What is an XML sitemap and why should you have one?October 4, 2018
A good XML sitemap acts as a roadmap of your website which leads Google to all your important pages. XML...Read more >
September 18, 2018
It’s a common misconception that the internet is the ultimate learning environment. Yes, you can find everything you need, for free, but the information you end up with is not always trustworthy. It’s scattered, often outdated and sometimes contradictory. So if you want to learn all about a particular subject, you might be better off signing up for an online course. Yoast offers all kinds of SEO training courses in its Academy, with great success. Marieke, who is responsible for most of the courses, explains how Yoast Academy came about.
“We first had the idea for the Academy when Yoast reached its fifth birthday. We had already successfully published an ebook called ‘Optimizing your WordPress site’ – later called ‘SEO for WordPress’ – and a second one was in the works. But we wanted to combine our knowledge in a new way, something more engaging and hands-on because there are more effective ways of learning than reading a book or a hundred blog posts. That’s when our courses were born,” Marieke explains.
Yoast Academy is the go-to place if you want to teach yourself SEO. You can find a selection of in-depth courses on site structure, SEO copywriting, Yoast SEO for WordPress, basic SEO and technical SEO. The latest course added to Yoast Academy is Keyword research. And we’re nowhere near finished!
According to Marieke, Yoast Academy fits Yoast to a tee: “Yoast Academy fits perfectly within our company mission. At Yoast, we want to make it possible for everyone to build a findable website, and by sharing our knowledge we can help people to do that. It’s also one of the reasons we make our content available in different formats. Besides, we are great proponents of open source and give away a good deal of what we know for free. A lot of what we teach is freely available on our site. We even released a free SEO for beginners training this year. This has allowed a lot of people to get acquainted with Yoast Academy. We’ve even seen that lots of them have decided to follow a paid training after trying out the free one, which we’re obviously very happy with!”
One of the first things people will say when given the option to pay for a course on SEO or whatever other subject, is that you can find everything you want online, for free. Marieke: “Sure, that’s true. If you have enough time and perseverance, you can indeed find everything you want. But we’ve found that a course package is much more efficient, to the point and complete. If you surf the web looking for answers, you’ll quickly get outdated and sometimes contradictory advice. Our courses are exhaustive, up to date and well-thought-out. They offer a great mix of practice and theory. The quizzes let you test your new-found knowledge and make sure it sticks. Moreover, we even have courses with assignments you can get feedback on from our experts.”
The SEO courses in the Yoast Academy have been well-received. Matt LaClear, one of the first participants in the Structured data training, found that Google rewarded his site with rich snippets within a day after applying the knowledge he gathered from the training:
“As a result of what I learned from the Structured data training, my agency is now running Schema audits on our clients’ sites. We’re finding big time opportunities to increase their traffic levels. Those are opportunities I would have missed without Yoast Structured Data Training. If you run an agency yourself, I recommend you take the course. Period.”
A course that takes several hours to complete is a different animal compared to a blog post or even an eBook. A good course is well-structured, in-depth and engaging. It has to be an enjoyable experience, and it shouldn’t be too hard or too easy. This is quite a challenge, Marieke acknowledges: “It’s not hard to come up with subjects and material, but it’s the structure and activities that make it a challenging product to build. In the end, you don’t take a course just to gain a bit of knowledge. You want to learn practical SEO skills you can apply immediately.”
In 2018, Yoast Academy has taken a huge leap. Marieke: “In the past, Joost and I created every course. It was a complicated and tough process. Now, we have a dedicated Academy team of 5 university-trained teachers. Jesse, our Academy lead, helps us find the best ways of structuring a new course. Our Academy team then crafts scripts we use to create videos, including relevant images which foster learning. That way, we know for certain that the course achieves what we want it to: our students should be able to immediately improve their SEO in the real world.”
In general, if there is one thing almost all online courses have to cope with, it’s the high drop-off rate. It’s something Marieke notices as well: “Yeah, it’s hard to keep students on track in online courses. It’s always disappointing to see that a certain percentage of customers never finishes the course.”
The missing link could well be the human touch, says Marieke: “We’re in the process of giving our courses a more personal approach. Take our SEO copywriting course, for example. During the course, our students need to send in two assignments. These assignments are hand-checked by our SEO experts, and students get a tailored reply with valuable feedback. This works very well; students love to hear from us. This year, we’ve added similar assignments to our Yoast SEO for WordPress training and Keyword research training. Although expensive to produce, this is something we’re going to add to more courses in the future.”
More and more people are finding their way to Yoast Academy; it is the fastest-growing product group in Yoast’s portfolio. The number of students in Academy has more than tripled in the past six months. Of course, that creates more responsibility as well. Marieke and her team are making progress with new courses and improving and updating current courses. But, it doesn’t stop there, says Marieke: “The current courses touch on a wide range of SEO-related subjects. In the future, we will expand our offerings, but we’re also thinking about a different model. If possible, I’d want to work with a more modular approach. There has to be a way to tailor a course to the specific requirements of a student. Not everyone starts at the same level and with the same knowledge and I’d like a system that adapts where you can pick and choose from suggested subjects.”
Keep an eye on Yoast Academy! Our most recent course on keyword research was a big success and we’re already working on a new and improved version of one of our other staples: site structure. Why don’t you try one and see what all the fuss is about!