SEO for Wordpress Webinar Promo

WordPress has a lot to offer – but because it offers so much, it can be a bit of an SEO challenge. In this episode we discuss how to optimise your WordPress website, and how to keep it lean and appealing to search engines.  

Dixon Jones was joined by Jono Alderson from Yoast, Mindy Weinstein from Market Mindshift, Jo Turnbull from SEO Jo Blogs, and Keith Devon from Highrise.

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Transcript

Dixon Jones

Welcome to Old Guard, New Blood episode 18, and today we’re talking about SEO for WordPress. And I’ve got, as usual, a really good group of people. I think we’ve decided that I’m the old guard on this one because everybody is younger than me, but I’m going to introduce those people now. So, Jo, why don’t you come in first? Jo, who are you, and where do you come from?

Jo Turnbull

Well, hello there, Dixon. Thanks very much for having me on the show today. So, I’m Jo Juliana Turnbull, also known as SEO Jo Blogs, you can see my Twitter handle there. And I am dialing in from Barcelona. I am a freelance marketing consultant.

Dixon Jones

Hey, we let you out the country. You’re not allowed back now. Sorry about that. Mindy, hello, how are you? Who are you, and where do you come from?

Mindy Weinstein

Good. How are you? So, yes, I was one of the ones that wasn’t sure if I was an old guard or young blood, so I’m going to be in the middle.

Dixon Jones

You’ve been in the SEO industry for 15 years?

Mindy Weinstein

Yeah, there we go. So, I actually got started though, close to 15 years. So, I got started in 2007. And so, I have done lots of roles within SEO. Some more of the content marketing side to the technical SEO side. And currently, I run a company, a small digital marketing agency called Market MindShift in Arizona, but I’m also a professor. And so, it is summertime, and so I’m sitting in my office, but it is very quiet because there are no students. And so, I teach a lot of marketing classes, including digital marketing, so I am training young blood.

Dixon Jones

Excellent. So, we actually have a professional marketer here instead of just all of us that are pretending to be marketers here. That’s great. That’s fantastic.

Jo Turnbull

I have done marketing at uni and Kingston college after!

Dixon Jones

There you go. No, I’ve got no doubt that everyone in here is well and truly qualified. Although I’ve never met Keith before, so Keith, why don’t you go on? Who are you?

Keith Devon

Thanks, Dixon. I’m Keith Devon. I am a WordPress developer. I am one half of a WordPress development team called Highrise Digital based in the UK. And I found WordPress, I think around 2009. So, I think that makes me old guard in WordPress terms, but maybe not SEO terms. So, I’m happy to be on guard today in terms of SEO.

Dixon Jones

It’s great that we can actually get a developer that’s prepared to come on a webinar. That’s the good news for the day because that doesn’t happen very often. So thanks very much for coming on. Really appreciate it.

Keith Devon

Pleasure.

Dixon Jones

And then as somebody who has been an old friend at conferences in the days that we were allowed to go to conferences, Jono. Tell us about you. Who are you, and where do you come from?

Jono Alderson

I know. I miss conferences, right? It’s been a while since we’ve had a chance to catch up. Yeah, I’m Jono. I’m heading from the UK, and I work for a little company called Yoast, which hopefully many of our viewers and listeners might be familiar with given the context of WordPress. I have a fake job where I just do SEO stuff. So, I spend a lot of time looking at research and development, product roadmap stuff within Yoast, and interacting with the SEO community so that we have on top of knowing what we’re building and why and where we’re going. But I’m secretly underneath all of that. I’ve been a technical SEO person for a long, long time. But I’ve always been a WordPress nerd, and a bit of a developer. And I really, really like the kind of getting under the hood doing hardcore backend development, messing with databases, as well as trendy things like CSS and JavaScript. So, yeah, all of the different parts of this are really exciting for me.

Dixon Jones

That’s brilliant. And if you’re watching live on YouTube or Facebook, guys, and feel free to jump in with questions or say hi. Thank you. Say hi there, GJ. Nice to see you again, and it just leads me to bring in my producer, David. David, what have I missed out this time round that I was supposed to tell everybody about?

David Bain

Nothing significant. We’re broadcasting live on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter on the Majestic channels. And of course, you’re possibly listening to this on the replay on Apple podcasts or Spotify. If that’s the case, then make sure you sign up at majestic.com/webinars to watch a future episode live.

Dixon Jones

And obviously thanks to Majestic for letting me put this on every month and letting me carry on the baton after my long term Majestic days, which I still remember with a lot of fondness. I haven’t been back to Birmingham. I did manage to get back to Birmingham once this year, so hopefully I get to see them again now that the lockdown is coming to a close, hopefully. So, SEO for WordPress. Let’s get going. Before we jump into some questions, I wanted to ask each of you for one tip about WordPress or SEO for WordPress. And so, if anybody hasn’t got time to watch the whole show, then they at least have something to take away. And so, I’m going to jump in and go with Jono first, I think, because I know he will always have something on hand. What would you go for, Jono?

Jono Alderson

I would install a reputable SEO plugin of your choice. Various options exists. But I would never consider picking one which has a team of over 150 people who work closely with Google and Facebook and other platforms, etc. But seriously-

Dixon Jones

Is that the one I use? The Yoast plugin, is that the one, Jono?

