Keyword research for your webshop

When you start an online shop, keyword strategy might seem less important. You are selling products, right? So the product names are your keywords. While that might be true in a few cases, in most cases you need to focus on the keywords that describe the problem you/your products are solving for your customer. Selling sun protection? The problems you’re solving are among others sunburn and skin cancer, so these are your keywords as well. In this post, I’ll give you a practical approach on how to perform keyword research for your webshop.

Keyword research for your webshop

After you’ve defined your position and found your niche, you must have a pretty good idea of the main keywords for your website. By putting some real effort in positioning your website, you unconsciously were thinking about what we like to call ‘long tail keywords’. You were thinking about how you could refine your product or better: product description to match a certain target market.

What is keyword research?

Let’s first explain the concept of keyword research. Keyword research can be defined as:

The activity you undertake in order to come up with an extensive list of keywords you would like to rank for.

Your keyword strategy follows that definition, as it consists of all the decisions you make based on that keyword research. This is where your search marketing starts: what do you do, explained in the language of your target market. It will help you come up with an extensive list of (long tail) keywords you’d like to rank for.

Keyword research consists of three steps:

  1. Write down the mission of your business.
  2. Make a list of all the keywords you want to be found for.
  3. Create landing pages for all keywords.

Where we say keywords, we also mean keyphrases (more than one keyword in a search query, as in ‘search engine optimization’).

Step 1: What is your mission?

We have gone into this before. The mission of your online shop consists of the ideas you have about your website and your company. For the moment, let’s not focus on if that mission statement will prove to be genius enough to sell to people. This also largely depends on the market you are in.

Some markets are highly competitive, with large companies dominating the search results. For instance, an online shop with illustrations for children would even have to compete with online giants like Disney. Did you know Disney is an online publisher as well? Blogs like attract thousands of readers per day. I can assure you that these companies have a bit more budget for marketing (and SEO) than a starting shop like yours might be. Competing in these markets is hard, ranking in these markets is hard. All the more reason to make a good decision on niches and positioning. And keywords, obviously.

Please note that if you decide on a specific long tail keyword, that doesn’t mean you can forget about the competitive keywords altogether. These need to be mentioned, or better need to have a role in your website as well. You can’t optimize for ‘low-cal chocolate cupcake’ without focusing on ‘cupcake’ and ‘chocolate cupcake’ as well.

Step 2: Making a list of keywords

Try to focus on what benefits you bring to the customer, not on what you are selling from your own point of view. Normally, that will give you keywords they will most likely to use in their Google searches as well. Or, as we say in our Content SEO eBook:

What will these people be looking for? What kind of search terms could they be using while looking for your amazing service or product? Ask yourself these questions and write down as many answers as you possibly can.

Keep your unique selling point, or your customer’s unique buying reasons in mind when drafting your list of keywords. Make sure these keywords fit your website.

If you need any help with finding the right keywords, please go read this post by Marieke about keyword tools you can use.

Step 3: create landing pages?

Now that you have found your main keywords, you need to make sure these are represented in the right way on your website. A commonly used way is to create a landing page per keyword.

A landing page is a page where your visitors “land” (arrive) from other sources, such as search engines or social media. So basically it’s a page that’s optimized to evoke a certain reaction from the visitor, such as buying a product or subscribing to a newsletter.

We did an article on this subject, which will help you understand how to set up a proper landing page.

Don’t forget to structure your pages!

You should create collections of pages that work together in Google. Creating one page containing all the keywords you came up with won’t get you visitors. There’s just too much competition on most keywords. You should create multiple landing pages and embed them in a structure that tells Google how those pages relate to each other. Joost wrote an excellent post on how to achieve that by creating cornerstone content and internal linking.

By the way, feel free to perform an exit-intend survey to ask your visitors what keyword they used to find your site, and if they found sufficient information about the topic. Oxfam uses a form like that:
This will give you great insights in what keywords you still have to improve for.


Want your shop’s pages to rank? Then you should carry out keyword research for your webshop! You can do keyword research in three steps:

  1. Determine the mission of your business.
    Write down the ideas you have about your company, your website, your products and your customers. Narrowing down your business automatically forces you to think about (long tail) keywords.
  2. Write down the keywords you want to be found for.
    Focus on keywords that your customers would use. Try to find out what their unique buying reason is. What problem does your product solve?
  3. Create landing pages for all of these keywords.
    Write awesome content about your keywords, use nice imagery and a design that supports the message of that page.

To finish things off, create nice collections of pages and give these pages a logical place within your site structure.

So go and determine a keywords strategy for your webshop!
Or pose your question in the comments below.

Read more: ‘Why should you focus on multiple keywords?’ »

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Why should you focus on multiple keywords?

