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Featured Snippets: What to Know & How to Target – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by BritneyMuller

Featured snippets are still the best way to take up primo SERP real estate, and they seem to be changing all the time. Today, Britney Muller shares the results of the latest Moz research into featured snippet trends and data, plus some fantastic tips and tricks for winning your own.

(And we just can’t resist — if this whets your appetite for all things featured snippet, save your spot in Britney’s upcoming webinar with even more exclusive data and takeaways!)

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday.

Today we’re talking about all things featured snippets, so what are they, what sort of research have we discovered about them recently, and what can you take back to the office to target them and effectively basically steal in search results.

What is a featured snippet?

So to be clear, what is a featured snippet?

If you were to do a search for “are crocs edible,” you would see a featured snippet like this:

Essentially, it’s giving you information about your search and citing a website. This isn’t to be confused with an answer box, where it’s just an answer and there’s no citation. If you were to search how many days are in February, Google will probably just tell you 28 and there’s no citation. That’s an answer box as opposed to a featured snippet.

Need-to-know discoveries about featured snippets

Now what have we recently discovered about featured snippets?

23% of all search result pages include a featured snippet

Well, we know that they’re on 23% of all search result pages. That’s wild. This is up over 165% since 2016.

We know that they’re growing.

There are 5 general types of featured snippets

We know that Google continues to provide more and more in different spaces, and we also know that there are five general types of featured snippets:

  1. Paragraph
  2. List
  3. Table
  4. Video
  5. Accordion

The most common that we see are the paragraph and the list. The list can come in numerical format or bullets.

But we also see tables and then video. The video is interesting because it will just show a specific section of a video that it thinks you need to consume in order to get your answer, which is always interesting.

Lately, we have started noticing accordions, and we’re not sure if they’re testing this or if it might be rolled out. But they’re a lot like People Also Ask boxes in that they expand and almost show you additional featured snippets, which is fascinating.

Paragraphs (50%) and lists (37%) are the most common types of featured snippets

Another important thing to take away is that we know paragraphs and lists are the most common, and we can see that here. Fifty percent of all featured snippet results are paragraphs. Thirty-seven percent are lists. It’s a ton. Then it kind of whittles down from there. Nine percent are tables, and then just under two percent are video and under two percent are accordion. Kind of good to know.

Half of all featured snippets are part of a carousel

Interestingly, half of all featured snippets are part of a carousel. What we mean by a carousel is when you see these sort of circular options within a featured snippet at the bottom.

So if you were to search for I think this was comfortable shoes, you have options for women is a circular carousel button, for work, and stylish. What happens when you click these is it recalibrates that featured snippet and changes it into what you clicked. So it starts to get very, very niche. You might have started with this very general search, and Google is basically begging you to refine what it is that you’re looking for. It’s very, very interesting and something to keep in mind.

People Also Ask boxes are on 93.8% of featured snippet SERPs

We also know that people also ask boxes are on 93.8% of featured snippet SERPs, meaning they’re almost always present when there’s a featured snippet, which is fascinating. I think there’s a lot of good data we can get from these People Also Ask questions to kind of seed your keyword research and better understand what it is people are looking for.

“Are Crocs supposed to be worn with socks?” It’s a very important question. You have to understand this stuff.

Informational sites are winning

We see that the sites that are providing finance information and educational information are doing extremely well in the featured snippet space. So again, something to keep in mind.

Be a detective and test!

You should always be exploring the snippets that you might want to rank for.

  • Where is it grabbing from the page?
  • What sort of markup is it?

Start being a detective and looking at all those things. So now to kind of the good stuff.

How to win featured snippets

What is it that you can specifically do to potentially win a featured snippet?

These are sort of the four boiled down steps I’ve come up with to help you with that.

1. Know which featured snippet keywords you rank on page one for

So number one is to know which featured snippet keywords your site already ranks for. It’s really easy to do in Keyword Explorer at Moz.

Animated gif of using Keyword Explorer to search crocs.com

So if you search by root domain and you just put in your website into Moz Keyword Explorer, it will show you all of the ranking keywords for that specific domain.

From there, you can filter by ranking or by range, from 1 to 10:

What are those keywords that you currently rank 1 to 10 on?

Then you add those keywords to a list. Once they populate in your list, you can filter by a featured snippet.

This is sort of the good stuff. This is your playground. This is where your opportunities are. It gets really fun from here.

2. Know your searchers’ intent

Number two is to know your searchers’ intent.

If one of your keywords was “Halloween costume DIY” and the search result page was all video and images and content that was very visual, you have to provide visual content to compete with an intent like that.

There’s obviously an intent behind the search where people want to see what it is and help in that process. It’s a big part of crafting content to rank in search results but also featured snippets. Know the intent.

3. Provide succinct answers and content

Number three, provide succinct answers and content. Omit needless words. We see Google providing short, concise information, especially for voice results. We know that’s the way to go, so I highly suggest doing that.

4. Monitor featured snippet targets

Number four, monitor those featured snippet targets, whether you’re actively trying to target them or you currently have them. STAT provides really, really great alerts. You can actually get an email notification if you lose or win a featured snippet. It’s one of the easiest ways I’ve discovered to keep track of all of these things.

Pro tip: Add a tl;dr summary

A pro tip is to add a “too long, didn’t read” summary to your most popular pages.

You already know the content that most people come to your site for or maybe the content that does the best in your conversions, whatever that might be. If you can provide summarized content about that page, just key takeaways or whatever that might be at the top or at the bottom, you could potentially rank for all sorts of featured snippets. So really, really cool, easy stuff to kind of play around with and test.

Want more tips and tricks? We’ve got a webinar for that!

Lastly, for more tips and tricks, you should totally sign up for the featured snippet webinar that we’re doing. I’m hosting it in a couple weeks.

Save my spot!

I know spots are limited, but we’ll be sharing all of the research that we’ve discovered and even more takeaways and tricks. So hopefully you enjoyed that, and I appreciate you watching this Whiteboard Friday.

Keep me posted on any of your featured snippet battles or what you’re trying to get or any struggles down below in the comments. I look forward to seeing you all again soon. Thank you so much for joining me. I’ll see you next time.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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What to Do When You Absolutely, Positively Must Know If Your Content Will Rock

Ever had a great idea, and then started to doubt yourself? Or maybe you’ve already executed on that great idea,…

The post What to Do When You Absolutely, Positively Must Know If Your Content Will Rock appeared first on Copyblogger.


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MozCon 2019: Everything You Need to Know About Day Three

Posted by KameronJenkins

If the last day of MozCon felt like it went too fast or if you forgot everything that happened today (we wouldn’t judge — there were so many insights), don’t fret. We captured all of day three’s takeaways so you could relive the magic of day three. 

Don’t forget to check out all the photos with Roger from the photobooth! They’re available here in the MozCon Facebook group. Plus: You asked and we delivered: the 2019 MozCon speaker walk-on playlist is now live and available here for your streaming pleasure. 

Cindy Krum— Fraggles, Mobile-First Indexing, & the SERP of the Future 

If you were hit with an instant wave of nostalgia after hearing Cindy’s walk out music, then you are in good company and you probably were not disappointed in the slightest by Cindy’s talk on Fraggles.

  • “Fraggles” are fragments + handles. A fragment is a piece of info on a page. A handle is something like a bookmark, jump link, or named anchor — they help people navigate through long pages to get what they’re looking for faster.
  • Ranking pages is an inefficient way to answer questions. One page can answer innumerable questions, so Google’s now can pull a single answer from multiple parts of your page, skipping sections they don’t think are as useful for a particular answer.
  • The implications for voice are huge! It means you don’t have to listen to your voice device spout off a page’s worth of text before your question is answered.
  • Google wants to index more than just websites. They want to organize the world’s information, not websites. Fraggles are a demonstration of that.

