29 Oct 2020

25 WordPress SEO Mistakes to Fix for Better Rankings

Want more visibility in the SERPs and more traffic?

Of course you do!

True success with a WordPress website all begins with your SEO.

In this post, you’ll learn some of the most common WordPress SEO mistakes and how to fix them.

I’ve been doing WordPress SEO since 2007.

Along the way, I’ve learned a great deal about what it takes to make a high performing website.

Avoiding or fixing the following 25 mistakes will provide some great opportunities to boost your WordPress SEO today.

1. You Forgot to Set Your Time Zone

Let’s start with something easy: setting your time zone.

Why is this important?

Whenever you schedule posts to publish in the future, you mark a time of day to share the content.

If your time zone isn’t set correctly, you won’t be sharing content when you think you are.

This could affect everything from views to shares of your work, ultimately hindering your organic engagement.

You can select your time zone by going to Settings, then clicking General.

You’ll see a section labeled Timezone that allows you to pick from a dropdown menu.

2. Your Database Connection Isn’t Established

If you get a notification that there’s an error establishing a database connection, your screen will look something like this:

If that’s the case, there are a few possible solutions:

Continue Reading Below

3. You’re Avoiding Social Meta Data

Sure, social media may not be the biggest thing on your mind if you’re focused on SEO.

But let’s not forget that this tool brings people to your website, and increased traffic is bound to boost your rankings (or at least get you crawled).

Use the Yoast SEO tool on WordPress to enable open graph meta data for Facebook.

To do this, go to your plugin and slide Add open graph meta data from Disabled to Enabled.

Doing this allows you to specify which photo you want to share along with your post.

Under the Twitter panel, enable Twitter card meta data.

Slide Add Twitter card meta data from Disabled to Enabled.

This turns a URL into a full preview for anyone who shares links to your content.

4. You Don’t Have an XML Sitemap

An XML sitemap is just what it sounds like: a map to your website in XML format.

If you haven’t made and submitted one, now is the time.

Use your Yoast SEO plugin to get the job done.

Within the plugin, click on SEO, then go to XML Sitemaps.

Slide the XML sitemap functionality button from Disabled to Enabled.

Use the hyperlink to view your sitemap, then submit it to your Google Search Console. It’s as easy as that!

Also, do not forget about Bing Webmaster Tools as well.

5. You’re Getting the 500 Internal Server Error on WordPress

If a white screen pops up that says Internal Server Error, you’re dealing with a 500 internal service WordPress error.

To resolve it, try one – or all – of these potential solutions:

If Your Memory Limit Has Been Exhausted, Increase It

Open your trusty wp-config.php file and edit it to add code.

Within the main body of PHP tags, add:

This sets your memory limit to 64M, so you can change the number higher if need be.

Change Your .htaccess File Name to Say .htaccess Old

You can do this in your FTP or file manager.

If this doesn’t resolve the issue, reset it back to the original file name.

6. Your Permalinks Are All Wrong

SEO involves keywords. But that’s not all.

It also means off-page tactics, not the least of which is permalink naming.

You can improve your ranking and increase your click-through rate (CTR) just by changing your posts’ permalinks to correlate with the title.

Instead of manually changing every permalink, you can automate the process in your Settings.

From there, click Permalinks. You’ll see a handful of options, like plain, date and numeric.

But be sure to select the one that says Post name.

When editing the permalink, just double check that it has one of your target keywords within it.

When it comes to SEO, you might as well take every bite you can get!

7. You Aren’t Making Use of Footer Space

To improve internal linking and keep people browsing your website for a longer period of time (ultimately increasing engagement and conversions), add a link to your home page and other important landing pages in your website’s footer.

When Google crawls websites, they utilize branded anchor text to help them.

This strategy contributes to that, so it’s super beneficial, despite its simplistic nature.

8. Your Content Rollout Is Irregular

The more you publish content, the more keywords you’re trying to rank for and the more chances you have to rank on search engine results pages.

