Connecting And Optimizing Your WordPress Website With Google Search Console (With Help From Yoast’s SEO Plugin)

Google Search Console Yoast WordPress SEO

Ready to optimize your WordPress site with Google Search Console and Yoast?

Steps 1, 5, 6, and 20 have to do with Yoast’s SEO plugin so I suggest using it, but it’s not mandatory if you’re using a different SEO plugin (does help though). If you haven’t verified your site with Search Console yet it can take several days for some data to populate, often several weeks if you want to effectively use some of these tools (eg. crawl errors and search analytics). But you can still optimize your site in many ways regardless if you just set this up.

*Asterisk items involve Yoast

Google Search Console

 

1. Verification

  • Sign up for Google Search Console and get to the verification process
  • Use the HTML Tag verification option
  • Copy the code
  • Paste code into Yoast (SEO → General → Webmaster Tools)
  • Delete everything outside the quotations (including the quotations)
  • Save changes in Yoast
  • Click ‘verify’ in Google Search Console
  • It will take a few days for some data to populate in Search Console
  • Same HTML Tag verification process can be used for Bing + Yandex

HTML Tag Google Search Console Verification

Yoast Google Search Console Verification

If you’re not using Yoast they have plenty of alternative methods to verify your site.

 

2. Structured Data

The most common form of structured data are rich snippets which add “extra information” to your snippets in the form of review stars, recipe information, event information, and other data types. Here’s a gallery showcasing a few different types of rich snippets and rich cards.

Structured Data Review Stars

Popular Rich Snippet Plugins:

Checking For Errors
When you’re done adding rich snippets to content you can use the structured data section of Google Search Console to keep track of pages you markup, check for errors, and see ratings. You can also use Google’s structured data tool to test a single page, but this shows all pages…

Structured Data in Google Search Console

 

3. Rich Cards

Rich cards are an updated form of rich snippets. They are a left-to-right carousel display and can only be done with  recipes and movies in US English mobile search results. I don’t think there are any WordPress plugins that support rich cards as these are relatively new, so you would need to follow the markup from the gallery, but I’m hoping a plugin will come out soon.

Mobile Rich Cards

 

4. Data Highlighter

Data highlighter is an alternative to using a rich snippet plugin. It’s a “point and click” tool you can use to highlight page titles, dates, and other required fields needed to show rich snippets in search results. Once you do this with a couple pages or posts, Google will apply these patterns to your entire site… so you should only need to do this with a few pieces of content.

5. HTML Improvements

Tells you whether your snippets (SEO titles + meta descriptions) are too short, long, or contain duplicates. In Yoast there is “progress bar” that should turn orange (bad) or green (good) depending on the length so as long as you’re writing these long enough to be green you should be fine. If you haven’t been, the HTML improvements will tell you which pages need to be fixed.

HTML Improvements

To prevent errors in the future, make sure your ‘length progress bar’ in Yoast is green…

Yoast Snippet Editor

Use Yoast’s Bulk Editor To Fix These
You can bulk edit your SEO titles + meta descriptions in Yoast under SEO → Tools → Bulk Editor. Keep in mind the bulk editor doesn’t have the “length progress bar” or show you that page’s focus keyword like the content analysis… but you will still need to incorporate both.

Bulk Editor Yoast

 

6. Accelerated Mobile Pages

AMP Pages are a Google project that make your mobile pages load faster while adding the AMP stamp to your mobile snippets. The AMP Plugin adds the AMP pages, the Glue For Yoast & AMP Plugin lets you make basic customizations to the design since it will alter the way your content looks on mobile. Try it out and if you don’t like it, you can always delete the plugins.

amp-pages

Adding AMP Pages To WordPress

  • Install the AMP plugin by Automattic (adds the AMP pages)
  • Install the Glue For Yoast SEO AMP plugin if using Yoast (customizes the design)
  • Add /amp/ to any page on your website to see how it looks and make sure it works
  • Go to Yoast’s Settings → AMP to change your design and enable custom post types
  • Wait for Google to recrawl your site and add the AMP sign in mobile search results

The final step is to check Search Console’s accelerated mobile pages section for errors…

Accelerated Mobile Pages Google Search Console

 

7. Search Analytics

This will make you rethink how you measure SEO if you haven’t used it. You can measure rankings (position), keywords (queries), CTR (click-through rates) and more. There’s ton of cross referencing you can do but I listed 5 examples below which I found the most useful.

