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Technical SEO Checklist: How to Optimize a WordPress Site for Search Engine Crawlers

Tending to the technical side of SEO is crucial to ensure that search engine robots can effectively crawl, index, and understand your site. In this session, attendees will learn how to optimize WordPress sites for important technical SEO best practices.

All levels of technical optimizations will be covered from basic to intermediate to advanced, including both traditional optimizations that have been around for a long time, as well as newer modern SEO optimizations including AMP and Schema markup. We will walk through a checklist of important technical SEO best practices, and I will highlight my favorite SEO plugins, tools, and resources along the way.

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Technical SEO Checklist: How to Optimize a WordPress Site for Search Engine Crawlers

  1. 1. Technical SEO Checklist: How to Optimize a WordPress Site for Search Engine Crawlers By @PamAnnMarketing For #WCLANC 2020
  2. 2. 2 Agenda • Why SEO is Important • Why Technical SEO is Especially Important • My Condensed Technical SEO Checklist, which includes my Favorite SEO Plugins, Resources, and Tools • Download Link for The (Non- Condensed) Ultimate 50-Point Technical SEO Audit Template
  3. 3. 3 About Me/Us • Playing with code since 6 years old • Creating websites since 1997 • Driving traffic to websites professionally since 2005 • Marketing MBA, Nationwide Conference Speaker • Metalhead (Fav. Bands include Slayer, Killswitch Engage, and Lamb of God) • In business 9 years • Provide services & training for SEO, PPC, and Google Analytics • Google-Certified Partner Agency • Won several awards • Launched private-label division (Stealth™) for reselling our services • Co-author of CrossCheckSEO plugin
  4. 4. 4 Why SEO is Important Search engines, unlike any other digital marketing channel, bring "high-intent-to-buy" users to your website. These users are specifically searching for your company's products or services, because they want or need them now or soon!
  5. 5. 5 Why Technical SEO is SUPER Important The process of discovering available website content is called “crawling.” • Search engines use automated computer software, often referred to as a bot, crawler, robot, or spider, to find web pages on the internet. Crawl Index Rank
  6. 6. 6 Why Technical SEO is SUPER Important As the search engine crawler proceeds from page to page, it also collects a copy of the information on that page. This is called “indexing.” Crawl Index Rank
  7. 7. 7 Why Technical SEO is SUPER Important Once a search engine discovers (crawls) and collects (indexes) content, it can then sort (rank) the content for each search query performed by a user. Crawl Index Rank
  8. 8. 8 Why Technical SEO is SUPER Important If your site cannot be crawled (discovered) or indexed (collected) properly, then it’s impossible to rank! You can have the best content in the world, but if search engines can’t crawl and index it, it doesn’t matter! Crawl Index Rank
  9. 9. 9 The Ultimate Technical SEO Checklist Here we go! Let's start with the basic/traditional things...
  10. 10. 10 Domain & CMS The website should be run by a well- supported open-source CMS, preferably WordPress. • See here for more details on why we require this.
  11. 11. 11 Meta Robots Ensure that the "Search Engine Visibility" checkbox is UNCHECKED on all live production sites. The Cross Check plugin will generate email alerts for when this checkbox is checked.
  12. 12. 12 Robots.txt Implement a Robots.txt file that excludes irrelevant directories and points crawlers to the sitemap location. Yoast can help with this. The Cross Check plugin will also generate email alerts if this file accidentally gets set to block the whole site from search engines.
  13. 13. 13 Sitemaps - XML Dynamic XML sitemap (can be generated by Yoast) Submit XML sitemap index to Search Console and check for errors.
  14. 14. 14 Sitemaps - HTML HTML sitemap that is dynamically updated. Link to the HTML sitemap page from the footer of the website.
  15. 15. 15 Design Do not use “one page” designs. Just don't.
  16. 16. 16 Breadcrumbs Implement a breadcrumb trail & add Schema markup to it. Yoast can also help with this. Yoast Breadcrumb Instructions
  17. 17. 17 Dates Blog articles should have dates on the byline. If possible, in addition to the original post date, also include a “last updated” field to pull in the date the post was last modified. The plugin WP Last Modified Info by Sayan Datta may be able to help with this. If there is a “Resource/Knowledge Center” or information library of some sort with more “evergreen” (timeless) content, those articles should have an author name on the byline, but not a date.
  18. 18. 18 SEO-Friendly URLs Set "Permalinks" to "Post name" (WP Settings -> Permalinks) Avoid underscores Avoid use of parameters if you can help it
  19. 19. 19 Title Tags  Title tags should contain carefully-chosen often-searched keywords, but shouldn’t sound “stuffed.”  Manage title tags with an SEO plugin like Yoast.  No ancillary information such as site title or company name should be appended to the page title in the title tag.
  20. 20. 20 Images  Image alt tags should be added to each image on the site, with a short and accurate description of what is represented in the image.  One of the images for the page/article should also use the focus key phrase assigned to that page (if it is possible to incorporate it in an accurate description of the image.)
  21. 21. 21 Meta Descriptions The meta description is displayed on Google search results. It influences searcher’s decision to click on your page.  Make it a short, yet compelling, description that will entice searchers to visit your site. • A one-sentence summary of the content, 150 to 170 characters, that contains the page’s primary key phrase.  Manage meta description tags with an SEO plugin like Yoast.