In Yoast SEO Premium you’re able to focus on multiple keywords. If you use our tool correctly, your text can be optimized for up to five keywords. In this post, I’ll explain to you why it’s important to use the multiple focus keyword functionality while optimizing your text.

how to use multiple focus keywords

Explaining (multiple) focus keywords

The Yoast SEO plugin helps you to optimize each and every post (or page) you write. Imagine yourself having a travel blog. For your travel blog, you’re writing a blog post about a road trip through California. The focus keyword is the word or phrase your audience will use in the search engines and for which you want your post to rank. In order to choose your focus keyword wisely, you should do some research! In our example, the most important keyword would be ‘road trip California’. Sometimes it’s hard to choose one keyword because you want a post to rank for more than one specific focus keyword. Perhaps you would also like to rank for a synonym or for a slightly different keyword. That’s when the multiple focus keywords come in handy! Let’s look at 4 examples in which optimizing for multiple keywords is the best strategy.


People search for different things. While some people will use the term road trip when searching for their vacation, others could very well use vacation, holiday or trip. To reach different groups of people, you should make sure that your post will rank for these different keywords.

More than one topic

Sometimes a post is about more than one topic or has a few subtopics. Our article about the road trip to California could be about planning for the road trip, as well as sightseeing in California. These two topics could very well fit into one article. In this case, you would like your article to rank for ‘sightseeing California’ as well as for ‘planning road trip’. And, you’d also like to rank for your most important keyword ‘road trip California’.

multiple focus keywords: multiple topics shown in google trends

Long tail keyword variants

A great strategy to get your content to rank in Google is to focus on long tail keywords. Long tail keywords will have far less competition and will be relatively easy to rank for.

If you were able to rank for multiple long tail keywords with one post, that would make it even more fruitful. Addressing multiple long tail variants of your focus keyword will be a great strategy. Optimizing your post for different long tail variants will give you the opportunity to be found for more search terms. In our example, one could, for instance, focus on road trip California and on two long tail variants: ‘road trip southern California’ and ‘road trip northern California’.

multiple focus keywords: long-tail keyword variants shown in Google trends

Key phrases

If people seek something rather specific, they tend to use key phrases. Sometimes, the word order of the words within these key phrases (and the use of stopwords) is important. If the word order and the use of stopwords is important, we would advise you to optimize your post on different variations of your focus keyword.

While investigating how Google handles stopwords, we found that a search term like ‘road trip California’ is handled in exactly the same manner as ‘California road trip’. The order of the words is irrelevant to Google. However, for the search [road trip in California], Google tries to find the exact match (and the order of the word is important). So, search queries with stopwords seem to be handled a bit different by Google.

multiple focus keywords: key phrases difference shown in google trends

How to use multiple focus keywords

Optimizing your post for multiple focus keywords is really easy! You should purchase Yoast SEO Premium and click on the tab in the Yoast SEO Premium box to add a new keyword:

multiple focus keywords: click plus sign to add a focus keyword

A new box will open and you can enter the second focus keyword you’d like to optimize your post for:

multiple focus keyword: input field

The plugin will run a check on the content to see if your post is optimized for all the focus keywords you entered.

Read more: ‘Blog SEO: befriend the long tail’ »

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rel=canonical: the ultimate guide

The canonical URL allows you to tell search engines that certain similar URLs are actually one and the same. Sometimes you have products or content that is accessible under multiple URLs, or even on multiple websites. Using rel=canonical you can have this without harming your rankings.

History of rel=canonical

In February 2009 Google, Bing and Yahoo! introduced the canonical link element. Matt Cutt’s post is probably the easiest reading if you want to learn about its history. While the idea is simple, the specifics of how to use it turn out to be complex.

The rel=canonical element, often called the “canonical link”, is an HTML element that helps webmasters prevent duplicate content issues. It does this by specifying the “canonical”, or “preferred”, version of a web page. Using it well improves a site’s SEO.

The idea is simple: if you have several similar versions of the same content, you pick one “canonical” version and point the search engines at that. This solves the duplicate content problem where search engines don’t know which version of the content to show. This article takes you through the use cases and the anti-use cases.

The SEO benefit of rel=canonical

Choosing a proper canonical URL for every set of similar URLs improves the SEO of your site. Because the search engine knows which version is canonical, it can count all the links towards all the different versions, as links to that single version. Basically, setting a canonical is similar to doing a 301 redirect, but without actually redirecting.

The process of canonicalization

When you have several choices for a products URL, canonicalization is the process of picking one. In many cases, it’ll be obvious: one URL will be better than others. In some cases, it might not be as obvious, but then it’s still rather easy: pick one! Not canonicalizing your URLs is always worse than not canonicalizing your URLs.

canonical graphic 1024x630

How to set canonical URLs

Correct example of using rel=canonical

Let’s assume you have two versions of the same page. Exactly, 100% the same content. They differ in that they’re in separate sections of your site and because of that the background color and the active menu item differ. That’s it. Both versions have been linked from other sites, the content itself is clearly valuable. Which version should a search engine show? Nobody knows.