Navigate to search analytics and tweak the filters to what you see in each dashboard

Search Analytics Filter

1. See keywords (queries) you rank for…

Google Search Console Queries

2. Queries for specific products, services, or topics you blog about. Simply adjust the query filter to include all queries containing “SiteGround” (or whatever keyword you want to see)…

Search Analytics Query Filter

3. Queries used to find content in Google Images…

Search Analytics Google Image Queries

4. Learn which pages rank high but have a low CTR. This can mean you need to rewrite your snippet (SEO title + meta description) to be more enticing to click on, but sometimes it’s because your content isn’t as relevant as other results (in which case there is little you can do).

Search Analytics CTR vs Position

5. Compare your SEO (rankings, CTR, clicks) to a previous time period…

Date Comparison

 

From my experience, this is the easiest way to find low quality and irrelevant sites that link to you so you can remove them. This results in a cleaner link profile and will minimize risk of any Google penalty, and can even improve your rankings especially long-term. Go through your links and identify low quality or irrelevant sites who link to you. This may require a little research and judgement on determining which links are “authentic” and which ones are not. Moz has a great article on performing a link audit and removal if you want to read up on this.

Who Links To Your Most

Disavowing Bad Links
Once you have your list of URLs, contact the webmasters and ask them to remove it (definitely the preferred method). If for some reason you can’t get it removed, use the disavow tool. Even if you haven’t been hit with a penalty Matt Cutts recommends disavowing questionable links as a preventative measure. I try to go through my links about once every year to clean them up. Of course you only need to do this if you have a decent sized site with a good amount of links.

Disavow Links

 

See which pages you are linking to the most…

Internal Links Google Search Console

The more internal links a page has, the more likely it will show up as a sitelink…

Sitelinks

 

10. Manual Actions

A manual action is type of Google penalty. These are the 2 most common ones…

Manual Actions Google Search Console

Unnatural Links To Your Site – if you hired a link builder and they built a bunch of spammy links, this is probably the reason. Stop doing this right now and go through all links to your site (step 8) and try to get them removed by contacting the webmasters or using the disavow tool.

Thin Content With Little Or No Added Value – means you need to beef up your content. Short, non-useful, and duplicate content are all big no no’s in SEO. Notice how long this tutorial is? That’s why some of my articles get over 150 visitors a day. Go through your content (both pages and posts) and spruce them up. I remember when I spent 2 solid days revamping my Yoast tutorial and it went from 10 visitors/day to 100 visitors/day overnight (yes, true story).

More info about manual action penalties from Matt Cutts…


 

11. International Targeting

Target your website to a specific country. This does NOT completely exclude it from all other countries (it’s just a signal). If you are international, you should leave this option unchecked.

International Targeting Google Search Console

 

12. Mobile Usability

If you have ever used Google’s mobile testing tool this does the same thing only it shows mobile errors for your ENTIRE website. Just because you’re using a mobile responsive WordPress theme doesn’t mean you can’t have errors! Here’s how to fix your mobile errors.

Mobile Usability Errors Google Search Console

But ideally you would see this message…

Mobile Issues - Google Webmaster Tools

 

13. Index Status

Shows how many pages are being indexed by Google. Be sure to select the advanced option and enable “blocked by robots” and “removed” to see blocked resources and removed URLs.

Index Status

What To Look Out For

  • Graph should be a steady increase, which means you are consistently adding new content to your site that Google can index
  • Sudden drops should be investigated and can mean your server is down or overloaded (in which case you should upgrade your hosting or reduce CPU consumption)
  • Sudden spikes can be caused by duplicate content or even hacks

 

14. Blocked Resources

Tells you whether your robots.txt blocks Google from crawling certain resources. Also guides you in the unblocking process, however you may want to keep some resources blocked if you don’t want Google to crawl them. You can only unblock resources you host, own, or have access to the file’s robots.text (since this will need to be edited to unblock it). Otherwise you will need to contact the owner of the resource and see if they will edit the robots.txt for you.