Jono Alderson

It is. That’s definitely the one I would recommend. And though I’m obviously biased, but in all seriousness I would let a good SEO plugin take care of all the technical heavy lifting for you. WordPress is so powerful and flexible that you want to let them do all that hard work so that you can focus on content, marketing, brand, product market fit, all those good things. You shouldn’t be in the weeds.

Dixon Jones

Brilliant. Okay. Keith, what do you want to go for? Do you want to flip the coin?

Keith Devon

Yeah, I’m going to go for find a good web host. I think we’re going to come back to web hosting at some point. But if there’s one tip and one major improvement you could make to a WordPress website if you’re on cheap hosting is to upgrade your host because it’s still not that expensive to find something really decent. And like a good SEO plugin, it’ll take a lot of the technical stuff away from you. So you don’t need to worry about it.

Dixon Jones

Okay, good tip. Mindy, what are you going to go for?

Mindy Weinstein

Yeah. Well, those are both really good. But I’ll go with just plugins in general. WordPress, as already been said, it’s very powerful. It’s actually the CMS that I recommend if anyone’s going to come and ask me because it has so many great features. We know it’s search friendly, all of those things. But there are a lot of plugins and I know we’ll end up talking about that. But if you choose some really good plugins, Yoast included, but some other ones too, and it can help you really tackle the technical side of SEO and some of the other things that are really going to help you with schema and all the extra. I always refer to those as the icing on the cupcake. And so, my one tip is choose some great plugins. Don’t go hog wild. We’ll talk about that I’m sure.

Dixon Jones

Okay. Jo.

Jo Turnbull

Hello. Yes, my one tip would be actually do keep your WordPress site up to date to the latest version. A very simple tip, but it does prevent things like getting hacked, which also ties in with what Keith was saying about making sure that you’ve gotten a good hosting. And with that whole updating your WordPress to the latest version, do not be afraid to ask for help for about it. So there’s a lot of friendly people in our community. If you’re not sure what to do, obviously, when we people moving over to Gutenberg, which we’ll talk about later on, people were a bit unsure because in our industry, it depends, and things change a lot.

Dixon Jones

Okay, I’m going to ask a follow up question to everyone around that one then because the keeping the WordPress up to date. How safe is that to press that on automatic so that it just does it straight away? I mean, is there a risk associated with that, Keith?

Keith Devon

Yes, there’s a risk. In my experience, it’s pretty safe. And actually, you’re taking a risk by not doing it, so you’ve got to bounce those two risks up. We’ve started doing that on most of our client websites. We do a lot of checks to go alongside it to make sure if things do fall over we find out about it quickly. But I would generally say, especially if you’re maybe a blogger, and it’s not maybe absolutely mission critical like an eCommerce site, stick automatic updates on, take it off your plate, and then hopefully your host or someone will set up some kind of notification so that if things fall over, you find out pretty quickly. That’d be my advice.

Dixon Jones

Yeah. Okay. People agree with that. Would it be great to have a plugin that only updates to two versions back rather than the most up to date?. What about updating plugins automatically? Is that more risky? Or is that just a safety thing? Jono, I’ll go for that because I know you guys do updates all the time.

Jono Alderson

Yeah. So we aim for a fortnightly update, just because we’ve got lots of small bits shipping. And we want to keep on top of that. I guess, if you had infinite resource, and the patience and motivation, you should absolutely hand check every single plugin that you’re updating and evaluate every single line of code for whatever security business. Obviously, Google don’t. And the reality is nobody ever logs into their website. Nobody ever updates anything and everyone gets hacked all the time. So somewhere there is a sensible middle ground of trade off that inability to evaluate every single line. Have a set of reputable plugins that you trust to auto update, which you know aren’t going to break your site. And in fact, there was a recent update to WordPress that reduce the likelihood of catastrophic braking. And just check it more regularly. Ideally, yes, update everything as much as you can. But some plugins are maybe going to be less reliable and trustworthy than others. Make a sensible decision based on your resourcing.

Dixon Jones

Make sure you’ve got a server that’s got a decent backup, so you can always go back if you need it. That’s probably useful. Okay. Right. Now, let’s talk about WordPress out of the box. I remember sitting in Las Vegas once and Matt Cutts saying WordPress is pretty good just out of the box. So this was quite some time back, I will admit, because I’m very old guard. So what’s wrong with WordPress from an SEO perspective straight out of the box? Anyone want to jump in with that one first?

Mindy Weinstein

I can jump in. Again, I do recommend WordPress. So this is something that comes up often, especially if it’s a brand new business, brand new website. And so, a lot of people that I know might even start with a WordPress theme. And so, just going right out the box, even just with that is not going to work. I mean, you have to see, and I know we’ll probably talk about it. But are there things that have to be updated? Are there things that have to be customized to make it run faster? Which plugins can help you with that? And on that same line, really doing WordPress out of the box, you’re going to miss certain SEO elements.

I’m not just saying this, but again, I do use Yoast. And so, an SEO plugin is something that’s a must. And so, just staying out of the box, and not using something like that you’re going to miss out on important on page, optimization, things that are pretty elementary to SEO. But if you’re just using it, and you’re not doing that, you’re going to miss out quite a bit.

Dixon Jones

Okay. Jo, anything specific?

