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

Setting Up Your WordPress Permalink Structure For SEO

WordPress Permalink Structure SEO

When we think about the structure of our WordPress permalinks we should be thinking about the organization of our website and it’s hierarchy. Kind of like a sitemap.

We want to provide an optimal experience for users (by giving them helpful pages) but we also want to make sure we have the best WordPress permalink structure for SEO.

This article covers how to structure permalinks for pages, posts, as well as some other related permalink settings that will help you maximize your WordPress SEO.

 

 

SEO-Friendly Permalinks in 6 Steps

  1. What Makes an SEO-Friendly Permalink Structure?
  2. Permalink Structure For Pages (Parent Pages)
  3. Permalink Structure For Posts (Categories)
  4. Changing Permalinks and 301 Redirects
  5. Yoast Permalink Settings
  6. WWW vs Non-WWW

 

 

In addition to good site architecture and user-friendly navigation (people can find the pages they want), structuring permalinks also encourages you to split up pages so you can target more keywords.

Let’s say you have 5 offices in different locations. Creating a page for each office helps you target each one’s geographic location much better (Chicago Web Designer, San Diego Web Designer, etc). This will rank those pages higher since each page will do a better job of targeting it’s focus keyword.

Permalink structure for blog articles just help people find what they’re looking for.

 

 

2. Permalink Structure For Pages (Parent Pages)

Using parents pages is a way of categorizing pages by hierarchy. For example services can be a parent page of web design. In this situation your permalink structure would look like this: example.com/services/web-design

Common Uses

Common Permalink Structures

I created this on Created Using WriteMaps if you want to do your own. Also, heres a video of Googles Matt Cuts confirming this is a good permalink structure to use:

 

How To Create Parent Pages

In your WordPress dashboard, edit a non-parent page (Web Design) and on the right you will see a section to select a parent page (Services).

WordPress Parent Pages

 

 

3. Permalink Structure For Posts (Categories)

This is how WordPress sets your default permalink structure:

WordPress Permalink Structure Default

The default ?p=123 format is not a descriptive permalink structure for SEO and is not recommended, ever.

 

There is no best permalink structure for SEO since it’s a matter of preference, but I will say that Matt Cutts (who advises us SEOs) says in this video at 1:51 that he uses a custom structure of /%postname%/ because it’s “simple.” I use this too.

Best WordPress Permalink Structure

 

But what if you have a lot of articles? Some will argue that using /%category%/%postname%/ is better. Well again it’s a matter of preference. If you have a long domain name then also including a long word in the permalink path could hurt your SEO. That’s why if you do use that structure, you  may want to just use something like “articles” which you would set here:

Custom WordPress Permalink Structure

As for dates and numbers, they are not very descriptive. Plus using dates in your permalink structure can eventually cause your content to look outdated which can hurt your SEO.

 

How To Set Your Blog’s Permalink Structure

Just go to Settings –> Permalinks.

 

 

Changing permalinks is not recommended unless they’re really ugly, like this one…

example.com/?p=id-5363843

If you do ever change a permalink, you’ll want to setup a 301 redirect to direct visitors and search engines to the new permalink. I use the Quick Page/Post Redirect Plugin which is very easy to use. Once installed, go to Redirect Options –> Quick Redirects. Now follow the “request” and “destination” examples below:

301 Redirect WordPress

 

 

If you have the Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin installed, there is a section where you can edit more permalink settings. Here’s what I recommend:

Yoast Permalink Settings

Have questions about this? I explain this more in my Yoast tutorial’s permalink section.

 

 

6. WWW vs Non-WWW

Do you want your website to show up as www.website.com or website.com? I prefer without the www but it’s also a preference and does not affect SEO. You can switch anytime, just make sure your preferred domain in WordPress is the same as it is in Google Webmaster Tools. Here’s how to do that…

  • In WordPress, go to Settings –> General
  • In Google Webmaster Tools, go to Gear Icon –> Site Settings –> Preferred Domain

Finally, redirect the one you’re not using to the one you are using.

Cheers,

Tom Signature