Technical SEO for WordPress

Technical SEO for WordPress is a presentation prepared for the San Francisco WordPress Meetup, Wednesday, October 25, 2017 by Ed Reckers, founder/owner and developer at Red Bridge Internet, a San Francisco WordPress Development firm.


This session will cover basic post-installation configuration to advanced technical seo techniques, tools, and best practices for WordPRess websites.

What we’re going to do with this talk is discuss the tools and actions you can take with your WordPress site to satisfy an SEO Audit from a professional Search Engine Optimization company.

What I won’t be discussing is the art and theory of SEO techniques such as: keyword research and selection, building backlinks, guest blogging, or anything with the words whitehat or blackhat in it.

I’ll mainly discusss tools and methods available to self hosted installs of and plugins freely available via the WordPress plugin directory. has some tools available via Jetpack SEO Tools as a paid Professional offering, but we won’t be covering those here.

This talk comes primarily from the perspective of a WordPress development firm working in tandem with a prefessional Search Engine Optimization company. This is what we have experience with, what we’ve done, and how this presentation is strucutured.

Though titled “Technical SEO for WordPress”, much of the areas we’ll cover here are universal technical search engine optimization techniques. The WordPress part will be our discussion of tools and methods specific to WordPress tools, plugins, and functions.

How Technical SEO Audits are Borne

  • Search engine optimization consultant or firm will be hired
  • Their first course of action will be to undertake a technical seo audit
    • This is the initial kickoff an their introduction to the company
    • This work can take a few days to weeks dependent on turn around of reports
  • An audit can take many forms
    • Some more detailed, some just printouts of whatever seo software/service they’re running
  • I’ve collected the typical components of a technical seo audit, these include:
    • On-page SEO
    • Site Architecture
    • Visibility, Crawlability, Indexability
    • Usability

Start with a good foundation

Find a good WordPress dedicated host

  • Takes care of a lot of the basics for a couple extra bucks
  • Easy installs, free ssl certs, security, backups, caching (speed), cdn

Find a good, well supported, and highly rated theme

  • Proper markup
  • Plays well with plugins
  • Responsive

Install and Configure WordPress

Configuring WordPress Settings


  • Add a descriptive “Site Title”
  • Add a descriptive “Tagline” (relatively unused, but clears alerts)
  • Set your “Timezone”
    • Often overlooked: not too SEO related, but helps with Scheduled Posts, and general sanity check


  • Be sure “Search Engine Visibility” is unchecked


  • Optional: turn off pingbacks and trackbacks
    • Was once good for SEO, but I haven’t seen a good one in 2 years (adds to your comment moderation queue)


  • Probably the most important settings
  • Set as “Post name” or “Custom Structure”

Custom Structure allows you to prepend directory name to your Blog: /blog/
This can help future proof your install (redirecting /blog/ to webroot / is simpler than the other way around)

Install and configure an SEO Plugin

Yoast SEO

  • Start by enabling Features : “Advanced settings pages”
  • Default settings are pretty good. We’ll edit…

  • Add Social
  • Enable Sitemaps (default On)
  • Craft your custom Homepage title and description
  • Repeat per page

Signup for Google Search Console

Initial setup of Google Search Console

Start with the tools under “Crawl”

  • Fetch as Google
  • robots.txt Tester
  • Add/Test Sitemaps
  • Return to Yoast SEO

Passing the Technical SEO Audit

What a Technical SEO audit usually covers, what we’ll cover during the talk. Remember these terms as we go along as they set the foundation for our presentation and successfully preparing your site for technical SEO.

Components of an SEO Technical Audit:

  • On-Page SEO
  • Site Architecture
  • Visbility, Crawlability, Indexability
  • Usability

On-Page SEO

On-Page SEO is the first thing that will be looked at as well as something you’ll be continiously maintaining, measuring, and improving. This includes:

  • Meta Titles and Descriptions
  • Images and Alt tags
  • Headings and Semantic HTML

Meta Titles and Descriptions

Meta Titles

  • Your page title
  • Use your targeted keyword
  • Search engine will ideally use in SERPS


  • Can be overwritten with SEO plugin
  • Appears in HTML markup as:
<title>Technical SEO for WordPress : Red Bridge Internet</title>
  • Include company name/branding


