Manual: Setting up Yoast SEO for WordPress

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With the free WordPress plugin Yoast SEO ((search engine optimization) you optimize your WordPress website for search engines. But how do you set up this plugin of Dutch origin? In this article, we’ll explain step by step how you can set up your WordPress website for the ideal search engine optimization.

In this manual

1. Install Yoast SEO plugin
2. Yoast SEO Configuration Service
3. Fine-Tune WordPress for SEO
4. Fine-Tune Yoast SEO
5. Link Search Console
6. Resolve Notification Issues
7. Write Content
8. Content Strategy

1. Install Yoast SEO Plugin

You’ll find the Yoast SEO plugin in the WordPress repository. In WordPress, go to Plugins -> New plugin and search for “Yoast SEO”. Click “Install now”, then click “Activate”.

2. Yoast SEO Configuration Service

Now that the WordPress SEO plugin has been installed, you’ll see a “SEO” button in your WordPress menu on the left-hand side. Click it to open the plugin’s Dashboard. You’ll probably already see some notifications and warnings, but we’ll ignore these for now. First click the “General” tab at the top, then click “Open the configuration service“, and then “Configure YOAST SEO”.

You’ll now run a wizard that will help you set up a large part of your website for SEO (search engine optimization). Many of these steps are self-explanatory, but we’d like to comment on some of them:

2a. Company or person? (step 4)

At step 4 you’re required to fill out whether you’re a company or a person. In both cases, you can still fill out the name of your company/person. We recommend you include your most important search term in your company name. For example, if you are a carpentry business with the name “Johnson LLC“, then fill out “Johnson LLC Carpentry”. And if your name is Vanetta Smith and you write a personal website on recipes, then call yourself “Food blogger Vanetta Smith”. Copy this text right away, because you’ll have to fill it out a couple of times.

2b. Social profiles (step 5)

When entering your social profiles, do not think: the more, the better. Limit yourself to using two or three social media channels, that you use well, instead of using eight which you totally neglect. Consider the social media channels that are most suitable for your target group.

2c. Visibility of the post type (step 6)

In every WordPress website there are three default post types: Pages, Posts and Media. Some themes and plugins add extra post types. A properties plugin for real estate agents, for example, can add the post type “Houses” to the website.

At this step, you can set up exactly which post types should be indexed by Google and which should not. All post types that you don’t use for the conversion goals of your website, can here be set to “Hide”. This does not mean that they won’t be used on your website. But only that the search engines won’t be instructed to index such posts.

In case you don’t have a blog/news archive, but only a few static pages, you can hide the post type “Posts”. The same often goes for media; the media library on your website is probably not setup with the purpose of attracting traffic that increases conversion; usually these media are used to, for example, placing images in your pages and posts, in which case you can simply hide “Media”.

In fact, some plugins put their settings in a post type. In that case, you might see something like “Extended framework” as a post type. If you have no use for this, then hide this too; the more unnecessary post types you hide, the better the other types will be valued by the search engines. Obviously, you’ll want to make sure you don’t accidentally hide a post type that you do need. Because then you’ll be throwing away a lot of valuable information for the search engines.

2d. Title settings (step 9)

At this step, you can fill out the website name. Here, you paste the text that you copied at step 4, or fill out your activities, and maybe even your location. For example, “Rotterdam Lawyers Friesinger & son”. Or “Architect Anna van der Molen”. You’ll need this text again later in this manual, so be sure to copy it again.

3. Fine-Tune WordPress for SEO

Now that you have run the configuration service, you’ll arrive back at the Yoast SEO plugin Dashboard. You’ll probably get some more notifications at this time. You can keep ignoring these, because first we’re going to run through some WordPress settings, that will probably resolve a large portion of these notifications.

3a. Site title and subtitle

Now, in WordPress go to Settings -> General. At the top, you’ll see the site title and subtitle. Many people use the name of their website or organization as a site title. This seems logical, but if you want your website to be easy to find in the search engines, it’s better to put your activity here, just like you did in the configuration service. So, again paste the title that you’ve used at step 2a and 2d here, e.g. “Furniture manufacturer New York – Donald McMillan”, or “Antique children’s toys – Web store ToyToy”.

Very often, the subtitle is still the default WordPress text: “Just another WordPress site”. Remove this line and enter a short description of your website. Try to use keywords that apply to your entire website and keywords that you want to lead visitors to your website. For example: “Web store for remanufactured chassis parts for Volkswagen Beetle.”

Now that you are on this page: be sure to scroll down and check if your website language is set correctly. Is your website in Spanish? Make sure your website language is also in Spanish. Because the language is also picked up by search engines. It says something about your target group.

Finally, click “Save changes”. Save or copy the title and subtitle, because you’ll need them again later.

3b. Update services

In WordPress, go to Settings -> Write. At the bottom of this page you’ll find a field to “Update services”. These are external webservices that need to be informed when you’ve made changes to your website, e.g. when you’ve written a new blog, or made changes to one. This makes sure that search engines are almost immediately informed of your new content, so they’ll include it faster in their search results. Make sure it says: “” under “Update services”. If it doesn’t, then paste this URL here. Pingomatic is an update service that informs all large search engines of your new content, so you don’t have to. Usually this is configured correctly, but it never hurts to check.

3c. Search engine visibility 

In WordPress, go to Settings -> Read. At the bottom of this page, you’ll find the “Search engine visibility” option. Make sure this box is unchecked, otherwise your website will actively inform search engines to NOT be included in the search results. Are you developing a website, or do you have a website that you, in fact, do NOT want showing up in search engines, then DO check this box. By the way, this is not a completely safe guarantee that your website will not show up in any search results; if you really don’t want to be found, it’s best to secure your website with a password. You can do this with a free plugin such as Password Protected.

