WordPress has become one of the most popular content management systems in existence. The platform’s popularity was built on its user-friendly and SEO-friendly nature. WordPress was one of the first content management systems to offer friendly URLs and free plugins to handle the majority of on-page optimization requirements.
While WordPress has a great reputation, it’s not perfect. Despite its versatility, SEOs encounter difficulties on a daily basis.
The following is a list of solutions to 4 difficulties SEOs might face while optimizing a WordPress website.
1. The need to generate page-specific open-graph and meta tags
Depending on a client’s SEO strategy, you might need to output specific open-graph tags and meta descriptions on a page-by-page basis that can’t be accomplished with a plugin. If your client already uses an SEO plugin such as Yoast or All-In-One SEO Pack, you’ll need to disable those plugins to avoid duplicate, conflicting output. If your client relies on their SEO plugin, you can’t disable the entire plugin, but you can disable the plugin for individual pages.
Unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t provide the option to disable plugins on individual pages. However, Membershipworks.com offers a brilliant solution: write a custom condition before “wp_head” runs using the “wp_title” filter. In other words, this solution allows you to add your own “wp_head” function where you can inject meta tags, meta descriptions, and open-graph tags.
2. Unfriendly URLs/complicated URL structures
It’s not uncommon to work for a client whose site has been around for many years. The longer a website has been around, the more likely bad SEO structures are in place. For example, they might not have friendly permalinks and might have strange or excessive directory structures.
To perform your SEO duties, you need to fix unfriendly URLs and directory structures in a way that doesn’t disrupt the whole website. Here’s the ideal way to handle these changes:
- Document all published and unpublished URLs in a simple list and indicate which URLs need to change.
- Duplicate each page or post. Rename each duplicate page with an ideal URL, but don’t delete the originals yet.Skip duplicating pages and posts if you’re not changing the actual page or post title. For example, if you need to add keywords to URLs, you need to duplicate all pages and posts and rename the duplicates using those keywords. However, if page and post titles are fine, but you just need to change the permalink structure, don’t duplicate anything. Just change the permalink structure in the admin panel under Settings > Permalinks.
- Set up 301 redirects once you’ve changed permalinks and/or duplicated and renamed pages and posts. Publish the duplicated/renamed pages and posts right before setting up the 301 redirects. You can use a plugin to set up redirects, but it’s best to set up redirects from your client’s hosting account in case the plugin becomes outdated, unsupported, or your client switches to a new CMS.
- Once redirects are in place, unpublish each original page so only the duplicated, renamed pages and posts are published. Don’t delete these pages until you’re certain all redirects are running smoothly.
3. A theme that isn’t SEO-friendly
Working on a website when the design has already been chosen is challenging for many reasons. Often, clients are attached to their designs and aren’t interested in customizations even when those customizations would be for their direct benefit. It’s only natural for clients to resist change.
While it’s hard for WordPress themes to work against SEO, it’s not impossible. Many WordPress designers focus on aesthetics and user experience at the expense of search optimization.
If you discover a client’s theme to be not SEO-friendly, get your negotiator’s hat on and do your best to demonstrate why their theme is holding them back. Schedule a meeting with your client and take it slow. You’re going to trigger their fears and uncertainties, and you’ll have to tackle them while moving the client toward embracing change.
4. A missing sitemap
WordPress doesn’t come with a sitemap, so you’ll need to create one for your client. If you’ve been doing SEO for any length of time, you’re a pro at building sitemaps; you just need to remember to create one.
As with everything else, you can get a WordPress plugin to automatically generate an XML sitemap, but it takes a little bit of work. Keep in mind that your client might already have a sitemap plugin, but may not be maximizing its use.
SEO is a game of negotiation
The technical side of search engine optimization is complex, yet implementing the technical details is the easy part. The difficulty comes from finding solutions to difficult problems and then convincing clients to make required changes.
When you can convince clients to make those changes, SEO problems are much easier to solve.