Luke Carthy — Killer Ecommerce CRO and UX Wins Using A SEO Crawler 

Luke Carthy did warn us in his talk description that we should all flex our notetaking muscles for all the takeaways we would furiously jot down — and he wasn’t wrong.

  • Traffic doesn’t always mean sales and sales don’t always mean traffic!
  • Custom extraction is a great tool for finding missed CRO opportunities. For example, Luke found huge opportunity on Best Buy’s website — thousands of people’s site searches were leading them to an unoptimized “no results found” page.
  • You can also use custom extraction to find what product recommendations you or your customers are using at scale! Did you know that 35% of what customers buy on Amazon and 75 percent of what people watch on Netflix are the results of these recommendations?
  • For example, are you showing near-exact products or are you showing complementary products? (hint: try the latter and you’ll likely increase your sales!)
  • Custom extraction from Screaming Frog allows you to scrape any data from the HTML of the web pages while crawling them.

Andy Crestodina — Content, Rankings, and Lead Generation: A Breakdown of the 1% Content Strategy 

Next up, Andy of Orbit Media took the stage with a comprehensive breakdown of the most effective tactics for turning content into a high-powered content strategy. He also brought the fire with this sound advice that we can apply in both our work life and personal life.

  • Blog visitors often don’t have commercial intent. One of the greatest ways to leverage blog posts for leads is by using the equity we generate from links to our helpful posts and passing that onto our product and service pages.
  • If you want links and shares, invest in original research! Not sure what to research? Look for unanswered questions or unproven statements in your industry and provide the data.
  • Original research may take longer than a standard post, but it’s much more effective! When you think about it this way, do you really have time to put out more, mediocre posts?
  • Give what you want to get. Want links? Link to people. Want comments? Comment on others people’s work.
  • To optimize content for social engagement, it should feature real people, their faces, and their quotes.
  • Collaborating with other content creators on your content not only gives it built-in amplification, but it also leads to great connections and is just generally more fun.

Rob Ousbey — Running Your Own SEO Tests: Why It Matters & How to Do It Right 

Google’s algorithms have changed a heck of a lot in recent years — what’s an SEO to do? Follow Rob’s advice — both fashion and SEO — who says that the answer lies in testing.

  • “This is the way we’ve always done it” isn’t sufficient justification for SEO tactics in today’s search landscape.
  • In the earlier days of the algorithm, it was much easier to demote spam than it was to promote what’s truly good.
  • Rob and his team had a theory that Google was beginning to rely more heavily on user experience and satisfaction than some of the more traditional ranking factors like links.
  • Through SEO A/B testing, they found that:
    • Google relies less heavily on link signals when it comes to the top half of the results on page 1.
    • Google relies more heavily on user experience for head terms (terms with high search volume), likely because they have more user data to draw from.
  • In the process of A/B testing, they also found that the same test often produces different results on different sites. The best way to succeed in today’s SEO landscape is to cultivate a culture of testing!

Greg Gifford — Dark Helmet’s Guide to Local Domination with Google Posts and Q&A 

If you’re a movie buff, you probably really appreciated Greg’s talk — he schooled us all in move references and brought the fire with his insights on Google Posts and Q&A  

The man behind #shoesofmozcon taught us that Google is the new home page for local businesses, so we should be leveraging the tools Google has given us to make our Google My Business profiles great. For example…

Google Posts

  • Images should be 1200×900 on google posts
  • Images are cropped slightly higher than the center and it’s not consistent every time
  • The image size of the thumbnail is different on desktop than it is on mobile
  • Use Greg’s free tool at bit.ly/posts-image-guide to make sizing your Google Post images easier
  • You can also upload videos. The file size limit is 100mb and/or 30 seconds
  • Add a call-to-action button to make your Posts worth it! Just know that the button often means you get less real estate for text in your Posts
  • Don’t share social fluff. Attract with an offer that makes you stand out
  • Make sure you use UTM tracking so you can understand how your Posts are performing in Google Analytics. Otherwise, it’ll be attributed as direct traffic.

Google Q&A

  • Anyone can ask and answer questions — why not the business owner! Control the conversation and treat this feature like it’s your new FAQ page.
  • This feature works on an upvote system. The answer with the most upvotes will show first.
  • Don’t include a URL or phone number in these because it’ll get filtered out.
  • A lot of these questions are potential customers! Out of 640 car dealerships’ Q&As Greg evaluated, 40 percent were leads! Of that 40 percent, only 2 questions were answered by the dealership.

 Emily Triplett Lentz — How to Audit for Inclusive Content 

Emily of Help Scout walked dropped major knowledge on the importance of spotting and eliminating biases that frequently find their way into online copy. She also hung out backstage after her talk to cheer on her fellow speakers. #GOAT. #notallheroeswearcapes.

  • As content creators, we’d all do well to keep ableism in mind: discrimination in favor of able-bodied people. However, we’re often guilty of this without even knowing it.
  • One example of ableism that often makes its way into our copy is comparing dire or subideal situations with the physical state of another human (ex: “crippling”).
  • While we should work on making our casual conversation more inclusive too, this is particularly important for brands.
  • Create a list of ableist words, crawl your site for them, and then replace them. However, you’ll likely find that there is no one-size-fits-all replacement for these words. We often use words like “crazy” as filler words. By removing or replacing with a more appropriate word, we make our content better and more descriptive in the process.
  • At the end of the day, brands should remember that their desire for freedom of word choice isn’t more important than people’s right not to feel excluded and hurt. When there’s really no downside to more inclusive content, why wouldn’t we do it?

Visit http://content.helpscout.net/mozcon-2019 to learn how to audit your site for inclusive content!

Joelle Irvine — Image & Visual Search Optimization Opportunities 

Curious about image optimization and visual search? Joelle has the goods for you — and was blowing people’s minds with her tips for visual optimization and how to leverage Google Lens, Pinterest, and AR for visual search.

  • Visual search is not the same thing as searching for images. We’re talking about the process of using an image to search for other content.
  • Visual search like Google Lens makes it easier to search when you don’t know what you’re looking for.
  • Pinterest has made a lot of progress in this area. They have a hybrid search that allows you to find complimentary items to the one you searched. It’s like finding a rug that matches a chair you like rather than finding more of the same type of chair.
  • 62 percent of millennials surveyed said they would like to be able to search by visual, so while this is mostly being used by clothing retailers and home decor right now, visual search is only going to get better, so think about the ways you can leverage it for your brand!

Joy Hawkins — Factors that Affect the Local Algorithm that Don’t Impact Organic 

Proximity varies greatly when comparing local and organic results — just ask Joy of Sterling Sky, who gets real about fake listings while walking through the findings of a recent study.