3d. SEO for comments on your WordPress website

In WordPress, go to Settings -> Comments. Here, you can change the settings for comments on your website. It may seem strange to include this topic in a manual for SEO, but we’ve done this for a good reason. After all, comments on your website are content too! So, ask yourself whether comments on your website will help you be more findable to search engines, or that they would only add less relevant information to your webpage. If you’ve noticed that the comments on your articles lead to irrelevant conversations and discussions, then it might be better to turn off the option to leave comments on your website, or decrease the amount of comments under your blog. Or maybe you’ve seen that your blogs rarely get comments. In that case, you also better turn off the option to leave comments, because it makes your pages more compact. And with less irrelevant content, the rest of the content gets valued more by search engines and your visitors.

3e. Permalinks

With permalinks you configure the structure of your website’s URLs. This is very important for the SEO (search engine optimization) of your WordPress website, because the structure of a URL says a lot about the content of its page. As the term implies, permalinks are permanent; you configure them once, and then you never look at them again. Anyone who links to your website (search engines, social media, friends, etc.), will link to the URL as configured in your permalink.

In WordPress, go to Settings -> Permalinks. The default general permalink settings are year, month, day and name. This will result in URLs like But these data are probably not at all what you want in your URL. What you do want is to include the most important category of your blog in the URL (e.g. “Sale”). This way, you could get a URL like this: You can configure this, by choosing the “Customized structure” and then typing: /%category%/%postname%/.

Under the general settings, you’ll also find the “Optional” button. Below this, you’ll be able to change the category and tag archives structure. The permalink of the archive for the category “Dinner tables” by default would be: But the word “category” is not relevant here (and thus a distraction for the search engines), so you could choose another word instead, for example: “furniture”. Please note that the category structure is the same for all categories; so, the “Sale” category archive will get the URL: In case you don’t know any good category structures, you can also turn it off altogether (see step 4e).

You’ll probably use several categories for most of your articles. The Yoast SEO plugin gives you the option to set one primary category, so that one will always be used in the permalink. To do this, click “Make Primary” next to the most relevant category, when creating/editing a post.

If you change the permalink structure afterwards, a lot of old links will probably become obsolete. This has great consequences for your findability; search engines don’t like it when pages in their search results are suddenly unreachable. It will cause you to drop fast in their search results. So, when you change your permalinks, check to see if existing links still work in the search engines. If not, then install a plugin like WordPress Ultimate Redirect Plugin ($ 29), that will automatically try to redirect as many “not found” pages (or 404 pages) to the right page. It’s like saying to the search engines: “The current page still exists, but has been moved to this new URL”. That way you transfer the accumulated value in search engines to the new pages on your website, and search engines will gradually adjust their index to your new permalink structure.

4. Fine-Tune Yoast SEO

Now that WordPress has been set up correctly for SEO (search engine optimization) and the basics for Yoast SEO have been configured, it’s time to do some fine-tuning in the Yoast SEO plugin.

4a. Activate advanced settings

To unlock additional functionalities in Yoast SEO, we first must change some settings. To do this, go to WordPress, SEO -> Dashboard and click the “Features” tab. Set the “Advanced settings pages” to “Enabled”. Then click the “Security” tab and also enable the “Advanced section of the Yoast SEO metabox”. Now click “Save”. In the menu on the left-hand side, under “SEO” you will now see additional options.

4b. Titles and metas

Titles and metas, are the title and description of a page/post, just as they are communicated to search engines. With this, you actually tell the search engine: “When you include this page in your search result, then show this title and description.” It’s obviously up to the search engine to do what they want, but if you use relevant texts, your request is usually honored.

Using good Titles and metas is very important, because you use them to give a first impression to your potential visitors, even before they visit your website. So, make sure you have attractive, relevant texts. The title is also shown in the tab/title at the top of your browser screen when visiting that specific screen.

Click “SEO” -> “Titles & metas” and open the “Homepage” tab. Here, you enter the title and subtitle that you’ve also filled out at step 3a. If you want, you can change the subtitle a little, by adding a call to action, to make it even more attractive to click on. For, example, if your subtitle is: “Web store for remanufactured chassis parts for Volkswagen Beetle”? Then your meta description could be: “Web store for remanufactured chassis parts for Volkswagen Beetle? Ordered today, delivered tomorrow!”.

Now click the “Post types” tab. Here you’ll see the visibility for the post types, as you’ve configured them at step 2c. Good to know, if you ever have to change this in the future. Here, you can leave the title and meta templates as they are, because we’ll configure these per article/page later in this manual.

Now, click the “Taxonomies” tab. Taxonomies is the umbrella term for both categories and tags. So, on this tab you’ll find all the categories/tags of your WordPress website. Every taxonomy has an archive page in WordPress. It is passed on to search engines by default. Just like with the visibility of the post types (step 2c) you must ask yourself here which categories/tags you actually use. So, for example, if you have added no tags at all to your posts, then set the “meta robots” for that taxonomy to “noindex”. This way, you tell the search engines, that the archive pages for that taxonomy don’t have to be included by the search engines; because they are not relevant pages.

