The goal of search engine optimization is to make your website equally enjoyable to your customers and Google’s robots alike. And while high-quality content is what people usually focus on, there are background factors that both influence the user experience and can affect your ranking. To take care of these, you should improve the technical SEO of your website to live up to the latest search engine standards.
What Is Technical SEO?
The difference between regular SEO and technical SEO is that the first one focuses on the text, and the second – on the context. This may sound a bit confusing if you are not familiar with the topic, so let’s elaborate.
A marketer or content writer knows how to organize, structure, and format the information on a page to make it comprehensible. They are also aware of what keywords to use, where to place them, how many symbols a section should have, how to distribute the text on the page for better readability, and so on. And while this is very important for the user experience and for the way bots recognize what the article is about, SEO success is about optimizing your pages.
Technical SEO, as the name suggests, involves more technical requirements, and some of them involve professional developer assistance. The goal here is to make your website better, faster, and easier to navigate and understand by – again – both humans and robots. However, while a satisfactory UX is the ultimate measurement of any SEO, the focus here is on the robots and how to help them crawl your website more successful.
So how to improve the technical SEO of your WordPress website? Read on to find out!
Technical SEO Audit Checklist
First of all, if you are not tech-savvy and don’t feel comfortable fiddling with your website, you should consider asking your WordPress agency or your dev team to handle this task.
However, regardless of whether you are the website owner, a marketer, or the tech person who manages the maintenance, it’s advisable to be up-to-date on technical SEO. This will allow anyone involved in the editorial and administrative tasks to be in the loop and may help avoid any mistakes and misunderstandings.
Here’s an actionable checklist of WordPress technical SEO issues:
1. Get Rid of Unnecessary Plugins
Since it’s WordPress we are talking about, the first thing you should do is monitor your plugins and get rid of any unnecessary ones.
If plugins are not managed properly they may become a setback. Stacking too many add-ons together will slow down your website, and create other headaches, starting with compatibility issues through to compromising data security.
Opting for customized solutions tailor-made to meet your needs will ensure that you get the best out of WordPress, all the while staying safe, and improving your technical SEO.
2. Take Care of Your Core Web Vitals
Page speed and responsiveness are essential for UX and Google takes them very seriously lately. And there is a reason why – the slower the page loads, the higher the probability that the user will leave. Very few have the patience to wait for pages to open. Stats reveal that the average internet wait time is less than 3 seconds.
Core web vitals (CWV) are a group of page experience factors that influence how users interact with content on your site – largest contentful paint, first input delay, and cumulative layout shift.
First input delay (FID) measures how soon after the page loads the user can freely interact with it – this means clicking a button, filling in the information, etc. It shouldn’t be more than 100 milliseconds.
Cumulative layout shift (CLS) tracks how stable the content of the page is and when its components stop shifting position. This should be less than 0.1.
Google has provided a number of tools that can help you measure the core web vitals of your pages and identify any issues that need fixing.
While some of the problems affecting your CWV performance may be improved with plugins, you might consider contacting your WordPress agency for a custom-made solution.
3. Make Your Website More Mobile-Friendly
More than half of the online traffic is from mobile devices. That’s why, since the mobile-first indexing update, Google only crawls the mobile version of websites.
This means that mobile should be the primary focus if companies want their pages to be visible in organic searches.
The easiest and most hassle-free way to make your website mobile-friendly is to opt for a responsive design. Luckily for all WordPress users, all modern themes are (or at least should be) responsive. In case you are using an older theme or are not sure if it’s mobile-friendly, you can check how your website looks on mobile screens here, and make any adjustments if necessary.
Responsive design makes your content look good on any screen, regardless of the shape or size, and thus improves the UX without the need of maintaining two separate versions of your website. It instantly improves the technical SEO of your WordPress website and also saves you the trouble of doubling your content optimization efforts.
4. Improve Your Website Information Architecture
Information architecture (IA) is the structure and organization of your content and pages. It serves as the skeleton of the website and a map that visualizes the hierarchy of how each piece of content is connected to the rest.
A messy website may lead to indexing mistakes and user confusion. Furthermore, it will affect the time people spend on your site and may increase your bounce rate, which in turn is a bad signal to search engine algorithms.
By providing a logical and concise structure, you make it much easier for bots to understand what your website is about and to understand the relevancy of its pages. This shows that good IA is a vital part of your technical SEO efforts and shouldn’t be neglected.
Improving your IA or carefully planning that of a new website will make it easier to navigate. This will not only increase the UX of your visitors and end up in more conversions but it’s bound to boost your ranking.
5. Use Breadcrumb Navigation
Breadcrumb navigation is great for both humans and robots. It helps website visitors better understand where they are on the website and retrace their steps if they need to. The name refers to Hansel and Gretel, where the kids found their way back home following the breadcrumbs they’ve dropped behind.
Breadcrumbs should start with the homepage of your website, followed by the category where the page is located, and the page itself. If it shows up in more than one category, you should choose only one of them to display in the breadcrumbs navigation.
By employing this type of technical SEO tactic, you will strengthen the information architecture of your website and boost your internal linking strategy.
6. Don’t Neglect Structured Data
Structured data, a.k.a Schema markup, refers to the process of marking up the content on your pages to explain it to search engine crawlers. Bots don’t see information as humans do and they don’t interpret context the same way, so it’s advisable to make sure that they understand what your content is about.
