Learning WordPress SEO can be a daunting task. But with the right practices and tips, you can optimize your website for higher rankings in Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
This guide will cover a checklist of things that you can do to rank better in search engines and get more traffic to your new WordPress site.
So whether you’re just starting out with SEO or you want to take your game up a notch, read on for some helpful tips!
- What Is WordPress?
- WordPress SEO
- Choose a Good Hosting Provider
- Install an SEO-friendly WordPress Theme
- Check Search Engine Visibility
- Set SEO-Friendly Permalinks
- Choose the Site Address
- Add SSL/HTTPS
- Install an SEO Plugin
- Add an XML Sitemap
- Submit Your Site to Google Search Console
- Do Keyword Research
- Optimize Blog Posts for SEO
- Use Internal Links
- Optimize Images
- Use Categories and Tags
- Optimize WordPress Comments
- Noindex Tag Management
- Add Schema Markup
- Install a Cache Plugin
- Add Rich Media
- Include LSI Keywords
- Use “Updated” Dates in Posts
What Is WordPress?
WordPress is a popular content management system that allows you to create and manage a website, blog, or online store.
It was created in 2003 by a group of developers, including Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little, as an open-source project. And since then, it has grown tremendously to become the go-to platform for website creation and management.
Based on W3Techs statistics, WordPress now powers 43% of all websites on the internet, which makes it one of the most popular and widely used platforms by both small businesses and big corporations alike.
So why is WordPress so popular?
Some of the key reasons include its ease of use, its wide range of features (including thousands of plugins and themes), and the fact that it’s completely free and open-source.
It also has a wide community of users and developers who are always working to make WordPress even better. From vast documentation to support forums and constant updates, it’s no wonder that so many people love using this CMS.
Whether you’re brand new to WordPress SEO or an experienced user, there are many things that you can do to improve your website’s rankings and get more traffic.
WordPress SEO Checklist
WordPress comes with a number of SEO features and tools that you can use to make your website more visible in search engines.
But this does not mean that WordPress SEO is automated.
In fact, it requires a lot of time and effort, and you need to be consistent with your practices if you want to see results. This includes creating great content, earning quality links, and making sure your website is free of technical errors that can negatively impact your results.
This is why this list will come in handy for you. It outlines some of the key SEO practices and tips that will help you improve your website rankings in search engines, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced WordPress user.
So let’s get started!
1. Choose a Good Hosting Provider
When it comes to SEO, one of the most important decisions you can make for your WordPress site is choosing a good hosting provider.
This is because the quality and speed of your host can have a direct impact on rankings, as well as user experience and engagement.
Some key factors to consider when choosing a good hosting provider for SEO purposes include uptime, bandwidth and scalability, support, and price.
You should also look for a host that offers SEO-friendly features like CDN or caching to help improve your site performance and ranking factors.
Some top WordPress hosting providers that you can consider include SiteGround, Cloudways, WP Engine, and Bluehost.
ErikEmanuelli.com is hosted with WPEngine, and I can say from personal experience that they are one of the best WordPress hosting providers around.
Their customer support is excellent, their servers are fast and reliable, and their SEO features are helping my site rank better in search engines.
2. Install an SEO-friendly WordPress Theme
Another key factor to consider when optimizing your WordPress SEO is the theme that you use.
Choosing a responsive theme that is optimized for search engines can help improve your rankings and visibility on SERPs.
Some key things to look for include site speed, mobile responsiveness, user-friendly navigation, and great design.
There are many great SEO themes available for WordPress, so you should have no trouble finding one that fits your needs and goals. Some popular options include the Genesis Framework, MyThemeShop, and Thrive Themes.
ErikEmanuelli.com uses a personalized Genesis Framework theme and has seen great SEO results from it, so far.
3. Check Your Search Engine Visibility
The next thing you should do is check your search engine visibility.
This option can be found in your WordPress dashboard, in the “Settings” menu:
It is commonly used if your website is still in the development phase or if you have just launched a new site and want to check that it is properly indexed by search engines.
So, to avoid any SEO disaster, be sure to check the box is unticked.
4. Set SEO-Friendly Permalinks
By default, WordPress sets your permalinks to a structure that includes numbers and letters. However, this is not SEO-friendly and can negatively impact your SEO rankings.
To set SEO-friendly permalinks, go to “Settings” in your WordPress dashboard and select the “Permalinks” option.
Here, you can choose from a variety of different permalink structures that include words and phrases, rather than numbers and letters.