For the taxonomies that you do use, you can check out the title templates. By default, they are set up as follows: %%term_title%% Archives %%page%% %%sep%% %%sitename%%. The title for a post category called “Sale” would then be sent to search engines like this: “Sales Archives – Furniture manufacturer Rotterdam – Pieter de Heuvel”. Which is fine, but there’s room for improvement. If you make sure all your categories for this taxonomy are consistent, then you can change the template to for example: %%term_title%% of %%sitename%% %%sep%% %%page%%. With categories like “Sale” and “Portfolio” you’ll get nice-looking titles: “Sale of Furniture manufacturer New York – Donald McMillan”, or “Portfolio of Furniture manufacturer New York – Donald McMillan”. The meta description template can best be left empty here, we’ll run through that later on in this manual.

Now, click the “Archives” tab. Here you will see some additional options for archive pages generated by WordPress next to the taxonomies. Such as author pages, date archives, etc.

Author archives show all articles per author. This is usually unnecessary, because for search engines it is rarely relevant who wrote the article. In fact, author archives are only useful when you work with several well-known authors and you want to build up findable archive pages for them. For example, the Youp van ’t Hek columns on the NRC (news) website. You can probably turn off your Authors archives, though.

The same goes for date archives; these show all articles published on your website during a certain period (e.g. January 2017). Unless you publish news messages that actually describe current events, you can turn off these archives; your archive pages for taxonomies probably offer much more relevant content than this kind of archive pages.

You’ve now configured quite a lot, so don’t forget to hit “Save”!

4c. Social SEO

Go to SEO -> Social. Here, you’ll find an overview of the social media accounts you added at step 2b. Run through the various tabs and fill out all the required information for the social media that are relevant for you. The rest of the precompleted settings in these tabs are all perfectly set, so you don’t have to look at those.

4d. Sitemaps

Now go to SEO -> XML Sitemaps. Sitemaps are XML files, automatically generated by Yoast SEO, that give search engines a structured overview of all content on your WordPress website. Make sure that the settings under the “Post types” and “Taxonomies” tabs include only in the sitemap what you’ve configured as visible at steps 2c and 4b.

4e. Advanced

Now go to SEO -> Advanced. You start off at the “Breadcrumbs” tab. A breadcrumb trail shows on which page you currently are in the tree view of the entire WordPress website. Many WordPress themes already have a built-in crumb trail, but in case yours doesn’t, it is best to archive it here. You do, however, have to make some adjustments to your WordPress theme, so a little PHP knowledge is required.

When activating the breadcrumb trail, delete the text after “Prefix for Archive breadcrumbs”. And at the bottom, at “Taxonomy to show in the breadcrumb trail of the post types” select for each post type the richest taxonomy for that post type. When I say “rich”, I don’t necessarily mean the taxonomy containing the most terms, but that the terms in that taxonomy are full of posts. Categories are usually richer than tags; an average tag maybe contains two or three posts, an average category probably ten to twenty. Finally, click “Save”.

Then, click the “Permalinks” tab. In this tab Yoast SEO can make a few more changes beside the changes you’ve made to the permalinks in WordPress at step 3e. This way, you can turn off the category structure if you couldn’t think of any good category structures at step 3e.

Enable “Redirect attachment URLs to parent post URL” to prevent visitors from directly going from a search engine to one of your website’s attachment pages (usually containing only an image and a title). This feature makes sure that visitors are sent to the corresponding page where the attachment is used. This is generally more relevant.

Finally, under “Clean-Up Permalinks” choose “Remove” under “Stop words in the slug”. This way, words like “the”, “a” and “an” are automatically removed from your permalink when writing new articles. The rest of the advanced settings are good, so now click “Save changes”.

5. Link Search Console

You can link the Yoast SEO plugin to your Google Account. This way, you can load relevant SEO information and resolve warning notifications on the website. Go to SEO -> Search Console and click “Get Google Authorization Code”. Follow the steps, paste the code and click “Authenticate”. You then get an overview of the pages of your website that cannot be found by Google, but that are linked to on other pages (or used to). You can run through this list and check to see if you can restore them (by changing the permalink of a page, or by making redirects to the correct page).

6. Resolve Notification Issues

Go back to the Yoast SEO plugin Dashboard. Maybe you’re still getting a few notifications. These notifications point to your WordPress settings that need to be resolved to further optimize your website for search engines. Do not click the close icon on the right, but click the link on the notification. You’ll then be directed to the right page for the WordPress settings.

In the above-mentioned example, you’re redirected to the WordPress Customizer, where you can enter your site title and subtitle under “Site Identity”. By the way, if you’ve been following the steps of this manual, you’ll probably not get this notification, because we’ve already fixed this problem.
Resolving notifications is something you can do on a regular basis. The Yoast SEO plugin gives you a clear overview, so if you schedule this once a month, it’ll cost you very little time.

7. Write Content

Your website is pretty much set up for Yoast SEO. But you can still fine-tune Yoast SEO per page, post, category and even per tag. We’ll start with fine-tuning posts and pages.

7a. Titles and permalinks of your WordPress articles and pages

After typing the title of your post, WordPress automatically generates a permalink for you. This is not always the permalink you want, and sometimes you change the title afterwards, but the permalink stays the same. The main rule is: you can easily change your permalink as long as you haven’t published your post yet. Then, you best leave the permalink as it is.

What is a good permalink for your post or page? You only need to include the most important keywords. Say, as a furnituremaker, you’re writing an article in the category “import” called “Strong quality improvement of imported wood from Italy”, the permalink automatically ends with: “/import/strong-quality-improvement-imported-wood-from-italy/”. This can be made shorter and more relevant; the words “import/imported” are duplicates and some of these words are not relevant for the slug. How about: /import/quality-improvement-wood-italy/? Much better.