Jo Turnbull

Well, I was going back actually, and thinking about when the first time I built my website, and I think it was back in 2008. So, fresh out of the box. Yes, it was okay. But there was a lot of limitations, some of what Mindy was talking about. So I would say you need to really assess what do you need the website for? What are the things that you’re asking the CMS to do? And then choose that based on that. So, for example, now you can have the headless WordPress CMS, which is a lot lighter, and obviously helps your site to have a higher performance speed, and not be as much drag as maybe some of the other ones. So, I would say, you need to see what you need before you actually install that thing. But also bear in mind that, obviously, your specifics would not actually be customized into a theme because that’s why it’s a thing. It’s a bit more generic.

Dixon Jones

Keith, when it comes down to the box, I think it still puts URL structures with question marks in there, and page numbers, and IDs instead of URL names and things like that, or is that pretty much all fixed now?

Keith Devon

Yeah, no, I mean, it does by default. The URL structure isn’t perfect, but out of the box you do actually have the tools to change that URL structure to something a lot more SEO friendly. So I would say that, actually, the URL structures are probably one of the strong points of WordPress out of the box. What I’d say maybe falls down on then is some of the features that you might want like structured data and meta descriptions, things like that. And then some of the customizations that you might want as an SEO like being able to customize site maps, title tags, your robots, .txt file and things like that. And that’s where good SEO plugins come in to give you the tools to make those tweaks and customizations. But out of the box, I think WordPress is still a very clean and semantic platform. So, it definitely has its advantages.

Dixon Jones

Okay. Anything you want to add on that, Jono?

Jono Alderson

Yeah, just that you’re not meant to use it as it is out the box. The whole ethos is that the plugin ecosystem and the theme ecosystem allows you to go shopping and researching to find the bits of Lego that solve your problem. That’s the whole ideology behind WordPress. The vanilla experience isn’t really what you’re meant to be using. That’s often perceived as a bit of a bug. So, recently, we finally got XML sitemaps in course, an SEO feature which is great, but their omission wasn’t a bug. It wasn’t a fault. It wasn’t something that should have been expected to being called. Sites who need SEO can go and get SEO really, really easily. Not everybody necessarily wants or needs it, so it’s not included in the core. So this idea that it’s pluggable, and you need to go and find the bits you need is how it’s meant to work. So yeah, the idea that you should be using it as is a little bit scary because it doesn’t do a lot. It’s not meant to.

Dixon Jones

Okay, I think your Yeti has gone off again, by the way, Jono, so just… That’s his microphone, by the way, for anybody that doesn’t know what that is. Okay, right. So most people seem to use SEO, use plugins. You’ve all talked about plugins. Even Keith, who I suspect probably doesn’t use as many plugins as anyone else because he writes his own code all the time. But we’ve been told as SEOs that speed is vital and really important, and plugins slow the site down. In fact, maybe WordPress as a software system slows down, or does it? So, does anyone want to comment on that? I mean, I guess there’s some plugins that absolutely speed things up. Things like WP-Optimize, and some of those tools will speed a site up because they start crunching files. But what’s your opinion on plugins, and how many do you want, Jono?

Jono Alderson

As many as you need. So, because the vanilla experience is so feature thin. Of course, every plugin you add has to pass code, make database queries, run processes that take milliseconds, that use electricity, which are limited by the speed of light. Every one of those you add is going to add some degree of overhead, and that’s fine. As long as they’re well coded, as long as they’re well built. That is the trade off you make. If you have a static HTML page with nothing but a picture of a cat on it, you can load it instantly. But if you’ve got a CMS that has interaction, that has pages, that has logic, of course, that takes longer. So, it’s all about trade off and some plugins are better than others. Some are notoriously bad for performance, and you should avoid those. But there isn’t any kind of magic rule that says have no more than 12. It’s about trading off features versus performance.

Dixon Jones

I love that we’re relating this to the speed of light. We’ve got speed of light into the thing. Keith, what’s your opinion on plugins? Do they slow things down? How do you test?

Keith Devon

Yeah, I think like Jono says, there’s going to be a performance impact. It’s hopefully going to be very, very marginal, and sometimes beneficial, actually. But the thing with plugins is it’s really all about quality and not quantity. You can run a site with 100 WordPress plugins, and it can be lightning fast. You can run a site with five plugins and it’d be dog slow. So it just depends on the plugins that you’re choosing, and the quality of them. How to choose them is tricky.

There’s a few things to look for. The age of a plugin. Ones they’ve been around for a long time, they’re established. Usually, that means there’s something, there’s a good team behind it, and there’s lots of development gone into it. The number of installs, how many people are using it as a fairly good indicator of quality. The support, the reviews, the general industry reputation. It’s pretty hard to test the actual performance of plugins unless you really know what you’re doing. So those are the things that you can look out without digging in to too deep from a technical point of view. But I wouldn’t say that plugins themselves aren’t a problem. Like Jono says, it’s there are good and bad plugins.

Dixon Jones

Yeah, and GJ says, why not setup a must have list of plugins? And I suspect Yoast has got one somewhere on there. I bet there’s plenty of must have plugin lists out there already. So, it’s good. If anyone wants to jump in with more about that then feel free. Otherwise, I was going to move on and talk a little bit about themes. Because for me getting the right theme is critical to feel of a website. But again, I found that one person that says this is a great theme for SEO friendly theme, and I’ve found themes that are just for my mind been terrible for SEO and vice versa. People say, “This one’s bad.” And it seems to work fine. But are themes generally important for SEO or does that not have an impact? Mindy, you’re agreeing?