Meta Descriptions

  • Describes what your page is about
  • Include focus keyword and call to action
  • Search engine will ideally use in SERPS


  • Can be overwritten with SEO plugin
  • Blog post excerpts can be used as default

Images and Alt tags

  • Assign alt text to all images


<img src="technical-seo-for-wordpress.png" alt="Technical SEO for WordPress">
  • Use human readable image names

better than:

  • Optimize full size images or assign a thumbnail size


Headings and Semantic HTML

  • Use semantic HTML to arrange your page information


  • Be sure that h1 tags exist and that there is only 1 per page
<h1>Technical SEO for WordPress</h1>

Site Architecture

Is your site built right? A technical SEO audit will look at the following:

  • URL/permalink structure and Information Hierarchy
  • Duplicate Content & Canonicalization
  • Pagination
  • Robots.txt
  • XML Sitemap

Information Hierarchy & URL Structure

  • Don’t explain this stuff too much. Explain what you need to do to manage and fix it (technical seo)
  • Use logical directory paths
  • Place blog under /blog/

A typical technical product company will have a URL structure that looks like this:


Duplicate Content & Canonicalization

  • They’ll point out things like:
  • Avoid “duplicate content”
  • Canonicalization: unifying multiple pages of similar content
  • Redirect non-www versions to www versions or vice versa
  • Redirect all http traffic to https version of site


  • note: move this to “helpful tools and methods?”
  • Use rel="next" and rel="prev"
  • A good pagination plugin will take care of rel=next?
  • Or does WP take care of that out of the box?


  • Robots.txt instructs search engines on how to crawl your site
  • WordPress creates one out of the box that looks like this
User-agent: *
Disallow: /wp-admin/
Allow: /wp-admin/admin-ajax.php
  • You can upload a custom one and manage Disallow
User-agent: *
Allow: /

Disallow: /projects/

  • Use Search Console robots.txt testing tool

XML Sitemap

  • Create a sitemap and submit to Google and Bing
  • Configure post types


Your site must be crawlable to be indexed.


  • Your site must be up and malware-free to be indexed
  • Back to dedicated hosts

Crawl Test / Crawl Errors

  • Run/monitor Webmaster Tools crawl errors
  • Crawl test

Header Response Codes (Redirects) – Skip

  • Skip (or just discuss redirects/404 fixes)
    • as part of above?


  • Use HTTPS. This is not negotiable.
  • Good hosts will provide free SSL certificates
    • or at least provide a simple path to it


  • Pages Indexed (Sitemaps) + Bing?
  • Schema and Rich Snippets
  • Knowledge Graph & Sitelinks
  • Site Indexation Issues (Crawl Errors)

Pages Indexed (Sitemaps) + Bing?

  • Check that your pages are bing indexed
  • Google and Bing
  • Make sure they’re not over-indexing your site
    • Back to Canonicalization and robots.txt, noindex setting

Schema and Rich Snippets

  • markup site with organization and sitelinks search schema
  • check/test for schema markup errors

Knowledge Graph & Sitelinks

  • apply organizational markup to ensure knowlege graph fully populates

Site Indexation Issues (Crawl Errors)

  • check for index errors
  • check for extra indexing (extra domains)
  • want it to roughly match the amount of links in your sitemap


  • Navigation
  • PageSpeed
  • Mobile Usability Test
  • Custom 404 page
  • HTML Sitemap


  • Working navigation
  • Information Heirarchy
  • Siloing
  • Workin hub pages
    • ie, /products/


  • PageSpeed is an important ranking factor
  • Make it fast for both Desktop and Mobile
  • Here’s some tools to help:
    • Tests:
    • Image Optimization:
    • CDN: Clouflare

Mobile Usability Test

  • Test with Google’s Mobile Friendly Test

Custom 404 page

  • create custom 404 page
  • make conversational
  • add nav links and search

HTML Sitemap

  • create and human readable HTML Sitemap

END Technical SEO Audit

That’s the gist of it…

  • On-Page SEO
  • Site Architecture
  • Visbility, Crawlability, Indexability
  • Usability

Ranking the Importance / Ranking Factors

  • On-page SEO
  • URL/permalink stucture and Information Hierarchy
  • Mobile Responsive
  • PageSpeed


The center of Search is Google so there’s no surprise that it has a number of things all it’s own.