  22. 22. 22 Broken Links Regularly check for broken links with a plugin, Screaming Frog, and/or Search Console. Use 301 redirects to correct broken links and preserve existing search engine rankings. In the case of a website redesign, if URLs change, be sure to redirect ALL old URLs to their new equivalent URLs.
  23. 23. 23 Broken Links Plugin
  24. 24. 24 Broken Links Custom 404 error pages with “human- friendly” language Include either a high-level sitemap or randomly/dynamically generated set of links so that this does not become a dead end for humans or search engines.
  25. 25. 25 Security Search engines do not want to index sites with malware on them.  Follow best practices for security, such as:  Not using “admin” as a user login name  Implementation of a firewall  Automatic malware monitoring  Regularly scheduled core/plugin updates, backups, etc.
  26. 26. 26 Security  Force the use of https sitewide with an SSL certificate. • SSL certificates must come from a third-party certificate authority (cannot be self-signed) • Many hosts, as well as LetsEncrypt, offer free SSL certificates
  27. 27. 27 The Ultimate Technical SEO Checklist And now, for some more advanced & recent stuff...
  28. 28. 28 Mobile - Responsive A responsive design should be applied to the site. • Separate mobile sites and/or separate mobile subdomains (i.e. "" should be avoided.
  29. 29. 29 Mobile - Responsive Site should pass the Google Mobile-Friendly Test • Also check the “Mobile Usability” report in Search Console.
  30. 30. 30 Mobile - AMP  Implement AMP, at the very least, on blog posts  Implementing AMP on pages is great if you can do it, but it is trickier, so start with blog posts More information can be found in the “AMP on Google Search Guidelines” Google indexes “Accelerated Mobile Pages” (AMP) to provide a fast, reliable user experience.
  31. 31. 31 Mobile - AMP Responsive --> AMP -->
  32. 32. 32 AMP Plugin – Option 1
  33. 33. 33 AMP Plugin – Option 2
  34. 34. 34 Mobile - AMP CRITICAL: Implementing either of these plugins does NOT automatically carry over your Google Analytics tracking script to AMP pages. • AMP-specific Google Analytics code has to be implemented in the plugin’s “Analytics” settings • AMP-specific Google Analytics code needs to be formatted in JSON  { "vars": { "account": "UA-XXXXXXX-X" }, "triggers": { "trackPageview": { "on": "visible", "request": "pageview" } } }
  35. 35. 35 Mobile - AMP IMPORTANT: Ensure that there are no critical AMP errors in Search Console and that your AMP pages validate with the AMP testing tool.
  36. 36. 36 Mobile Interstitial pop-ups should generally be avoided, especially on mobile. There is a specific penalty for pop-ups that "block the user from completing tasks." Google considers this “intrusive” -> <- Google considers this “reasonable” See Google’s documentation for more information.
  37. 37. 37 Duplicate Content Duplicate content should be avoided, such as: • 2 different URLs displaying the same or very similar content • Different pages using the same Title Tags, Meta Descriptions, and/or H1s Read more about duplicate content here.
  38. 38. 38 Duplicate Content Tools Checks for duplicate meta tag content. Checks for duplicate content amongst full page copy on a single site. Checks for duplicate content between a single page and the entire web.
  39. 39. 39 Duplicate Content Tools Also check for duplicate content in Search Console's "Coverage" report, under "Excluded"
  40. 40. 40 Duplicate Content Avoid duplicate content by properly canonicalizing your domain name. • Domain name without the “www” typed in should redirect to the version with the “www”, or vice versa
  41. 41. 41 Authority Display author names on article content. Make it easy to read a bio about the credibility of that author. • For YMYL content (“Your Money or Your Life,” i.e. medical, financial, and other life- impacting content), this is of utmost importance. starbox/
  42. 42. 42 Authority Implement Person Schema markup on bio pages (as many fields as possible)
  43. 43. 43 Speed Site speed optimizations should be in place for desktop and mobile Page speed is a ranking factor AND dramatically affects bounce and conversion rates:
  44. 44. 44 Favorite Speed Plugin WPRocket is my favorite solution for speed optimizations, as it is the most comprehensive.
  45. 45. 45 Speed Testing Tools
  46. 46. 46 Speed Testing Tools
  47. 47. 47 Speed Testing Tools
  48. 48. 48 Scripting When JavaScript is disabled, make sure key content is still visible Allow all site assets, such as CSS and JavaScript files, to be crawled (don't block those with Robots.txt)  iFramed text content should be avoided whenever possible Do not use Flash. EVER. For ANYTHING.
  49. 49. 49 Schema  markup plays a very important role in helping Google understand content via machine knowledge. Implement Schema on: • Company names, addresses, and phone numbers • Videos • Articles • Author bio pages (Person) • Products on e-commerce sites. • Also include Offer, Review, and AggregateRating properties for each product. • Implement as many other types of Schema markup as is applicable and feasible
  50. 50. 50 Schema Plugins  Schema (by Hesham) is a general Schema plugin that can implement many different types of Schema SchemaPro ( is another (paid) general plugin option.  WP YouTube Lyte is a plugin that will automatically generate Schema for embedded YouTube videos)
  51. 51. 51 Schema IMPORTANT: Ensure that all contents shown in Schema markup match content visible to users on the page. Ensure that all Schema markup validates with Google's Structured Data Testing Tool
  52. 52. 52 Bonus Tip for Local Businesses All physical office locations should have their own individual pages with unique content, as well as: An embedded Google map, pointing to the company’s verified Google My Business listing Schema markup on the company name, address, and telephone number
  53. 53. 53 The End! Send heavy metal music suggestions to: @PamAnnMarketing Downloads! Download these slides and The Ultimate 50-Point Technical SEO Audit Template at: QUESTIONS?