For example’s sake, these are their URLs:


This is what rel=canonical was invented for. Especially in a lot of e-commerce systems, this (unfortunately) happens fairly often. A product has several different URLs depending on how you got there. You would apply rel=canonical as follows:

  1. You pick one of your two pages as the canonical version. It should be the version you think is the most important one. If you don’t care, pick the one with the most links or visitors. If all of that’s equal: flip a coin. You need to choose.
  2. Add a rel=canonical link from the non-canonical page to the canonical one. So if we picked the shortest URL as our canonical URL, the other URL would link to the shortest URL like so in the <head> section of the page:
    <link rel="canonical" href="">

    That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.

What this does is “merge” the two pages into one from a search engine’s perspective. It’s basically a “soft redirect”, without redirecting the user. Links to both URLs now count for the single canonical version of the URL.

Setting the canonical in Yoast SEO

If you use Yoast SEO, you can change the canonical of several page types using the plugin. You only need to do this if you want to change the canonical to something different than the current page’s URL. Yoast SEO already renders the correct canonical URL for almost any page type in a WordPress install.

For posts, pages and custom post types, you can edit the canonical in the advanced tab of the Yoast SEO metabox:


For categories, tags and other taxonomy terms, you can change them in the Yoast SEO metabox too, in the same spot. If you have other advanced use cases, you can always use the wpseo_canonical filter to change the Yoast SEO output.

When should you use canonical URLs?

301 redirect or canonical?

If you have the choice of doing a 301 redirect or setting a canonical, what should you do? The answer is simple: if there are no technical reasons not to do a redirect, you should always do a redirect. If you cannot redirect because that would break the user experience or be otherwise problematic: set a canonical URL.

Should a page have a self-referencing canonical URL?

In the example above, we make the non-canonical page link to the canonical version. But should a page set a rel canonical for itself? This is a highly debated topic amongst SEOs. At Yoast we have a strong preference for having a canonical link element on every page and Google has confirmed that’s best. The reason is that most CMSes will allow URL parameters without changing the content. So all of these URLs would show the same content:


The issue: if you don’t have a self-referencing canonical on the page that points to the cleanest version of the URL, you risk being hit by this stuff. Even if you don’t do it yourself, someone else could do this to you and cause a duplicate content issue. So adding a self-referencing canonical to URLs across your site is a good “defensive” SEO move. Luckily for you, our Yoast SEO plugin does this for you.

Cross-domain canonical URLs

You might have the same piece of content on several domains. For instance, SearchEngineJournal regularly republishes articles from (with explicit permission). Look at every one of those articles and you’ll see a rel=canonical link point right back at our original article. This means all the links pointing at their version of the article count towards the ranking of our canonical version. They get to use our content to please their audience, we get a clear benefit from it too. Everybody wins.

Faulty canonical URLs: common issues

There is a multitude of cases out there showing that a wrong rel=canonical implementation can lead to huge issues. I know of several sites that had the canonical on their homepage point to an article, and completely lost their home page from the search results. There are more things you shouldn’t do with rel=canonical. Let me list the most important ones:

  • Don’t canonicalize a paginated archive to page 1. The rel=canonical on page 2 should point to page 2. If you point it to page 1 search engines will actually not index the links on those deeper archive pages…
  • Make them 100% specific. For various reasons, many sites use protocol relative links, meaning they leave the http / https bit from their URLs. Don’t do this for your canonicals. You have a preference. Show it.
  • Base your canonical on the request URL. If you use variables like the domain or request URI used to access the current page while generating your canonical, you’re doing it wrong. Your content should be aware of its own URLs. Otherwise, you could still have the same piece of content on for instance and and have them both canonicalize to themselves.
  • Multiple rel=canonical links on a page causing havoc. Sometimes a developer of a plugin or extensions thinks that he’s God’s greatest gift to mankind and he knows best how to add a canonical to the page. Sometimes, that developer is right. But since you can’t all be me, they’re inevitably wrong too sometimes. When we encounter this in WordPress plugins we try to reach out to the developer doing it and teach them not to, but it happens. And when it does, the results are wholly unpredictable.

rel=canonical and social networks

Facebook and Twitter honor rel=canonical too. This might lead to weird situations. If you share a URL on Facebook that has a canonical pointing elsewhere, Facebook will share the details from the canonical URL. In fact, if you add a like button on a page that has a canonical pointing elsewhere, it will show the like count for the canonical URL, not for the current URL. Twitter works in the same way.

Advanced uses of rel=canonical

Canonical link HTTP header

Google also supports a canonical link HTTP header. The header looks like this:

Link: <>; 

Canonical link HTTP headers can be very useful when canonicalizing files like PDFs, so it’s good to know that the option exists.