It’s also true that the more you post (and post on a regular basis), the more likely it is that you’ll get quality traffic.

9. You Forgot to Set Google Analytics Destination Goals

If you’re taking all this time to build out your WordPress website and aim for high-achieving SEO, but SEO is hardly the ultimate goal.

The real goal?

That’s why you need to set destination goals in Google Analytics.

You can use this tool to measure how much of your organic traffic leads to conversions.

Implement a “thank you” or “congratulations” page when someone converts (i.e., buys your product, registers for your virtual seminar or signs up for your newsletter).

You can use this page as a destination to measure whether or not you’re reaching your conversion goals.

10. You Leave Content to Collect Dust

Content production is necessary, but it’s not the only side of the coin.

One of the most common WordPress errors people make is failing to update or refresh old content.

This process makes yesterday’s news new again, and it can even transform once-topical content into something more evergreen.

But why would you take the time to do this?

Because the average website blog has a lifespan of two years (when it will have reached 99% of its engagement).

Make a plan to incorporate refreshes into your content strategy.

Otherwise, you might be missing out on a lot of valuable traffic and – in turn – conversions.

11. Your Connection Has Timed Out

If you reach a screen that says your connection has timed out, try one of these key solutions:

If Your Memory Limit Has Been Exhausted, Increase It

Open your wp-config.php file and edit it to add code. Within the main body of PHP tags, add:

This sets your memory limit to 64M, so you can change the number higher if need be.

Deactivate All Your Plugins

Reactivate them one at a time to determine which one – if any – is causing the problem.

Revert to a Default WordPress Theme

Be sure you’ve backed up your site before you do this (more on that below)!

Your theme might need adjusting if so. If this is the problem, remove spaces at the end of the file.

12. You Have Broken Links

Make sure you’re checking for broken links on a regular basis.

Broken links can show up if external links changed or if you altered your own permalinks.

It’s not hard to find broken links, and you don’t even have to resolve this WordPress error manually.

You can use a little something called Broken Link Checker, a plugin meant solely for WordPress users.

13. Your Site Is Unavailable Due to Scheduled Maintenance

If you’re getting a message that reads, “Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance. Check back in a minute,” you’re not alone.

This often happens when WordPress decides it’s a good time to update a theme or plugin that you just so happen to use.

You can either go into your WordPress account and perform the update manually or visit your root directory and delete your .maintenance file (via your file manager or FTP).

14. You’re Getting the WordPress 404 Error

Whether or not it was through WordPress, we’ve all seen the 404 error at one point in time.

Most often, permalink settings are the root of this issue.

To fix this issue, visit Settings and Permalink.

This is where you can reconfigure your permalinks, manually rewrite them, or overwrite the default settings.

15. You Aren’t Using Schema Markup?

Schema markup can make a huge difference in your SEO potential.

Failing to make use of it doesn’t mean you’re penalized, but it does mean you’re missing out on a good opportunity.

There are various types of schema markup you can implement, like star ratings (a simple one to begin with), Q&A schema and FAQ schema, just to name a few.

You can also use WordPress plugins to implement schema on your website.

16. You’re Getting the ‘Memory Exhausted’ WordPress Error

Your WordPress website has an allowed byte size of memory.

If you’ve gone over that limit because of a plugin or script, you’ll see a note that says Fatal error: allowed memory size of X bytes exhausted (in this instance, X equals a long list of digits).

If Your Memory Limit Has Been Exhausted, Increase It

Open your wp-config.php file and edit it to add code. Within the main body of PHP tags, add:

This sets your memory limit to 64M, so you can change the number higher if need be.

17. You Have a ‘Missed Schedule’ Error

If you’re someone who schedules posts ahead of time, you may encounter a WordPress error that says you have a missed scheduled post.

Why does this happen?

Well, to automate post scheduling, WordPress uses something called “cron jobs.”

Unfortunately, they occasionally fail and you need to publish the content manually from your dashboard.

