WordPress and SEO: Its more complicated than you think

Over the past ten years, the cost of launching and keeping a site has decreased considerably. You can easily find hosting plans for less than $10/ month. With WordPress, you can update your site real-time, adding and editing content as frequently as you want. To the casual observer, this is great. To those in the industry, this creates significant problems.

For search engine optimization (SEO), search engines score sites on a few broad criteria, each with a host of nuances. While many hosting plans make it easy to create a website, they also make it too easy to mess up on the core SEO criteria.

Site Speed

Storage and bandwidth are cheap. Quality storage and bandwidth are no so cheap.

In shared hosting environments, your site is hosted in such a way that what happens on other sites can affect what happens on your site. The bandwidth is shared. The processors are shared. The ability to respond to requests (page requests) is shared. This leads to variability and even degradation is site speed/performance.

Google has made it clear that site speed is a key metric for rankings. The ability to launch a site quickly now can lead to poor performance later. You are better off looking for quality hosting vs cheap hosting.

In speed testing, we see the server first response lacking in sites. Often, these sites are in shared hosting environments.

Page structure

One of the most challenging aspects of managing a site is ensuring the page structure aligns with the way search engines look at content. There are few key areas that we see regularly messed up. The use of key phrases in the Title tag and a well-organized H tag structure helps the search engines understand your page content. This is often lacking.

We have seen sites completely devoid of these tags. We have also seen the use of the H1 tag multiple times on a page because the person creating the page liked the way the H1 tag was styled. Either way, this messes with the search engines’ ability to understand your content.

Page size

Related to page speed, the amount of data being transferred to the user’s browser directly affects the page load speed. The biggest offenders in this area are usually images. Unoptimized images top the list of issues for most speed tests.

WordPress has some plugins to reduce the image size. But, they can only do so much when a 4600×2200 10MB image is loaded into the library. The inputs have to be optimized in dimension and size to ensure the best possible performance.

Site bloat

For established sites, old files can clutter the system. Five years of weekly backups, unused themes, unused images, deactivated plugins, and other stray files can create huge sites, with no benefit to the user. Left unchecked, this bloat can cause performance issues and make the site difficult to manage.

Most hosting packages, especially “cheap” plans, provide no site management. This leaves it up to the site owner to review the files, removed what is not used, and ensure the file structure is clean. Most users can’t do this.

Failure To Update

WordPress is extremely popular. This popularity makes it a favorite target for hackers. WordPress.org does a good job of patching issues, identifying vulnerabilities and trying to keep problems at bay. This is great when you keep your site updated.

The challenge comes with site owners who don’t update their WordPress installation or fail to keep the plugins updated. These failures allow malware and viruses into the site.

Once Google detects this malware, your pages are flagged in the search results, or sometimes dropped. If you don’t use Google Search Console or search for your site often, you may not know this happens. You may notice lower traffic or lead flow, however.

Get the most from your website

To ensure your investment in your website has maximum benefit and is in the best shape for your SEO efforts do two things:

  1. Pay for good hosting. They are not all equal.
  2. Hire a webmaster or agency that will maintain the site properly. It really is more complicated than it seems.

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