Here are the seven areas in which the local algorithm diverges from the organic algorithm:

  • Proximity (AKA: how close is the biz to the searcher?)
    • Proximity is the #1 local ranking factor, but the #27 ranking factor on organic.
    • Studies show that having a business that’s close in proximity to the searcher is more beneficial for ranking in the local pack than in traditional organic results.
  • Rank tracking
    • Because there is so much variance by latitude/longitude, as well as hourly variances, Joy recommends not sending your local business clients ranking reports.
    • Use rank tracking internally, but send clients the leads/sales. This causes less confusion and gets them focused on the main goal.
    • Visit bit.ly/mozcon3 for insights on how to track leads from GMB
  • GMB landing pages (AKA: the website URL you link to from your GMB account)
    • Joy tested linking to the home page (which had more authority/prominence) vs. linking to the local landing page (which had more relevance) and found that traffic went way up when linking to the home page.
    • Before you go switching all your GMB links though, test this for yourself!
  • Reviews
    • Joy wanted to know how much reviews actually impacted ranking, and what it was exactly about reviews that would help or hurt.
    • She decided to see what would happen to rankings when reviews were removed. This happened to a business who was review gating (a violation of Google’s guidelines) but Joy found that reviews flagged for violations aren’t actually removed, they’re hidden, explaining why “removed” reviews don’t negatively impact local rankings.
  • Possum filter
    • Organic results can get filtered because of duplicate content, whereas local results can get filtered because they’re too close to another business in the same category. This is called the Possum filter.
  • Keywords in a business name
    • This is against Google’s guidelines but it works sadly
    • For example, Joy tested adding the word “salad bar” to a listing that didn’t even have a salad bar and their local rankings for that keyword shot up.
    • Although it works, don’t do it! Google can remove your listing for this type of violation, and they’ve been removing more listings for this reason lately.
  • Fake listings
    • New listings can rank even if they have no website, authority, citations, etc. simply because they keyword stuffed their business name. These types of rankings can happen overnight, whereas it can take a year or more to achieve certain organic rankings.
    • Spend time reporting spam listings in your clients’ niches because it can improve your clients’ local rankings.

Britney Muller — Featured Snippets: Essentials to Know & How to Target 

Closing out day three of MozCon was our very own Britney, Sr. SEO scientist extraordinaire, on everyone’s favorite SEO topic: Featured snippets!

We’re seeing more featured snippets than ever before, and they’re not likely going away. It’s time to start capitalizing on this SERP feature so we can start earning brand awareness and traffic for our clients!

Here’s how:

  • Know what keywords trigger featured snippets that you rank on page 1 for
  • Know the searcher’s intent
  • Provide succinct answers
  • Add summaries to popular posts
  • Identify commonly asked questions
  • Leverage Google’s NLP API
  • Monitor featured snippets
  • If all else fails, leverage ranking third party sites. Maybe your own site has low authority and isn’t ranking well, but try publishing on Linkedin or Medium instead to get the snippet!

There’s lots of debate over whether featured snippets send you more traffic or take it away due to zero-click results, but consider the benefits featured snippets can bring even without the click. Whether featured snippets bring you traffic, increased brand visibility in the SERPs, or both, they’re an opportunity worth chasing.

Aaaand, that’s a wrap!

Thanks for joining us at this year’s MozCon! And a HUGE thank you to everyone (Mozzers, partners, and crew) who helped make this year’s MozCon possible — we couldn’t have done it without all of you. 

What was your favorite moment of the entire conference? Tell us below in the comments! And don’t forget to grab the speaker slides here

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Evergreen Googlebot with Chromium rendering engine: What technical SEOs need to know

Googlebot now supports many more features and will make it easier for developers to ensure their sites work with Googlebot.



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Surviving the Social Web: 7 Things You Need to Know

"I've been online so long, I can remember when virtual community was going to save the world." – Sonia Simone

Oh, those idealistic good old days. Back when we truly believed that the global digital community would fact-check lies, make us smarter, and force our institutions to serve the greater good.

As the man said, “How’s that working out for us?”

It turns out that the social media utopia, like other utopias, didn’t end up as rosy as we’d hoped — mainly because it’s made of human beings.

But the social web is still an extraordinary tool. The ability to instantly communicate with thousands of people isn’t to be scoffed at — if you can do it without losing your mind.

I’ve been using social media since 1989. The remarkable thing for me isn’t what’s changed … it’s what’s stayed the same. Here are some of my survival tips from decades in the digital realm.

#1: Watch out for the ant-shakers

Remember ant farms? These were glass cases filled with sand or gel, where you could watch ants building tunnels and carrying things back and forth.

In grade school we all had that one mean friend who would shake it hard, just to destroy the tunnels and watch the ants scurrying around trying to fix the mess.

Every one of those ant-shakers got a Facebook account when they grew up.

Some people just crave chaos — and if they can’t find it, they create it. There’s always a storm brewing around them, some bitter flame war that pits half the community against the other half. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that the pain and anger they cause are real emotions attached to real people. Either they can’t see it or they don’t care.

Keep an eye out for the ant-shakers. A lot of them are attracted to the web, and spend a disproportionate amount of time there. They’re at the center of endless dust-ups, and it may take you some time to realize they’re engineering them.

Putting distance between yourself and the ant-shakers — even if (especially if) you’re related — will calm your social media experience down considerably.

#2: Realize that digital privacy is a lie

When we socialize over the web, we tend to reveal a lot. It can feel like a small, intimate space. After all, we’re sitting there on the sofa with our laptops, and we recognize those names that fly by, even if we might never have met them face to face.

Every day, I see people starting a post with something like — “I’ve never told anyone this before, not even my family” — and they’re sharing in a Facebook group with four million members.

Digital privacy depends on the goodwill of every person who has access to the material. Anyone can screenshot anything. Once they have, you have very little control over what they do with it.

In the real world, that means that digital privacy is a complete illusion.

If you aren’t willing to make it public, don’t share it on the web. Not in a private group, not on Snapchat, not in email.

Rather than trying to make these decisions on the fly, decide in advance what kinds of material you will — and won’t — share. There’s no one set of rules that will suit everyone — it’s really about your own comfort zone.

But it may clarify your thinking to ask yourself how you’ll feel if your mom, your boss, and a professional identity thief can see a particular type of content you’re sharing. Because chances are, eventually, all three of them will.

#3: If you’re in business, act like it

You may not feel particularly social about social media … maybe you’re there to promote a business or product.

Nothing wrong with that, if you handle it well.

A stream of pitches gets obnoxious fast. Trust me, your friends don’t want to buy your essential oils, nutrition shakes, skincare, or whatever the latest thing is. And they desperately wish you would stop trying to push it onto them.

Quit trying to spam your friends (it isn’t working), and start acting like a business.

Get a business account or page. Be clear about your purpose there — to sell something you believe is valuable. Educate yourself about real marketing — the kind that reaches people you didn’t go to high school with. (We have free resources to help with that.)

Promote content at least 10 times as often as you promote a product. “Content” is the stuff that most people are on the social web to look at and share — useful and interesting images, videos, articles, and audio.

Social media is an amazing way to get business-oriented content shared — either for free or for a very moderate cost. You can focus on organic reach, paid advertising, or a mix, depending on the platform and your resources.

#4: Seek (and create) smaller communities

Remember that four-million strong group I mentioned on Facebook? It’s got great energy … and it’s almost completely unmanageable.

The large common spaces on the web can be fascinating, but they’re also exhausting. For a greater sense of community, more useable information, and better connections, look for smaller groups.

Groups that are too small will run out of steam — there’s definitely a point of critical mass. But smallish online groups can be nurturing, delightful little communities.

If there isn’t a group like that in your topic — maybe you’re the right person to start one. It will be a lot of work (and you’ll probably have to manage a few ant-shakers), but it can also be wonderfully rewarding.

#5: Manage your time

Here’s the great, big, gigantic problem with social media — it will eat every minute of your life if you let it.

There’s always another great conversation. And there’s always another opportunity to explain to someone how wrong they are.

I’ve taken a tip from Cal Newport and I schedule my social media time. And because I have no self-control (and I prefer to use what I do have on other things), I use an app to manage that.

There are quite a few of these out there that will block certain sites at certain times, so you can be a productive member of human society. I’m partial to Freedom — it’s a paid app, but it has a flexibility I find highly useful.

#6: Mind your manners

This seems like it would be obvious, but we all blow it from time to time.

Be a kind, respectful, and polite person when you’re online. (Offline would be great too, of course.)

Don’t say ugly things you don’t mean. Don’t say ugly things you do mean.

