bootScore & SEO: Semantic Tagging, Key Wording, and Sitemaps

Scrabble letters forming the word SEO

SEO encom­pass­es a lot. One means of Search Engine Opti­miza­tion is the seman­tic tag­ging of sec­tions, which became pos­si­ble with HTML5. In this respect, bootScore and SEO fit well togeth­er:

<main>, <aside>, <article>, <header>, <nav> and <section> are meant to show search engines what is impor­tant in terms of con­tent and what is not. Includ­ing these tags prop­er­ly is the job of a Word­Press theme. In bootScore, <main> delim­its the cen­tral con­tent from “sub­or­di­nate stuff” in all tem­plates. <aside> marks the the­mat­ic side sec­tion the sidebar.php, <header> impor­tant head­ings, and <nav> the less impor­tant nav­i­ga­tion ele­ments. Even the tag <article> is used cor­rect­ly in index.php to sep­a­rate the teasers of the indi­vid­ual arti­cles as the­mat­i­cal­ly inde­pen­dent areas. bootScore knows its craft.

What is miss­ing is key­word­ing and an out­line of the site struc­ture, the sitemap. These aspects are not the job of bootScore but are nec­es­sary for suc­cess­ful sites. For­tu­nate­ly, we can real­ize both with plu­g­ins:

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  • Ver­i­fy that your theme uses seman­ti­cal HTML tags
  • Skip the tag­ging with key­words
  • Cre­ate the sitemap:
    • Install the plu­g­in Sim­ple XML Sitemap Gen­er­a­tor.
    • Call Settings/Simple XML Sitemap Gen­er­a­tor
    • Change ‚Add Word­Press post cat­e­go­ry to the Sitemap?’ to yes.
    • Mod­i­fy any post for start­ing the scan.
    • Call https://your-blog-domain.xyz/sitemap.xml — it’s gen­er­at­ed now.
    • Be a bit para­noid and ver­i­fy your sitemap by [https://www.xml-sitemaps.com/validate-xml-sitemap.html]
  • Make the sitemap known to Google:
    • Clear the cache of your brows­er!
    • Using your Google Account, log in to [https://google.com]
    • Call [https://search.google.com/search-console/]
    • (If you already have any sitemaps, cre­ate a new prop­er­ty)
    • Insert the domain of your site https://your-blog-domain.xyz
    • Down­load the Google iden­ti­fi­ca­tion file.
    • Upload this file into the root direc­to­ry of your site.
    • Let Google ver­i­fy the upload.
    • Go to the dash­board of your Google Search Con­sole.
    • Select the menu item sitemaps.
    • Insert https://your-blog-domain.xyz/sitemap.xml.
    • Press the but­ton send
    • binGOOGLE
  • Make the sitemap known to Bing:
    • Using your Google Account (yes!) sign in to BING web­mas­ter tools [https://www.bing.com/webmasters/]
    • Insert the domain of your site https://your-blog-domain.xyz
    • Load down the file BingSiteAuth.xml
    • Upload BingSiteAuth.xml into the root direc­to­ry of your site
    • Press the but­ton verify.
    • Go to your Bing web­mas­ter dash­board.
    • Select the menu item Sitemaps and insert the com­plete URL of your sitemap https://your-blog-domain.xyz/sitemap.xml
    • BINGo


Key Wording

RankMath is cur­rent­ly con­sid­ered a must-have, but it is not an Open-Source plu­g­in: Although open­ly devel­oped on GitHub, the repos­i­to­ry does not con­tain any license file or a licens­ing state­ment.1 And if it talks about its ‘free down­load’, it refers to a ‘free’ but ‘severe­ly lim­it­ed fea­ture set’

YOAST — prob­a­bly the best-known Word­Press SEO plu­g­in — is true GPL licensed Open-Source soft­ware. It uses a busi­ness mod­el that is rea­son­able from a free soft­ware per­spec­tive: If you need the ser­vice of get­ting new ver­sions etc. ahead of time, beyond just using it, you are in good hands. But we do not need the PRO-Ver­sion. Even the free ver­sion does what is nec­es­sary.