Using rel=canonical on not so similar pages

While I won’t recommend this, you can definitely use rel=canonical very aggressively. Google honors it to an almost ridiculous extent, where you can canonicalize a very different piece of content to another piece of content. If Google catches you doing this, it will stop trusting your site’s canonicals and thus cause you more harm…

Using rel=canonical in combination with hreflang

In our ultimate guide on hreflang, we talk about canonical. It’s very important that when you use hreflang, each language’s canonical points to itself. Make sure that you understand how to use canonical well when you’re implementing hreflang as otherwise you might kill your entire hreflang implementation.

Conclusion: rel=canonical is a power tool

Rel=canonical is a powerful tool in an SEO’s toolbox, but like any power tool, you should use it wisely as it’s easy to cut yourself. For larger sites, the process of canonicalization can be very important and lead to major SEO improvements.

Read more: ‘Duplicate content: causes and solutions’ »

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Should you republish old content?

Lots of content you write is timeless. One year from now this article about republishing old content will still be as valid as it is today. Still, if you don’t share it or talk about it, very few people will notice it. A way to make sure your content won’t be forgotten is to republish it. But what’s a smart strategy for that? You don’t want to annoy your audience with old news. In this post, I’ll talk you through different ways to republish your old content.

Republish old content

Why would you republish old content?

A lot of content is valid for a longer period of time. And your audience changes and grows. Things you’ve written a year ago probably won’t be read by your new audience. So, it’s a waste of quality copy if you’d publish it only once.

Moreover, sometimes an article or blog post isn’t picked up properly the first time. Maybe your timing was off. An article that was published in summer, perhaps got little attention because of a very hot day. If you share posts on Facebook, you’ll most definitely notice that some posts are shared and liked much more than others. The reason why some posts are picked up by a large audience, while others aren’t, isn’t necessarily related to the quality of your post. Republishing can be a way to give your content a second chance to reach your audience.

Make sure your content is up to date!

Most important advice on republishing old content is that you should never republish anything that isn’t up to date. Nobody wants to read something that is out of date or no longer applicable. So before republishing, you should do some reviewing and possibly some re-writing!

Republishing content with minor changes

If you want to republish an article in which you’ve made minor changes, we would advise you to change the last modified date. That way, people are able to see when the article or post was altered last. It’s instantly clear that the information is still up to date.

We would advise you to hide the comments on a post you republish. It just looks weird if you push out an article with comments that are made a year earlier.

When updated, push out your article using social media like Facebook and Twitter. Or write about the article in your newsletter. You can mention that you wrote this post some time ago and that the information is still very useful. You can also choose to treat the republished post as a normal post and do the things you normally do to draw attention to new content.

Republishing old content with major changes

Sometimes you’ll need to make major adjustments to articles. Things can change entirely, making your old article rather useless. Or, your opinion or advice on how to handle certain things might change.

If you make big changes on an article, rewriting the entire text, we would advice you to publish it as if it were new content. You’ll then change the date of the article. Changing the date will enable you to keep all of the links from other websites to your original post (which is great for SEO of course).


Republishing can be a great way to get extra attention to those great articles you wrote some time ago. Make sure to keep those articles up to date, though. And, don’t go overboard! You shouldn’t republish your articles every other week. If people notice you’re publishing the same blogpost again and again, they’ll definitely get annoyed!

Read more: ‘10 tips for an awesome and SEO-friendly blog post’ »

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Positioning your shop in the online market

Successful positioning adds value to your business and gives you a head start on the competition. Positioning is the art of distinguishing your business from others in the mind of your customers. You can make your webshop stand out by high product quality, great service, low prices or dedicated care for the environment. But it’s equally important to communicate this distinctive factor to your target group. Your position is their minds. In this post I’ll help you construct your desired position for your webshop.

positioning your shop online

The fifth P

Every marketing expert in the world knows the name of Philip Kotler. And even if you don’t know that name, you must have heard from the four P’s: product, price, place and promotion. These were the core of every marketing strategy when I studied Marketing decades ago. Since then, many have added their own extra P’s like people and purpose. Philip Kotler himself mentions another P as well: Positioning.

Definition of positioning

Kotler defines positioning as:

“the act of designing the company’s offering and image to occupy a distinctive place in the mind of the target market. The end result of positioning is the successful creation of a customer-focused value proposition, a cogent reason why the target market should buy the product.”
(Philip Kotler: Marketing Management, 2003)

This is closely related to finding your niche market. In my post about finding your shop’s niche, I explained how a product and target audience can be considered shop shapers. You can build an entire shop just based on the right product and the right market. Since positioning is about finding your spot in the mind of the target market, it’s clear that emotions play a part as well.

Questions to ask yourself

If you want to position your shop, it might help to ask yourself some questions:

  • What is your ideal customer? Not in terms of budget, but in terms of values.
  • What are my personal values and how do these relate to my products or company?
  • What do I consider the core competences of my company and how can I make these visible?
  • What brands do I like and how would people associated our company with these brands?
  • What are current trends in my market and what can our products contribute to that?

