What WordPress Developers Need to Know About Content and SEO
This is part of a presentation I gave for WordPress developers about SEO in Asheville- for WordCamp. Even if you don’t use WordPress, this might still help you. You can watch the video, too.
SEO is about measuring, crawling and indexing a site. It’s also about content. Now, I could talk for many hours about what to write on your site. But I wanna talk to you as developers. For some of you the content on the site is kind of way outside the scope of what you do. So, we’re not going to talk about what word should you use, blah, blah, blah. But there are some elements on how you design a WordPress site that relate to content that we need to consider.
Pages Need Words for SEO
The first one is just the existence of words. I know we all like pretty pictures. I do, too. But Google, ultimately, is about the words. And we have to put words on the page, if we expect to get traffic from Google. Google doesn’t know what the picture of the lawn mower on your page means. Does it mean you sell lawn mowers? Does it mean you mow lawns? Does it mean that you repair lawn mowers? Does it mean that you are filing a class action lawsuit because of their lawn mower? The picture does not tell 1,000 words. It says whatever the person thinks it means. You need words on the page to reassure your visitors that they have reached the proper page. The Bible [Don’t Make Me Think] says so. So, do it. No, I mean, one of his points is that images alone do not convey the intent of the page. Even if we’re not talking about SEO, you need words on your page.
Now, what that means for us who are building websites is we need to accommodate for the existence of words on the page. Make sure in your design, there is enough space for no less than 500 words- and its bare minimum. I do more than a thousand words on a page, ideally. But the good news is, it doesn’t have to be one big block of a thousand words. Break it up, make it look good. You don’t have to have one big vomit of a thousand words. But you need that much content if you wanna be competitive in the Google.
Avoid Duplicated Content
While we’re talking about words, we have to talk about duplicate content. And true confession time, I have used a duplicate content threat against developers, maybe like you, to strike the fear of God in you, so you finally do what I’m asking you to do. I’m so sorry, I lied to you. There is not a duplicate content penalty. When Google sees the same content repeated on every archive page by date, the date page, the month page, the year page, every category to which you’ve added that blog post is also has a complete copy of the blog post. Every tag that you added, now you’ve multiplied the content a million times on your site, and now Google has to decide which of these pages does it want to serve up? I don’t want Google to decide, I wanna tell Google which page to do. I want them to go to the main blog post page.
This involves how we deploy WordPress. There’s the function: the excerpt. Make sure you’re using that on all your loop pages, so that we don’t see the entirety of the blog post in every [archival page]. (I had to cut this talk down from 5 hours to 45 minutes, because I wanted to talk about everything but I couldn’t.) Whoever the idiot was, who said if you just tag your posts, it’s good for SEO, I will punch them. That’s the stupidest piece of advice I’ve ever heard. Save your clients from their own stupid advice and use the excerpt. Now, if you aren’t able to change a theme, maybe you’re downloading a theme someone’s paid for, then you can go into every individual post and use the more tag and it’ll only show that on the archive pages. Once you do that a few hundred times in all your blog posts, you’ll want a new theme and you’ll want the excerpt in your loop, but you can work around the inability of things.
Add Schema to Your Website
While we’re talking about content, let’s talk about schema. Schema is simply a way to encode things using HTML, and some JSON too sometimes, so that Google understands the intent of what this page is about. There’re at least three forms of schema that every website can have.
- There’s the organization schema. Who’s behind the site.
- There’s the website schema. Believe it or not, there’s a schema to tell Google that this is a website. Right? It’s not a PDF, it’s not a video. It’s a website. Just to be clear, Google, this is a website. Hey, it’s free, it’s easy, add it.
- Breadcrumb markup, really easy to add, especially with Yoast. You will have to do a couple changes to your template files in order to include breadcrumb markup using the Yoast method, which is great, but Yoast also adds website and organization schema to your site.
Everybody likes Yoast, because they like the little red, green, yellow- whatever, I don’t even care about that. I think Yoast is good just to use for the schema. There’re a couple little extra steps you have to take, but there’s really no extra development work just to get some basic schema.
Google has a structured data tool, which is amazing, because what you can do is you can put a website in here, a web page in there, and it will read all the schema. And if there are any warnings or errors, it’ll tell you what this is. The best part about this, is you can just copy and paste HTML here. You don’t even have to have the page live, and it will tell you if it’s valid. Now, there’s all kinds of other schemas to put that are worthwhile, a little extra effort, but worthwhile.
- Local business schema. You’ve got some numbers and phone numbers, addresses on your site, the local business schema tells Google, this is an address, this is a phone number, this is the name of my company. This is where we are. A little extra work, but you can even throw it in with JSON and it’s done.
- Article schema. Every blog, it’s not that hard within the post file template to go and update the post, so Google understands that this is an actual article, as opposed to a landing page or something else. And Google actually says they will give you a benefit. They rarely say it. But they say there’s a benefit from using article markup. Do it. Just while you’re building it, throw it in there. This tool will help you get there.
- Review schema. It’s a great schema to add. Warning: Google is actively cracking down on people abusing review schema. So, if you are selling a service, don’t use product schema. If you are selling a product, don’t use business review schema. There are also other guidelines that Google explicitly states that you need to follow when adding review schema to your site. You have to have a form on the page that displays the review schema to take in reviews. You have to display all reviews taken in by that form, good or bad. If you don’t, you will get a nasty-gram. Thankfully, you’ll know you got the nasty-gram because you’ve installed Google Search Console and that’s where you’ll receive it, saying you are in violation and you need to remove it. That’s the nicest nasty-gram you’ll get from Google. Just remove it, you’ll be fine. But listen guys stop. SEO is not about tricking Google. Get over it, right? Let’s just do it right.
Another scalable way, since you’ve installed Google Search Console, is you can go under search appearance structured data and you can see your site-wide, all the schema Google’s finding on your site. Every WordPress site known to man has this top line validation error. Who cares? Doesn’t matter. Just ignore it. I’ve actually tried to solve it, now it’s back for some reason. Not worth my time to figure out. But the important thing is in my case organization schema, local business, breadcrumb article, like have two different kinds of breadcrumb, awesome. I didn’t even know I did that. Anyway, point is, this is a little more scalable way to make sure your schema is installed properly.
Give Your Website EAT
Last thing about content, EAT, expertise, authority, and trust. We first encountered EAT, again, in Google’s manual review guidelines. If you wanna read about what makes a website have expertise, authority, and trust, there you go. Happy to give it to you. Just ask, I’ll give you a copy. But basically, help your clients to know what makes their website different. You know, I know you guys pick good clients, good businesses, look, help them brag a little bit. They don’t want to brag about themselves but help them, incorporate their certifications, incorporate testimonials and reviews, incorporate where they went to school, incorporate the conferences that they participate in. What makes these companies have expertise, authority, and trust? Build it into their site and they will benefit from it.