On the one side, YOAST tries to inau­gu­rate a ‘Focus keyphrase’ for each post. And it enforces the author to use this keyphrase in dif­fer­ent con­texts. That’s sup­port­ive. On the oth­er side, it also tries to put a sec­ond key­word-based text ‘behind’ the actu­al one only acces­si­ble for the search engines. That is rea­son­able for prod­uct sites that essen­tial­ly con­sist of images. In oth­er sites, this ‘SEO spe­cif­ic text’ dou­bles the real­ly read­able text. But say­ing things twice does­n’t make them more impor­tant. Not even in the ‘eyes’ of the search engines:

Search engines ‘loathe’ key­words. Too often, authors have tried to fool them with con­tent that their text did not con­tain. There­fore, the rule today is, at best, one focus key­word per page or arti­cle — match­ing the text. But this word often already occurs in the read­ing text — per­haps even in the head­line. To cut a long sto­ry short: Tag­ging with key­words? — Maybe. But I would­n’t put too much effort into it. It’s bet­ter to spend that time cre­at­ing good con­tent.

That’s why I refrain from try­ing to enrich my con­tent with key­words (and out­dat­ed meta tags). I’ve done that long enough in the past. And I only ever felt I had to write my text a sec­ond time unnec­es­sar­i­ly.


On the oth­er hand, search engines love sitemaps. With­out them, they would have to “read” every­thing, eval­u­ate all the links, and go to every page to get a com­plete overview. They can do that, no ques­tion. We know that as web crawl­ing. But it takes time. That’s why search engines often try to min­i­mize their effort by means of heuris­ti­cal­ly moti­vat­ed “short­cuts”, such as index­ing only the first page of a site. This would be fatal for a the­mat­i­cal­ly het­ero­ge­neous blog.

To com­pen­sate, search engines give sites the oppor­tu­ni­ty to deter­mine for them­selves what should be indexed — through a sitemap.

There exist some open-source sitemap gen­er­a­tor plu­g­ins for Word­Press, e.g. YOAST, the Google-Sitemap-Gen­er­a­tor, or the Sim­ple XML Sitemap Gen­er­a­tor. At first, I want­ed to leave it with the Word­Press own gen­er­a­tor. That gen­er­ates sev­er­al sitemaps linked into an umbrel­la sitemap. But that makes Bing and Google stum­ble: The Bing Web­mas­ter Tools show only the num­ber of linked sitemaps them­selves. So, the site admin­is­tra­tor does­n’t know if the con­tent ‘under­neath’ has ‘arrived’. And Google Search Con­sole often says it could not retrieve or read some (embed­ded) sitemaps. Actu­al­ly, this is not a big deal. Because Google comes back. But until then, Google has inter­rupt­ed the index­ing. So the more sitemaps we sub­mit to Google, the more like­ly it is that not all of them can be read the next time, and the worse the index­ing rate.

So it is bet­ter to use one sitemap that direct­ly con­tains every­thing. That’s why I final­ly gave the Sim­ple XML Sitemap Gen­er­a­tor a try. Accord­ing to the Readme.txt in its repos­i­to­ry, it is licensed to GPL‑2.0 or lat­er.  An inte­grat­ed sitemap.xml let us — per­haps — wait longer in the Google Search Con­sole until the traf­fic light changes from red to green, mean­ing ‘under­stood’. But if it’s green, every­thing is green.

A final remark

Even 25 years after Google entered the search engine stage, the rel­e­vance of your con­tent is still deter­mined by your read­ers. Accord­ing­ly, the num­ber of links to your site is tak­en as a bench­mark. At this point, link farms come to mind. They were a reac­tion to Google’s rat­ing algo­rithm. Against insert­ing small coins, one could buy links to one’s pages and thus pre­tend rel­e­vance to Google. Google, for its part, devel­oped counter strate­gies to detect such abuse. In oth­er words: SEO was ever embed­ded into the “com­pe­ti­tion between good and evil”, between those who searched and ranked and those who want­ed to be found and ranked well, for bet­ter or worse.

Engag­ing one­self in this strug­gle is futile. Effort and result are out of pro­por­tion. Even­tu­al­ly, it is cheap­er to direct­ly buy a ‘spon­sored’ link at the top of a hit list. For all those who do not want to do that, it is enough to

  • write good con­tent
  • use the seman­tic markup of HTML5
  • pro­vide a sitemap with­out dead links
  • and have your pages deliv­ered fast enough.

And how does this …

… sup­port our migra­tion to bootScore? Well, if a web design­er must aban­don her cur­rent Word­Press theme, she needs a replace­ment. A free ‘off-the-shelf’ theme, she prob­a­bly wants to per­son­al­ize. First a bit cos­met­i­cal­ly, then in terms of the gray val­ue of her pages, mul­ti­lin­gual­ism and inter­nal ref­er­ence tech­niques and link­ing. Final­ly, she per­haps enables spe­cial foot­ers, a sec­ondary menu or a copy­right notice before check­ing the SEO fea­tures of the select­ed theme. This is a way that this post sup­ports too.

  1. last check: 2023-07-19 []
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