Guide to Bringing Your WordPress Blog Up to Today’s Google Algorithm Standards

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Keeping up with Google’s ever-changing algorithm updates on WordPress blogs requires constant monitoring and adjustments, which many webmasters fail to keep up with. Following the Penguin algorithm update, millions of bloggers experienced a halt or decrease in traffic.

Although keeping up with industry trends does require frequent updates to continue performing well in search, most tasks are not time consuming at all. This guide will help you understand recent changes to Google’s algorithm and how to update your WordPress blog to follow the new industry standards.

The Penguin and Panda Revolution

The Penguin and Panda algorithm updates targeted low-quality websites full of duplicate content, spammy linking, and poor user experience. WordPress is a wonderful content management system and blogging platform out-of-the-box, but it does create massive amounts of duplicate content.

The days of large scale link exchanges and linking to unrelated, low-quality websites were abruptly ended by the Panda update. In previous years, many bloggers would create low-quality sites with poor internal linking structure, few quality pages and banner ads taking up majority of the pages, which was halted by Penguin. Many bloggers, especially personal bloggers, were left wondering what to do and how to monetize their blogs.

Link Building for Blogs in the Post-Penguin World


Sure, the days of quick and easy links are over, but this doesn’t mean there is any less value to link building. In fact, high-quality, relevant links are valued more than ever. Before building new links, it is imperative to go back and fix your current link profile. Start out by pulling a backlink report of your website. Sift through each of the results, identifying any low-quality or irrelevant links. Contact each webmaster to remove the links. If you cannot find contact information or the webmaster refuses to remove the links, consider using Google’s new disavow links tool.

Now that you have removed all low-quality links pointing to your website, take a look at who you are linking to. Many personal bloggers sell text link ads and sponsored posts for extra income. These days are nearing their demise. Your PageRank is not only determined by inbound links, but also outbound links.

Unless implicitly stated by the advertiser, I would highly recommend adding the NoFollow attribute to any paid links on your website. Let’s say you own a travel blog, and a travel company purchased a sponsored post from you with the anchor text “cheap holiday travel packages.” You would change the markup for the link to look like this:

cheap holiday travel packages

This will remove any value passed on from your website to the advertiser, and will help your website conform to Google’s webmaster quality guidelines for link schemes.

Fear not, your blog can still be monetized. Consider signing up for Google’s display advertising network: AdSense. Offering display advertising options is the safest way to continue monetizing blogs. After all, Google wouldn’t offer it if it would hurt websites. Be careful not to overdo it with the display ads.

Websites with 50 percent or more advertisement saturation will be penalized, so placement and ad quality will be key to allowing effective ads that will make you money. Consider looking into conversion optimization and a/b testing to find which ads perform best in different spots on your website, and be sure to filter the types of ads that can be displayed so they are relevant to your audience. YouTube videos can also be monetized, so consider starting a YouTube channel and incorporate video into your blog.

Although most link building practices have been blacklisted by Google, there are still many ways to build links to blogs. Instead of exchanging links on lengthy links pages, consider exchanging guest posts with highly relevant blogs. Write high-quality, enticing content that other websites will want to reference with links. Sign up for Google Plus and set up Authorship.

Look for websites containing recommended blog lists relevant to yours, and inquire about getting listed. Review products within your industry, and use social media to let those companies know you reviewed their products. They may include your review in their list of testimonials. Attend or exhibit at industry events which list attendees on the event’s website with links. Become a thought leader in your niche by creating and promoting linkable assets like white papers, guides, videos, ebooks, and best practices.

Setting up Your Blog for SEO

Optimizing WordPress blogs requires a few plugins and configurations to meet today’s industry standards. Start off by downloading and installing a plugin called WordPress SEO. This is the best SEO plugin available for WordPress, and it has an import feature to import any settings from other SEO plugins.

Download and activate another plugin called W3 Total Cache. This is the best caching plugin available, and works in unison with WordPress SEO. W3 Total Cache will help decrease page loading speeds by creating a cache of each page. Any time you mark a comment as spam, save a draft of a post, or click off the page editor, WP creates a duplicate copy of those pages.