Your extensive collection of racist knock-knock jokes isn’t funny. Never was, isn’t now.

Condescension and the attitude that you are entitled to other people’s time are as unpopular on the web as they are in real life.

Good manners are free, and they can open amazing doors … especially as they become rarer.

#7: Know when you need to back away

I’ve been online so long, I can remember when virtual community was going to save the world.

Now we know better. Over the years, I’ve realized that no one has to be on social media. Even social media managers could presumably find a different way to make a living. If it’s diminishing your life, you can change how you use it. You can also decide to go without it.

Sometimes I need to implement what I call the FFS rule. When I find myself muttering, “Oh FFS” (Google it if you need to), it’s time to log off.

People are irritating, and some of them are mean. Those people consistently get meaner and more irritating on the web.

Block and report trolls. Remember that you don’t have to reply to everything.

Dan Kennedy, of all people, had some rather good advice about this years ago. He wasn’t talking about social media, but he could have been.

“If I wake up three mornings thinking about you, and I’m not having sex with you, you’ve got to go.”

Pretty savvy social media advice from a guy who refuses to use email. Because it turns out, what tends to work well in social media … is what works well in real life.

The post Surviving the Social Web: 7 Things You Need to Know appeared first on Copyblogger.


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[Reminder] Upcoming Webinar: 5 Disruptions Reshaping Marketing As We Know It

Most marketers still look at digital as a marketing channel. But digital is no longer just a website or mobile app. Nearly everything in the world is becoming connected and acquiring digital properties. The marketing world is in the middle of five major disruptions that are reshaping the industry….



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How to Know Exactly What Content to Deliver to Convert More Prospects

“Whether you’re consciously telling a story or not, prospects are telling themselves a story about you.” – Brian Clark

Back in the 1940s, psychologists Fritz Heider and Marianne Simmel conducted an experiment. They showed study participants an animated film consisting of a rectangle with an opening, plus a circle and two triangles in motion.

The participants were then asked to simply describe what they saw in the film. Before you keep reading, take a look at it yourself. I’ll be here when you come back.

So, what did you see? Out of all the study participants, only one responded with “a rectangle with an opening, plus a circle and two triangles in motion.” The rest developed elaborate stories about the simple geometric shapes.

Many participants concluded the circle and the little triangle were in love, and that the evil grey triangle was trying to harm or abduct the circle. Others went further to conclude that the blue triangle fought back against the larger triangle, allowing his love to escape back inside, where they soon rendezvoused, embraced, and lived happily ever after.

That’s pretty wild when you think about it.

The Heider-Simmel experiment became the initial basis of attribution theory, which describes how people explain the behavior of others, themselves, and also, apparently, geometric shapes on the go.

More importantly, people explain things in terms of stories. Even in situations where no story is being intentionally told, we’re telling ourselves a tale as a way to explain our experience of reality.

And yes, we tell ourselves stories about brands, products, and services. Whether you’re consciously telling a story or not, prospects are telling themselves a story about you.

Are you telling a story? And more importantly, does that story resonate with the way your prospective customers and clients are seeing things?

This is the key to knowing what your prospect needs to hear, and when they need to hear it, as part of your overall content marketing strategy. And in a networked, information-rich world where the prospects have all the power, this is your only chance to control the narrative.

What kind of story to tell?

You need to tell a Star Wars story. And by that, I mean you need to take your prospects along a content marketing version of the mythic hero’s journey.

In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell identifies a “monomyth” — a fundamental structure common to myths that have survived for thousands of years. Campbell’s identification of these enduring myths from disparate times and regions has inspired modern storytellers to consciously craft their work following the monomyth framework, also known as the hero’s journey.

Most notable among those inspired by the hero’s journey is George Lucas, who acknowledged Campbell’s work as the source of the plot for Star Wars. As a content marketer, you can also consciously incorporate the monomyth into your launches, funnels, and general editorial calendar.

Hero's Journey

The image above shows the general elements of the hero’s journey, which can be broken down into much more detail than presented here. It’s important to note that not all monomythic stories contain every aspect, but the original Star Wars faithfully follows almost every element of the hero’s journey.

Let’s focus on the first two steps of the journey, in the “ordinary world” before the journey truly begins. Here’s how those elements occurred in the original Star Wars.

  • Luke is living in the ordinary world of his home planet, working on the family farm.
  • The “call to adventure” is R2-D2’s holographic message from Princess Leia, the classic princess in distress.
  • Luke initially refuses the call due to his family obligations, until his aunt and uncle are killed.
  • Luke meets his mentor and guide, Obi-Wan Kenobi, who convinces Luke to proceed with his heroic journey.
  • Obi-Wan gives Luke a gift that determines his destiny — his father’s lightsaber.

How does this apply to content marketing? Simple. As I mentioned last time:

Your prospect is Luke. You are Obi-Wan.

The mistake most often made in marketing is thinking of your business as the hero, resulting in egocentric messages that no one else cares about. The prospect is always the primary hero, because they are the one going on the journey — whether big or small — to solve a problem or satisfy a desire.

  • The prospect starts off in the ordinary world of their lives.
  • The call to adventure is an unsolved problem or unfulfilled desire.
  • There’s resistance to solving that problem or satisfying the desire.
  • A mentor (your brand) appears that helps them proceed with the journey.
  • You deliver a gift (your content) that ultimately leads to a purchase

By making the prospect the hero, your brand also becomes a hero in the prospect’s story.

And by accepting the role of mentor with your content, your business accomplishes its goals while helping the prospect do the same. Which is how business is supposed to work, right?

8 core steps in the buyer’s journey

I’ve been using the hero’s journey to teach marketing and sales since 2007. I’ve found that just the act of thinking of the prospect as the hero makes you a better content marketer.

When you think in terms of empowering people to solve their problem by playing the role of mentor, you’re naturally performing better than competitors who take an egocentric approach.

This is also the exact way we come up with content marketing strategies for our own launches, funnels, and general editorial calendar. After years of using this strategic process, I’ve found that every buyer’s journey contains key points where you must deliver the right information at the right time to succeed at an optimal level.

Remember, each journey is tied to a particular who that you have documented. Some people create content journeys for multiple personas, but my advice is that you pick one at first and focus. Even Apple stuck with one target persona for the entirety of the Get a Mac campaign.

You’ll notice I use the word “problem” below, rather than “problem or desire.” An unfulfilled desire is a problem in the mind of the prospect, so it works on its own.

1. Ordinary World: This is the world (and worldview) that your ideal prospect lives in. She may be aware of the problem that she has, but she hasn’t yet resolved to do something about it. You understand how this person thinks, sees, feels, and behaves due to the empathy mapping process.

2. Call to Adventure: The prospect decides to take action to solve the problem. It could be a New Year’s resolution, a longstanding goal, or a problem that rears its head for the first time.

3. Resistance to the Call: At this point, the prospect starts to waver in her commitment to solving the problem. Maybe it seems too hard, too expensive, too time consuming, or simply too impractical. As we’ll discuss in a bit, this is a key content inflection point.

4. The Mentor and the Gift: This is the point that you are initially accepted as a mentor that guides the buyer’s journey. The prospect accepts your offer of a gift, in the form of information, that promises to help her solve the problem.

5. Crossing the Threshold: This is the point of purchase where the prospect believes that your product or service will lead to the problem being solved, which will lead to transformation. The most important thing to understand is that, unlike flawed funnel metaphors, the journey does not end at purchase.

6. Traveling the Road: The customer begins using the product or service with the goal of achieving success in the context of the problem. Who cares if the customer stops the journey right after purchase, right? Wrong — too often this leads to a refund request; plus you miss out on the huge benefits that accompany a happy customer.