The most popular form used is the “Post name”, which includes the title of your post or page at the end of your URL.
So for example, instead of a URL that looks like this:
Your URL will look more like this, for example:
5. Choose the Site Address
When you first set up your website, you need to decide whether your domain will be accessible from www or not.
To do this, go to “Settings” in your WordPress dashboard and select the “General” option.
Here, you can select the “Site Address” and choose either “WWW Prefix” or “Non-WWW”.
You should choose one and stick with it, as Google considers them to be two separate websites.
So, which version should you choose? You may ask.
From an SEO point of view, there’s no advantage to either using one or another.
But there are some benefits and drawbacks, which are summarized in the table below:
6. Add SSL/HTTPS
Another important factor to keep in mind when optimizing your WordPress SEO is the use of SSL/HTTPS.
This security protocol is essential for protecting your website and ensuring that users’ data is safe when they are browsing or entering information on your site.
In addition to protecting your users, SSL/HTTPS can also help improve your rankings by signaling to search engines that you are a trustworthy and legitimate site.
To add SSL/HTTPS to your WordPress website, you will need to purchase an SSL certificate from a trusted provider (or rely on the hosting service that will do it for you).
Once you have the certificate, you will need to install it on your WordPress site and update your URLs accordingly.
7. Install an SEO Plugin
There are many SEO plugins available for WordPress, and it can be hard to know which one is the best fit for your website.
Some of the most popular SEO plugins include:
- Yoast SEO (5+ million active installations)
- All-in-One SEO Pack (3+ million active installations)
- Rank Math (1+ million active installations)
These plugins can help improve your SEO in a number of key ways, such as optimizing your meta tags, ensuring proper sitemaps (like XML sitemaps), and helping improve your content rankings in search engines.
Now, you may be wondering: “Which one should I choose?”
There is no one-size-fits-all solution, as SEO plugins vary in their features and functionality. So it’s best to do a bit of research and try out a few different plugins to see which one is the best fit for your website.
If you ask me, I went with the most popular choice: Yoast SEO. And it has worked great for my website so far.
8. Add an XML Sitemap
An XML sitemap is a file that contains information about all the pages on your website, including URLs and other SEO data.
It is an essential tool that helps search engines better understand your site structure and index all of its content.
If you are using the Yoast SEO plugin, it will automatically generate an XML sitemap for you.
You can find it at this URL:
Just replace “example” with your domain name.
8. Submit Your Site to Google Search Console
GSC (Google Search Console) is a free SEO tool that helps you monitor your website’s performance on Google and identify any potential issues.
It provides insights such as :
- Search traffic: how many people are visiting your website from search engines?
- Keywords: which keywords are driving the most traffic to your site?
- Crawl errors: what SEO issues do you need to fix on your website?
- Index status: what pages are indexed in Google?
To submit your site to GSC, simply go to this URL:
Next, sign into your Google account and follow the prompts to submit your website information.
Once you have submitted your site, you need to verify your ownership of it. This is a crucial step, as Google won’t give you access to GSC features until your site has been verified.
There are several verification methods available, including adding a meta tag to your website’s header or verifying via a DNS TXT record.
The exact method will depend on your website setup and platform, so make sure you follow the instructions provided by Google to complete this step.
If you are using Yoast, it’s really easy.
You simply need to add the verification code in the “General” tab of the plugin menu, by visiting the “Webmaster Tools” tab:
Once your site has been verified, you can start using the tools and monitoring features in GSC to improve your performance and rankings.
9. Do Keyword Research
Keyword research is an essential SEO practice that helps you understand what people are searching for online and which keywords to target on your website.
There are many tools that you can use for it, such as Google Keyword Planner and Moz’s Keyword Explorer.
When doing this process, it’s important to consider a wide range of factors, including the search volume and competition for each keyword.
You should also think about your target audience and what kind of terms they are likely to use when searching online.
By using these tools and strategies, you can select the best keywords for your strategy and include them in your content and on-page optimization to improve your search engine rankings.
10. Optimize Blog Posts for SEO
Once you are ready to start creating content for your website, it’s important to optimize each blog post for search engines.
This means including SEO-friendly elements such as title tags and meta descriptions, as well as using your chosen keywords in strategic places throughout the article.
You should also consider using user-friendly formatting, such as headings, bullet points, and subheadings to break up your content and make it easier for users to read and digest.
In addition, you should regularly update your older posts with new content, to make sure that your website is continually improving its performance and rankings.