It’s not that simple to answer these questions. It’s quite heavy stuff, come to think of it. Especially since it’s almost all emotions. But thinking about these topics can help you find your shop’s position.

Construct your shop’s position

There is a simple way to construct your position. First define the following variables:

  1. Company name
  2. Product
  3. Target market
  4. Needs of your target market
  5. Distinctiveness of your company

That might require some research, and perhaps you haven’t thought about a number of these variables. But when you have defined them, your brand position will be something like this:

[Company] supplies [product] to [target market], looking for [needs]. [Company] distinguishes itself from competitors by [distinctiveness].

Some examples

This is quite a strict format, where you should of course craft this to fit you as a person or your company. Let’s look at some possible examples for known companies.


Cola is popular worldwide and is liked by people of all age groups while the diet coke targets the niche segment for people who are more health conscious. Coca Cola uses competitive positioning strategy to be way ahead of its competitors in the non-alcoholic beverages market.


Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis for males, females, and children, at any age that love the outdoors. Patagonia calls out other companies with “environmental initiatives” to beat theirs.
(Source: Adventures in Branding)

Body Shop

The Body Shop expects its customers to view its products as beauty products with great quality, from a trustworthy brand. The fact that its products have a compelling natural, ethical and environmental story is an added advantage, and how it differentiates its brand from other big mainstream brands and retailers, instead of ethical or charity purchases to customers.
(Source: Natural Cosmetics Lovers)

Note that these aren’t the brand positions these companies set up in their mission statement or marketing plans. These are the positions that others imagine these companies have or had. These examples are simply here to illustrate to you what your position could be.

So what to do?

Find the elements that your desired clients would look for in a product or company. And find the areas where you want to and are able to distinct yourself from your competition. Kotler refers to these as ‘points-of-parity’ and ‘points-of-differentiation’. That sums it up quite nicely, I think.

Positioning is the first thing to do, and creating buzz should be the second. And strongly agree with that. Tell the world about your brand position! Use your blog, use social media, even use your site design to express your values and position your (company and) products in an online market with competition from all over the world.

Make sure your buzz is related to your products. Animal testing and the environment could be topics for your blog, if you want to position your company as conscious. Write about promotions and other sales if your desired position is to be the cheapest online perfume outlet ever. Positioning is about distinctiveness and relevance.

Over to you

What about your shop? Do you have a hard time construction your shop’s position? Or do you manage to occupy a “distinctive place in the mind of the target market”? Share your experience in the comments below!

Read more: ‘Find your shop’s niche’ »

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The reviews are on sale! And more news

Do you need to improve the SEO of your website? Do you want our Yoast SEO experts to thoroughly analyze the SEO of your website? You should definitely order a website review now! Our Gold SEO reviews are on sale until May 18 and will cost only $599 instead of $799.

Sale on our SEO reviews

Change in types of SEO reviews

We’ve decided to simplify our assortment of SEO reviews a bit. Up until now you could choose between four types of reviews: Silver, Gold, Diamond and Platinum. As of today, we’ll offer two types of reviews. You can choose our Gold SEO review in which we give lots of practical advice. Or, you can choose our Platinum SEO review, which is a full audit of your website. The Gold SEO review is on sale and costs only $599 (instead of $799). Our Platinum SEO review costs $2999.

Upcoming: Yoast Consulting project

As of next month, we’ll offer a new type of review. At Yoast, we regularly get questions from people who need more guidance in SEO than our reviews can give them. Also, our SEO team likes to carry out more in-depth SEO projects. They love to really dive into a website and give high quality and personal advice. That’s why, as of next month, we’ll start offering Yoast Consulting projects.

In a Yoast Consulting project, we’ll look at every aspect of your website with our complete SEO team! This team consists of Joost, Michiel, Annelieke, Judith, Jaro, Michelle, Patrick and Meike. You’ll receive a complete analysis and many practical tips. We’ll start with an intake meeting by Skype (or you can come by our office in the Netherlands). Later we’ll also have a Skype follow-up meeting, to make sure you’re completely satisfied. A Yoast Consulting project will cost $10.000. We’ll only do one Yoast Consulting project a month, as it will take much of our time. If you’re interested in purchasing a Yoast Consulting project, make sure to contact us.

Read more: ‘What our website reviews can do for you’ »

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Social Previews in Yoast SEO Premium

In Yoast SEO Premium 3.2, we introduced social previews. It works much like the snippet preview people have come so used to. As the snippet preview does for search rankings, we think social previews will improve your social workflow.

Social previews in Yoast SEO Premium

Which picture will Facebook pick?

When you publish a post and you haven’t specifically selected a Facebook image in our plugin, you don’t know which picture Facebook will use. Yoast SEO has a big hand in this process: it determines which images it “gives” Facebook with its metadata. When you specify a Facebook image, it specifies just that image. When you set a featured image for your post, that’s the image it will feed to Facebook. If you have no featured image either, it will grab the images from your post. Our social previews take the guesswork away and show you what Facebook will use.