Mindy Weinstein

I’m nodding my head. And the reason is because this is something that I deal with a lot where I’ll have a client come to us, and they have a WordPress site. It might have been something that they just had implemented a theme. And unfortunately, I like to be involved in the process of choosing the theme, and I’ll talk about that in a second. But when you already look at one and you’re not seeing if it’s going to be SEO friendly, then we end up with things like code bloat. So, we got a lot of unnecessary JavaScript, unnecessary CSS files, things aren’t externalized. The pages are loading slowly. So it just makes a lot more work after the fact.

And so, preferably, and so as we know speed is part of the ranking algorithm. Plus, we have now Core Web Vitals, we’ve got page experience update, which includes that. So, it’s really important. And so, to me the theme is huge because it’s the foundation. And so, for SEO, and now I’m going to… I’m on my soapbox, and I promise I’ll keep it short. But SEO, we have our on page, and those are things that are easy enough. Titles, we’re going to update our body copy. We’re going to do all those great things. We’re going to get links to our website, but they got a site that technically speaking isn’t that great and is running slow. And again, that code bloats problem.

So, when I’m looking at themes what I generally like to do is take the demo page, run it through some tools, get some feedback. What is the speed on this page? What are we looking at for mobile friendliness? And not just rely on what it says in the description for the theme because it will tell you that it’s responsive, it’s mobile friendly, it’s fast. Well, why don’t you check it on your own? And so, to me it’s a huge thing. So off my soapbox.

Dixon Jones

Oh, I think it’s very fair. Jo, any favorite themes? What are anything that you particularly like, recommend feel free? I don’t mind selling somebody else’s themes here.

Jo Turnbull

Well, I think what Mindy said summed it perfectly, but I’ve been working with Kaizen actually these past few months, and we just did a slight relaunch. Obviously, getting ready for Core Web Vitals and we’re using a headless CMS and actually using Gatsby. So, that’s actually done quite well. But obviously not using completely the theme by itself. We’re just using it the headless CMS to hold the contents, the images, and also the text. So yeah, that’s actually been very good from our side.

Dixon Jones

Jono, any faves?

Jono Alderson

No, I tend to build my own themes from scratch because I’m a bit of a perfectionist because of that trade off. If you get a really simple theme, it can be fast in performance. But every bit of flexibility and configuration tool you add tends to be a trade off on performance. I would say two interesting things. One is we’re working with a WordPress core team at the moment to work out how we integrate performance measurement processes into the theme review process. So there should be some kind of formal scoring process, which would be really cool. And the other is on headless stuff, brief plug. Yoast has an API for headless SEO output. So if you do want to do WordPress headlessly, which can be a performance win massively, a lot of people mess up the SEO because it’s quite hard to maintain the logic of all the SEO considerations. We did that automatically. It’s pretty cool.

Dixon Jones

So, Doc Sheldon. Hi, Doc. It’s good to see you here. Doc Sheldon has come in and said, “Is anyone going to mention the need for a child theme?” I think maybe it’s worth going over to Keith then and saying, look, can you explain the difference between themes and child themes a little bit, and why and if they’re important?

Keith Devon

Yeah, absolutely. So, a child theme is basically a theme that you can install or build yourself that inherits its parent’s behaviors and styles. And then you can customize that inner child theme. So, you can change layout, you can change styling colors, you can add new functionality, you can add a whole new template. The benefit being, and I don’t know if this is what Doc’s getting at, but the benefit being that you can update that child theme independently of the parent theme. So if, for example, I installed a theme that I really liked the look of, hacked it a little bit just to get it just right, then what happens whenever that theme is updated in a week’s time, in a month’s time with some critical security update or feature update. If I update that theme, I lose all my changes or everything breaks. So if you keep your customizations separate in the child theme, that means you can continue to update the parent theme. So I think that’s what Doc’s getting at there.

Dixon Jones

Ah, that’s like a little lightbulb moment gone off my head there. I couldn’t understand why people were changing stuff, and then you couldn’t change a thing. All right, okay. There are some things I never got to learn about in SEO, so thank you. Thanks Doc for the question. Thanks Keith for the answer. We’ve got a question from Press 8 Telecom, could you talk about good plugins that help site speed? I mentioned WP-Optimize because that’s the one that I use on my site. And what that does is make sure that all the JavaScript is minified and does a various amount of caching and stuff, which isn’t always good. One of the problems is it does sometimes minify my files and then I can’t check that the files are alive because I can’t see them very easily. But still, it does seem to definitely speed up. So, I don’t know if anyone has got any other site speed ones. Jono, what do you want to suggest?

Jono Alderson

I’m going to cheat a little bit and give you four answers. One is good hosting because that will underpin all the other stuff that happens. If you’re spending less than $10 a month on your hosting or the hosting company has a logo of an animal you have a problem. Then you want a really good caching plugin. I would look at either WP Rocket or WPTC. Or some of the really good hosts have their own like SiteGround and Servebolt have their own integrated caching plugin. New contender really interesting, NitroPack, bit of a different pricing model, but some really interesting early results. If all of that is scary look at CloudFlare, which automatically makes everything faster and have a really clever WordPress plugin. And if all of that is scary use AMP.

Dixon Jones

AMP’s very scary, and that’s the last thing I’d go for, to be honest out of those. Any others on there, Jo?