7. Seizing the Treasure: The customer experiences success with your product or service. What does this look like for them and you? How will you know when it happens?

8. The New Ordinary: The customer has experienced a positive transaction with you, and yet we’re just now getting to the really good stuff. This is a perfect time to prime them for repeat or upsell purchases or referrals. At this point, deliver content that aims at retention for recurring revenue products, and make savvy requests for direct referrals, testimonials, and word of mouth.

Of the eight, only Traveling the Road isn’t universal — if you’re an electrician, you show up and either fix the problem or don’t. But if you’re selling software-as-a-service, for example, content that gets users engaged with the platform is critical to reducing churn.

These core steps can provide you with a beginning framework for a detailed map of the buyer’s journey. The next step is to add the touchpoints that are unique to your product or service.

Your unique journey map

You may be thinking about how exactly you’re supposed to map this out. Fortunately, there’s already an established procedure for this, just as during the who phase.

An experience map is a visual representation of the path a consumer takes — from beginning to end — with your content, and then with your product or service.

By mapping the journey, you know where the additional crucial touchpoints are, and what content can empower the journey to continue.

Here’s an example from Adaptive Path for Rail Europe:

rail-europe-experience-map

This map demonstrates the journey a consumer would take while riding the trains in Europe. It follows her from the early stages of research and planning to the end of her trip.

You see what she is doing (searching Google, looking up timetables), what she is thinking during each action (do I have everything I need, and am I on the right train?), and what she is feeling (stressed: I’m about to leave the country and Rail Europe won’t answer the phone).

Do you see the correlation with the empathy mapping exercise you did back when developing a snapshot of your ideal customer? It’s no coincidence that we’re now applying what the prospect is “Thinking,” “Seeing,” “Doing,” and “Feeling” in their ordinary world to the journey they need to travel.

In a piece called the Anatomy of an Experience Map, Chris Risdon at Adaptive Path suggests your experience map should have these five components:

  1. The lens: This is how a particular person (or persona) views the journey. Keep in mind, this journey will not be the same for everyone. You will more than likely have more than one experience map.
  2. The journey model: This is the actual design of the map. If all goes well, it should render insight to answer questions like “What happens here? What’s important about this transition?”
  3. Qualitative insight: This is where the Thinking-Seeing-Doing-Feeling of an empathy map comes in handy.
  4. Quantitative information: This is data that brings attention to certain aspects of your map. It reveals information like “80 percent of people abandon the process at this touchpoint.”
  5. Takeaways: This is where the map earns its money. What are the conclusions? Opportunities? Threats to the system? Does it identify your strengths? Highlight your weaknesses?

You can find more detailed information on creating a customer experience map here. Like empathy mapping, it can be done solo, but works even better as a collaborative process, so that everyone on your team understands the journey from the perspective of the prospect and subsequent customer.

Mapping the 7 key influence principles

When you consider influential content, you may naturally think that it’s about how your present the information. While that’s true from an engagement standpoint, which principle of influence to apply and when to emphasize it is an exercise in what as well.

In other words, beyond the raw information of the what, you’ll also want to identify the order of emphasis for things like reciprocity, social proof, authority, liking, commitment and consistency, unity, and scarcity.

Every successful digital marketer I know purposefully applies those seven principles in their content and copy, because they all treat Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini as their bible. If you haven’t read it, you should — but in the meantime check out this six-page PDF that explains the original six principles, and here’s an article by Sonia Simone on the all-important 7th principle of unity.

At Rainmaker Digital, we think in terms of four different types of content when mapping the buyer’s journey. Keep in mind that great marketing content contains all of these elements; you’re simply selecting a category based on the primary aim of the individual piece at the appropriate time.

First up we have Attraction content, otherwise known as “top of funnel” information. This corresponds best with the Resistance to the Call point of the journey — it addresses the problem while also addressing common objections to moving forward. In addition to creating the feeling that “you’re reading their mind,” you’re also invoking early influence through reciprocity, social proof through share numbers, and establishing authority.

Next up, you have your cornerstone influence principle thanks to Authority content. The important thing is that you demonstrate authority, rather than claim it. Your Attraction content sets the stage, and your Authority content should be gated behind an email opt-in. At this stage, you’re establishing clear authority, continuing to leverage reciprocity and social proof, and adding liking, plus commitment and consistency thanks to the opt-in.

Affinity content solidly positions you as a “likable expert,” but it goes beyond that. This is where you let your core values shine. You reflect the prospect’s worldview back to them in a completely authentic way, prompting the powerful principle of unity. Never underestimate how often people choose to do business with people they like, and who also see the world like they do.

Finally, it all comes down to Action. Unlike Phil Connors, you don’t look for ultimate action at the beginning of the journey. But you do rely on smaller actions along the way, especially at the bridge between Attraction content and Authority content. That said, the key influence principle at this stage is scarcity, which you’ve earned the right to employ thanks to the other six principles. People fear missing out more than they desire gain, so make sure to use it ethically.

This is the outline of your story

It’s tempting at this point to try to imagine how you’re going to execute on your strategy, but you’re not quite there yet. Soon, I’ll share with you a “real world” example of how this looks in action.

For now, map the journey experience. In addition to your character, you’ve now got the plot points in the narrative you’re weaving.

All that’s left is to figure out how to tell the story. That’s up next week.

The post How to Know Exactly What Content to Deliver to Convert More Prospects appeared first on Copyblogger.


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Thirteen things marketers want to know about expanded text ads, direct from Google

AdWords released expanded text ads in late July. Columnist and Googler Matt Lawson answers some FAQs about what you should consider as you expand your own ads.

The post Thirteen things marketers want to know about expanded text ads, direct from Google appeared first on Search Engine Land.



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Rainmaker Rewind: Microsoft Just Bought LinkedIn. Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Rainmaker FM rewind

This week on Rainmaker Rewind, Sean Jackson, Jabez LeBret, and Mica Gadhia have a conversation about the recent acquisition of LinkedIn by Microsoft for $ 26.2 billion.

In this up-to-the-minute episode, you’ll hear The Missing Link team share their thoughts about this announcement and what it means for you.

And as always, don’t miss out on other great episodes that were featured on Rainmaker FM.

  1. The Missing Link. The Missing Link team explores Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn and how it affects each of us: Microsoft Just Bought LinkedIn. Here’s Everything You Need to Know …
  2. The Digital Entrepreneur. Pamela Wilson joins Jerod Morris to discuss what she’s learned through her extensive experience creating and running successful membership communities: Practical Advice on Turning the Challenges of Building Membership Communities Into Opportunities
  3. Confessions of a Pink-haired Marketer. Sonia Simone answers the age-old question: Is it okay to swear in our content marketing? Should You Swear on Your Blog?
  4. Hack the Entrepreneur Jon Nastor interviews leader, speaker, “Marxist-capitalist,” and smart entrepreneur Simon Biltcliffe: Money is the Outcome of Success (Not the Cause)
  5. The Showrunner. Jerod Morris and Jon Nastor discuss a few simple ways to capture inspiration before it escapes: How to Never (Ever) Forget an Important Idea Again
  6. The Writer Files. Kelton Reid rounds out the second part of last week’s interview with Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney: How Bestselling Debut Novelist Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney Writes: Part Two
  7. Youpreneur. Tune in to this episode to hear Chris Ducker’s batching strategy and his tips on how to be more productive: How ‘Batching’ Your Tasks Can Put Your Productivity on Steroids
  8. Copyblogger FM. Sonia Simone explains the importance of treating your freelance gig as a business … if you really want to make a good living: How to Make a (Really Good) Living as a Freelance Writer
  9. Hack the Entrepreneur. Jon Nastor interviews SEO specialist, marketing consultant, connector, and digital entrepreneur Brandon Lewin: Why You Need to Do Work That Matters
  10. Unemployable. In case you missed it, Brian Clark finished out Season One with a fascinating interview with Henry Rollins: Henry Rollins on Entrepreneurial Art

And, one more thing …

If you want to get Rainmaker Rewind sent straight to your favorite podcast player, subscribe right here on Rainmaker FM.