It looks like this for this post (because I haven’t specified a specific Facebook image yet):

Facebook preview of this social previews article, showing the featured image and the meta description being used

As you can see this allows me to preview what my post will look like when shared on Facebook. We have a similar preview for Twitter. Both previews also have edit fields below them, allowing you to change the individual Facebook and Twitter metadata. That looks like this:

Twitter social preview with edit fields

Social metadata fallbacks in social previews

As you can see in the image above, you can upload a specific Twitter image. The one you’re seeing in the preview is the Facebook image I uploaded. If you only specify a Facebook image, Twitter will use that image too, which often works just fine. The description underneath that actually comes from the meta description.

Social networks all need similar data. All of them seem to fall back to Facebook OpenGraph data when no specific data was specified. Twitter, Pinterest and Google+ all use Facebook OpenGraph metadata. WhatsApp uses OpenGraph too, when sharing URLs in the messaging app. This is why Facebook OpenGraph is such an important part of our plugin. The previews will show you exactly what’s being used and what your post will look like.

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

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How to use the content analysis of Yoast SEO

The Content Analysis Tool in the Yoast SEO plugin measures many aspects of the text you’re writing. These checks run real-time, so you’ll receive feedback while writing! The content analysis helps you to make your text SEO-friendly. In this post, I’ll first describe the most important features of the Content Analysis Tool. After that, I’ll explain how to use and interpret these features.

Yoast SEO content analysis

Most important features

1.  The plugin allows you to formulate a meta description. This description has to be a short text describing the main topic of the page. If the meta description contains the search term people use, the exact text will be shown by Google below your URL in the search results.

2.  The plugin analyzes the text you write. It calculates the Flesch reading-ease score, which indicates the readability of your article. The Flesch reading-ease score takes into account sentence length, for example. In the future, we’ll add more checks on readability. This will allow you to check the SEO and readability of your text simultaneously.

3. The plugin does numerous content checks on your page. It checks whether you use your focus keyword in:

The plugin also checks the presence of links and images in the article. It calculates the number of words and the density of usage of the focus keyword in the article. Moreover, the plugin checks whether you’re using the same focus keyword on other pages of your website. This should prevent you from competing with yourself.

If you write a relatively SEO-friendly text (based on the aspects mentioned above) the plugin will indicate this with a green bullet. Writing pages that are rewarded with green bullets will help you improve the ranking of those pages.

Two warnings before you start!

When you optimize your post for a certain keyword, keep two things in mind:

  • The first thing is that in this phase (the final, optimizing phase) you shouldn’t change any major things in your article. If you’ve put effort into writing an attractive, structured and readable text, the optimization process should in no way jeopardize that.
  • The second thing is that you shouldn’t change your keyword strategy in this phase. If you’ve done your keyword research properly and you’ve written your post or your article with a focus keyword in mind, don’t go change your focus keyword now! Read The temptation of the green bullet for more in-depth information about that.

7 simple steps to optimize your text

Step 1: Put your text in the WordPress backend

Distraction free writing

WordPress has a distraction-free writing mode that enables you to write in the WordPress backend without being distracted by the menu, the toolbar, the categories box, etc.Distraction free writing mode

You’ve written your article or your blog post. You can write directly in the backend of WordPress or write in any kind of text editor and copy your text into the WordPress backend. Do whatever you like!
If you choose to copy your text in the WordPress backend, copy without the layout. You should adapt the layout in the backend, as otherwise you might run into some layout problems. Make sure to set subheadings into heading 2, sub-subheadings to heading 3 and so on. Then put the title of your post in the title box.

Step 2: Enter your focus keyword

Scroll down to the Content Analysis Tool in the WordPress backend. Enter your focus keyword in the appropriate field of the Yoast SEO Metabox. Your focus keyword is the keyword you would like your post to rank for. Ideally, this should be a keyword which emerged from your keyword research and which you have kept in mind during the entire writing process.

Read more: ‘How to choose the perfect focus keyword’ »

Snippet editor in Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO premium offers the possibility to optimize one article for more than one focus keyword. Optimizing your post for more than one search term allows you to rank for more keywords and to gain traffic to your site through more keywords.

Step 3: Write a meta description

Enter the meta description of your post. Describe clearly what your post or article is about. And make sure you use the exact phrase of your focus keyword. The meta description will be shown by Google below the URL if people search for your focus keyword.

The meta description in the Yoast SEO content analysis

It’s important that the meta description contains the focus keyword. Not because it will improve your rankings, but because otherwise Google usually won’t show your meta description in the search results. Google will try to match the search query with the description. If the focus keyword isn’t mentioned in the meta description, Google will just grab a random piece of content from your page containing the keyword.