If you don’t want to rely on a system that may fail you again in the future, you can install a WordPress plugin called Scheduled Post Trigger.

18. You’re Getting the White Screen of Death

Uh oh.

If you’re getting a plain old white screen with no WordPress error message on it, you’re probably feeling…frustrated.

There are two primary ways you can resolve this:

If Your Memory Limit Has Been Exhausted, Increase It

Open your wp-config.php file and edit it to add code. Within the main body of PHP tags, add:

This sets your memory limit to 64M, so you can change the number higher if need be.

Set Your Theme Back to Default and Disable All Your Plugins

No, it’s not fun, but you may have to do it anyway.

It’s possible that your theme has been coded badly, or that your plugins are acting up.

If the white screen goes away, then you’ve narrowed down the issue.

Implement your plugins one at a time until you’ve removed the possibility of them all causing the white screen.

If need be, you can re-code your theme to eliminate unnecessary spacing toward the end of the file.

19. You Failed to Back Up Your WordPress Site

Anything can happen on the web.

In the process of trying to fix other common WordPress errors, you could forget the biggest one of all: backing up your WordPress site.

Before you go ahead and make even more mistakes, it’s a good idea to save what you have so far.

That way, in case your site ends up in worse shape, you can begin right where you left off.

20. You Have Both Tags & Categories Live

One of the biggest mistakes people make with WordPress websites is they leave both tags and categories live.

You really only want one and I strongly recommend that you use categories.

If you are going to leave categories live, and not noindex them, make sure you dynamically optimize them. You can do this with Yoast.

21. You Need to Decide on AMP

When it comes to AMP, you have a big decision to make.

Either go for it 100% or skip it altogether.

If you are going to install AMP make sure you are selective on the pages you use it for.

AMP should really only be used for the blog section.

You can also do other pages, but if you do, make sure you are up for maintaining them.

22. Your Sidebar Is Not Maximized

You really need to be intentional with your sidebar. Let’s start at the top.

First, you should say who you are and what you do.

That way, people will know where they are on the internet should they land on your blog.

Next, it is a good idea to have a call to action for a great offer, followed by:

23. You Don’t Have an Awesome Pop-Up Tool

Not everyone loves pop-ups but wow do they work.

I use them in a very responsible way.

My favorite tools are Sumo and OptinMonster.

Both of these platforms offer other things in addition to pop-ups.

It is a great idea to use one of these tools to fire unobtrusive pop-ups on top pages when a customer is leaving.

By doing this, we generally increase leads by 14%.

24. You’re Not Checking for Core Web Vital Errors & Page Speed Issues

Core Web Vitals will be a ranking factor in 2021.

It is important to check Google Search Console to make sure you do not have Core Web Vital errors.

In addition, the faster your page speed the better. These are both really big topics so I would recommend you learn more here.

25. You Aren’t Doing Push Notifications or Building Remarketing Lists

Push notifications are really powerful and have oddly high opt-in rates.

I recommend you check out tools like Pushnami.

It is also a great idea to make sure you have Google Tag Manager installed for all your analytics tracking, so you can build remarketing lists for your ads and even get advanced with data enhancement tools like Clearbit.

You also want to avoid any errors, make sure you are set up in Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools, have schema implemented, and the website is fast.

Do all of this and publish content, build links, and have a fantastic website experience and you should be in a good spot.

I’ll see you at the top of the SERPs.

All screenshots taken by author, October 2020

This content was originally published here.

26 Feb 2018

Configure WordPress to use your SSL Certificate

It is recommended that every website uses an SSL certificate. An SSL certificate encrypts data transmitted between the users computer and the website that has the certificate installed. Google will penalise you in search results for not having an SSL certificate, and popular browsers are now presenting users with increasingly stark security warnings when visiting a website that doesn’t use SSL.

Do I already have an SSL certificate?

