The majority of our new site designs are now built in WordPress. I am a big fan of the system – the way the sites are designed make it very easy for us as an agency to make any edits to our websites, and to optimise them for SEO.
We can also convert our WordPress sites to allow our clients to have access and edit content themselves, very useful if they are producing regular blogs for example.
Despite all the positives, WordPress is more complicated than traditional HTML or PHP when setting up the website properly for SEO. Here is a guide (credit Moz) which also describes the best practices for installing a WordPress website to ensure it is fully optimised for the search engines.
Part 1 – WordPress Terminology
Let’s get really basic here for a minute, hope you don’t mind. But I think a lot of people may confuse/interchange a WordPress page with a Web Page.
A web page is a single HTML document that exists at a unique URL. Even if the extension is .php or .asp. The underlying source code is still HTML. This is a WEB page. It does not matter HOW it was created – it loads in your browser as an HTML document and that’s all you need to know. And for the rest of this post, when I say “web page” I’m talking about any HTML document existing at a URL.
But a WordPress page is WordPress’s version of a “static” page. In fact, anytime you’re talking about a page in the context of WordPress, put the word “static” before “page” = “static page” and it will always make more sense.
This is the second thing people either usually confuse, or have a hard time grasping. To your credit, I think it’s confusing that they’re put side by side in documentation, as if they’re somehow similar. They’re not at all!
Note that pages and posts differ entirely in how they function.
Some additional references about pages vs. posts:
Ah. Another sticky point for folks. Some may argue, but I think Yoast would agree. Categories are for your main 5-7 “buckets” of topics that your posts fall into. Tags are there to fine-tune categories, and are usually much more specific than categories.
Yeah… why is this confusing? The only thing that doesn’t paginate… are PAGES!! ….WHAT CHU TALKIN’ BOUT??’
Part 2 – Relationships In WordPress
Not much to ‘splain here (I hope by now!).
Use Pages For The Following Types Of Content
Think of “Many To Many” relationships in databases.
Bonus – For the Truly Geeky
I found this awesome template of the hierarchy within WordPress and loading a page. Not necessary to know for what we’re doing here, and not 100% relevant either, but I found it really useful, especially if you like to know more about what’s going on behind the scenes.
Part 3 – Best Practice Configuration
This is sort of a “I wish I knew then” chart. Things that would be useful to know up front, such as;
This is the general rule of thumb I follow for deciding what links to put where. In general
URL control can be confusing, because some are set in odd places, or called “slugs”.
If you’ve got everything set up correctly, it should be EASY to get your titles and descriptions in check.
This is where things get tricky, because a lot of themes tend to break perfectly good WordPress install. Or they try to handle SEO stuff when they shouldn’t. Or, you get a theme, and a plugin and WordPress all handling title tags and it becomes a mess.
DO use themes for design elements;
Do NOT use themes for SEO stuff, such as
Let the Yost SEO plugin handle this stuff! Shut off / do not use these types of SEO functions within the themes.
There are two plugins I always install right away for pure SEO stuff;
I often see other plugins that try to set SEO settings – so be sure you’re only managing SEO with one thing!
As noted: Don’t forget to update your header.php file to include the correct title code;
A note about the ‘sitename’ variable – this is the site title under settings>general
Part 4 – Diagnostics
This is THE most common question we get in Q&A. Duplicate content issues. Basically I want to give you guys some extra tools and resources for checking duplicate content issues re: WordPress and the Moz crawl report.
A lot of folks get concerned when they see “47 duplicate page titles found” etc, and with understanding!
If you’ve set everything up as above correctly, there isn’t a whole lot of room for error. But sometimes things happen and stuff breaks or we miss something.
And most times, no matter the issue, ensuring you have things setup as described above in the post, will fix things.
Check webmaster tools. If they are not reporting duplicate page titles or descriptions, you probably have little to worry about. Moz might have picked up on pages that were crawlable but not being indexed. But definitely check back in with webmaster tools in a week or so (its healthy to check webmaster tools once a week anyway!)
I honestly love the Moz crawl report. Its turned up some important things to fix for me at times. Yet I think its just smart with ANY tool to cross check, especially if it involves a big error like duplicate content.
Use the free version of Screaming Frog to crawl up to 500 pages (and the paid version is unlimited).
In this case we can clearly see subpages are causing a lot of the duplicate title issues.
Just because a crawler like Screaming Frog or the SEOmoz crawler crawls pages, does not mean they are indexed. Check Google’s index to find out with these queries.
If you also find errors in webmaster tools, screaming frog, or Google’s index:
I know that’s a little overly simplistic – it’d be tough to cover every possible variation of errors within this post – but that general framework is what I would advise to follow.