  • Google AMP Pages
  • Google Tag Manager
  • Google News Feed

Google AMP Pages

  • Advanced Mobile Pages
  • How to setup on WordPress w/ Jetpack

Google Tag Manager

GTM for GA and Marketing Intelligence/Metrics

  • Implement Google Tag Manager

Google News

  • What it is
  • How to get into it

Helpful SEO Tools and Methods

  • Breadcrumbs
  • Related Posts
  • ACF Content Analysis for Yoast SEO


  • Yoast Breadcrumbs (check the other seo talks below)

Related Posts

  • YARPP, Jetpack Related Posts

ACF Content Analysis for Yoast SEO

  • Use a lot of custom fields? or ACF Flexible Content?


  • Jetpack Sharing
  • AddThis (offloaded + analytics)

Plugin Glossary

  • Yoast SEO
  • All in One SEO Pack
  • All in One Security
  • Secure WordPress
  • Redirection
  • Yoast Add On-s
  • Jetpack

** Note: Start ripping from below to get things cleaned up **


  • Create this initially as a blog and write down my notes in full
    • Pare that down to a presentation format
  • Build from general to advanced. Add value by pointing out which is most – * notate priority items
  • Important and what SEO Firms will concentrate on (my experience is what will
    differentiate this talk from available online resources)
  • Maybe try something like: Week 1, Week 2-4, Week 5 and on?


  • Bing webmaster central
  • Webmaster Tools submit page for indexing



  • apache or nginx redirects is faster
    • doesn’t hit database
    • however, for ease of use and some easily available stats its a nice deal
  • on-site links should preferably be updated
  • external links shuld also preferably be updated
    • that’s in a perfect world
  • 301 (permanent) redirects
  • you’ll use these types of redirects most often
    • 1 to 1 redirects
      • /some-url/ to /some-url/
        • i prefer the trailing slash (wordpress default)
    • redirect entire directories
      • ^/product/$ => ^/products/$
    • redirect and forward all ages
      • ^/product/$1 => ^/products/$1 ? double check this
  • google site move request

Meta tags

  • canonical
  • robots – noindex, nofollow

SEO Plugins

  • Yoast SEO
  • All In One SEO
  • Jetpack
  • Do not use SEO bound to your theme
    • I’m not even sure if themes still do this
    • Best practice is to let plugins handle this
      • They’re better at it and it’s portable (not locked into your theme)

SEO Configurations

  • Tags and Categories
    • Learn to set your default rules %sitename& : %category% page %pagenumber%
  • meta keywords: relic, don’t bother
  • meta description: use it… or set excerpt as default

Tracking Codes

  • use GTM
    • gives your marketing people flexibility
    • yes, unfettered access could be a performance disaster
      • but that’s not a fight you’re going to win
  • Google Data Layer
    • this can also be done through GTM


  • use a good host
    • backups, caching, they’re responsible for uptime (in place of VPS)
    • prices out…
      • another 10 to 20 bucks (120 to 240 per year) gets you piece of mind
        • and offloads a ton of work and plugin management and selection decisions
  • http2 vs. test results sucks right now
  • visual is really want you want
  • to a client…
    • (and this is where GTM comes in handy)
    • turn off all 3rd party tracking and marketing scripts and test against that
      • that’s what you’re responsible for
  • use cloudflare or some other global cdn
    • wpengine for instance provides a “cdn” for your assets
      • however, you’re html/site pages are still delivered geographically

Image Optimization

  • EWW
  • Kraken
  • Do it yourself…

Webmaster Tools

  • tie into GA
  • AMP page tracking
  • Page crawl errors
  • Robots.txt


  • default is decent now

Broken link checking


  • SEO Moz – personally I like it… but we do run out of time

Uptime checkers

  • if you’re site isn’t up… it’s not crawlable and optimization doesn’t matter one bit
  • uptime robots
  • pingdom


Duplicate Content

Mobile Responsiveness



Markdown to HTMLk


Technical SEO for WordPress

Crawlability and indexability

  • fundamental
    • site must be crawlable to be ranked

Website architecture

  • site structure


www v non-www

  • pick one and stick with it
  • redirect
  • set preferred domain in search console

