WordPress platform is very popular for content creators and online businesses large and small. However, the lack of proper set up can cause some technical SEO errors which will be hard to detect. In this article, I’ll describe some of the most common technical SEO errors on WordPress platform and show you how you can fix and prevent them.
Most Common Technical SEO Errors on WordPress Websites
As the most popular content management system, WordPress is used by 43.3% of all websites. This highlights the importance of addressing and resolving technical errors that result from an inadequate website setup.
I have extensively worked on dozens of WordPress websites, and I am familiar with their setups and backend. Therefore, this experience has helped me detect the top technical SEO errors, which are mainly caused by improper website setup or inadequate use of plugins. Here are the most common errors:
- Poorly configured permalinks
- Improper use of your SEO plugins
- Uncompressed images
- Not checking broken internal links
- Too many plugins
- Infinite scroll instead of pagination
- Inadequate implementation of tracking codes
- Site redesigns and CMS migrations
- Unresponsive and old theme
- Plugins that are incompatible or untested with your current WP version
- Poor security practices
- Not using cache plugins
- Using robust themes and page builders
- Not backing up your site
- Using plugins for automatic schema generation
Poorly configured permalinks
WordPress provides a straightforward way to adjust your permalinks. You have the choice of including or excluding the category name slug in your blog URLs, and you can make similar selections for pages. It’s advisable to opt for clear and user-friendly URLs, steering clear of complex permalink structures like those with dates, times, numerics, or plain URLs. However, when altering your permalink structure, it’s essential to ensure that the old page URLs redirect correctly to their corresponding new URLs. Additionally, if you’re transitioning between the www. and non-www. options or vice versa, verify that the old site version redirects to the new one to avoid potential duplicate content issues.
Improper use of your SEO plugins
SEO plugins provide much more options than just the management and editing of Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions. They offer a range of valuable SEO features that are sometimes overlooked, yet they form the fundamentals of proper technical SEO setups in WordPress. Make the most of SEO plugins by utilizing their full options, including creating and optimizing sitemaps, handling pagination, managing breadcrumbs, monitoring 404 error pages, setting up redirects, determining which types of pages to index (often excluding tags and archive pages), and more.
Uncompressed images can increase your page load time, potentially causing page speed issues. It is common practice to upload images in their original size to your website, consuming valuable disk space and resulting in page speed problems. While it is advisable to resize and compress images before uploading them, this may not always be feasible, especially when dealing with numerous uncompressed images. Fortunately, WordPress offers a solution for this issue. There are numerous image compression and optimization plugins available (such as Smush and Ewww…) that can resize and compress your images, convert your file formats, and enable lazy loading. All of these actions can significantly improve your page speed and overall website performance.
Not checking broken internal links
WordPress websites provide various functionalities through plugins and themes, making it effortless to incorporate internal links via widgets, sliders, and shortcodes, as well as create dynamic sidebar menus. This broadens the scope for internal linking. Nevertheless, eliminating these options can potentially lead to broken links or site errors. Therefore, the best approach is to base your internal linking strategy on contextual links with well-optimized anchor text within the main text section, reserving widgets for additional functionality.
Too many plugins
It’s common practice to install many non-essential plugins on your WordPress site, use them once, and then forget about them. However, this can become problematic because each plugin represents additional functionality on a WordPress site, created by additional code snippets stored in folders on your hosting server. This, in turn, slows down your page speed and increases the likelihood of bugs and conflicts among different plugins. Moreover, many plugins tend to be neglected by their creators and, therefore, are not updated, posing a threat to your website’s security.
Infinite scroll instead of pagination
Inadequate implementation of tracking codes
There are various methods to implement tracking codes, such as GA4 tracking code, Google Search Console verification code, or other tracking codes like the Facebook pixel code. Ideally, they should be placed in the site’s <head> section, and different plugins offer this option. However, I wouldn’t recommend this approach, as there’s a risk of unintentionally deleting or deactivating your plugin, potentially leading to the loss of all your tracking data. If we talk about GA4 tracking codes, there’s a possibility of having duplicated tracking data if your tracking code is added through a plugin and the same tracking code is also manually added to the site’s <head> section. Therefore, a better alternative is to directly insert your tracking code into the header.php file on your server. However, this may not always be feasible due to factors like limited access or a lack of technical skills and support.