Blocked URLs

After you have found the blocked resource you can use Fetch and Render to view the page as Google and decide whether this impacts your SEO. If you decide you want to change it, you will need to verify the host then update the robots.txt file to unblock it. Remember, if it’s a third party resource you will need to contact the owner of the resource and have them do it for you.

Blocked Resources

 

15. Removed URLs

The removed URLs tool temporarily blocks URL for 90 days… if you want to permanently block URLs from Google you should see that article. You can only remove URLs you own…

Removed URLs

 

16. Crawl Errors

Crawls errors are broken pages on your site and can happen if you:

  • Changed URLs
  • Redesigned your site
  • Failed to setup redirects
  • Deleted content from your site

If you just setup Search Console it can take at least 1 week to populate all crawl errors. When you see them, you’ll want to go through each tab (desktop, smartphone, server error, soft 404, not found, other). Each one will have different URLs that will need to be fixed with redirects…

Search Console Crawl Errors

Click each one to see the full URL of the broken page, which should be redirected to the correct page on your site. Of course this will take time to go through all of them, but it will make sure any links pointing to these old URLs are passing their “link juice” to your new pages.

Fixing these is basically like getting free links to your site.

Search Console Not Found URL

Redirect Crawl Errors To Their Appropriate Pages
You can use a free plugin like Quick Page/Post RedirectYoast SEO Premium, or do this through .htaccess. The method I will show you is Quick Page/Post Redirect. You want to redirect each URL to the new (correct) page on your site. Yes, you should do EACH one.

  • Install the Quick Page/Post Redirect Plugin
  • Go to Quick Redirects → Quick Redirects
  • Add the broken URL in the left column and the new correct URL in the right column
  • Click “Add New Redirects” (can do 3 at a time)
  • Click “mark as fixed” in Search Console, or wait a few days for it to update

301 Redirect WordPress

View Crawl Errors Directly In Yoast
To see crawl errors in Yoast without having to login to Search Console, go to Yoast → SEO → Search Console then click “Get Google Authorization Code” and follow the instructions…

yoast-search-console-authentication

When you’re done authenticating Yoast with Search Console, it can take about 1 week to populate crawl errors. But this is where you would see them under SEO → Search Console.

yoast-search-console-crawl-errors

 

17. Crawl Stats

You ideally want a steady increase as you add content to your site…

Crawl Stats Google Search Console

Why Did My Crawl Rate Drop?

 

18. Fetch As Google

Fetch as Google tests whether Google can access a page, how it renders it, and any resources (eg. images or scripts) that are blocked from Googlebot. It can help debug crawl issues and make sure your page’s URLs are accessible to Googlebot. This Yoast tutorial does a great job of explaining the different errors including not founds, unreachable, redirected, and others.

Fetch As Google

 

19. Robots.txt Tester

Check if a URL is being blocked from Google and whether there are errors. The most common error is a crawl delay which may occurs if you limited your crawl rate in your site settings (should only be done if Googlebot is slowing down your server and causing CPU/bandwidth limits on your hosting account). But this rule is ignored by Googlebot, so no action is needed.

Robots.txt Tester

 

20. Sitemaps

Here’s how to submit your Yoast XML sitemap to Google…

  • In Yoast’s settings go to SEO → XML Sitemaps
  • Configure your sitemap to exclude tags, affiliate links, etc (see photo below)
  • Click the XML Sitemap button
  • Copy the last part of the URL: sitemap_index.xml
  • In Google Search Console go to Crawl → Sitemaps
  • Click Add/Test Sitemap
  • Paste the URL into Google Search Console
  • Test and submit
  • View common sitemap errors if you have any
  • Same sitemap submission process is be used for Bing + Yandex

Here are a few screenshots if you need them…

Yoast XML Sitemap Settings

xml-sitemap-post-types

Yoast Sitemap

Yoast Sitemap URL

Search Console Sitemap Submission

Sitemap Errors

 

21. URL Parameters

The high majority of you will not have issues with URL parameters and will see this message, but if Google shows a different message, you will need to follow their instructions. Here’s a Youtube tutorial by Google Webmasters that shows you what to do. Just be extra careful because improper actions can result in pages no longer appearing in Google’s search results.