Have a look in your browser address bar. If the web address begins with https:// rather than http://, you already have a certificare installed. You may additionally see a message from the browser showing the site is secure:



How do I get an SSL Certificate?

Speak to your webhost who will provide and install the SSL certificate for you. The price will vary, depending on the host and the certificate but for an average site expect to pay between £0 – £100 per annum.

Configure WordPress to use your SSL certificate

Once your webhost has confirmed that the SSL certificate has been instaled, you will need to configure your WordPress website to do this:

1. Update the Site URL and Home URL

Navigate to General > Settings and change your website web address from http:// to https://

This will automatically configure WordPress to use the SSL certificate.

2. Update internal site references

If you use images on pages or posts (rather than featured images), you will need to update the links within the image tags to use https:// too. Doing this manually can be a laborious process so we recommend the Better Search Replace WordPress plugin for this.

  • Backup your database! If you make a mistake, you WILL break your website and recovery may be difficult without a backup.
  • Install better Sarch Replace from the WordPress Repository
  • Navigate to Tootles > Better Seach Replace
  • Search for your existing web address and replace with the new https:// version. We recommend you search in the tables wp_options, wp_posts and wp_postmeta.
  • Turn off the ‘Dry Run’ option
  • Run Search / Replace

In most cases, your website will now show the secure padlock next to your web address. If it is still missing, you may need to search in additional tables. Contact us if you need help with this, and we will configure your webite to use SSL for a small fee.

02 Aug 2017

Change the URL of your WordPress Website

Sometimes you may need to change the URL of your WordPress website. If you attended one of our WordPress training courses for example and used a temporary URL.

This process is quite straightforward but you can break your site so proceed with caution and Backup your WordPress website first!

Your domain needs to be up and running and pointing to your existing website.

Step 1 – Backup your database!

There’s a separate guide on how to do this here

Step 2 – Install Better Search Replace Plugin

You can do this from your Plugins menu. The plugin is also available in the WordPress repository here.

Step 3 – Tell WordPress about the new URL

You can do this under Settings > General. You will need to set the Home URL and the Site URL which will usually be the same thing.

This will automatically update any internal links within menus, locations of featured images etc, but you will still need to replace the url where it is used within inline images or other content areas

Step 4 – Search and Replace your database

This bit is destructive – proceed with caution!

  • Open the Search and Replace plugin page from the Tools menu
  • Search for your old URL and replace with your new URL
  • Select the tables to search. Start with wp_options, wp_posts and wp_postmeta
  • You may wish to test with a dry run initially, if so leave the Dry run box ticked

If you need assistance changing the URL of your WordPress website, you can submit a WordPress support request here

01 Aug 2017

Transfer your .uk Domain Away from Namesco

We sell domain names but they aren’t a part of our core business and we don’t make any meaningful money from them, we provide them as a courtesy to our clients as many of them prefer to have their web services all managed by someone they trust. We are essentially domain provider agnostic. Occasionally people will ask us to transfer their existing domains to us and often they need a bit of help doing this which is fine.

We’re doing that today for a client who is using names.co.uk. Not only are they nearly twice as expensive as pretty much everybody else (£13.99 for a .uk. compared to our £8.99, and we don’t claim to be the cheapest), they also charge £10 + VAT if you wish to change your IPS tag. Changing the IPS tag is the first step in transferring your.uk domain to another registrar, and everybody else* [*that we know of] provides that service free of charge. This should be a simple automated process you can manage yourself. In the case of Namesco, although you still have to do the same work – finding out the tag, entering it into a box and clicking go – they then apparently have to manually change the tag themselves and you then have to pay them £12 for the service. Plus they claim it can take 2 days (it’s usually virtually instant). Namesco are one of the biggest domain registrars in the UK and frankly there’s no excuse for these rip-off charges or substandard service.

If you plan on having your domain name for more than a year you’ll get your money back by transferring away from Namesco to a cheaper provider on the domain cost alone but you’ll have to take the initial hit. (Of course we recommend not going with them in the first place. Choose anyone else!)