Using the WP-Optimize plugin will purge all those unnecessary copies, which will save server space and speed up your website. WP-PageNavi is another must-have plugin for optimizing your pagination by adding the rel=prev and rel=next attributes. This will help your website be indexed more efficiently and increase crawl depth.


Once all those plugins are installed and activated, you will need to configure them. Use the WordPress SEO plugin to set up Google and Bing Webmaster Tools from the “Dashboard” menu on the plugin settings. Next, go to the Titles &Metas menu. On the General tab, check the box to force rewrite of titles if your custom title tags are not showing up. Check the box to Noindex subpages of archives. Check all four boxes to clean up the head by hiding RSD links, WLW manifest links, shortlinks, and RSS links.

On the Home tab, write a custom title tag and meta description for your homepage. You will also want to go through all pages and posts on your site and write custom titles and descriptions for each using the post editor. Enter in the URL of your blog’s G+ brand page in the Google Publisher Page field. This will set up the rel=publisher attribute for your homepage and connect your blog to your G+ page.


Once all those options are set up, go to the Taxonomies tab. WordPress creates massive amounts of duplicate content through taxonomies. Every time a category, tag, date, or author archive page is indexed, it creates a duplicate copy of each of those posts.

Check the box to noindex, follow the categories, tags, and format. Go to the Other tab and noindex, follow the author archives and date archives. Don’t worry about crawl depth from doing this. As long as you have optimized pagination set up through the WP-PageNavi plugin, your website will still be crawled effectively. I recently ran an experiment on noindexing taxonomies in WordPress to test this theory out.


Next, go to the XML Sitemaps menu in the WordPress SEO plugin. Check the box to enable XML sitemap functionality, and submit your sitemaps in Google and Bing Webmaster tools. Check the boxes to ping Yahoo! and Check the box to exclude taxonomies for categories, tags, and format.

Now go to the Permalinks menu and check the boxes to strip category bases and remove ?replytocom variables. You will also want to go to the WordPresspermalink settings and strip categories and datestamps out as well. On the Internal Links menu, check to enable breadcrumbs and implement breadcrumbs on your posts. A snippet of code will be provided in the plugin.

Setting up G+ Authorship


Setting up Google Plus authorship is very quick and easy on WordPress sites. Download and install a plugin called Google Author Link. Under the settings menu for the Google Author Link plugin, select an author for the homepage of your website. Now go to the Users menu in the WP dashboard and edit each user’s profile. Add in the URL to each author’s G+ profile. Next, ask each author to add a URL to your website on the “Contributor To” section of their G+ profile. Authorship is now set up on your blog.

Setting up Microdata


Microdata is still a relatively new concept, first introduced with HTML5. is a joint project by Google, Yahoo and Bing to help webmasters mark up their websites so search engines can better understand their content. Bing and Yahoo give a boost in rankings just for setting it up while Google changes the appearance of your listings in search engine result pages to increase clickability.

Before setting up microdata, you will need to change the doctype of your website to the HTML5 format. To do this, go to Appearance>Editor. Select the header.php file. At the very top of the header.php file, you will see a doctype. If it is not already in HTML5 format, change the doctype to <pre><code><!DOCTYPE html></code></pre>. After updating the file, check your website to make sure this did not cause any compatibility issues.


Now that your website is HTML5 compatible, you will need to download and install a plugin called Schema Creator by Raven. Once activated, the plugin will automatically add microdata throughout your website.

Setting up microdata is as simple as that. If you would like to add in more microdata, go to your post editor or page editor, and you will notice a small icon with the letters “SC” in it at the top of the editor. This tool will allow you to add in microdata for people, products, events, organizations, movies, books, and reviews. It will create a short code and place it within the page for you.

A Few More Quick Tips

Now that your website conforms to today’s Google algorithm standards, there are a few other simple maintenance activities to keep in mind:

Always update your version of WordPress and all plugins as soon as updates are available. If you fail to keep up with updating plugins and versions, you may run into compatibility issues later down the road that will break your website.