7b. Configure the Yoast SEO metabox

When you’ve finished writing your article, there’s a new block “Yoast SEO” under your text editor. Here, you’ll see an example of how Google will probably show your page in the search results, based on your title, permalink and text. An example of such a snippet below.

The content of this snippet is based on the settings we’ve configured in the previous steps. However, it is possible to make a few more adjustments for this particular article. In the above example, we see that the title is too long for the box, and the description underneath is too. Click “Edit Snippet” to change the title and description. By making the title and the meta description a bit shorter and more attractive, we’ve created a snippet that looks nice in Google:
You can edit the snippet for each and every post or page that is important for you in the search results. Also, you can edit your categories and tags to see per category what a similar archive page will look like in search engines. To do this, go to Posts -> Categories (or Tags) and select a category. At the bottom, you’ll find the Snippet. You can, for example, give the category “Import” a nicer description:

7c. Focus keyword

Under every snippet you’ll also find a “Focus keyword” field. Here, you can enter the most important keyword of the page. Under the focus keyword, the SEO plugin gives you an analysis of the page, containing suggestions to make improvements. Mind you, it is a technical tool; always ask yourself if the suggestions make sense. The analysis of an article with the focus keyword “jerseys” can turn out wrong, because the words “jersey” and “sweater” won’t be recognized. So, use the analysis as a guideline, not as hard facts. Furthermore, it is good to know that the focus keyword is only a personal analysis; the focus keyword won’t be sent to search engines as a search term, nor is it embedded in the code of your page.

7d. Cornerstone articles

When you’re editing pages or posts, there’s another option under the focus keyword: mark the article as “cornerstone content”. Cornerstone articles are the most important articles on your website. The ones you really want everyone to read. Say you write a lot of articles on the different aspects of DIY woodworking. But there is one article about the complete process of woodworking. In that case, this article is a cornerstone article; in a way, all the other articles are related to this main article. By marking the main article as a cornerstone article, Yoast SEO will make new suggestions; are there enough links to this article? And do these links contain the most relevant keywords for this article?

An average website can contain about five cornerstone articles. Choose them carefully and ask yourself; can I link to these cornerstone articles from all the other (non-cornerstone) articles? And make sure you do this; after the introduction of a non-cornerstone article, make a quick reference to the cornerstone article.

8. And from Now on: Content Strategy

If you’ve made it all the way to the end, your WordPress website has a great configuration for SEO! But you’re just getting started; make sure your website stays attractive, relevant and up to date. You do this, by regularly writing articles on topics related to your website. Make a content strategy and schedule, for example, one day a month to write and publish a good article.

Use social media for your organization

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Many organizations have all kinds of social media links on their WordPress website. But is this wise? When you use social media the wrong way, they can backfire on you. In this article, we’ll explain what you can do as an organization to prevent this from happening. And we’ll talk about a social medium that is often forgotten.

Invite in or send away?

Imagine you’ve just finished a new blog post and you share it on your Facebook page. An interested follower clicks on the link and visits your WordPress website. While he’s reading your article, he sees the sidebar with Facebook and Twitter feed. He stops reading and starts scrolling through your Twitter feed. He clicks on one of the conversations and goes to the Twitter website.

What is happening here? You first successfully get the attention of a visitor on Facebook, but as soon as he arrives on your WordPress website, you make it really easy for him to leave again. That sucks!

Social media on your website 

We see many organizations embed all kinds of social media feeds on their website. For example, you’ll see their most recent messages from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. in the sidebar next to an article. Embedding a feed like that is so simple, that you almost forget to ask yourself why you would do this. Very often, such a feed does not serve your goals.

I often hear people say they place these feeds to keep their website ‘alive’, or because they want to show their organization is an interactive and modern one. But these arguments don’t fit in a solid online marketing plan. You’re treating your visitors like ping-pong balls: on social media you invite them to visit your website, but once they’re there, you put your social media back on display.

Don’t make it too difficult for your visitors; limit their choices. Ask yourself where does most of the conversion of online activities take place for your organization. Are most of the sales and quotation requests processed on your website or on your social media channels?

Marketing funnel

Your online activities are like a funnel: by being visible on various platforms, you attract as many people as possible to one place. Often this place is your website, but in some cases, this can be a social medium (a vlogger’s purpose is to “funnel” as many followers as possible to his YouTube channel).

Say your marketing funnel points to your website. Does this mean you should not integrate any social media on your website? Maybe, but then you might be taking it a bit too far. Because even if the conversion for your website might not be happening on social media, they may still serve another purpose: engagement.

Engagement: a long-term relationship through social media 

Even if the conversion for your organization does not take place on social media, they can still be functional to build a “soft relationship” with your visitors. Because every visitor is unique; one takes immediate action on your WordPress website, another may want to get to know you better first. Social media are perfect for this.

Again, a well thought-out online strategy is very important; because you need to focus your social media on a specific target group: potential clients that want to get to know you better. This means you have to think about the image you want for your organization on social media; are you an informal bunch, or a serious group of professionals?

These choices determine the type of content you put on social media; do you build confidence by showing you’re having a good time or by sharing professional knowledge? To answer this question, you can ask some of your new clients what made them decide to become your customer. You can let these decisions determine your content on social media.

When you’ve decided on a strategy, then you can go back to thinking about the role of social media on your website. A role which is now well-defined: For example, you now only bring social media to the attention of your visitors to give them an alternative, next to the direct action to make a purchase. Or you use social media mostly to ask (and answer) direct questions. Whatever the purpose, with a clear definition you’ll know how and where to use social media on your website. For example, a social media follow button with caption, or rather a prominent place on the contact page.