Jo Turnbull

I was just going to back up what Jono has said because when I was working at [inaudible 002529] then used CloudFront and significantly helped our site. It helped on speed but you have to, of course, upload the images as small as you can, not just those massive file sizes. So that really helped us a lot for the minimizing of the load time and sped it up considerably.

Dixon Jones

Yeah, I got my plugin right. I use WP Rocket Actually, I’m sorry. I’m sorry to WP-Optimize, which I’m sure is a plugin. Mindy, any others?

Mindy Weinstein

Yeah. So, some of the ones mentioned, WP Rocket, but another one that I actually just started using and recommending, especially as we’re working through the Core Web Vitals is Asset Cleanup. So that helps solve, as I mentioned just a little bit ago, the code bloat. And so, what it’ll do is it’ll scan pages and help you determine really what’s there, what’s loading, and you can configure it. So JavaScript loads on certain pages and the CSS, and so it helps get rid of just the unnecessary code that’s slowing things down. And so, like I said, that’s one I fairly recently started using, so I can’t speak from a long period of experience with it, but so far, so good.

Dixon Jones

Okay. So hopefully that answers the question, per se. But let’s go and focus a little bit on this server hosting because I’ve started to mess around with server hosting and it made a huge difference in different places. But why? What are the fundamental things that are different with a good host for WordPress? What are you looking for apart from price? Because I’m sure that the more you spend, the more you get, possibly. But what sort of things are you looking for, Keith, in a good host?

Keith Devon

Yeah, I think, I’m sure others are going to have probably potentially more interesting answers here. There’s lots of things going on with hosts, and that’s the point. They do, or they can take care of an awful lot for you. So, the big things for me are resources. So, if you’re on a shared host, you’re sharing resources, bandwidth, CPU cycles, with other websites, potentially. So, that’s one big thing. Caching, check a host is actually caching assets. Are they doing page caching as well? Are they offering a CDN? What kind of text doc do they have? Are they on the latest PHP version? You’d be surprised how many aren’t. Are they using Apache or NGINX? Is HTTP2 enabled? Are they a WordPress host or not? Do they know WordPress? Do they know what WordPress needs to run well? Can they fix the problems? Can they optimize around the platform? That’s something we look for. So, that there’s a handful of hosting providers that we recommend and use quite often.

Dixon Jones

Just I’ll mute myself because that’s probably the professional way of doing things. So, on that idea of multiple websites on the same host, or same IP address, or same server, same machine. Obviously, if you’ve got a site on the same machine as yours with 300,000 pages of WordPress on there it’s probably going to impact your own site in a number of ways.

Just for that, Majestic’s got a really cool tool, which I think is still free. And David, maybe you can figure out how to put that link onto the screen somehow, which is the Neighborhood Checker, which I will look at all of the websites that are… It’ll basically tell you all of the websites that are on any particular IP address, and you just put in your own website, and it will show you the same IP address. And it’ll show any links to any other websites on the same IP address. So you can very quickly see not just how many websites are there, but how important they are. So, if they’re a big website with millions of links to them, the chances are they’re really draining on your own resources at some point because they’re hogging all the resources in the server. So do have a check with the Neighbor Checker as well if you want to. Okay, cool. Jono, anything you want to add, or anyone else want to add on servers and things? I’ve got a preference for cPanel. Does exactly that mean that my WordPress is-

Jono Alderson

I mean, you said you’re the old guard.

Dixon Jones

That’s it.

Jono Alderson

We said at the beginning you shouldn’t be spending time down in the weeds tinkering with cPanel. Pay an extra 20, $30 a month and have a grown up professional manage all that for you. The number of hacked sites because or they’ve left and internal mail server running, and I don’t know what a kernel is. No, don’t do any of that. I think the really important thing to remember is that hosting is a combination of software and hardware, and network connections, like computers with graphics cards and CPUs. And you don’t want to be managing that part of your business from your website. You want to be doing the marketing and the content, the important stuff.

So, yeah, you want a set of grownups who have expertise and I don’t know maybe physical barriers to entry and guard patrols and dogs and spotlights and processes so they know what happens if the building catches fire. All of those things you want to pay good money for, so that you’re not faffing around in cPanel.

Dixon Jones

Yeah, but I can still use cPanel in the back end, right?

Jono Alderson

You really shouldn’t. You really, really shouldn’t. You want a proper hosting setup where you don’t have to be doing that.

Dixon Jones

All right then. Okay, fair enough. Okay. Anyway, I’ll still use cPanel.

Jo Turnbull

Just on the security thing, just people still get hacked sites. So, I had shared hosting, and obviously, it meant that because it was definitely a few years ago. I didn’t have a lot of money, so I chose the cheaper option. And of course, with cheaper options things happen. So, someone hacked into someone else’s site. And I’ll say our site was on that same server hosting. And then obviously, my site and my other site got hacked at the same time. So, I definitely recommend not doing that. And of course, investing in good hosting because it took me months to fix that.

Dixon Jones

Okay, brilliant. Okay, let’s move on because we haven’t got too much more time. But I wanted to… This is the one I really am interested in, in people’s opinions on, category pages. Because I’ve seen, I’ve heard SEO say, “Oh, don’t index your category pages.” I’ve seen other people say, “Well, just let it do its thing and stuff.” I feel that a category page is really damned important. So, I’m very interested in whether category pages make good corner stone content. I use the word corner stone content because a very popular app that we may have given too much credibility to this session uses that phrase. But corner stone content being one that is where your SEO traffic is likely to end up and where you’re using that as your main driver for SEO traffic. So category pages Jono, do they make good corner stone content?