The meta description shouldn’t be too long. On the other hand, there’s no ‘penalty’ for having too long meta descriptions either. What you should pay attention to is: 1. the logical bits of it are of the right length and, 2. when it’s cut in half, it still makes sense and still entices people to click.

Keep reading: ‘How to create the right meta description’ »

Step 4: Fine-tune your headings

Look critically at your title, the headings and subheadings of your article. Do these contain your focus keyword? If not, can you alter them (without changing the structure or content of your article) in such a way that they will contain your focus keyword? Don’t put your focus keyword in all of your headings though! That is too much. Using your focus keyword in one heading and in your title should be enough. You can read more about headings in one of Michiel’s posts.

Step 5: Fine-tune your body text

You should also mention the focus keyword in your text a couple of times. Make sure to mention it in the first paragraph. Throughout the text, you should mention it again. As a general rule of thumb: try to use your search terms in about 1 to 2 percent of your text. Say your article has 300 words, that means you should mention your search terms 3 to 6 times. 300 words isn’t the exact goal, nor is the amount of keyword mentions. However, 300 is a decent minimum for the number of words of an article that needs to show authority.

Step 6: Check your bullets!

Clicking on the Content Analysis tab will allow you to see which aspects of the search engine optimization process were successful. The green bullets show which aspects are good. Orange and red bullets indicate where you can improve your SEO strategy. You don’t have to keep on optimizing until all of the bullets are green. Posts on, often have a few orange bullets and sometimes even one or two red bullets. The important thing is that the overall bullet (the one on the upper right in the backend of your post) should be green. The overall bullet will become green if the majority of your SEO aspects are covered.

Overall SEO score in the publish box

Overall SEO score in the publish box


Step 7: Fill out the Social data

The final step to take in the Yoast SEO meta box is filling the Social data. If you fill out a description or title for a social network on this tab, it’s shown in the metadata for the page. This means this description, title or image will be shown when the page is shared on the respective social network. These descriptions basically have the same requirement as the meta description (which is what they fall back to), but usually can be longer. They should tell people what to expect and why they should click.

Social previews

The preview screenshots on the left are taken from Yoast SEO Premium, in free, you won’t see those previews, just the fields!

Twitter preview  Facebook social preview

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


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Find your shop’s niche

After you’ve determined your shop’s mission, you should focus on finding the right niche for your (online) business. Merriam Webster defines a niche as “the situation in which a business’s products or services can succeed by being sold to a particular kind or group of people”. If you have found your niche, your products, sales, communication and marketing can be optimized to target that specific group’s needs and wishes. In this post, we’ll try to help you find your shop’s niche. We’ll go into the two most important pillars of your niche: your product and your customer.

find your shop's niche

Who is your customer?

If you want to determine who your customer is, it might help to determine a number of buyer types. Buyer types help you realize there’s probably not just one customer profile for your website. I can relate to a study about buyer types (partially funded by Carnegie Mellon and the Russell Sage Foundation) that divides your customers into three main groups:

  • Unconflicted, also called the Average Spenders. The majority of buyers (61% according to the study). A group of buyers that make common, logical buying decisions and that care about value-based pricing. “I need something, where can I find the best buy with the best reviews for the company and product.”
  • Spendthrifts (15%). A small group of rather uncontrolled buyers. “I want it now, even though I don’t really need it right now.” This group will be triggered by premium products and cares less about the price. This group is more than other groups triggered by scarcity, for instance.
  • Tightwads (24%). You’ll need to work hard to convince this buyer to purchase your products. They’ll do more research, need more details. More than the other groups, this is the type of buyer that will highly value a proper blog on your website.

This is a very rough division of customers. Of course your (potential) customers have many more characteristic. Marieke wrote a post about getting to know your audience that might help you with analyzing your existing online audience.

Besides that, I think we can be all of these three customers mentioned above. It just depends on the type of product you want to buy online, and perhaps even the amount of money we’ve reserved for this specific purchase. The tough job for you as an online shop owner is to send the right triggers to the right person at the right time. Just thinking about how to do this will narrow your niche. I’d like to add an extra question to that: what’s your product?

What’s your product?

It might seem silly to ask yourself what your product is. However, it’s important to know your product (and its users) to be able to find and narrow down your niche. If you’re an online art shop, the world is your competition. If your online goal is to rank for ‘art’, stop dreaming and get to work. You need to focus on long-tail keywords, so to say. Your niche is described by your product and a number of limitations or perhaps better: specifications.

B2C or B2B?

Are you (mainly) selling to end-users or other businesses? You might have expected that question under ‘Who is your customer”, but I beg to differ. When you start your business, you unconsciously think about selling B2C (business to consumer) or B2B (business to business). I think that in most cases the decision B2C or B2B isn’t made in a business plan. Your business grew in a certain direction because of other choices you’ve made:

  • What is my main product?
  • What other products relate to that?
  • Do all these products fit a certain product group/assortment?
  • Does it pay off to invest in the option to sell more related products?

