelo himself embraced this image, living frugally and often complaining about money. He once wrote in a poem that his art had left him “poor, old and working as a servant of others.”

But it turns out he wasn’t telling the truth.

When Rab Hatfield dug into those old bank records, the truth about the Renaissance’s most famous artist was finally revealed. He was not struggling at all. He was not poor, and he was not starving for his art—a fact we have been getting wrong ever since.

Michelangelo was, in fact, very rich. One record Professor Hatfield found showed a balance of hundreds of thousands of dollars, which was a rare sum of money for an artist at the time. When he saw those figures, the professor forgot all about the Sistine Chapel.

With his curiosity piqued, he went to see if there were more bank records, and there were more—many more. In the end, he uncovered a fortune worth roughly $47 million today, making Michelangelo the richest artist of the Renaissance.

And to this day, this is a story that surprises us.

Why?

We are accustomed to a certain narrative about artists, one that indicates they are barely getting by. But Michelangelo did not suffer or starve for his work. He was a multimillionaire and successful entrepreneur, a “pivotal figure in the transition of creative geniuses from people regarded, and paid, as craftsmen to people accorded a different level of treatment and compensation,” in the words of journalist Frank Bruni.

In other words, the master sculptor and painter wasn’t just some art school dropout struggling for his art. He was a rainmaker.

When I asked Professor Hatfield what Michelangelo’s millions mean for us today, he said, “I don’t think it means a whole lot.” But I disagree. I think this changes everything.

Myth of the Starving Artist

Two hundred years after Michelangelo died, Henri Murger was born the son of a tailor and concierge in France. Living in Paris, he was surrounded by creative geniuses and dreamed of joining them, but he grew frustrated with his failure to find financial security.

In 1847, Murger published Scènes de la vie de bohème, a collection of stories that playfully romanticized poverty. The result was some literary acclaim, persistent struggle, and an untimely end to a penniless life.

The book limped along after the author’s death, being adapted first as the opera La Bohème and later as a film, eventually achieving widespread acclaim with spinoffs including Rent and Moulin Rouge.

Murger’s Scènes launched the concept of the Starving Artist into the public’s understanding as the model for a creative life. To this day, it endures as the model for what we imagine we think of the word artist.

The story of the Starving Artist overshadows the quiet, relatively unknown tale of Michelangelo’s success and has become our most popular understanding of what’s possible for creative people—which is to say, not much.

Today, we find the remnants of this story nearly everywhere we
look. It is the advice we give a friend who dreams of painting for a living, what we tell a coworker who wants to write a novel, or even the cautionary tale we tell our children when they head out into the real world. Be careful, we say ominously. Don’t be too creative. You just might starve.

But what we forget is that the story of the Starving Artist is a myth. And like all myths, it may be a powerful story, one we can orient our entire lives around, but in the end, it is still just a story.

Thanks to the power of this myth, many of us take the safe route in life. We become lawyers instead of actresses, bankers instead of poets, and doctors instead of painters. We hedge our bets and hide from our true calling, choosing less risky careers, because it seems easier. Nobody wants to struggle, after all, so we keep our passion a hobby and follow a predictable path toward mediocrity.

But what if you could make a living as an artist, and you didn’t have to starve to do it? What would that change about the way we approach our work and how we consider creativity’s importance in our world today? What would that mean for the careers we choose and the paths we encourage our kids to follow?

In the early Renaissance, artists did not have reputations for being diligent workers. They were considered manual laborers, receiving meager commissions for their work. Michelangelo, however, changed all that.

After him, every artist began to see a “new pattern, a new way of doing things,” in the words of Bill Wallace, professor of art history at Washington University in St. Louis. Michelangelo “established the idea that an artist could become a new figure in society and have a higher social standing, and also that they could become financially successful.”

Michelangelo did not need to starve for his creations, and neither do you. When the painter of the Sistine Chapel amassed an incredible fortune and secured his legacy as one of history’s masters, he broke the glass ceiling for future generations.

Today, however, his contribution has been all but forgotten. We have bought into the Myth of the Starving Artist, thinking of artists as unfortunate Bohemians who struggle at the lowest end of society. This myth is hurting creative work everywhere, and it must be put to rest.

Rarely do we think of creatives as wealthy or successful, even cracking jokes about the wastefulness of art degrees and theater classes. We have heard how pursuing creativity is not a safe career bet, whether that means chasing an interest in literature, music, or some other artistic endeavor. All my life, I heard it from well-meaning teachers, friends, and relatives. The advice was always the same: Get a good degree, have something to fall back on, and don’t quit your day job.

The truth, though, is quite different.

Creativity, though a nice outlet for self-expression, is not something we think a person should go “all in” on for a career. Because, odds are, you’ll starve. Right?

Sometimes, though, an artist does succeed: a singer releases a platinum record, an author hits a bestseller list, a filmmaker launches a blockbuster. We tend to dismiss these moments as rare instances of an artist getting lucky or selling out. But what if that isn’t the whole picture?