The post Rainmaker Rewind: Microsoft Just Bought LinkedIn. Here’s Everything You Need to Know appeared first on Copyblogger.


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Everything You Need to Know About Using Yoast SEO for WordPress

Posted by Angela_Petteys

[Estimated read time: 23 minutes]

Setting up and using Yoast SEO

When you’re working with a self-hosted WordPress site, the Yoast SEO plugin is one of the most valuable tools you can have. Yoast SEO is one of the most widely popular WordPress plugins around and it’s easy to understand why. Whether you’re running a personal blog or you’re a SEO professional managing a website for a client, Yoast is a powerful tool that can help you make your site as search engine-friendly as possible.

Yoast SEO can be installed on any self-hosted WordPress site. (Sorry, free WordPress.com bloggers.) It’s easily the most comprehensive SEO-related WordPress plugin you could ask for and best of all, it’s free! You do have the option to buy premium Yoast SEO extensions for some extra functionality, but its most important functions are part of the free plugin. Yoast makes it easy for you to do things like control titles and meta descriptions, set your targeted keywords and track how often you’re using them, manage sitemaps, and so much more.

Downloading and installing Yoast SEO

If you don’t already have the Yoast SEO plugin installed on your site, let’s take care of that. If Yoast SEO is already installed and set up and you just want to learn more about how to use it, feel free to scroll on down to the “Using Yoast SEO” section.

From your site’s admin dashboard, look along the left-hand side of the screen for the “Plugins” option. When you hover over it, you’ll see the “Add New” option.

Adding a new plugin via the WordPress dashboard

Click on “Add New” and you’ll be brought to a page with a selection of featured, popular, recommended, and favorite plugins. If you don’t see Yoast SEO listed under any of these sections, there’s a search box you can use to find it.

Where to find the search box in WordPress plugins

Once you find the Yoast SEO plugin, click “Install Now” and WordPress will download it, install it, and ask you to activate the plugin. Activate the plugin and if it’s been successfully installed and activated, you’ll see an option marked “SEO” on the left-hand sidebar menu of your admin dashboard and along the horizontal menu bar on the top of the screen.

Where you'll see the SEO plugin installed on your WordPress dashboard

Downloading and installing Yoast SEO was easy, but now that you’ve done that, you need to set up the plugin. If you’ve never used Yoast SEO before, this might seem a little overwhelming, but I promise it’s nothing you can’t handle. I can’t promise this process will be a non-stop, action-packed thrill ride, but it’s completely worth the time it takes to set it up properly. Since the ideal Yoast settings will vary from site to site, I’m not going to tell you any hard and fast settings to choose, but I will walk you through what each of the settings are.

Importing settings from other SEO plugins

Just a quick question before we go any further: do you have another SEO plugin you’ve been using? If so, you could save yourself some time by importing your settings from the other plugin. From the “SEO” option on the left-hand menu, click on “Tools,” then “Import and Export.” Select the “Import from other SEO plugins” tab.

Importing settings from other SEO plugins

Here, you can import settings from HeadSpace2, All-in-One SEO, and WooThemes SEO Framework. All you have to do is check the appropriate box and hit “Import.” If you’ve used older Yoast plugins like Robots Meta, RSS Footer, or Yoast Breadcrumbs, you can import settings from those under the “Import from other plugins” tab. If you’re not using any of those SEO plugins, you might want to check out the “SEO Data Transporter” plugin Yoast recommends.

Using the import tab to import settings from other SEO plugins

If you already have settings you’ve exported from another plugin and you want to import them, all you have to do is go to the “Import” tab, select the file you want, and hit “Import settings.”

Setting up Yoast SEO

If you don’t have any settings to import, let’s start from square one. Even if you imported your settings from another plugin, there’s no harm in checking all these settings just to make sure everything is correct.

To get started, go to your site’s admin dashboard, find the “SEO” option on the left-hand side menu (or the top menu, whichever you prefer) and click on “General.” This will bring you to a page where you’ll have the chance to set up some basic global SEO options for your site.

General settings

The "general" tab in Yoast settings

General

If you ever want to revert Yoast SEO to its default settings, the “General” tab is where you can do that. Unless you want to take the introductory tour, head on over to “Your Info.”

Your Info

The "Your Info" tab in Yoast settings

Here, you’ll be able to tell Yoast what your site’s name is or if you have an alternate name you’d like to use. You can also tell it whether or not you are a company or a person, which will make it easier for Google to incorporate your site in Knowledge Graph results. If you’re setting up Yoast SEO for a company’s website, you’ll have a chance to add things like a company logo, which could also be included in Knowledge Graph results.

Webmaster Tools

Where you can verify your site's webmaster tools in Yoast settings

Now, let’s head on over to the “Webmaster Tools” tab. If you plan to use tools like Google Search Console, Alexa, Bing Webmaster Tools, or Yandex Webmaster Tools, you can verify your site through here if your site isn’t already verified.

The basic process to do this is pretty similar no matter which of the tools you’re using, but I’ll use Google Search Console as an example:

  1. Open your Search Console dashboard and select “Manage Property,” then “Verify this site” from the box next to the site you’re adding Yoast to. If you haven’t already added your site to Search Console, you’ll need to do that first. (Check out my guide on the basics of Google Search Console if you need help with that.)
  2. Choose the “HTML Tag” verification option. Instead of pasting the code it gives you into the <Head> section of your site’s code, take that code and paste it into the Google Search Console box you see here and delete everything except what’s inside the quotation marks, including the quotation marks themselves.
  3. Hit “Save Changes,” then go back to your Google Search Console dashboard and hit “Verify.” You’re all set!

Security

The "security" tab in General Yoast settings

Lastly, there’s the “Security” tab. If you’re working with a single-author site, you don’t really have anything to worry about here and you can leave this box unchecked. But if you’re working with a site where multiple authors can access the site and add content, this section can be helpful. When this box is left unchecked, it will allow a section with advanced options like redirects and noindex settings to be visible in the Yoast toolbox that appears on each page’s page editor. Although you might be fine with your site’s contributors being able to add content on their own, you might not necessarily want them to change those sorts of settings. All you have to do is check this box and you won’t have to worry about it.

Titles & Metas

Next, let’s move on to the “Titles & Metas” section, which can be found under the “SEO” option on the left-hand side menu. This section is hugely important for SEO purposes since it’s where you get to have some say in how your site appears in SERPs. When you click on this, the first thing you’ll see is the “General” tab.

The "general" tab in the Titles & Metas section of Yoast settings

General

Here, you’ll have the chance to change how your titles display, like “Your Site Name | Contact Us” or “Your Site Name – Contact Us.” Whichever title separator you choose to go with will be used on all pages of your site. As for the “Force rewrite titles” option, this corrects a problem some sites have where the site name appears twice within the title. Some sites use WordPress themes that have built-in SEO title displays, which can override the settings you choose in Yoast. If you’re having this problem, checking this box can help solve it. If you check this box and you’re still having the duplicate title problem, contact your web developer because there is a way to fix that by editing your site’s code.

Homepage

The "homepage" tab in Titles & Metas

What you see under the “Homepage” tab will depend on how your site is set up. In this case, the site I’m working with is set to use one page for a homepage and a different page for the blog. If this is how your site is set up and you wanted to make changes to the titles and meta descriptions for either of those pages, all you’d have to do is click on the “editing the front page/blog itself” links seen here and make your changes. If you’re working with a site where the homepage just displays the latest posts, your “Homepage” tab will look differently from what you see here.