Site redesigns and CMS migrations
Changing the WordPress theme or migrating to a different content management system is sometimes necessary. These changes can lead to various types of technical SEO errors, including broken links, the creation of unnecessary 301 redirects, sitemap issues, accidental addition or removal of the “noindex” directive, unintentional indexing or publishing of demo pages, cannibalization issues, and the creation of duplicate content. Therefore, in such cases, it’s always advisable to consult with an SEO specialist to ensure a smooth transition from one theme to another (or from one CMS to another).
Unresponsive and old theme
In today’s landscape, there’s an abundance of free and responsive WordPress themes available, catering to a wide range of websites. Despite this, some website owners remain hesitant to replace their outdated, non-mobile-responsive themes, which ultimately hinders the user experience. Not only does an older theme result in a poor user experience, but it also poses security risks. With older themes, code updates are often neglected, making them more susceptible to security vulnerabilities.
Plugins that are incompatible or untested with your current WP version
WordPress periodically updates its core version to address security and technical concerns. However, not all plugins keep pace with these updates. Consequently, many plugins available in the WordPress repository can become outdated and untested with your current WordPress version. This situation heightens the risk of encountering bugs and other site-related problems. Furthermore, it raises security concerns, as outdated code within plugins becomes a more vulnerable target for potential hacks.
Poor security practices
Surprisingly, some websites still lack SSL (Secure Socket Layer) protection. SSL is especially crucial for websites that handle financial transactions, as it ensures the security of user payment data. Additionally, there are other common security issues on WordPress websites. For instance, the login page often exhibits vulnerabilities with simple and generic usernames like “admin” and weak passwords, making it easier for hackers to exploit. Another frequent mistake is neglecting to use security plugins, which can offer valuable additional security features, such as malware scans, IP blocking, firewall options, and the ability to create a separate login page distinct from the standard wp-login.php page.
Not using cache plugins
Caching plugins offer numerous benefits, such as faster page loading, reduced server load, enhanced page speed, and reduced database queries. These plugins store static versions of web pages, which help them load quicker, leading to improved website performance, and ultimately to a better user experience.
Using robust themes and page builders
Not backing up your site
Site backups provide benefits like data protection and recovery capabilities for hacked websites. They safeguard your content, ensuring swift restoration in case of data loss. They also facilitate reverting to the previous site version if you accidentally delete your content or encounter bugs or issues with certain themes and plugins. Various hosting providers offer backup solutions that are user-friendly within WordPress. These solutions often involve plugins designed for website backups, allowing you to customize backup frequency and choose storage locations, among other options, according to your preferences.
Using plugins for automatic schema generation
Schema markups are crucial as they offer bots additional context from your pages and help with entity SEO. Schema helps bots to comprehend the connections between various entities and grasp the essence of your pages more effectively. Consequently, for schema that achieves these objectives, it’s advisable to create it manually rather than depending on plugins that might generate simplified and occasionally inaccurate schema.
How to fix these technical SEO issues?
Here is a selection of tools and techniques I use to check technical SEO errors on my clients’ websites:
There are certain technical SEO checks you can perform with a manual check using site-specific or URL-specific searches (typing “site:https://websitename.com” or “url:site:https://websitename.com/url-name” in Google). This allows you to verify if a page is indexed and potentially identify indexing issues. A manual check also involves reviewing your site manually to assess its appearance on various devices, its mobile-friendliness, the functionality of links, proper page loading, and the usability of menus and buttons.
- Meta Titles and Descriptions
- Headings of the page (H1s, H2s, H3s)
- The URL and its canonical version (to determine if it’s self-referencing or canonicalized)
- Robot tags of the page (to easily identify accidental noindex settings)
- Images and their anchor text
- Page word count
- Internal links
- Schema markups
Additionally, some extensions can help you check if your page redirects are working properly (e.g., Link Redirect Trace) and identify broken links on the page (e.g., Check My Links). For assessing how your site loads on different operating systems and devices, you can use User Agent Switcher.
In summary, these SEO extensions prove highly useful for conducting quick checks and can uncover technical SEO errors that might otherwise be overlooked.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console (GSC) is an indispensable tool developed by Google, providing highly accurate data in nearly real-time. With GSC, you can:
- Identify Issues: Detect and address various reasons why certain pages are not indexed.
- Assess Mobile Friendliness: Evaluate Mobile-Friendly and Core Web Vitals (CVW) reports.
- Analyze Crawl Stats: Examine crawl statistics to identify crawling issues and determine which pages are crawled most frequently.