Site Structure

  • organization

SEO Friendly URLs

  • setup permalinks correctly
  • use trailing forward slash



Crawl errors and indexability


  • redirect pages removed or renamed


Mobile friendly websites

Rich snippets

Consider AMP


An Introduction To Technical SEO For WordPress Websites

  • Site speed
  • Mobile friendliness
  • Site architecture
  • Other aspects

Improve Site Speed For Higher Search Rankings

Mobile Friendliness – The New Must-Have

Optimize Site Architecture For SEO

Create A Logical Information Hierarchy

  • clear and simple information heirarchy

Eliminate Crawl Errors And Set Redirects

Rid Yourself Of Duplicate Content

  • you can use Yoast for this
    • noindex/nofollow
  • you can disallow via robots.txt

Other Aspects of Technical SEO for WordPress

Create a Sitemap

Use Structured Data

Technical SEO for WordPress: What Webmasters Need to Know

Thirteen Common Problem Areas Within Technical SEO

  • H1 Tags
  • Meta Titles and Descriptions
  • SEO Friendly URLs
  • Robot.txt Files
  • XML Sitemaps
  • Duplicate Content
  • Unreadable Content
  • 301 Redirects
  • Mobile Responsive
  • Schema and Rich Snippets
  • Code Bloat
  • Speed and Performance
  • Malware


Here’s the initial notes that I pulled from the presenation before I really started messing with it:

  • On-Site/On-Page SEO
    • Titles
    • Meta Descriptions
    • Images and Alt tags
      • Image Names
    • Headings
      ~ Semantic HTML
  • Site Architecture
    • URL Structure
      • TopHat/Arsen refers to this as Siloing
    • Canonicalization
    • Pagination
      • Blog, CPTs such as News, Press Release, Resources, etc…
        ~ Breadcrumbs
        ~ Related Posts
    • Robots.txt
    • XML Sitemap
    • HTML Sitemap
    • Header Response Codes (Redirect codes)
    • Crawl Test
    • HTTP & HTTPS
      ~ www vs non-www
    • MetaRobots ?
  • SERP Visibility
    Dedicated hosting
    Uptime monitoring
    • Pages Indexed (Sitemaps) + Bing
    • Schema Markup Opportunities
    • Schema Markup Errors
    • Knowledge Graph & Sitelinks
    • Site Indexation Issues
      ~ Sharing plugins
  • Usability
    • Navigation
      • Clickable nav items, Hub pages, prominent search bar
    • 404 Customized Error Page
    • Desktop PageSpeed
    • Mobile PageSpeed
    • Mobile Usability Test
    • Stress Test ?


  • About the Presentation and Speaker
  • Passing the Technical SEO Audit
  • Start With a Good Foundation
    • Find a Good WordPress Dedicated Host
    • Find a Good, Well Supported, and Highly Rated Theme
  • Install and Configure WordPress
    • General Setting
    • Reading
    • Discussion
    • Permalinks
  • Install and Configure an SEO Plugin
  • Signup for Google Search Console
  • Passing the Technical SEO Audit
    • On-Page SEO
      • Meta Titles and Descriptions
      • Images and Alt tags
      • Headings and Semantic HTML
    • Site Architecture
      • URL/permalink structure and Information Hierarchy
      • Duplicate Content & Canonicalization
      • Pagination
      • Robots.txt
      • XML Sitemap
    • Crawlability & Indexability
      • Uptime
      • Crawl Test
      • Header Response Codes (Redirects)
      • HTTP & HTTPS
    • Visbility
      • Pages Indexed (Sitemaps) + Bing?
      • Schema and Rich Snippets
      • Knowledge Graph & Sitelinks
      • Site Indexation Issues (Crawl Errors)
    • Usability
      • Mobile Usability Test
      • PageSpeed
      • Navigation
      • Custom 404 page
      • HTML Sitemap
  • Google
    • Google AMP Pages
    • Google News
    • GTM for GA and Marketing Intelligence/Metrics
  • Helpful SEO Tools and Methods
    • Breadcrumbs
    • Related Posts
    • ACF Content Analysis for Yoast SEO
  • Ranking the Importance / Ranking Factors
    • On-page SEO
    • URL/permalink stucture and Information Hierarchy
    • HTTPS
    • Mobile Responsive
    • PageSpeed

Post written by Ed Reckers

Founder and lead web development consultant at Red Bridge Internet : San Francisco WordPress Developers and Consultants.

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