Also, make an effort to publish new content at least once per month. Google loves fresh content, and favors websites that are updated frequently. If you get lazy about posting regularly, your traffic and rankings will suffer.

One final piece of advice is to monitor your analytics and webmaster tool accounts at least once per month. This will help you monitor technical issues that may arise as well as traffic drops. If you notice any abnormalities or receive warning messages in webmaster tools, act on these issues in a timely fashion.

Harrison Jones

Harrison Jones

Agency Lead, Analytics and Testing at Envisionit Media
Harrison Jones is the Agency Lead, Analytics and Testing at Envisionit Media - a digital marketing agency in Chicago. He specializes in SEO, data science, analytics, usability analysis, information architecture, conversion optimization, and content marketing.
Harrison Jones
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  • Victoria

    Thanks for the insight Harrison! Just wanted to let you know that the URL for anchor text ‘disavow link tool’ leads to a 404. It has an parentheses in the last part of the URL 🙂 Cheers, V

  • Sahil

    Good article Harrison. The webmasters must mainly focus on frequency of addition of quality content on the blog, less monetization (less ads & more content), more value addition to the users, page load time – trying to reduce the active no. of plugins in wordpress i.e., installation of unused or useless plugins, in doing basic promotion and keeping the wordpress cms and the plugins up to date.

  • Spencer Hesseltine

    Setting up Google Authorship is one of the most impactful things you can do when blogging on your WP and on any other blog, having an indented position within Google showing a face next to a post will increase organic click throughs drastically.

  • Hamza sheikh

    Very informative post, learned a lot from it, and yes you are right, link buildings value isn’t over and it’s ever high, getting hundred of links from low ranked website and getting just a single link from highly ranked and authoritative website gives you more benefit than low and content farms type websites.

  • Saijo

    FYI ” link schemes ” points to a 404 , the link is here :

  • Andrew D.

    Thanks for the information on the google disavow tool. For sure there are some unwanted links that a lot of our sites have.

  • Mohsin Mallik

    Hi Harrison, a great informative article. I have got one question about “Setting up Microdata”. How does it help to rank or optimize a website and how important is that to add in a wordpress website? I own a wordpress blog and that is why I want to know about these.

    • Harrison

      Hi Mohsin,

      I ran an experiment a while back in the impact of microdata on bing, and discovered massive boosts in organic search rankings after 4 weeks of implementation. As far as Google, it greatly improves the appearance of listings in SERPs, which increases the likelihood it will be clicked on. The more clicks a listing gets, as long as there is a decent amount of time onsite, the more it will increase in rankings. As far as importance of adding microdata to the site, it takes 2 minutes to download and activate the Schema Creator plugin, and a few seconds to change the doctype so there’s not much reason not to do it in my opinion.

  • shiv

    Its really one of the the best posting which is very helpful people who are promote their website or blog in wordpress,


  • Pedro Pereira

    Really awesome post. In the right time since Im updating my website in wordpress 😀

  • Just

    I was just waiting for a post like this. Good tips for all WordPress users.
    However I think yoast seo plugin is a bit bloated.. And I got told by host gator to use another plugin.. Plus they told me greys seo plugin is much better with much less compact code n less usage onserver..
    Anyone else thinks the same .


    • Harrison

      I do agree to an extent about the WordPress SEO plugin. It does have a lot of bloat, and half of the features will never be used. I do however believe it is much more extensive than any other plugin, and the documentation provided by Yoost de Valk is great for anyone hosting a wordpress site regardless of skill level. I’ve never tried Greys before.

  • shinzow hives

    Great post, Harrison . The only thing I would add is that although WordPress is a very stable, robust, stable and secure platform for blogging. All of my websites are on the WordPress platform. However, users should install a few security plugins such as WordPress Firewall2. Also a new admin user account should be created and the original WordPress admin user account should be deleted to prevent hacking.

  • Julius

    Thanks for posting this Article Harrison. Very helpful and insightful information for a newbie like me who doesn’t know the things around in WordPress.