- Sitemap Validation: Validate sitemaps for potential errors.
- 404 Pages and Soft 404 Errors: Detect and handle 404 pages and soft 404 errors.
- Redirect Analysis: Verify if redirects are correctly configured.
- Monitor New Errors: Keep an eye on new errors that may arise.
- Identify Schema Issues: Discover URLs with schema issues.
- Conduct URL Checks: Utilize the Google Inspection Tool to perform checks on individual URLs. This helps identify potential crawling and indexing issues.
- Live URL Testing: Test live URLs to ensure that the version fetched by GSC matches the actual version shown to users. Differences may highlight resource-related problems that affect page rendering.
- Pages with Multiple H1s or with No H1s: Identifying pages with more than one H1 heading, or pages lacking an H1 heading.
- Missing/Duplicate Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions: Highlighting pages without these vital elements, or showing which pages have duplicate Meta Titles and Descriptions.
- Orphan Pages: Discovering pages with no internal links pointing to them, potentially causing them to be overlooked by bots.
- Anchor Text Analysis: Analyzing anchor text used in internal and external links, which can give you valuable insights on how to improve your internal linking strategy sitewide.
- Page Click Depths: Evaluating the depth at which pages are located within your site’s structure, providing opportunities for website architecture and user experience improvement.
- Uncompressed Images: Identifying images that haven’t been properly compressed, which can lead to slower page loading times.
- Status Code Assessment: Pinpointing pages with 3xx, 5xx and 4xx errors, which make it easier to detect pages that need to be fixed.
- Broken Pages: Flagging pages with broken links or internal errors that contribute to bad user experience.
- Inlinks to Broken Pages: Identifying pages that link to broken or non-existent content, which can harm user navigation and SEO.
- Canonicalization and Noindex Issues: Examining pages for canonical tags and noindex directives to ensure proper indexing.
While it’s true that some plugins can certainly lead to technical SEO errors, it’s important to note that many plugins are designed to address various technical SEO issues. The range of SEO-enhancing plugins includes:
- Security Plugins: These dedicated WordPress plugins or various CDN (Content Delivery Network) options are important for safeguarding your website from threats and vulnerabilities.
- Image Compression Plugins: These tools not only compress images but also resize them and can even convert file formats without compromising image quality.
- Backup Plugins: They facilitate smooth scheduling and execution of website backups.
- Cache Plugins: These plugins allow you to efficiently manage and clear your website’s cache.
- Redirect Plugins: These plugins assist in setting up 301 redirects and, in some cases, identify new 404 errors on your site.
- Optimization Plugins: These tools optimize various aspects of your website, including page speed, CSS and JS file compression, image lazy loading, database optimization, and removal of post revisions, among other tasks.
- SEO Plugins: With these plugins, you can easily edit your Meta Titles, Meta Descriptions, add no-index directives, manage sitemaps, and perform other essential SEO tasks to improve your website’s search engine visibility.
These tools can significantly aid in improving your website’s SEO performance and overall functionality when used correctly.
Full technical SEO audit
A technical SEO audit provides a comprehensive examination of all the technical elements of a website. It is particularly advisable when a site is newly built and set up, or when there is a noticeable decline in performance after a website redesign or CMS changes. A technical SEO audit can be conducted at any time, based on the site owner’s judgment of its usefulness.
Typically, technical SEO audits are best performed by SEO specialists who possess the skills and expertise to thoroughly evaluate all crucial technical SEO aspects of your website. They can identify significant errors and formulate an action plan that includes prioritized steps to address these issues. This audit helps ensure that your website is technically sound and optimized for better search engine performance and user experience.
How to prevent these errors in the future?
- Proper technical setup from the beginning – Ensure that your website is initially built with solid technical SEO practices in mind. This includes establishing a well-defined URL structure, selecting lightweight and mobile-responsive themes, eliminating unnecessary plugins, uploading optimized images, routinely inspecting and fixing broken links, managing site security, and implementing regular backup procedures. Additionally, familiarize yourself with the functionalities of WordPress plugins to reduce the risk of bugs and technical SEO errors while maximizing their utility.
- Perform occasional technical SEO checkups – Regularly schedule technical SEO checkups, even when there are no apparent serious technical SEO issues, or declines in your site performance. These checkups should be conducted with the help of technical SEO experts, who can identify potential problems before they become severe technical issues.