Which social media and which target group?

Every social medium has a different user group. And these groups change continuously. We see Facebook being used mostly by adult consumers, Instagram and Snapchat are more popular with teenagers, and Twitter is averagely used more by men than by women.

Plus, there is a clear difference between business and personal use. Few users have a Facebook account for their business. On the other hand, there aren’t many people on LinkedIn who show pictures of their afternoon walk.

The difference in age, fields of interest and motivation of users are important for the way you use social media. When you have a business service, think about the usefulness of approaching your customers through social media. A manufacturer of packaging material would not use a marketing campaign on Instagram.

Don’t forget this one 

The landscape of social media is changing continuously. Every time, different social media are popular. That’s why you’d almost forget this one social medium that has been incredibly effective when it comes to building engagement: e-mail.

The great power of e-mail is in this small detail: messages on social media pass by very fast; if you’re not on Facebook even for a day, you miss a great number of messages. Messages that you don’t just get back on your timeline. An e-mail, however, only disappears after you’ve read it (or marked it as read). So, e-mail has a much more pressing character than messages on social media.

Because e-mail is more pressing, it demands caution; for a good reason, many e-mails end up in the trash or spam folder without being read. By law you are required to get someone’s permission before sending them a newsletter. And if you have this permission, consider carefully the e-mail’s title, length, content, the time you send it and the frequency with which you send e-mails.

Common WordPress problems and solutions

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WordPress is popular. Many users love the possibilities the system offers and see no problems. At WpUpgraders we focus on professional maintenance. We see WordPress problems on a daily basis. Time for an overview of the problems we come across and the solutions that are available.

Before you tackle these kinds of problems we advise you to make sure the back ups of your website are in order. 


Slow website

A common problem is a slow website. We’ve written various blogs about this issue. The most important cause is slow hosting. Start with a good Managed WordPress hosting. Is your hosting fast? You can work to improve the speed of your website yourself.

Unexplainable visual changes

With unexplainable visual changes your WordPress website looks different even though you haven’t updated it. The website isn’t offline. The cause could be anything. In this case it’s important to start by emptying the cache.

Rule out caching problems

  • Empty the browser cache

    Start by refreshing the browser cache via Ctrl + R (Windows) of Command + R (Mac). The page will then be reloaded without using the cache from the browser. A more thorough way is to remove the entire cache from your browser.

  • Empty the plugin cache

    Do you use a caching plugin like WP Super Cache, W3 Total Cache or WP Rocket? In that case you can log into the WordPress back end and empty the cache there via the plugin settings.

  • Empty the hosting cache

    Lastly, sometimes caching happens at server level. In most cases you can log in to your hosting provider’s admin pannel and empty the cache there.

White Screen of Death – WSOD

After working on your website you encounter a white screen. The cause is usually a PHP conflict in a WordPress plugin or your theme. It may also have to do with the maximum memory available for your WordPress website. In these cases you should get an error notification from the server, this is just hidden from outside users.

  • Rule out hosting as the cause

    When you see a white screen the problem is probably your website and not the hosting provider. Still, it can’t hurt to make sure the server is accessible. Ping your WordPress website and you will find out if the problem is at a server level. There are also other interesting tests you can run from the Ping website.

  • Switch on the debug function for more information

    The white screen indicates there are error notifications, but they are not being shown. Sometimes you can see an error notification by turning on the WordPress debug function in the wp-config.php file of your WordPress website. PHP errors will then be shown in your WordPress website. You can change the wp-config.php file with a FTP program. The file is in the main folder of your WordPress website and can be edited. Make sure the debug function is on: WP_DEBUG is normally set to ‘false’, set it to ‘true’ to show notifications.

    define( 'WP_DEBUG', true );
  • Repair WordPress

    Have you just updated WordPress? Or did you accidentally make a wrong change to WordPress files? In that case WordPress could be the cause. Go to your website files via FTP and overwrite all WordPress files with the latest version. Find the latest version of WordPress here.

  • Switch off conflicting plugin(s)

    What is the last plugin that you changed or installed? That is probably the problem. Try to deactivate the plugin via the WordPress back end. Doesn’t work? Deactivate all the plugins. If the website is working again your can re-activate the plugins one by one.

    Can’t access the WordPress back-end? Use FTP to deactivate the plugin(s). You can do this by renaming the plugin directory in the directory /wp-content/plugins. Put a number in front of the name, for example. The name change will mean the plugin will be seen as a new plugin and will not be activated.

  • Increase the maximum allocated PHP memory

    Another possible cause for a white screen is that there is not enough memory available on the server for your WordPress website. For example, because there are a lot of visitors to the site or because of a plugin or script that takes up (too much) memory. This problem often occurs with cheap, shared hosting in combination with WordPress websites with heavier plugins like WooCommerce, WPML or other plugins.

    Tip: you can find out how much memory is available via the WordPress phpinfo() plugin.

  • Check homepage and other pages

    Is your homepage working, but all the other pages are white? In that case the permalinks might not be working properly. You can solve this problem with a quick fix by going to Settings -> Permalinks in WordPress and changing the settings to standard.

    The actual cause and solution, however, are at the hosting level. To be able to re-write the standard permalinks to ‘good permalinks’ the mod_rewrites module (for Apache) or a similar module (for Windows servers) needs to be on. As soon as the settings are right on hosting level you can choose the permalink structure you want via the WordPress back-end.