Jono Alderson

Yeah, they absolutely can. So, there’s two answers. One is a page is just a page. The fact that it’s technically a category page in the WordPress back end isn’t really something we should get hung up on. It’s not functionally different to a tech page or any other kind of index. I think the interesting part of the question is different types of searches have different types of intents and category pages and the types of content you might find on those might answer better to a different type of query. Say, a plural or somebody who looks like they’re trying to research multiple options to make a decision. So, if you can tailor and optimize your content on those kinds of pages to answer to those questions, and then have your individual posts and pages target more specific queries, you can have a really strong setup. It’s something we do on Yoast.com. Some of our best pages are the category indexes for things like technical SEO and topics where people use them as an entry point start learning. Yeah, a page is a page.

Dixon Jones

Okay, any other thoughts on category of pages?

Mindy Weinstein

I can speak to that. So, that is something I am in the camp that is pro category page. And so, part of that is just the overall site structure. And I agree with what Jono just said, a page is a page. But with category pages, I mean, you can build out what is my website about? And your categories, you mentioned the blog, those should align with the themes of your website. So very much I believe in adding content to that page. As Jono said, I’ll just add to that. It does help with that intent. But then you’re able to give the broader content about that category, and then break it down within those posts. And so you got some good internal linking, you got some nice clean categorization and structure within the site. So, I’m definitely in the pro camp.

Dixon Jones

My preference here is that I want to plug in because I can’t program it myself, Keith, that allows me to… And I know you can do with themes and some themes will let you do it to let me have a decent static content at the top of my category page. And I can use that to create some stability in the rankings because the problem with the category pages is that as you change your topics and your content and if you start using it as a blog then the category content changes on that page.

And out of the box, certainly, you can’t mess around with the category page very much. And most of the themes don’t let you do it. And even when they do, they just tend to put the description in there, which is just a text field, and it’s not really rich content. So, I don’t know if you have any particular themes that let you do that out of the box or a plugin that lets you do that. But that’s what I think I would want to do if I was spending more time on my WordPress blog, but since it’s on cPanel, anyway…

Keith Devon

Yeah, I mean, there’s lots of… Okay, so we tend to build custom WordPress websites. So if you wanted that we would just build up for you. We’ve had a similar, I don’t know if it works for category pages. I’ll have to check. It probably does. But we have a plugin that we developed that isn’t out in the wild, but it probably could be for post type archive pages. So, as I said, we’re talking about archive pages here. So a collection of posts from an author or a particular tag or a category or a date. And you want to control some content on that archive page. Yeah, out of the box I don’t think you can really do that. But we have developed a way to. So, I don’t know of any themes because we tend to build custom themes. So, someone else might be able to answer that, but it can be done. But for us, we would build that as a custom theme.

Dixon Jones

I did have it actually because I’ve known Joost. I’ve known Joost as opposed to Yoast when Yoast was Yoast with a J. And he actually helped me build my very first WordPress theme. He’s gone on a bit now, and he’s a bit bigger, but I don’t suppose he talked to me very much now. But he helped me design my first WordPress thing. And he sent me off to 99 designs. Basically, that was his lesson for me, and I was able to get that static in there. And then I broke the theme at some point, and I’ve never had it back again, but I quite like that, I think. Okay, we’ve had a couple of questions come in I saw over the wires. Load balancing, does load balancing… Well, let’s ask it this way. So does load balancing cause some issues with multiple IP addresses or anything like that? I mean, how do you think load balancing affects SEO positively, negatively? Obviously, it’s going to improve the speed. Generally, that’s what it’s supposed to do. But can it confuse a search engine? No answers, I’ll say no, then.

Jono Alderson

Not unless you do it badly and wrong. Most of the… Like the thing I said in the answer to the YouTube question was don’t try and do all that yourself. That’s something you should do in CloudFlare or a CDN because you want your load balancing to happen as close to the user as possible for performance reasons. In which case, all of those solutions have sticky sessions, persistent IPs, and they handle it all for you. It shouldn’t be a problem at all. It should happen invisibly in the background. Don’t do it in cPanel.

Dixon Jones

All right, not again then, not again. It works perfectly well. Anyway, yeah, I wouldn’t use cPanel for that either. I’d just use CloudFlare. What I would say is that CloudFlare does have a tendency to block absolutely everything, and I don’t really want everything blocked with my CloudFlare. I would like things to be able to see my content because more and more those bots that are coming in and looking at my content are sometimes repurposing that content and producing it as actual content somewhere else on the web. So, I have that thing going on in my head with the CloudFlares in this world. But yeah, load balancing good then, that’s the general thing there. Okay. Did I miss another question there, David? I think I missed something else that was important. Oh, yeah. Doc was pointing out the obvious error that happens a lot, actually, and I’ve been guilty of it. When you raise a post and you give it multiple categories. It’s got a duplicate content issue there. I don’t know if Yoast fixes that for you. What do you do there in Yoast?