  • Julz

    Hi Harrison,

    Your article is very informative. The way you presented the steps in ensuring that a WordPress blog meets today’s Google algorithm standards is very easy to follow.

  • Phil

    Been meaning to write something like this for a while , spot on man, the only thing I would probably add, that most people don’t know, is within appearances >> menu’s you can go up the top to screen option and choose to show link relationships, makes nofollowing a hell of a lot easier for the average user.

    Also for 90% of cases would recommend disabling author archives, which can be done through the fab yoast plugin.

  • Michael

    Hey Harrison – thanks for the tips. I’m running a couple of WordPress-based blogs and have always wondered if I need to do anything. I use All-In-One SEO pack instead of Yoast, but it seems to the do the job.

    • Harrison

      All-in-One is a fairly decent plugin, but it only has about half of the functionality of WordPress SEO. If you’d like to try switching, WordPress SEO has an import feature to import all your All-in-One settings and tags.

  • Ronak Shah

    Hey Harrison,

    You nailed it! Hands-on!

    Thank you so much man. You made a mountain of a difference Harrison. Awesome!

    This post has got a lot of attention to detail.

    I am just setting up an online newspaper which is better than Mashable & HuffingtonPost.

    I had 2 questions for you in retrospect to the wordpress site I am developing right now:

    This question is pertaining to speed loading time of a newspaper wordpress site that has more than 50-60 “must-have utility” plugins installed for different utilities. I have W3 Total Cache already installed which . Still, the site loading time is 33.79 seconds after 40 must-have plugins that are installed right now & I will be installing the remaining 20 plugins over the coming few days.

    I have 36 main categories & will be having sub categories which will have sub-sub-categories & so on.

    I am installing WordPress MU on this site.

    My first question…

    I wish to know if I must:

    1) Let the blog post be pulled up according to category without creating pages for that same category which is exactly the way things are right now.


    2) Create pages for every category & then link the pages to the category using “page links to” plugin.


    3) Have a separate blog created for each category as I will be using WordPress MU & then point these blogs to the categories in the menu bar in order to shorten speed loading time so that the main site has less number of plugins as well as the load on the main site will be lesser to draw speed.

    Fact is I cannot afford to use less number of plugins as it’s a complete newspaper site with a defining expression.

    2nd question is:

    Do I need to create a url such as for better speed loading & SEO or shall I let it be as


  • Matt Olson


    Another awesome article, we’ve migrated some of our sites to WordPress recently and these plugins have been super helpful.

    – Matt

  • Matt

    Seems like there are so many plugins out there.!! If you’re stuck, there’s a good chance someone will have created a plugin that will fix your problem. I found Yoast really easy to implement, thanks for the tip Harrison.

  • Monty

    Someone mentioned All In One SEO vs. Yoast. I previously used All In One and switched to Yoast. When I did this, I imported my All in One data to Yoast. I’ve kept All in One active because it didn’t seem like the data from All in One showed up in Yoast. I’m worried if I get rid of All in One, I’ll lose all the data I’ve put into it on thousands of posts. Does anyone know exactly how this works? Can I delete All in One or will I lose all that data on those posts that I used it for if I do?

  • Yuvin Ghotra

    It was really helpful for me. Specially, information related to Microdata . I am planning to use this plugin to my new wordpress website. Thanks!

  • Donna Duncan

    Really appreciate your timing Harrison. This is exactly what I was looking for.

    Could you provide more detail around the statement “You will also want to go to the WordPresspermalink settings and strip categories and datestamps out as well. ” I don’t know how to do that.

    Also, can you point me to a how-to for inserting the breadcrumb snippet into my theme?

  • michel

    Hi harrision, I have read your articles too here on this blog and I want to thank you for your advice. It has meant much to me and my blog.

    Best wishes from the Ukraine!


  • Kylie

    Hello and greetings from Panama! I love this blog. I get so much out of it every time I come here. Just wanted to express my gratitude to you.

    Thanks Harrison > You da man!

  • Seo for gadgets

    Another hit to anchor text with penguin 2.1

    Now pr pages are also not so relevant

    it will surely make people target more and more longer tail keywords