  • Repair your theme

    WordPress itself and the plugins not the problem? Check to see if the theme is the source of the problem. In general, themes aren’t usually the source of the problem. It is possible however. If this is the case, deactivate the theme via the back-end or via FTP, just like with the plugins. Take into consideration that switching off or changing your theme will have consequences for your widgets, theme settings and menus.

    • Activate a standard WordPress theme (for example Twenty Sixteen) to see if this solves the problem.;
    • Overwrite your theme with the newest version available.

    Finally, it’s possible that the white screen is due to the fact that there is no theme activated at all. The theme could have been removed via FTP. In that case you get your website back by activating you (child) theme.

Notification: Internal Server Error / “HTTP 500 Internal Server Error”

When you see these notifications you have usually (but not always) done something wrong. This notification is usually given when there are PHP problems with plugins or thema’s. Exceeding the memory or a modified .htaccess file could also be the problem.

  • Empty the cache

    Rule out problems with caching. Follow the instructions for Unexplainable visual changes.

  • Switch on the debug function for more information

    See the instructions for White Screen of Death – WSOD.

  • Repair corrupt .htaccess file

    You just – consciously or unconsciously – made a change to the .htaccess file. If you access the website via FTP you can see the .htaccess file in the root. Rename the file. For example, by calling the file .htaccess_old. If the website works again after changing the name you know that the .htaccess file is the problem.

    After renaming the file it’s important to make a new .htaccess. You do this by clicking Save changes in Settings, Permalinks. If there is no .htaccess file WordPress will create a new one.

  • Repair permissions

    Specific files or authorizations do not have the right permissions, which causes an Internal Server Error. The easiest wat to fix this is to repair the folder permissions and set up the files again via FTP. Standard settings in WordPress are 755 for directories and 644 for files.

  • Repair WordPress, plugins or theme

    An important cause of a 500 notification are plugins and themes. In this case, follow the same steps as for White Screen of Death – WSOD.

  • Contact your hosting provider

    Contact your hosting provider if above mentioned solutions do not solve the problem. It’s possible that the Internal Server Error is because of an error in the server configurations. And otherwise they will be able to find the cause of the error notification in the server logs.

Notification: Error Establishing Database Connection

This notification means that no connection is being made with the database. This notification usually appears during WordPress installation. The notification may also appear randomly.

  • Check database data in wp-config.php

    WordPress gets the information needed to make connection with the database from the wp-config.php file in the root. Check to see if the information is correct, for example, if you have recently moved your WordPress website. We advise this step particularly around the time of installation when there has not been any connection with the database.

  • Contact your hosting provider

    If your website has been working properly, but suddenly gives this error notification this points to a problem with the database server. This is not something you can fix yourself. Contact your hosting provider.

Notification: Connection Timed Out

The server generates this notification when your website needs more time to generate a webpage than is available.

  • Deactivate the plugin causing the problem

    What is the last plugin that you modified or installed? This is probably the source of the problem. Try deactivating the plugin via the WordPress back end first. Follow the same steps as for White Screen of Death – WSOD.

  • Deactivate your theme

    Deactivate your theme to find out if the theme is causing memory problems. Follow the same steps as for White Screen of Death – WSOD.

  • Increase your memory

    Contact your hosting provider to talk about options for increasing the memory for your website.

Notification: Parse error, syntax error

The syntax error is a PHP notification that a piece of code has not been written following PHP guidelines and so cannot be executed. The notification will specify where the problem is. You can look up the file and line of code via FTP to change it.

Notification Warning: Cannot modify header information

After updating WordPress you see this notification in your browser: “Warning: Cannot modify header information” – headers already sent”. Often this is caused by other error notifications on your webpage. If you see any other error notifications take care of them first.
If you continue to see the notification afterwards, it is probably due to unneccesary spaces (for example enters, spaces) at the beginning or end of WordPress files, before the code begins and after it ends. In the example below, for example, there is unneccesary whitespace at the top of the wp-config.php file:

To solve this problem your can reach the file via FTP. Edit the file using a text editor and remove all whitespace at the beginning and the end of the code.

Notification: Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance. Please check back in a minute.

When updating WordPress and plugins the maintenance mode is activated and the website is not available. Updating doesn’t take long (usually no more than a few minutes), so the down-time is limited. Sometimes WordPress gets stuck in maintenance mode after an update.

  • Remove .maintenance file via FTP

    During the maintenance mode a .maintenance file is created in the root. You can remove this. Note: this is a hidden file, so you must set up your FTP program to make hidden files visible. After removing the file the website is taken out of maintenance mode and will be live again.

  • Don’t do anything

    The maintenance mode switches itself off after 10 minutes, so if you don’t do anything the problem will solve itself.

Images cannot be uploaded

A common problem is that images cannot be uploaded to the media library.

  • Check the permissions for the upload folder

    A condition for uploading images in WordPress is the permissions for the uploads folder. Uploads is a subfolder of the wp-content folder. Make sure the setting for the uploads folder and any subfolders is 744.

  • Upload a different image

    The cause of the problem could be the image itself or the extension. Try uploading another image. If it works then you know the file was the problem.

  • Check any image optimization services

    At WpUpgraders we use Kraken to optimize images. This means that images are optimized by Kraken at the time we upload them. A malfunction at Kraken could have effect on our websites. That’s why this is important to check.

  • Check the maximum upload size

    There may be a maximum upload size given by your hosting provider and via the php.ini file. When uploading to the media library this will be indicated under the upload button.