When we look at many of history’s most famous artists, we see something curious. It’s the same thing we observe in the lives of countless creatives who are making a living off their art today. When we hear the cautionary tales and warnings about what it means to be an artist, there’s an important truth we must learn to embrace: You don’t have to starve.

A New Kind of Artist

In this book, I want to offer a very simple but challenging argument: Real artists don’t starve.

Making a living off your creative talent has never been easier, and to show you it’s possible I will share historical examples of well-known artists, creatives, and entrepreneurs who did not have to suffer to create their best work. And I will also introduce you to a contemporary group of professionals who are experiencing surprising amounts of success in their creative work and how you can join them.

Finally, I will try to convince you that the idea of the Starving Artist is a useless myth that holds you back more than it helps you produce your best work.

Today, with more opportunity than ever to share our work with the world, we need a different model for creative work. The Myth of the Starving Artist has long since overstayed its welcome, and what we need now is a New Renaissance, a return to a model for art and business that doesn’t require creative workers to suffer and starve.

We all have creative gifts to share, and in that respect, we are all artists. The world needs your work—whether that’s an idea for a book, a vision for a startup, or a dream for your neighborhood— and you shouldn’t have to struggle to create it.

What does it mean to be a “real artist”? It means you are spending your time doing the things that matter most to you. It means you don’t need someone else’s permission to create. It means you aren’t doing your work in secret, hoping someone may discover it someday. It means the world is taking your work seriously.

Do you have to become a millionaire like Michelangelo? Not at all. This is not a book about how to get rich selling art. It is a description of the path many professional artists, creatives, and entrepreneurs have walked and one you would be wise to follow, if you want to join them.

The goal here is not to get rich, but to build a life that makes creating your best work not only possible but practically inevitable. And so, I think we should exchange this idea of being a Starving Artist with a new term: Thriving Artist. If you don’t want your best work to die with you, you must train yourself to think and live differently than the ways you’ve been told artists behave. You must not starve; you have to thrive.

Inspired by the Michelangelo story, I was curious to see if there were other artists out there who were succeeding. What I discovered was that a New Renaissance was not only possible, it was already happening. In my research I encountered creatives in nearly every field who weren’t starving at all.

The more stories I found, the more common threads began to emerge. These artists may not have known of Michelangelo’s riches, but they embodied his approach to creative work and all followed a similar set of strategies I’ve now captured and distilled in this book.

Here they are, the principles every Thriving Artist lives by—the Rules of the New Renaissance:

  1. The Starving Artist believes you must be born an artist. The Thriving Artist knows you become one.
  2. The Starving Artist strives to be original. The Thriving Artist steals from his influences.
  3. The Starving Artist believes he has enough talent. The Thriving Artist apprentices under a master.
  4. The Starving Artist is stubborn about everything. The Thriving Artist is stubborn on vision but flexible on details.
  5. The Starving Artist waits to be noticed. The Thriving Artist cultivates patrons.
  6. The Starving Artist needs no one. The Thriving Artist finds a scene.
  7. The Starving Artist always works alone. The Thriving Artist collaborates with others.
  8. The Starving Artist does his work in private. The Thriving Artist practices in public.
  9. The Starving Artist works for free. The Thriving Artist always works for something.
  10. The Starving Artist sells out too soon. The Thriving Artist owns as much of his work as possible.
  11. The Starving Artist does one thing. The Thriving Artist does many things.
  12. The Starving Artist despises the need for money. The Thriving Artist makes money to make more art.

For the rest of this book, we will explore these rules in the con- text of three major themes: mind-set, market, and money.

In each part, we will be taking a significant step that will us shift from Starving Artists to Thriving Artists.

First, we master our mind-set, tackling the internal challenges and conflicts we will face to break out of the Starving Artist paradigm. We can’t change our lives until we change our minds.

Then, we master the market, exploring the importance of relationships in creative work and how to usher our art into the world.

Finally, we master money, looking at what it means to not only make a living off our work but put money to work for us so that we can use it as a means to do better work.

Each chapter is based on one of the twelve rules mentioned above, along with stories from history and original case studies from the hundreds of interviews I conducted with contemporary creatives, artists, and entrepreneurs. The rules are not hard and fast as much as they are principles, proven strategies to help you succeed. The more of these you follow, the more likely your success will be, and vice versa.

This book is a manual designed to help you create work that matters. As you encounter the stories and lessons it contains, I hope you are challenged to follow in the footsteps of those who have come before you. I hope you realize that being a Starving Artist is a choice, not a necessary condition of doing creative work, and whether or not you starve is up to you.

And I hope you are emboldened to join the ranks of the New Renaissance, embracing Michelangelo’s belief that you can live both a creative life and a prosperous one, declaring to yourself and the world that real artists don’t starve—at least, they don’t have to.

Click here to download your free copy of the Introduction of Real Artists Don’t Starve.

How does rejecting the myth of the starving artist impact you? What will change about how you approach your craft? Share in the comments.

Andrew Raynor