Post Types

The "post types" tab in Titles and Metas

Titles and meta descriptions

Next up is the “Post Types” section. Here, you can set up basic templates for the titles and meta descriptions for the main types of pages of your site. Blog posts could follow one format, while other pages on your site follow another. If you don’t specifically write an SEO-optimized title or meta description for each of your pages, your titles and meta descriptions will follow the basic template you establish here. You can fill these out using variables and the information you specify will automatically be inserted into your titles and meta descriptions. If you leave the meta description box blank, search engines will pull an excerpt of content from the page.

Meta Robots

With the “noindex, follow” option, check the box if there’s something you don’t want to be indexed by search engines. In most cases, you’ll probably want to leave this box unchecked. But if you have pages you want to keep out of search engines or pages that could lead to duplicate content penalties, such as archives of content, go ahead and check the box.

Date in Snippet Preview

As for the “Date in Snippet Preview” option, whether you should check this box or not all comes down to what kind of content you have on that type of page. If you’re making frequent blog updates or are posting content about lots newsworthy stories, you might want to enable this. But if you’re dealing with evergreen content that will be relevant for years to come, you might prefer to disable this so people won’t see your page in SERPs, notice the date, and assume your site is out of date.

Yoast SEO Meta Box

Then there’s the option to hide the Yoast SEO Meta Box. If you’re dealing with a site that has multiple contributors, you might want to use this option to prevent your contributors from being able to change those. If you check this box and later decide you want this option back, no big deal; you can always come back later and change this setting.

Taxonomies

The "Taxonomies" tab in the Titles & Metas section

Next is the “Taxonomies” tab. If your site is something like a blog that uses several different categories and tags to organize posts, you can use this section to set up title and meta description templates for those pages using variables just like you did in the “Post Types” tab. If you tend to use the exact same terms for tags and categories, that’s fine, but you might want to check the “noindex, follow” option to avoid being penalized for duplicate content.

Archives

The "archives" tab of the Titles and Metas section

When you run a blog, having pages of archived content based on date and/or author is a great way to make it easy for your readers to find past content. However, archive pages aren’t always so convenient for search engines, which might consider them duplicate content. The “Archive” tab lets you prevent that by telling them whether or not you want your archive pages indexed or not, or you can disable archive pages all together if you prefer.

You’ll also be able to set up titles to appear on special pages like 404 pages. So if you’ve got something special you’d like these to be, go ahead and enter them in the “Special Pages” section. You can even use some of those variables you used in the past couple of tabs if you want.

Other

The "other" tab of the Titles and Metas section

Finally, we come to the “Other” section, where you can set a couple more things. Fortunately, Yoast does a nice job of explaining what each of these settings are, so this is a pretty straightforward section.

Congratulations — you’ve made it through the most time-consuming part of the settings! There are still more settings to take care of, but the good news is the rest of the settings from here on out are pretty simple. Let’s get to work on the “Social” section, found under the “SEO” option of the left-hand toolbar.

Social

The "Accounts" tab of the Social section

The “Accounts” tab of the “Social” section is pretty self-explanatory. All you have to do is add the URLs to each of your social media profiles. Just remember that for the Twitter section, you only have to enter your username, not the URL for your profile. Filling this section out notifies search engines that they are associated with your site.

The "Facebook" tab of the Social section

As you go through the tabs for individual social media platforms, you’ll be able to control how content shared from your site will appear on each platform. Under the “Facebook” tab, there’s the option to add Open Graph meta data to your site’s <Head> section, which will make it easier for Facebook to use an appropriate image, title, and description when something on your site is shared. You can also specify a default image for them to use if someone shares a post or page that doesn’t already have an image on it.

If you have a Facebook fan page for your site, you can specify an admin for your page so you’ll be able to access Facebook Insights for your site. Facebook Insights will give you information about how often things from your site are being shared, being “liked,” and how much traffic your site is getting from Facebook. To access Facebook Insights, click on the “Facebook Insights” link and look in the upper right hand corner for a button marked “Insights for your Website.” This will bring up a box for you to connect your site’s domain to Facebook Insights.

There are similar settings under the “Twitter,” “Pinterest,” and “Google+” tabs. Under the “Twitter” tab, you can set up Twitter card meta data, which is basically the Twitter equivalent of Facebook Open Graph. If your site has a Pinterest account, you’ll need to check the “Add Open Graph meta data” box under the “Facebook” tab first, then enter the verification code provided to you by Pinterest under the “Pinterest” tab.

Now that your social media settings are all set, go back to the “SEO” section of the left-hand side menu and choose “XML Sitemaps.”

XML Sitemaps

The "General" tab of the XML Sitemaps section

One of the best things about Yoast SEO is that it makes managing sitemaps very easy. When you enable XML sitemap functionality, Yoast SEO automatically generates a sitemap, updates it as you add new content, and pings search engines when it’s updated.

As you click through the various tabs in this section, you’ll have the chance to determine whether or not you want things such as specific types of posts or post categories included in your sitemap. Just look through the tabs and if you see something you don’t want in your sitemap, simply check the box next to it and you’re good to go. You can also exclude specific posts from sitemaps by entering the post ID numbers under the “Excluded Posts” tab.

Now, let’s move on to the “Advanced” option, found under the “SEO” section on the left-hand side menu. Don’t let the name mislead you; this section is actually pretty simple.

Advanced

Breadcrumbs

Advanced settings for Yoast SEO

Under “Advanced,” the first tab you’ll see is “Breadcrumbs.” If you enable breadcrumbs on your site, your visitors will see links along the top of the page showing the path that leads to the current page. (Example: Site Name > Blog > Post Title). Breadcrumbs can also be visible in SERPs, like so:

How breadcrumbs may appear in the SERPs

If you want to have breadcrumbs on your site, unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as checking this box. Be sure to check out Yoast’s article on implementing breadcrumbs because you’ll also need to add some code into your theme. If you aren’t able to edit your site’s theme on your own, talk to your web developer about adding this code to your site.

Permalinks

The "Permalinks" tab under Advanced settings for Yoast SEO

Let’s move on to the “Permalinks” tab. Here, you can clean up your URL structure, permalinks, and <Head> section to make them a little more search engine-friendly. Yoast does a good job of explaining what each of these options are, so there’s no need for me to make this guide any longer than it already is.

RSS

The "RSS" tab of the Advanced settings for Yoast SEO

Next is the “RSS” tab. If you’ve been blogging long enough, there’s a good chance that at some point, you’ve found out that a scraper has published some of your content word-for-word on another site without your permission and without attribution. It’s annoying, right? You might not be able to completely prevent your content from being scraped, but you can use this section to add content to your posts when they appear in RSS feeds, giving yourself credit and linking back to your site. That way, if a scraper steals content directly from your site’s RSS feed, you at least get credit and backlinks to your site.

Search Console

Now we’re down to one last big setting to take care of, but this one only applies if you use Google Search Console. From the “SEO” option on the left-hand side menu, click on “Search Console.”

The settings for Search Console in Yoast SEO

Here, you’ll be able to get a verification code so you can connect Yoast to Google Search Console. Doing this will let you see a list of site errors that your site’s visitors have encountered and give you a chance to fix them right from your site’s dashboard. If you need to set a redirect for a broken link, you can do that there, too.

If you want to do this, all you have to do is:

  1. Click on “Get Google Authorization Code.” This will bring up a box asking you to give Yoast SEO access to your Search Console account.
  2. Hit “Accept” to get a code to paste into the “Authenticate” box you see here.
  3. Click on “Authenticate” and choose your site’s profile from the list provided.
  4. Hit “Save Profile.”

