In this article, we review several examples of low-hanging technical search engine optimization (technical SEO) fruit — features of a website that are relatively easy to implement, along with commentary. The focus is on WordPress-based websites and includes implementing rich results (snippets) using Sitelinks Breadcrumbs, Sitelinks Search box, and Sitelinks Menu with the Schema Pro plugin for WordPress. Implementing HTTP/2 and HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) has to do with performance optimization and will be achieved using the W3 Total Cache Pro plugin.

Note that WordPress has many plugins so there could be other options available that achieve the same result.

Improving technical SEO with Sitelinks Breadcrumbs, Search Box, and Menu

Not every website qualifies however you still need the schema code and this can be set below using the Schema Pro plugin for WordPress.

The site structure and query are important for Sitelinks to be displayed. Note that the process of generating Sitelinks is automated and also needs to be relevant to the visitor’s search query — the only control you have is over the menu.

From [6] “…for your site’s internal links, make sure you use anchor text and alt text that’s informative, compact, and avoids repetition.”.

The image below has pointers to the appropriate settings.

Schema Pro plugin settings for SiteLinks, Breadcrumb, and Search Box rich results schema markup.
Schema Pro plugin settings for SiteLinks, Breadcrumb, and Search Box functionality.

Testing via the Google Search Console: Rich Results Test

We can test that these changes are working via the Google Search Console: Rich Results Test — simply add the URL in the search box and run the test:

Step one: Add the target URL and run the rich results test.

The Google Search Console: Rich Results Test query page — enter the target URL, choose your device, and click on the “Test URL” button.

Step two: Review the Google Search Console: Rich Results Test results.

We can see that this page is eligible for rich results.

Visually testing Sitelinks Breadcrumbs, Search Box, and Menu

Testing for Sitelinks Breadcrumbs, Search Box, and Menu can be done visually, by querying the website brand name in Google or Bing, however these changes won’t appear immediately and may not appear at all. If the schema is working correctly we may eventually see something that looks similar to what we have in the following sections.

Viewing Sitelinks Breadcrumbs schema markup in search results

Breadcrumbs in search results act as a navigation aid that gives visitors an easy-to-understand overview of where the page is located on your website [9], they improve site navigation and usability, improves the ability for search engines to crawl a website, and can have a marginal impact on click-through rate (CTR) [14].

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An example regarding what Sitelinks Breadcrumbs in search results look like.

See the “Why aren’t breadcrumbs displaying in search results for my site?”, video below.

Viewing Sitelinks Search Box schema markup in search results

The Sitelinks Search Box provides a means for searching a given website right on the Google search results page — see below for an example.

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An example regarding what Sitelinks Search Box in search results looks like.

Viewing Sitelinks Menu schema markup in search results

The Sitelinks Menu contains default menu choices — a user who clicks on one becomes a visitor and hence this can help improve the click-through rate (CTR) of a website.

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An example regarding what Sitelinks Menu in search results looks like.

Improving technical SEO by improving page load time

Achieving a fast website can take a fair amount of time however one WordPress plugin can give a pretty good return on investment and that is the W3 Total Cache plugin or the W3 Total Cache Pro plugin. Either plugin will give you options to positively impact the page load time.

Experience, however, indicates this plugin is not simple to use and requires time to set up and changes need to be tested in order to achieve results like what appears below and it’s possible to achieve a page load time that is much faster than what’s indicated here — for example, see the article entitled “ How To Reduce Server Response Time In WordPress To Under 200ms (The Item From Google PageSpeed Insights)”.

Here we have an example of web page performance optimization test results from webpagetest.org.
Here we have an example of web page performance test results compliments of webpagetest.org.

Website performance optimization testing

Refer to the article entitled “ Assess Your Website Performance in under Ten Minutes” for more information regarding how performance improvements can be tested. Basically, we need to check two things: the page load time before and after changes have been applied using W3 Total Cache or W3 Total Cache Pro and then we need to ensure the pages function the same as prior to the change being made.

See also the article entitled “ SEO Cheat Sheet #2: Page Speed & Image Optimization”.

Improve technical SEO by Configuring HTTP/2

Page load time is important for SEO and moving to HTTP/2 relies on binary transport of data juxtaposed with the raw text [11]. This setting can be applied in the Minify -> JS -> HTTP/2 push tick box in the W3 Total Cache plugin.

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Testing the HTTP/2 configuration

Use the KeyCDN HTTP/2 Test Verify HTTP/2.0 Support tool to test that HTTP/2 has been configured correctly.

Before

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An example of the KeyCDN HTTP/2 test configuration webpage.

After

An example of the KeyCDN HTTP/2 test results. Implementing HTTP/2 can improve technical SEO since HTTP/2 can help pages to load faster, especially over mobile networks.
An example of the KeyCDN HTTP/2 test results webpage.

See here for details pertaining to what ALPN supported means.

Improve technical SEO by incorporating HTTP Strict Transport Security

Incorporating HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) on your website should improve SEO somewhat since using HSTS should positively impact web page load time [17]. Along with HSTS there are other security settings that should be considered and if you’re using the W3 Total Cache Plugin you’re in luck because these are included with this product.

Adding HSTS security headers via the W3 Total Cache plugin

Below we have an image that demonstrates how to add HSTS security headers via the W3 Total Cache plugin (Browser Cache -> Security Headers).

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An example of the W3 Total Cache HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) settings configuration.

Security Header Testing

See the Security Headers test site — an example, of which, appears below.

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Test results showing that the HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) Headers have been configured.

We can also check for the HSTS response header using the curl command below.

curl -s -D- https://coherentlogic.com/ | grep Strict

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An example regarding how to test for the HSTS response header using the curl command.

Technical SEO Conclusion

In conclusion, we’ve covered two plugins that, taken together, can positively impact the technical SEO for a website, the user experience, as well as the security and page load time.

What other low-hanging fruits do you know of and what did you do to improve your website? Put your suggestions in the comments and we can discuss these in more detail.

Feel free to send me an invitation to connect, if you’d like to network or consider joining my email list.

Addendum: Site Navigation Breadcrumbs are not the same as Sitelinks Breadcrumbs

Not to be confused with site navigation breadcrumbs (see the Breadcrumb NavXT plugin), see below, which can be helpful for site navigation and usability purposes also.

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An example of Site Navigation Breadcrumbs.

Other Technical SEO Articles

See Also

  1. IPv6, C-Blocks, and How They Affect SEO
  2. Google: IPv6 & HTTP/2 Works But You Should Also Support IPv4 & HTTP/1.x
  3. Google IPv6 Adoption
  4. The Definitive Guide To Getting Google Sitelinks
  5. Google Sitelinks
  6. Google Sitelinks Search Box
  7. Everything You Need to Know About Breadcrumbs & SEO
  8. What are breadcrumbs and why are they important for SEO?
  9. The Big List of SEO Tips and Tricks for Using HTTPS on Your Website
  10. What is HTTP/2 and how does it benefit SEO?
  11. SEO Cheat Sheet #2: Page Speed & Image Optimization
  12. Assess Your Website Performance in under Ten Minutes
  13. How to (Maybe) Get Google Sitelinks and If They’re Worth Your Time
  14. Why aren’t breadcrumbs displaying in search results for my site?
  15. A Guide To Schema Markup & Structured Data SEO Opportunities By Site Type
  16. Why websites should be using HSTS to improve security and SEO
  17. How to Quickly Get Google SiteLinks for Your Site
  18. How to Perform a Technical SEO Site Audit in Just One Hour

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