URL Parameters

 

22. Security Issues

Bottom line… if you have issues here you should contact Sucuri who can help you fix these. But you should do this NOW since security issues can jeopardize your entire website and SEO. Often this means identifying malware that has been added to your site and deleting these files.

Security Issues Search Console

Strengthening Security In WordPress

  • Change generic “Admin” username
  • Use a strong password with numbers
  • Use the 2-factor authentication for login
  • Install a plugin like Wordfence, iThemes, or Sucuri
  • Keep your WordPress core, theme, and plugins updated
  • Make sure your site is on secure WordPress hosting (I use SiteGround)

 

23. Other Resources

Search Console Resources

Use PageSpeed Insights To Check If Your Hosting Is Slow
Here’s a cool trick. Run your website through Google PageSpeed Insights and check to see if reduce server response time is in your report. If yes, this means your server (hosting) is slow. You will see this a lot with Bluehost, Godaddy, HostGator, and other lower quality hosts…

Slow WordPress Hosting Bluehost

If you see this in your report want to fix it, you will either need to upgrade your hosting or switch to a faster host like SiteGround who was rated the #1 host in multiple Facebook polls…

You can read my full SiteGround review if you want to learn about them, but my site loads in <1s in GTmetrix, <1s in Pingdom, I have 100% uptimes, and they’ll even migrate you for free.

 

24. Site Settings

Site settings are in the gearbox option in the top right of your Search Console dashboard…

Search Console Main Options

Preferred Domain – it’s a preference whether you want to include www in your domain (there’s no ‘right’ way for SEO). Whichever one you chose in the site settings should be the same in WordPress (Settings → General → WordPress Address + Site Address). I would avoid changing this if you already have an established domain as this changes ALL links on your site.

WordPress WWW Non WWW

Crawl Rate – the most common use for this is if your website constantly goes down due to capacity, bandwidth, or CPU limitations on your hosting account. This means your hosting plan does not include enough resources to run your site so you either need to reduce these (eg. by deleting plugins that consume a lot of resources or enabling WordPress heartbeat control), or upgrade your hosting. Limiting the crawl rate will tell Googlebot not to crawl your site so fast which helps reduce the server resources it consumes. This is the only time you should do this.

Service Temporarily Unavailable

 

25. Change Of Address

If you ever decided to change domain names, this will help maintain rankings…

Change Of Address Search Console

 

26. Google Analytics Property

Enabling your Google Analytics property allows you to see Search Console data in your Google Analytics reports. Just select the analytics web property and save changes…

Google Analytics Property

Now login to Google Analytics and go to Acquisition → Search Console…

Google Analytics Search Console Integration

Here is the “landing pages” dashboard which shows similar data as Google Search Console’s search analytics, only you can cross reference even more metrics from Google Analytics…

Landing Pages Google Analytics

 

Get Help Fixing Errors In Search Console

Pronaya is a WordPress developer I found on freelancer.com who I’ve been working with for over 5 years. He’s helped me (and clients) fix errors related to virtually everything in Google Search Console (mobile, security, www, sitemaps, crawl errors). If you have a question about the SEO side of things you can leave me a comment and I’ll be glad to help you, but if you need help actually fixing errors, Pronaya is the man for that. He’s $40/hour and his email is bdkamol@gmail.com. You can also join freelancer and search his profile (username bdkamol).

BDkamol-Speed-Optimizer

 

Have Questions? Need Help? Drop Me A Line!

Check out the Search Console Help Center if you haven’t already – they have tons of documentation and troubleshooting articles on each of these topics. Or just leave me a comment below as I’m glad to help anyone who takes the time to read up on this stuff.

If you found this useful, a share is always appreciated :)

See Also: WordPress Speed Optimization Guide

Cheers,
Tom

WP Rich Snippets Review: I Used To Love This Plugin But The Developer Abandoned It And It’s Not Compatible With PHP 7.1+

Deciding whether to buy the WP Rich Snippets Plugin?

It’s what I use to add rich snippets to my WordPress posts. I was originally going to settle for All In One Schema.org Rich Snippets but WP Rich Snippets has way more functionality (especially with their add-ons and robust plugin settings), plus the actual design is awesome.