If you do decide to transfer away, here’s how you change your IPS tag that you new registrar will provide.

Step 1 – Log into Names.co.uk

  • Once there, navigate to https://admin.names.co.uk/domains.php?ref=domains_header
  • Select your domain that you wish to transfer our

Step 2 – Select Domain Transfers

Step 3 – Select “Click here to change the Nominet tag

See where it says “You can also transfer your domains to us”? You don’t want to do that.

Step 4 – Enter your new Tag

Your new registrar will provide you with a Tag. You can’t transfer your domain without changing this.
Namesco also insist you justify yourself. They will not let you complete the form until you’ve told them why you are going.

Step 5 – Grit your teeth and checkout

Yes, that £10 + VAT is really annoying. But grit your teeth and Proceed to Checkout.

Once you have had a confirmation that your tag has changed, you can now start the transfer to another registrar. If you need assistance moving your domain names, feel free to contact our support team who will be happy to help.

01 Aug 2017

Upgrade your Free Trial Web Hosting Account

If you have attended one of our WordPress training courses, you will have been given a free hosting account to use for the duration of the course. If you want to preserve your work after the course you will need to either move your website or upgrade your hosting account to one of our paid plans. This guide shows you how to upgrade

Step 1 – Login to your Watch the Dot Control Panel

For instruction on how to do that, see this guide

Step 2 – Navigate to your services

There are a number of places where youc an do this

Step 3 – Navigate to the service you wish to upgrade

You will need to click on the Service name rather than the website URL.

Step 3 – Select Upgrade

There are a number of places where you can do this

Step 4 – Choose your product

You will have a number of product choices

Step 5 – Checkout with Paypal

Check the details, and Click to Continue. You will be directed to the paypal screen to make payment. paypal will accept cards even if you don’t have a paypal account but if you wish to pay by an alternative method, please contact our support team who will assist.

31 Jul 2017

Setup Subdomains in eXtend Control Panel

If you are using our standard eXtend hosting packages, you can easily setup a subdomain on your webhosting using the eXtend Control Panel. This will allow you to set up different website or webapps on teh same hosting account

For example:

  • www.wtddemo.co.uk – Your main website and accessible using the www.
  • intranet.wtddemo.co.uk – A custom web application accessible with a different subdomain.

Step 1 – Sign into your Watch the Dot Hosting Account

For instruction on how to do that, see this guide

Step 2 – Navigate to Web Tools

You can expand or collapse sections within your control panel using the +/- signs at the top of each section

Step 3 – Configure your subdomain

  1. Type in your subdomain
  2. Enter the directory where you want the additional website to reside. This will be beneath the public_html directory

You can sample our eXtend based web hosting on our hosting demo site at www.wtddemo.co.uk

26 Jul 2017

Password Protect a Directory on your website

If you are using our standard eXtend hosting packages, you can easily password protect a directory using the eXtend Control Panel to protect an area of your website from unauthorised access

Step 1 – Sign into your Watch the Dot Hosting Account

For instruction on how to do that, see this guide

Step 2 – Navigate to Web Tools

You can expand or collapse sections withinb your control panel using the +/- signs at the top of each section

Step 3 – Configure Password Protection

  • Select the Password protection icon
  • Enter the directory name
  • Enter a new username
  • Enter a new password
  • Select Add protection

You can sample our eXtend based web hosting on our hosting demo site at www.wtddemo.co.uk

17 Jul 2017

Who is Holding Your Domain Name to Ransom?

We have recently been working with a business – a national company – that has just lost it’s 18 year old domain name.

How did this happen? A freelance web developer registered the domain name for the company back in 2007 for 10 years using his own contact details and Hotmail email address.

Soon after the freelance web developer moved to Hong Kong. And soon after that he changed his email address and stopped checking his Hotmail account.