That takes care of all the major settings. Finally! Before we move on, there’s one last thing I want to show you. Go back to the “SEO” option on your left-hand side menu and click on “Tools.”

ToolsThe built-in tools for Yoast SEO: Bulk Editor, File Editor, and Import and Export.

The “Bulk Editor” tool is something you hopefully won’t have to use too often, but if you ever need it, you’re going to love having it. If you ever find yourself needing to make changes to several titles and/or descriptions at a time, you can use it to bring up a list of all your posts and pages so that you can simply go through and make all your changes at once, instead of going to each individual page and making your changes there.

There’s also the “File Editor” tool, where you can make changes to your robots.txt file and your .htaccess file. Last, but certainly not least, there’s “Import and Export.” Now that you’ve spent all that time getting all these settings just right, you might want to export your settings so you can have a backup copy. Or if you have other sites to install Yoast SEO on, you can always export your settings and import them to other sites if you like.

Using Yoast SEO

Now that you have Yoast SEO installed and set up, go to the left-hand side menu on your site’s admin dashboard and choose “All Posts” or “All Pages” to see a list of all your pages/posts. You should be seeing a column marked “SEO” on the right hand side of the screen.

Screenshot highlighting the column marked "SEO"

This column shows a dot indicating how Yoast SEO has rated that page. Yoast SEO uses a pretty simple system for rating a page’s SEO friendliness.

  • A gray dot means Yoast SEO doesn’t have any information available for that page,
  • A green dot means the page is good,
  • A red dot means there are some significant problems,
  • And a yellow/orange dot means there’s room for improvement.

If you’re in the process of going through all the pages or posts on your site and optimizing them, this column can be very helpful because you can sort pages/posts based on that column, making it easy to identify which pages need attention.

Click on a page or post to open up your page/post editor and you should see the Yoast SEO toolbox underneath the area where you enter your page’s content. The Yoast SEO toolbox has a few different tabs, the first of which is “General.”

General

The "General" tab in the Yoast SEO Toolbox

The “General” tab is where you can write that page’s title and meta description and specify which keyword you’re targeting. When you set your focus keyword, the plugin will take a look at the page’s content, title, URL, meta description, and heading and let you know how many times your targeted keyword is being used. That way, you’ll know if you’re using your targeted keyword enough or if you might be keyword stuffing.

When setting your focus keyword, remember to go with the main keyword you want to target, because you’re only able to set one focus keyword at a time on Yoast SEO.

The “Snippet Preview” area is an awesome tool. It lets you see what your title and meta description will look like in a SERP so you can make sure nothing important is being cut off.

Page Analysis

The "Page Analysis" tab of the Yoast SEO Toolbox

Once you’ve set your focus keyword in the “General” tab, save or update your draft and click on the “Page Analysis” tab. This will give you some specific feedback on just how search engine friendly your page is or isn’t.

Yoast will give you feedback based on factors like if you’re using your targeted keyword too much or not enough, whether or not you have images or outbound links, how long your content is, if you’ve used a keyword before on another page, and so much more.

A few things to watch out for

Obviously, ideally you want to get as many green dots as possible and fix as many red dots as you can, but having some yellow dots in there isn’t inherently a bad thing. Keep in mind that while Yoast can give some very helpful feedback, you don’t necessarily have to take all of its advice to heart.

For example, in the above screenshot, I have a red dot for not having an image. That post actually does have an image, but it wasn’t inserted in the body of the post with the text; it was added using the “Set Featured Image” section, which Yoast didn’t pick up on.

Yoast might also give you some feedback that would seem unnatural or illogical if you actually implemented those changes. It’s very important to remember that Yoast is taking an extremely objective look at your content and that you’re ultimately writing content to be read by humans, not search engines.

For example, one thing Yoast might tell you is that even though you have your targeted keyword in a title, you might want to consider rewriting the title to put the targeted keyword at the beginning. If there’s a way to do this in a way that seems natural, go for it. But don’t feel obligated to make that change if it would just make your title sound strange. It’s not like Yoast is going to prevent you from publishing a post or a page if you don’t take its advice, so use your best judgement about which recommendations you listen to.

Advanced

The "Advanced" tab in the Yoast SEO Toolbox

If the option for the “Advanced” tab in the Yoast meta box hasn’t been disabled, you should be seeing a tab marked “Advanced.” Here, you can change settings for meta robots and sitemaps or set a 301 redirect URL. If this is a page of content that has been published elsewhere on the Internet, you can establish a canonical URL here, too.

If you’re wondering what the options in the “Meta Robots Advanced” section are, here’s a quick rundown:

  • NO ODP: Stops search engines from using alternative site descriptions from ODP/DMOZ.
  • NO YDIR: Stops search engines from using site descriptions from Yahoo! Directories.
  • No Archive: Stops search engines from having a cached version of your page.
  • No Snippet: Stops search engines from using a snippet of content in SERPs.

Social

The "Social" tab of the Yoast SEO Toolbox

Now that your page looks good to search engines, let’s head over to the “Social” tab and make sure it will also look great when it’s shared on social media. Since social media feeds tend to move very quickly, it’s important to make sure your pages will be eye-catching enough to stand out amongst the crowd when someone shares your content.

If you don’t fill out anything in this section, social media sites will automatically use the page’s title, meta description or a snippet of content from your post, and select an image to use. But if you’ve ever tried sharing content on social media, you know that sometimes they don’t always choose the most ideal image. You can fix that here by uploading the image you want them to use. Ideally, your page’s title and meta description or the snippet of content from your page will be attention-grabbing enough to work well for social media, but you can always rewrite them here if you like.

Publish

When you’re all done optimizing your page, take a look at the box where you can schedule a post, change privacy settings, or simply hit the “Post” button.

The "Publish" box on Yoast SEO

You’ll see another dot here telling you how Yoast SEO has rated that post or page on the whole. If you’ve got a green light, you’re good to go!

For a free plugin, the amount of functionality you get from Yoast SEO is pretty incredible. Now that you’re familiar with the Yoast SEO plugin, you’ll have no problem making your site as search engine-friendly as possible. If you’re interested in a little extra functionality, you might want to check out the premium Yoast SEO extensions.

Premium Yoast SEO extensions

A screenshot of the various premium Yoast SEO extensions.

Yoast SEO Premium

If you have to redirect a lot of URLs, the Yoast SEO Premium extension might be worthwhile. It has a great redirect manager that lets you import redirects from your .htaccess file, write redirects to your .htaccess file, and choose the type of redirect you want — plus more tools to help make creating redirects easier. You’ll also get access to 13 different tutorial videos in case you still have some questions about how to use Yoast SEO.

Video SEO

If your site has a lot of video content, the Video SEO plugin can help you provide search engines with the information they need to help index your video content so that you can potentially get a rich snippet SERP result. Rich snippet results are hard to come by and using the Video SEO plugin does not guarantee that your site will get rich snippet results, but if Google decides your content is worthy of them, this plugin can help you get one.

SEO News

Is your site focused on news content? If so, the SEO News extension will help you optimize your site in a way to help you get featured in Google News results. It doesn’t directly submit your site to Google News, but it will help you optimize your site in a way that will help you get there. It gives you the option for creating a “Standout Tag,” creating XML News sitemaps, and more.

Local SEO

Lastly, there’s the Local SEO extension. If it’s important for you to be featured in geographically specific search results, this is the extension for you. The Local SEO extension helps you give search engines important information about your business — such as your address, phone number, and hours of operation — so the search engine can give more accurate and detailed information to searchers.

Any questions or thoughts about setting up and using the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress? Be sure to let us know in the comments!

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