What are rich snippets anyway? They add extra information to your search engine snippets like review stars, videos, or even recipe information. This gets more people clicking on your snippets and visiting your site. I mean come on, which result would you rather click on?

rich-snippets

I wrote this WP Rich Snippets review to show you how it compares to plugins like All In One Schema, how to configure the WP Rich Snippet settings, add rich snippets to posts, and how to use their add-ons to make your markup look even better. When we’re done, you will know how to create beautiful rich snippets that improve click-through rates and increases conversions.

UPDATE
The WP Rich Snippets developer is missing and hasn’t updated the plugin for 2+ years, causing it not to work with PHP 7.1 and higher. I switched rich snippets plugins to WP Review by MyThemeShop and like it much better, as it comes with multiple pre-styled templates, supports all data types, and comes with updates + support. It’s easy to use and has tons of customization options that help you style it to the design you want.

Table Of Contents

  1. Supported Data Types
  2. How The Markup Looks
  3. Installation
  4. Configuring The Settings
  5. Writing Your First Rich Snippet Post
  6. Google Structured Data Testing Tool
  7. Add-Ons

 

1. Supported Data Types

To add rich snippets to WordPress, your content must be one of these supported data typesEvents are the only data type not supported by WP Rich Snippets (in which case you would use the All In One Schema.org Plugin), otherwise WP Rich Snippets will do the job.

  • Articles
  • Recipes
  • Reviews
  • Products
  • Organizations
  • Restaurants
  • Software Application

 

2. How The Markup Looks (On The Actual Post)

A single screenshot won’t justify the amount of flexibility this plugin has, but I did include a couple below. The design depends on the data type you use (eg. review), how you configure the plugin settings, which add-ons you use, and what fields you fill out when marking up the post.

This example showcases a review rich snippet with a video, 4 criteria items, plus the basic (mandatory) fields. You have the option to replace the video with a photo, slideshow, or use no photo at all. With the add-ons you can also customize colors, place the markup anywhere on the page (not just the top), add user reviews, and use multiple call-to-actions buttons (instead of just 1). I recommend at least buying the customizer add-on for $29 (or getting the WP Rich Snippets ultimate plan) so you can incorporate your branding. Here’s what it looks like…

wp-rich-snippets-content-markup

You can also add an image, video, slider, pros and cons, pricing, and other elements. I just like to keep it simple. You will be adding this to the top or bottom of each post you want to markup, or use their box shortcode add-on to add this anywhere in the middle of your posts.

Here’s another example of how it might look at the END of a post…

wp-rich-snippets-for-wordpress

Now compare it to how the All In One Schema.org Plugin looks…

All In One Schema Rich Snippets Markup

I will show you how to markup posts later in this review, but here’s the gist of it:

wp-rich-snippets-plugin

 

3. Installing WP Rich Snippets

The next part of this WP Rich Snippets review will show you how to install the plugin with your license key, configure the settings, then we will start adding rich snippets to pages or posts.

Instructions:

  • Purchase the WP Rich Snippets plan that’s right for you
  • Purchase any add-ons you need (or buy the ultimate plan)
  • Visit your account page to download the plugin and add-ons
  • Upload the plugin and add-ons in WordPress under Plugins → Add New → Upload Plugin, then upload 1 download file at a time

wordpress-plugin-upload

  • In your account page, click on “view licenses”
  • Click on “manage sites” and add your site for each item

WordPress Rich Snippets Account

License Key

  • Go back to your licenses and click the key icons. Copy the “WP Rich Snippets” key and paste it to your “license” settings in your WordPress dashboard. If you’re using add-ons, you will need to download each one from your account tab, upload it to WordPress, then enter your license key for that add-on. You will see a success message.

Rich Snippets Menu

WP Rich Snippets License Key

 

 

 

4. Configuring The Settings

I found most settings are already configured optimally, but I would check the Display tab and enable “display item description below the box” and “show box below content” IF you want WP Rich Snippets to show on the bottom of posts (as oppose to top). It’s just a preference.