  • Check your storage space

    Check to make sure the hard drive space given by your hosting provider isn’t full. You can usually see this via the hosting admin panel. Sometimes you share storage for your website space with your e-mail accounts. This can cause your storage to fill up quickly. In this case ,you will need to delete files from your media library or ask your hosting provider for an upgrade.

  • Contact your hosting provider

    In many cases a permissions setting on the server is the reason you are unable to upload images. Contact your hosting provider if you can’t find a solution to the problem.

Problems logging in

You are sure you have the right user name and password, but you still can’t log in.

  • Reset your password

    Are you sure you have the right login details? Try resetting your password via the forgot password function. Doesn’t help? Try the solutions listed below.

  • Check security configurations

    ManyWordPress websites are secured by a security plugin like WordFence or iThemes Security. These plugins block an IP-address or IP-address ranges when too many attempts have been made to log in. This may be hackers trying to log in. But it could also be a colleague who has forgotten his or her password and tries to login multiple times in vain. An IP restriction is usually for a specific time, so you could just wait an hour and then try again. Another option is to (temporarily) turn off the security plugin via FTP.

  • Contact your hosting provider

    Many hosting providers look after the security of your WordPress website on a server level. It could be that you are locked out after failed attempts to log in. It is also possible that they changed your password for security reasons.

E-mails from the website do not arrive

Both admin and website visitors are not receiving e-mails via the website. Not when users register their information, not the forgot password function, notification of forms, order confirmations etc. The cause is probably that your e-mail is not getting through the spam filters.

  • Send via a transactional e-mail service

    Instead of sending the e-mails from the website (transactional e-mail) via your website server send the e-mail via an transactional e-mail service. A well known option is Mandrill from MailChimp. Charges apply. Freemium alternatives are Mailgun, Mailjet and SendGrid.

Website has been hacked

All above mentioned problems may occur if your website has been hacked. We’ve written a blog about removing malware from a hacked website.

Tips for keeping your WordPress website up-to-date

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Nearly every WordPress website that is not updated will be hacked sooner or later. Hackers make scripts that search the internet for vulnerability in WordPress plugins and themes. As soon as plugin vulnerabilities are known hackers can automatically scan WordPress websites to see if the relevant plugin is being used. For this reason, we sincerely recommend you update your website regularly. You can outsource this WordPress onderhoud (Dutch link) to WpUpgraders, but you can also do it yourself. In this article we’ll give tips both unexperienced administrators and professionals can use to keep your WordPress website up to date.

A number of links in this article are embedded with affiliate code.


Tips unexperienced website administrators

Conquer your fear

Many WordPress website administrators are afraid to update their websites. They are afraid of potential consequences, like a plugin that stops working or layout changes in a theme. But all we can do is advise you to get over your fear and update anyway. The consequences of a potential hack are much greater than the consequences of the update.

Keep your website simple

An important tip is to keep your website simple. A simple website is simple to update. Complex websites are more difficult to update.

  • Limit the number of plugins; each extra plugin you install brings extra risk. We don’t limit the number of plugin that we use when developing a website, but we know where the risks lie and we are the ones responsible for the updates. If you are not experienced it’s better to use a limited number of plugins.
  • Avoid complex plugins like multilingual plugins (like WPML), e-commerce (like WooCommerce) and layout editors (like Visual Composer).
  • Avoid multi-purpose themes. We often use Enfold. This multi-purpose theme is technically solid. Even so, we have to pay close attention when updating. We are not as pleased with other multipurpose themes. Like Jupiter. Good looking theme, but it’s a hassle to update.
  • When purchasing plugins and themes check to see if they can be updated automatically, so that you avoid having to do updates at FTP level.
  • Want to make changes in the code of your theme? Use a child theme, this way you can update the main theme yourself. Read here to learn how to make a child theme.

Remove unused plugins and themes

During the development of a website various plugin and themes are often tested. Some of them don’t end up being used, but can make your website venerable to being hacked. Remove these plugins and themes so that they don’t have to be updated.

Update periodically

It’s best if you can update as soon as an update is released, but this might not be do-able. Small websites can be updated periodically. Once or twice a month, for example. Set a reminder in your agenda to update every first Monday of the month.

Backup before you update

Always make an update before you update. If the update happens to cause problems you can always go back to the situation before the update. Many hosting providers make automatic back-ups. Or you have an admin panel (cPanel, DirectAdmin) you can use to make a backup yourself. You can also make a backup with the WordPress admin using a plugin. We like to use UpdraftPlus, a premium plugin with a good basic version. Alternatives are BackWPup, BackupBuddy or VaultPress.

Update WordPress first and then plugins/theme

First update the core of WordPress and then your plugins and theme.

Updates in your e-mailbox

When you are logged in to the back end of WordPress you will see notifications in the lefthand menu when there are updates available. Many people forget to update because they don’t update their website when it gets busy. You can remind yourself. For example with the plugin WP Updates Notifier, it sends you an e-mail when new versions of WordPress, plugins or themes are available.

Is updating just not your thing? Outsource your web maintenance. Or choose a website via instead of a WordPress installation on your own server. is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). Your website wil be hosted on the Automattic servers (the company behindWordPress). They will make sure your website is up-to-date. gives you less freedom compared to your own WordPress version of However, you don’t have to worry about safety and speed. And it is relatively cheap.

Tips for professionals

Make an inventory of risky plugins

There are plugins that cause little harm when updating. Take, for example, a plugin that adds a small functionality to the media library. Which plugins generally don’t give any update problems?