Marking up every piece of content on your pages will allow crawlers to index it properly and to identify how it connects to other entities in the Knowledge Graph.
The main benefits of structured data are two:
- SERPs Accuracy. The better search engines understand your content, the greater the possibility that they will show your pages in response to relevant search queries and will be able to match the user’s intent. This means that the people who end up on your website, may spend more time there, and their journey has a greater possibility of ending in conversion.
- Rich Snippets. When they have page data structured and organized, search engine algorithms may display it in what is known as rich snippets. Those are SERP results that include more information about the page such as a picture, the author, review scores, shopping results with product details, and so on. People are more likely to click these links because they are more compelling and informative.
There are different types of templates for Schema markup, and you should look for those that work best for you.
7. Make an XML Sitemap
An XML sitemap is a technical SEO tool that helps crawlers find their way around your website and index your pages.
While a regular sitemap represents the structure of the content and the relationship between the pages, the XML one consists of the URLs that you’d like the bots to index. The map also has information about the number of images on the page and the date of publishing.
Even if your website is well-organized and easy to crawl, having an XML map doesn’t hurt. It makes it easier for search engines to understand your site and to not miss any important URLs.
There are tools that you can use to generate the map, like the Yoast SEO plugin, for example.
8. Manage Redirects
When you remove pages on your website or implement any changes that make the content temporarily or permanently unavailable, you should set up redirects.
This means that when users try to reach a page that is not available, they will not see a “404 Page Not Found” message, but will be automatically taken to a different location on your website.
Broken links and 404 error messages provide an unpleasant UX, and bots don’t like them. And while your customers may rarely land on them, bots will index every page unless told not to and thus will discover every broken link that exists. This will affect the overall rating of your website and it should be prevented.
You can find Google’s instructions on how to handle different redirects here.
9. Perform a Link Audit
Links are an essential part of SEO. And this goes for your internal links – the ones between the pages within your website, and the external links – the backlinks from websites that point towards your content.
Internal links help bots understand the connections between your different pages. That’s why you should be careful with the anchor text you select. Link only articles that are related and can complement each other. Also, make sure that the more important a piece of content on your website is, the more internal links point to it.
Backlinks can boost your ranking and credibility immensely. And while your link-building strategy is a different topic, backlinks play a part in technical SEO as well. If a lot of spam or low-quality websites are pointing to you, this may compromise your own ranking and hurt your credibility.
10. Manage Duplicate Content
There are different types of duplicate content on your website, and if not managed properly they may confuse the bots when crawling your website. This may not have an immediate effect on your rating but is, nonetheless, an issue for your technical SEO. When faced with two identical or too similar pages, the algorithm will not know which page to rank.
However, some information on your website is bound to repeat itself, like the author’s bio or other similar pieces of content that appear on multiple pages. WordPress creates many such duplicates and they should be addressed. This can be done by marking them with a “noindex” tag to notify crawlers to skip them.
One way to do this is by using Yoast SEO plugin. It has a feature that takes care of it for you.
11. Optimize Ads Density
Ad density presents a major issue to the positive user experience. No one likes too many ads, especially when they take up too much space and distract from the information at hand.
According to Google, the maximum acceptable amount of ads is 30% of the vertical length of the page (without the header and the footer).
Exceeding this may be penalized and will not only hurt your technical SEO efforts but may affect how people feel when reading your content.
Here are some tools available to help you to measure the ad density of pages and stay on track with the latest search engine regulations.
12. Take It Easy With Intrusive Interstitials
Intrusive interstitials can damage the UX of your website and, thus, can become the reason that Google penalizes you. The update that initiated the search engine’s war on this type of content has been around for quite a while, but there are still websites out there that haven’t fixed these issues.
If your site is amongst these, it may be causing substantial harm to your technical SEO and your ranking.
Whether they are ads, CTA’s, or other pop-ups, interstitials prevent the user from seeing the main content on the page. This causes frustration, hurts the user experience, and may make the person leave prematurely.
Following Google’s rules and fixing the issues, will save you from a penalty and will improve the way people feel about your website.
Bonus Tip: Use the Yoast SEO Plugin
We’ve already mentioned the Yoast SEO plugin a few times because it can help you with a lot of the technical SEO issues on your WordPress website, even if you are not a tech-savvy user.
The add-on has inbuilt features to handle:
- Creating an XML Sitemap.
- Handling Duplicate Content.
- Adding Noindex and Nofollow Tags.
- Creating Schema Graph for Your Pages.
- Optimizing Permalinks.
- Optimizing Title Tags.
- Adding Canonical Links.
- Internal Linking Management.
- Set Up Google Search Console.
Furthermore, the plugin is very useful in managing other aspects of on-page SEO such as keyword density, content optimization, and etc.
That said, if you are still experiencing issues after applying the changes, you should contact a developer to help you implement the technical SEO of your website.
Content on your WordPress website should be equally understandable to all visitors, be they humans or robots, and technical SEO makes this possible. While many aspects of it need the professional touch of a developer, tools may help the more tech-savvy marketer or website owner to up their search engine optimization game.
By making sure your pages are well structured, logically organized, and provide a pleasant user experience, you can improve your overall indexing and rating. So roll up your sleeves or contact your WordPress agency to help you fix all the issues that stand between your great content and the first position in the SERPs.
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