When the domain came up for renewal, contact with the legal owner of the domain – the freelance web developer – had already been lost for a number of years and
a) The company couldn’t login to the domain control panel to regain ownership.
b) The domain registrar wouldn’t help because the company wasn’t the legal owner.

On expiry, rather than releasing the domain, the domain registrars sold the domain on to another organisation. Our client had completely failed to protect it’s digital assets and lost forever a very valuable piece of internet real estate.

How do you avoid making the same mistake?

Domain name ownership is recorded in publically searchable directories and can be searched using the whois tool. Sometimes the owner may opt-out of displaying but generally speaking you can get a good idea of the owner of the domain by checking the whois listing.

We strongly advise that you check your domain name whois listing at the earliest possibility and make sure YOU own the domain. If you don’t, it may be as simple as a friendly email to your developer to ask them to update the records on the domain.

Check your whois listing now using our online tool

Does the whois listing not look quite right to you – Get in touch now before it’s too late!

16 Jul 2017

Manually Backup your WordPress Website

There’s lots of WordPress backup plugins available that will help you back up your WordPress installation, either on a one-off basis or to a set schedule, but sometimes I feel most secure knowing I’ve made a manual backup which I can archive off somewhere.

In this post, I’ll show you the process I use to backup my WordPress installations on our standard web hosting using the eXtend Control. The steps may vary from host to host but the concepts and steps are essentially the same.

With WordPress, any changes you make to the website files outside of a blank WordPress install will be made within the wp-content directory. As it’s always possible to download a fresh install of WordPress from wordpress.org, I generally only backup the wp-content directory. All of your content such as pages, posts, comments and products are stored in the WordPress database.

The general principle then is

  1. Backup wp-content directory
  2. Backup WordPress database

Step 1 – Login to your webhost control panel and navigate to your files

If using Watch the Dot hosting, details on how to login to your hosting account can be found here

Step 2 – Navigate into the public_html directory and compress wp-content

You can compress a directory by right clicking and selecting pack. Select the .zip file type.

Step 3 – Download your wp-content.zip file and archive

After a few moments you should have a file called wp-content.zip within your file structure. You can click on this to download and save offline<

Step 4 – Navigate to your database

Within your Watch the Dot control panel, navigate to “Web Tools” > “MySQL Databases” > “Manage”

Step 5 – Select your WordPress database

You should now be within the phpMyAdmin tool for managing your MySQL WordPress database. You will need to select your WordPress database. If you only have one WordPress install, this is likely to be the one that isn’t called INFORMATION SCHEMA. (note: If you have more than one install or a number of databases, you will need to look inside your wp-config.php file within the public_html directory to determine which database your WordPress install uses).

Step 6 – Export your database

Once you have selected your database, select the tab marked ‘Export’ along the top row. This will open the Export screen. You can select the defaults and hit Go. This will automatically download a file to your local PC.

You should now have two files – your wp-content.zip back up file and you database backup. You can now archive these away somewhere safe. Note that any changes made to your website after this backup has been made will not be saved in this backup!

If you need assistance backing up your WordPress install, you can submit a WordPress support request here

07 Jul 2017

Automatically Reenable WordPress Paragraph Breaks

We had a phone call from a client late this Friday afternoon looking for some WordPress Support.

Having upgraded a very old website themselves to version 4.8 they noticed that all paragraphs on the website were running into each other without linebreaks.  WordPress has a function called wpautop which finds line breaks and manually converts them into html paragraphs. This ensures that each paragraph sits on it’s own line, usually separated from other paragraphs with top or bottom margin. They needed a quick fix. Having taken a very cursory look it appears that wpautop was being disabled by one of the many plugins on the site. For a quick win we were able to reinstate wpautop by adding the following into functions.php:

function renable_wpautop(){
add_filter('the_content', 'wpautop');
add_action( 'after_setup_theme', 'renable_wpautop' );

It was a very quick fix for a late Friday afternoon but it’s got the client out of trouble until we can take a look early next week.

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