  • Statistic /Google Analytics plugins;
  • SEO plugins;
  • Backup plugins;
  • Database optimization plugins (Note, we are taking about updating the plugin, not the optimization);
  • Media library plugins;
  • Security plugins;
  • Admin plugins, that add extra functions to the WordPress back end;
  • RSS-feed plugins;
  • Development plugins.

Other types of plugins bring more risks.

  • E-commerce plugins like WooCommerce and add-ons;
  • Multilingual plugins like WPML;
  • Layout editor/Page builder plugins like Visual Composer;
  • Shortcode plugins;
  • Slider plugins;
  • Image presentation plugins;
  • Contact form plugins;
  • Event calendar plugins;
  • Pop-up and lead generation plugins.

Change log

Check the plugin change log to inventory any risks that may be expected.

Update premium plugins and themes

Most WordPress plugins can be automatically updated from the WordPress plugin repository. For plugins and themes you have purchased it doesn’t work like this unfortunately. You don’t always get a notification when an update is available. And you can only update the plugin or theme by overwriting the files on FTP level. Updating premium plugins is more complicated. Unfortunately we don’t have any standard solutions to this problem.

Use admin tools

Do you manage multiple websites? Use an admin tool like ManageWP, MainWP, WP Remote or InfiniteWP. We use this last tool. An admin tool gives you overview of which websites need updating. You can also perform updates directly from the tool.


Don’t forget to test after you have updated the website. The most important thing to test is the functionality of the front end. You will find any potential problems in the back-end when managing the website. What is the best way to test?

  • Check the homepage and a few other pages;
  • Fill in a form and/or other call to actions;
  • Check to see that the multilingual function is working;
  • Check extra moving elements like sliders, pop-ups, cookie bar;
  • Test the search function;
  • Test any API links. For example MailChimp or CreateSend.

Use a staging

Want to really update safely? Use a staging environment. You perform the update in the stage and, after testing, overwrite the live environment with the staging. It takes more time, but prevents users from coming across any problems the update may have caused. How do you use a staging environment?

  • Hosting providers. We usually use a staging environment provided via the hosting provider. WP Engine, one of our hosting partners, has great facilities.
  • Plugins. Work with a staging via free plugin WP Staging or the paid plugins WP Stagecoach and RAMP.
  • Software. Develop and push changes via DesktopServer, a program on your own computer.


Useful plugins

There are plugins available that will help you update your WordPress website.

  • WP Update Settings; use this plugin to change settings via the back-end of WordPress that pertain to the update proces.
  • Automatic Plugin Updates; plugin for automatic updates.
  • Plugin Vulernabilities: plugin lets you know when vulnerabilities have been found in the plugins that are used on the website.
  • Plugin Security Scanner: plugin e-mails the website administrator if any vulnerabilities are found in the plugins that are present.
  • WP-UserOnline: plugin shows how many users are active on your website. Wait to update until there are almost no visitors at the website.


What to do when it goes wrong?

  • During the update WordPress switches to maintenance mode. The website is not accessible while updates are being made. Usually for no more than a minute. Does the website get stuck in maintenance mode while updating? No problem. Wait ten minutes, the maintenance mode overrides itself. Or go to the server via FTP and remove the .maintenance file from the root.
  • Activate your backup and update themes and plug one by one so that you know which update causes the problem.
  • Google the problem and see if you the solution is known.
  • Get in touch with the theme or plugin builder and ask if there is a solution to the problem.


The 100 best free WordPress themes of 2018

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There’s and endless choice of WordPress themes in all shapes and sizes. Looking for a good free WordPress theme is like looking for a needle in a haystack. That is why we list the best free WordPress themes for you every year. In this article you’ll find our review for the best free WordPress themes of 2018.

Focus points for good free WordPress themes in 2018


Mobile user-friendliness

For 2018, the most important focus point is: mobile user-friendliness. Search engines, such as Google, attach more and more value to website performance on mobile devices. So, always test a free WordPress theme on a mobile phone. When you do this, pay special attention to the alignment of texts and images, but also check to see if a page opens directly and displays the most important text first.


In the past, there was the risk of finding malware in free WordPress themes. Luckily, the control mechanisms have now improved strongly on the most important market places for WordPress websites, and such practices are being dealt with as soon as they are uncovered. Still, the safety of your WordPress theme remains of great importance. So, only download/buy your WordPress themes at reputable WordPress theme providers.

Revenue model

Nothing comes for free. A free WordPress theme is free for a reason. For example, because the provider hopes you’ll buy one of his products in the future. Or he’ll offer an extended version of the free theme at additional cost. So, make sure the free WordPress theme contains all the features you need, otherwise you’ll end up paying for the theme later on.

Maintenance and support

With a free WordPress theme, you don’t have to expect any long continuing development or good support from the developer. Which makes sense, since the theme is free. So, are you looking for a WordPress theme you can build on for years to come? Then it might be wise to spend a few euro’s on a recommended payed WordPress theme.

The 100 best free WordPress themes for 2018




Minimalist Portfolio






Unicon Lite


Arcade Basic





Coral Parallax

Seos Photography

Portfolio Lite



Zoom Lite







Parallax Frame


Alpha Centauri

Coral Drive


WP Portfolio






Business World




SKT Design Agency

Business Elite

Portfolio Gallery


Better Health

Adventure Lite



Grid Magazine

Start Blogging


Bar Restaurant


CT Corporate

Compact One

Tech Literacy

Business Point





Play School


Vision Lite





InterServer Portfolio



Olsen Light

Brittany Light









Shop Isle

Zerif Lite


Riba Lite

Simple Business WP

Blogger Theme


Sold WooCommerce




Public Opinion



Socute shop