Does it matter if your customer is a business or a consumer? Obviously, there are differences between the two. Consumers require other care than businesses:

Businesses will come to your site, order and go. The reason could be that you are the cheapest one for that specific product in Google Shopping. I think most B2B customers will be in the Unconflicted group, mentioned above.

Consumers, on the other hand, want to experience your company and products. There will be more emotional buying in that group, which aligns more with the Tightwads group. This obviously depends on the product you are selling.

Is it possible to serve both B2C and B2B customers? Most definitely. Example: we sell plugins. A consumer will purchase one, a business might want to buy several to use for their clients. That is why we offer bulk prices. We know we serve both groups.

Finding your niche

Now that we’ve given you some food for thought on your customers and your product, let’s determine your niche. This process aligns nicely with the process of finding long tail keywords. Let me repeat the definition of a niche: “the situation in which a business’s products or services can succeed by being sold to a particular kind or group of people”.

In case of a luxury pen shop, that could mean the shop’s niche is ‘luxury fountain pens for people that live in the Netherlands and are willing to spend an extra buck for quality and extra service’.

I trust this way of specifying your niche has got you thinking about your own niche.

Your niche evolves

One last thing about niches: they evolve. Or perhaps I should say your business evolves, and that might alter your niche. If you sell fountain pens and find that a lot of people buy a certain brand, you might open a brand specific online shop. This could also work the other way around: if you expand to a certain niche and purchase a company (or domain name) in that niche, you could consider merging it into your main website and/or maintaining the specialized online shop.
The evolution of your niche could, or perhaps I should say should, be a continuous process. Be sure to monitor that evolution.

Read more: ‘Analyzing your audience’ »

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WordPress robots.txt example for great SEO

robots meta tag ultimate guideThe robots.txt file is a very powerful file if you’re working on a site’s SEO. At the same time, it also has to be used with care. It allows you to deny search engines access to certain files and folders, but that’s very often not what you want to do. Over the years, especially Google changed a lot in how it crawls the web, so old best practices are no longer valid. This post explains what the new best practices are and why.

Google fully renders your site

No longer is Google the dumb little kid that just fetches your sites HTML and ignores your styling and JavaScript. It fetches everything and renders your pages completely. This means that when you deny Google access to your CSS or JavaScript files, it doesn’t like that at allThis post about Google Panda 4 shows an example of this.

The old best practices of having a robots.txt that blocks access to your wp-includes directory and your plugins directory are no longer valid. This is why, in WordPress 4.0, I opened the issue and wrote the patch to remove wp-includes/.* from the default WordPress robots.txt.

A lot of themes also use asynchronous JavaScript requests, so-called AJAX, to add content to the page. By default, WordPress used to block these. So I created the ticket for WordPress to allow Google to crawl the admin-ajax.php URL in wp-admin. This was fixed in WordPress 4.4.

Robots.txt denies links their value

Something else is very important to keep in mind. If you block a URL with your site’s robots.txt, search engines will not crawl those pages. This also means that they cannot distribute the link value pointing at those URLs. So if you have a section of your site that you’d rather not have showing in the search results, but does get a lot of links, don’t use the robots.txt file. Instead, use a robots meta tag with a value noindex, follow. This allows search engines to properly distribute the link value for those pages across your site.

Our WordPress robots.txt example

So, what should be in your WordPress robots.txt? Ours is very clean now. We no longer block anything! We don’t block our /wp-content/plugins/ directory, as plugins might output JavaScript or CSS that Google needs to render the page. We also do not block our /wp-includes/ directory, as the default JavaScripts that come with WordPress, which many themes use, come from these directories.

We also do not block our /wp-admin/ folder. The reason is simple: if you block it, but link to it somewhere by chance, people will still be able to do a simple [inurl:wp-admin] query in Google and find your site. This type of query is the type of query malicious hackers love to do. If you don’t do anything, WordPress has (by my doing) a robots meta x-http header on the admin pages that prevents search engines from showing these pages in the search results, a much cleaner solution.

What you should do with your robots.txt

You should log into Google Search Console and under Crawl → Fetch as Google, use the Fetch and Render option:

Fetch as Google in Google Search console, test your WordPress robots.txt

If it doesn’t look like what you’re seeing when you browse your site, or it throws errors or notices: fix them by removing the lines that block access to those URLs from your robots.txt file.

Should you link to your XML Sitemap from your robots.txt?

We’ve always felt linking to your XML sitemap from your robots.txt is a bit nonsense. You should be adding them manually to your Google and Bing Webmaster Tools and make sure you look at their feedback about your XML sitemap. This is the reason our Yoast SEO plugin doesn’t add it to your robots.txt. Don’t really on them to find out about your XML sitemap through your robots.txt .

Read more: ‘Google Panda 4, and blocking your CSS & JS’ »

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