Our May event was held in Bank of Ireland, Grand Canal Square. Ciprian Popescu presented on WordPress tools and plugins we could use to implement different SEO aspects on our websites. The presentation was content rich and informative, with a great question and answer session afterwards. As most attendees have used WordPress in the past Ciprian didn’t spend too long introducing it. He described briefly the dominant position WordPress has in the marketplace across the world with a 30% usage value. This presents obvious advantages of using it over competing CMS for content optimisation. For example ease of API integration with all major analytics and tool, AMP links and native social optimisation.
On the technical side of WordPress Ciprian talked of ways you could optimise your website for SEO elements easily like:
- Creating a website that loads fast through using plugins like WP Smush, Imsanity and WP Super Cache
- Making it mobile-friendly through using mobile-optimised themes or Google AMP. Alternatively he talked about the ability to turn your website into a progressive web app with the use of manifest.json
- Verifying your website exists for Search Engines through plugins like Jetpack and Yoast SEO
- Building sitemaps both in HTML and XML so that users and search engines can understand the architecture of your website easily
- Utilising the likes of open graph data to optimise your social media profiles within your website
- Adding Google Analytics, Facebook Pixel, CMS tools, etc, to your website through tools like GADWP
These tools are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of optimising your website for SEO with WordPress.
SEO Tips and Tricks
Ciprian moved next to the most important part of the presentation — SEO tips and tricks. Here he honed in on best practices for optimising your website for search engines. I will not mention all his talking points but you can view the whole presentation here. The key takeaways are below.
Check preset settings
WordPress comes with lots of preset settings which most webmasters will not need. If you don’t need the likes of Gravatars, Pingbacks, oEmbeds and Emojis you can turn them off easily. This can improve the speed and overall ease of use of your website.
XML sitemap best practice
Only include important pages in your sitemap. If there are pages which are not important from a content or SEO perspective leave them out of your sitemap. It is also important to make sure to exclude no-index pages also.
Implementing structured data through Microdata or JSON-LD can help search engines better understand and represent your website in the SERPs. Structured data allows you to add information like reviews and pricing to your website in a way that makes it easier for search engines to visually represent it in the search results.
Yoast is used to ensure you stay on top of your SEO goals for every page you have. Configuring this plugin correctly will help you rank on Google search results for your Knowledge Graph. Thus giving you more search engine real estate.
Internal linking involves linking to pages and posts within your website. This could mean linking to a product page when you mention it in a blog article, linking to service within your about us section, or linking between different articles if they are closely related. The importance of this is to show search engines that the content you write is all related to each other.
If you have author pages, tag pages or other pages which you don’t want to show up in SERPs for whatever reason, you can no-index them. You can do this within WordPress through using a plugin like Yoast. Make sure to keep these pages outside of your sitemaps also.
The no-follow attribute can be used when you do not want your website to be seen as endorsing a link to another website. This could be because someone has paid for a link to be included in the article, spammers leave comments which include links or guest bloggers are normal additions to your content calendar. No-follows can significantly reduce the workload of your editor who doesn’t have to vouch for this links on the page. You can add the no-follow attribute to a whole page, as described below. You may also include the attribute in a particular link through using this code:
[a href=”xxx.com/xyz” rel=”nofollow”]
Some websites, when you look at their URL structure, have a confusing and impossible to understand makeup. This could be because they use a series of numbers and symbols (e.g. http://www.example.com/product.aspx?ID=11526&IT=5f7d3d). They might not include keywords (e.g. http://www.jessops.com/online.store/products/77650/show.html). Alternatively, they may include too many keywords (e.g. http://www.example.com/hotels/USA-hotels/north-america-hotels/florida-hotels/orlando-hotels/). There are many reasons why URLs can look ugly. It is important that URLs are as straightforward as possible, from both an SEO and UX perspective. You can decide the structure of your URLs easily within the basic WordPress package.
Even though there are many plugins available in WordPress, too many can slow down your website. It is important to decide when a plugin is needed and where custom code is a better option. If your theme has a way to add custom code you should choose this way over installing a plugin. There are different forums out there which show you how to do everything on your website.
Main Menu Best Practice
Your main menu should show visitors the most important pages of your website no matter where they are on it. This requires a bit of thought as you need to rationalise why a page should go in the main menu. Ciprian mentions that you should have no more than three levels of pages in your menu. This is so you don’t overload the visitor with information. This means you shouldn’t add blog articles or individual products into the main menu. Only important high-level pages that visitors can navigate to lower level pages from should be present.
As a final note, Ciprian mentioned that using plugins and custom code can be problematic. When code is not included in the theme sometimes things get lost when updating it so it’s important to backup things regularly. After updating your theme or plugins, it is important to analyse your website with a quick walkthrough, testing forms where possible. It’s also important to check sitemaps to ensure nothing new has been added or taken away. This is because some plugins may not work well together, or a theme update can erase custom code. It’s therefore important to create a child theme to try maintain custom code after every update to your theme.