Jono Alderson

Yeah, magically. Yeah, there’s a primary category concept, and it sorts the canonicals but it doesn’t solve the problem of there’s a site structure issue that you shouldn’t be categorizing things as multiple things. Categories are vertical, tags are horizontal. People have their tag everything, there’s everything. They’ve put everything in every category. You really need to think about where does this live, and what type of things are it and really manage that.

Dixon Jones

So why does WordPress get that right out of the box then? Why does it let you put in something in multiple categories?

Jono Alderson

It’s a good question. It’s a very good question. So, I think it does a generally bad job of handling categories for the same thing that Keith was saying is we just want to put some content at the top of this category archive. WordPress doesn’t even consider a category archive to exist as a page. It doesn’t behave in the same way. Quite often a home page doesn’t have representation in the WP admin area. There are all sorts of types of content that WordPress doesn’t really consider to have a home unless you have plugins to handle and change that SEO. It’s definitely one of the albeit very few weaknesses I’ll accept that WordPress has.

Dixon Jones

Okay, cool. All right. I’ve got one more question before we go, I think, or one more main question, and that Gutenberg. So, most of you, most of our audience will probably know that WordPress decided to change its UX quite dramatically a few years ago. And Gutenberg was hailed as the wonderful new way of writing stuff. And is it a friend or foe for SEO? Who wants to go there? Jo, do you want to go there?

Jo Turnbull

Yeah. Actually, I believe Gutenberg actually is very helpful, especially for those people that are building their own website. Or maybe they have a friend helping them. At the beginning, yes, maybe it can see a bit complex. But before Gutenberg, you had different page builders. So Gutenberg is actually the WordPress’ own page builder. Yes, there are some limitations. So, I do think you do need to be able to do some sort of view to view it in HTML as well so you can insert things. But overall, I think it is quite helpful if you spend the time aimed to navigate your way away around these different page blocks.

Dixon Jones

Mindy, thoughts?

Mindy Weinstein

Yeah, no, I agree. So, I haven’t seen any negative SEO implications from Gutenberg. To me, it’s a lot lighter than some of the other page builders that were being used. And so, it’s nice to see a transition away from those into something that’s not going to bog the site down. Interesting, too, because I haven’t done a specific test or case study on it. But like Search Engine Journal had posted one where they use Gutenberg and I think it was WP Rocket, and they did a before and after. And it was pretty interesting because it was a significant difference. And so, yeah, I mean, so far I think it’s great.

Dixon Jones

Okay. Keith, you have the same feeling, or you got a different point of view?

Keith Devon

Yeah, I’ve got a bit of a complex relationship with Gutenberg, but generally, from an SEO point of view, I’d say there are some real positives. And Mindy talked about how fast it is, how lightweight it is. So, lightweight in terms of it’s not loading a whole lot of assets. It’s also a lightweight markup. So it’s not just like dev soup in the back end. So, that’s a positive thing. And semantically, you’ve got loads and loads of control. So, if you want to control it, like your headings structure properly, Gutenberg gives you all the control you need to do that, which is obviously very important.

I think the problem potentially will come with Gutenberg will be that because it’s quite limited from a feature point of view compared to other page builders, what are website users going to do to fill in those feature gaps? And it’s when they start filling in those feature gaps with loads of plugins that just cause all that bloat and add in all those assets again, that’s my worry for Gutenberg is that it’s not quite feature rich enough. So that people are going to reach for other solutions and that’s going to dilute the benefits.

Dixon Jones

Jono, you spend a lot of time on Gutenberg as you were talking with the core team before it went live as well. So, I’m interested. You did a whole conference on it because I was there. So, what are your thoughts about Gutenberg?

Jono Alderson

I think to echo some unspoken gumballs, the way in which it was developed and marketed and launched and managed was pretty terrible in a lot of respects. However, we shouldn’t conflate that with the value of the thing itself. I think it did a terrible job of addressing the fact that there was a large audience of people who just want to write, and it made their lives difficult and complicated in a way that wasn’t managed very well. However, in the SEO world, everything we do is inherently competitive. And we need to take advantage of the best tools we have available to us to compete. And if we can move from writing words in a white box to authoring and constructing and publishing rich, sophisticated resources, that’s a competitive advantage versus against people who aren’t using Gutenberg.

And as more people do that, the expectations of our users will increase. It won’t be enough to have a page that contains some words. You will have to have something structured and curated. Now, the challenge is authoring that is pretty hard. We have an ecosystem where people get paid to write words and different people get paid to publish web pages, and different people still get paid to design things. And now we’re saying all of those are one process. And nobody’s really worked out I don’t think how that workflow works and how we do it with multiple people, especially as there’s no co-editing capability yet, though, hopefully we’ll get there. So, it’s still in a bit of a gray area, but I think you have to embrace this idea that we are moving away from writing words to publishing resources so that we can compete. Unless you don’t care about SEO, in which case, yes, write your poetry in a white text box and fine, but nobody will see it.

Dixon Jones

If it’s poetry who does anyway? Okay, I shouldn’t have said that. That’s terrible. Okay, so guys, last quick thing. What is your favorite plugin? And you’re not allowed to answer, Jono. In fact, we’re banning him from answering that one. And no one else is allowed to say Yoast. So Jo, what do you want to go for?

