Over the past couple of months we’ve been working very closely with several of our larger clients who have websites based on the WordPress platform.
WordPress is a fantastic platform for businesses to get their websites live in a very short amount of time and as the platform is so easy to use many people tend to get used to adding content without actually thinking about what optimisations they should make to increase the performance of their website.
We were recently contacted by company who have seen their organic rankings and traffic drop steadily since late 2016 and turned to us for help in turning their business around and restoring their rankings as they assumed they had been hit by an algorithmic Google penalty and needed to get out of it.
One of the biggest and most common problems we find when running SEO Audits on new clients who operate on the WordPress platform is they have issues with large amounts of duplicate and thin content.
This is most commonly caused by the taxonomies pages that WordPress creates such as categories, tags & author pages.
In many cases we often find that there are half a dozen or so very similar pages on clients sites and in the case of the large client we are helping with their Google penalty recovery there were thousands of thin content pages. The site has been around for close to 8 years and in that time they have generated thousands of new tags and categories across 20+ authors.
Whilst not the sole cause of their rankings drop we highlighted this as one of the key areas to address in order to solve their organic search problems.
Should I NoIndex Taxonomies/Category Pages?
Whilst we do not want to recommend this as a blanket rule, we find that in 95% of sites we work with the categories, tags and author pages simply do not need to be indexed in search engines and should have the NoIndex tag applied.
Before deciding whether to apply a blanket NoIndex to taxonomies it is a good idea to check if these pages are ranking well and if they are driving any organic traffic to your site.
For this we usually open the ‘Search Analytics’ report in Google Search Console and filter by pages containing a substring such as ‘/tag/’ (depending on how the WordPress site is set up you usually can find how these pages are defined in the URL, although this is not possible in 100% of cases).
We can then see how often these pages are appearing in search engines results pages and how often they are clicked.
If this is not possible then another option is to use Google Analytics and filter to just Organic Search traffic and then head to the ‘Landing Pages’ report and see if there is any traffic from Organic search landing directly on your taxonomies pages.
There have been a few instances when we have had clients who had category or tags pages that were ranking well, so we had to do some extra work before no-indexing them on their sites to get other pages ranking before we pulled the existing pages from the search results.
In the majority of cases we recommend adding the NoIndex tag to all taxonomies pages on a WordPress website.
How to NoIndex Taxonomies?
The easiest way to NoIndex your taxonomies pages is to use the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast.
Once installed, head into the ‘Titles & Metas’ section of the plugin and click the ‘Taxonomies’ tab at the top.
You then need to change the ‘Meta Robots’ setting for the following to ‘Noindex’:
Don’t forget to click Save at the bottom of the page.
Next click on the ‘Other’ tab at the top and set the ‘Subpages of archives’ to NoIndex and press Save.
Next click on the ‘Archives’ tab at the top and set the ‘Date archives’ and ‘Author archives’ to Noindex.
Once done your WordPress install will be better optimised to avoid duplicate and thin content issues caused by the taxonomies pages…
We have found in many previous case for clients that you can see a 30-40% improvement in Organic rankings/traffic within around 3-4 weeks of making these changes but it varies depending on the size and authority of your website.
Need help optimising your WordPress blog for higher search engine rankings? Reach out to us today for a quote today!