Mar 14

Using the Thesis Theme and Yoast's WordPress SEO plugin

I share the view of other WordPress developers who believe that SEO functionality should not be incorporated into a WordPress theme – it should be in a plugin. This promotes modularity and maintainability and avoids vendor lock-in. If you ever want to change the visual appearance of your WordPress site, your site’s SEO will not suffer.

One of the key selling points of the Thesis Theme – one of the best known premium themes for WordPress – was its inbuilt support for SEO. At the time that the Thesis Theme was first released, its inbuilt SEO features may have been equal to or superior to separate SEO plugins, but times have changed. I am not as critical of the Thesis theme’s native SEO capabilities as some other people, but one definitely can do a better job using some of the SEO plugins out there.

One highly-rated SEO plugin is WordPress SEO by Yoast (Joost de Valk).

Unfortunately, if you attempt to activate this plugin whilst using the Thesis Theme, you will have the problem of duplicate meta tags. You see, the Thesis Theme does not have a configuration option to disable its own HTML meta tag generation. As a result, when you access a page, it will contain both Thesis’s SEO meta tags those generated by the WordPress SEO plugin, which is likely to confuse search engines.
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Mar 03

In the past, the majority of WordPress themes would enclose the title of sidebar widgets within an HTML h3 heading tag. The Thesis Theme V1 is one such theme.

WordPress theme designers have moved away from this practice because of an increased awareness of SEO. Nowadays, people who write search engine optimised content generally use HTML heading tags exclusively for hierarchical text elements with relevant contextual keywords designed to appeal to search engines, e.g. a post title with the main target keyword would be enclosed within h1, then the subheadings with additional keywords would be enclosed within h2, and so on.

In contrast, WordPress widgets often have generic titles like ‘categories’, ‘tags’, ‘meta’ and ‘links’ which have offer no usefulness as search keywords. Having h3 on these is wasteful as it has the potential to take value away other relevant keywords on the page.

The Thesis theme does not have a hook to change the styling of widget/sidebar titles. The solution is to unregister the two default sidebars, then re-register them with a different html markup for the title. In this example, h3 has been replaced by a div with the class “widgettitle”.

Furthermore, we have to ensure that this only happens AFTER the Thesis Theme has finished its default sidebar registration. This is achieved by hooking the action ‘widgets_init’ with a priority of 11 – lower than the WordPress default priority of 10.

The following code snippet should be added to custom_functions.php in the Thesis Theme’s custom file editor:
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