Jo Turnbull

Well, actually, I was going to say Yoast because when I first started doing building websites in 2007, 2008, we didn’t have one like that, that did sort of helped you. I would say it structures your page. What content do you want to be writing about? What is the main topic of the page? So, I really liked it. But I would, as we were saying offline, that you shouldn’t always be focusing on getting that green tick. What you should be looking at is trying to focus on or ask yourself what’s that page about? What is the point of that page? And see if it’s answering the question when you’re writing that. So, sorry for saying Yoast.

Dixon Jones

No, that’s actually fine. I’m just expecting that this is sponsored by Majestic people not by Yoast this time. Mindy, what about yours? Oh, you’re on mute.

Mindy Weinstein

I knew it was going to happen once. That was the only time I actually muted, too. I’m like, you know I’ll just mute this time. Okay, so since I am not going to say Yoast because that’s been mentioned so many times, even though it is what I use. But I mean, so okay, now that’s a hard one if I take that out as my go-to. I mean, there’s other ones I use. So one of the things that I’ll look at too because I’m so into the structure of the website and internal linking, especially if it’s a blog. I’m going to go in. I’m going to add contextual related posts that I’ll plugin. Redirection is actually a plugin I’ll put in right away, so don’t keep bugging the developer and I can do some of that, and I do use Yoast for SEO. That’s me.

Dixon Jones

I use the Redirection plugin as well, actually. Even though I think you can put it in within Yoast.

Mindy Weinstein

It’s habits, right?

Dixon Jones

So old, I’m so old school.

Mindy Weinstein

I’m doing it too – it’s habit!

Dixon Jones

Keith, what are you going to go for?

Keith Devon

I’d say my favorite SEO plugin is the plugin that you remove from your site because you realize that you don’t need it even though we’ve said that plugin-

Dixon Jones

Hello Dolly, Hello Dolly.

Keith Devon

Yeah, good call. But apart from that, we haven’t really mentioned images too much from an SEO and performance point of view. So I’m going to throw in just image plugins in general. And if you have to choose one, Imagify, WP Smush, Optimal, Shortpixel, WP Rocket I think does it as well.

Dixon Jones

These will all crunch the images down to a sensible size rather than trying to put a print quality image into a web page, right?

Keith Devon

Yeah, and these load them and change the format if necessary. There’s loads of image optimization techniques.

Dixon Jones

Yeah. Montse made a really good suggestion, by the way, of making sure that you get rid of the plugins that you don’t use, which is a good idea. To start with Hello Dolly, that’s not very important as a plugin goes. I’m going to plug on the end of it and say Wordfence. I think Wordfence is a great plugin. It’s not particularly for SEO. But quite often, it’s quite often that you suddenly find you’ve got millions of people trying to hack your website and log into your site. And it’s going to stop an awful lot of that so you get some traffic away from your website that shouldn’t have been there anyway.

Okay, well, thank you very much for coming along, guys. Just before we say where do we find you and how does everybody find out more about you, David, maybe you can come in and tell us what’s happening next on the next Old Guard, New Blood?

David Bain

Sure. Absolutely. Well, wonderful episode, loads of interaction. Always great to see. A special thanks to GJ Bramer, Doc Sheldon, Montse Cano for all your questions and thanks for taking part in it. The next episode is going to be how does site performance impact SEO success? So, very much interwoven with what was discussed today. That’s going to be on Wednesday the 4th of August, 1200 PM ET, 500 PM BST. We’re going to have three great guests on that one, Jon Henshaw, Pam Aungst and Lucas Zelezny. Of course, we’re going to be broadcasting that live on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter if you want to sign up to make sure that you can watch that one live just go to majestic.com/webinars.

Dixon Jones

Excellent, fantastic. So, it just leaves me to say apart from thank you very much, guys, and thank you very much to the audience as well. They watch it live and added some questions and color. If people wanted to get hold of you, where would they go, Keith?

Keith Devon

My website’s highrise.digital, but the best place to get in touch with me is on Twitter @KeithDevon.

Dixon Jones

Excellent, Jono. Excellent-

Jono Alderson

I’m on mute. @JonoAlderson on Twitter or jonoalderson.com, which you will notice is as fast and close to perfect as a WordPress site can possibly be.

Dixon Jones

Excellent, Jo.

Jo Turnbull

Hello, you can reach me at @SEOJoBlogs in my name there on Twitter and on my website, and also I am the organizer of Search London with Tim Sheed and also Turn Digi. So, our next Turn Digi event @TurnDigi is going to be on July 22nd, and it’s going to be in Spanish. So, it’ll be great to see you there. We have four people dialing in from South America.

Dixon Jones

Okay, I can’t speak Spanish, so I’ll probably skip that one. But I’ll let my Spanish friends know. Mindy, what about you?

Mindy Weinstein

Pretty easy. You can find me on Twitter @MindyWeinstein or I’m on LinkedIn quite a bit too. So you can definitely find me on there as well.

Dixon Jones

So, guys, thank you ever so much for coming along today. It’s been a real pleasure to have you on. You’ve sparked some really interesting thoughts and ideas. I’m going to have to dump cPanel and that’s going to hurt me so much. And I don’t think Plesk is that much better, Doc. I think that’s kind of like two sides of the same coin from these young bloods point of view. They just don’t like either of them. Okay, right. Thank you very much for your time, guys. See everybody in Interworld and see you soon.

Mindy Weinstein

Thank you. See you soon.

Dixon Jones

Cheers.

Resources

After the webinar Keith shared a mind map he made that covers a wide range of topics to help with SEO for WordPress.

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