WordPress Rich Snippets Settings

If you’re using add-ons, you will see settings for these too…

settings-configuration

 

5. Writing Posts With WP Rich Snippets

Now for the good stuff. Go to a page or post you want to add rich snippets to. Scroll down until you see the the “Schema” section then select the type of rich snippet you want to use in the post. Start by filling in the main tab with the item you are reviewing, and a description. The fields will be different depending on which rich snippet you select. This example is for a review:

wp-rich-snippets-plugin

Details tab lets you add pros and cons (like in the bottom of my post), or a disclaimer.

wp-rich-snippets-details-tab

wp-rich-snippets-pros-cons

Price tab shows the price of the item…

price-tab

Address tab lets you add a Google Map

address-options

Hours tab are simply your business hours…

rich-snippet-hours

Display tab lets you add a featured image, video, or slider. Embedding a YouTube video makes the markup look pretty awesome and increases engagement – which is good for SEO.

Display Criteria

Link tab is where you add a link or affiliate link (which is defaulted to nofollow). If you’re not using an affiliate link, check the “dofollow links” option. The call-to-action add-on enables the “demo links” option which are use to add more than 1 button (see an example here).

Link Criteria

Criteria tab shows what you based your review off of…

Rich Snippet Criteria

wp-rich-snippets-criteria

Author tab shows your name which is required for reviews…

author-tab

 

6. Google Structured Data Testing Tool

The last step is to publish your post and run the URL through Google’s structured data testing tool. You shouldn’t see warnings as long as you have the required fields filled out. If you do, I listed some common solutions below. Keep in mind it will take time for Google to recrawl your WordPress site and show your rich snippets in search results (anywhere from 1-5 days).

Google Structured Data Testing Tool

Common Solutions

  1. For Genesis Framework, install the Schema Removal Plugin
  2. Add the data Google tells you to in their Structured Data Testing Tool
  3. Make sure your WP Rich Snippets key is validated in the settings
  4. Make sure the data is representative of the content on the page
  5. Try adding markup to a few more pages which is suggested by Google
  6. Build your domain authority (add more, better content to your site)
  7. Visit Google’s structured data policies and webmaster guidelines

 

7. Add-Ons

The WP Rich Snippet add-ons are one of the best things about this plugin. You can customize colors, enable user reviews, call to action buttons, and add the markup anywhere in your post (even the middle). The ranking table add-on is also pretty neat. There are 14 add-ons and you will need purchase these individually (though some are free), or buy the ultimate plan like I did.

WooCommerce – advanced features for your eCommerce items plus other integrations. This add-on is has not been released yet but is coming soon.

Shortcodes – add single rich snippets elements anywhere in your posts.

DataTables – very similar to the ranking table add-on (see below).

Software Specs – adds a sidebar widget to showcase your specs, just like this page.

Locations – add schema.org markup for your location and display the Google Map anywhere in your website using a shortcode.

wp-rich-snippets-location-add-on

Box Shortcode – display the entire rich snippets markup anywhere in your post, as oppose to just the top or bottom of the post.

Anonymous User Reviews – if you’re using user reviews (the front-end entry submit add-on below), this allows users to remain anonymous.

Customizer – change the color of ratings, links, buttons, pros and cons, call-to-action buttons.

wp-rich-snippets-customizer-add-on

Front-End Entry Submit – allow users to leave their own review. This is often preferred instead of a simple editor review (which can result in higher rankings since they’re more valuable). Also good if you offer courses so students and customers can review the course.

wp-rich-snippets-user-reviews

User Reviews Image – users can upload an image with their review.

Call-To-Action – adds a section to your markup with the product name, summary, pricing, and demo link(s). If you don’t want a specific item to be shown, you can disable this in the settings.

wp-rich-snippets-call-to-action

Ranking Table – create a ranking table of your reviews, recipes, or anything. I didn’t include photos in this ranking table, but you can if you like.

wp-rich-snippets-ranking-table

Display Rating – displaying a rating by filtering content and excerpts, as shown on the demo.

Compare – similar to the data and ranking table add-on but formatted in a way that helps readers compare products/services.

wp-rich-snippets-comparison-table

I hope you enjoyed my WP Rich Snippets review. If you have any questions they have tons of documentation on writing posts, add-ons, and other topics. Or just leave me a comment. I do WordPress SEO consulting for my job so I bought the ultimate plan to get the add-ons and can use it on multiple sites, but the $69/year plan is good if you’re just starting or want to test it.

Cheers,
Tom