If you are using the Yoast SEO plugin, you can do this by filling in the fields under each of your blog posts:
11. Use Internal Links
Another way to improve your WordPress SEO is to use internal links.
This will help connect different pages on your website to related topics, allow external links authority to distribute through your site, and make it easy for users to browse your content.
To add internal links to your content, simply include hyperlinks in your blog posts by typing out the URL or using one of the many shortcodes available.
Internal linking helps you avoid creating orphan pages on your website that don’t link to other relevant content and can also help you increase SEO performance by improving the authority of individual pages.
Remember to take advance of using keyword-rich anchor texts, as it will help search engines understand the topic of the linked pages.
Google has stated that there is no such thing as an internal linking over-optimization penalty.
So, you can abuse as much as you want!
12. Optimize Images
In addition to optimizing your blog posts for SEO, you should also take steps to optimize the images on your website.
This will help improve your loading speed and make it easier for users to view and navigate your site.
One of the best ways to do so is by adding descriptive alt text and titles to each image.
You should also consider compressing the size of your images, as this can drastically improve your website’s loading time.
To do this, you can use tools like ShortPixel or TinyJPG to automatically shrink the size of your images and make sure that they are SEO-friendly as well.
13. Use Categories and Tags
Using categories and tags helps improve your WordPress SEO by making it easy not only to organize your website content by topic but also for users to find the specific information they need.
Furthermore, you will help search engines understand both your website’s structure and its individual pieces of content.
To add categories and tags to your blog posts, you can simply go to the Posts section on your WordPress dashboard.
Here, you can create new categories and tags, as well as assign them to your existing posts.
While keyword meta tags are not a direct Google ranking factor, they are important because they help users navigate your site.
14. Optimize WordPress Comments
Another important SEO factor to keep in mind when optimizing your WordPress website is the comments section.
This part of your site allows users to engage with your content and leave feedback, which means more opportunities to get backlinks, more traffic, and improved rankings.
To optimize and moderate WordPress comments, you need to make sure they are real and not fake (or worse, spam).
To help you with this task, Akismet comes in handy. This plugin lets you filter out spam comments and keep your site clean. Just register and get your API key.
You may also consider using plugins like Disqus to improve engagement on your site.
And, remember to respond to all the comments and solicit more engagement by asking questions or prompting users for feedback.
15. NoIndex Tag Management
Another important practice to keep in mind when optimizing your WordPress website is the use of the NoIndex tag.
This meta tag allows you to tell search engines not to index specific pages or posts on your site.
This is particularly useful when you have duplicate content that you do not want to rank, such as when you are using a content aggregator or have multiple pages that serve the same purpose.
To add the NoIndex tag to your WordPress site, you can use plugins like AIO SEO Pack or Yoast SEO.
Simply navigate to the advanced section (which is below each page or post) and set your preferences.
In the alternative, you can use the robots.txt file to suggest search engines which content you would like them to index and which one to ignore.
16. Add Schema Markup
Schema markup may help with your WordPress SEO by adding context to your content and data.
It also lets search engines understand your website and structure, which can increase rankings.
This type of markup is also important for improving the user experience on your site, as it helps visitors better understand what they are seeing and make more informed decisions.
You can manually add schema markup to your WordPress site by following this documentation or you can easily implement it on your content by installing the Yoast SEO plugin.
In fact, since Yoast 11.0, full-fledged structured data graphs are automatically generated for every post and page.
To make sure your content is properly set up to gain special SERP features such as rich snippets, you can use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to identify and fix any errors.
17. Install a Cache Plugin
In addition to adding schema markup, it is also important to install a cache plugin on your WordPress site.
Cache plugins help improve your page speed and performance, both of which are key SEO ranking factors.
There are many different caching plugins available for WordPress, so you should be able to find one that meets your needs and goals.
One of the most popular options is WP Super Cache or W3 Total Cache, both of which are free and easy to install and use.
With WPEngine, my site enjoys included caching options (without the need to install a plugin), which has helped improve my SEO and overall performance on the web.
18. Add Rich Media
In addition to SEO-friendly themes and plugins, another way to boost your WordPress SEO is by adding rich media to your content.
Rich media includes things like images, videos, infographics, and other engaging forms of content that help keep users on your site for longer and improve engagement metrics like dwell time, reducing bounce rate on your pages.
Other examples of rich media are interactive maps and slideshows, which can also help improve the time users spend on your site.
More rich media you can use are gifs, podcasts, and embedded social media posts, like tweets, Instagram stories, or Facebook updates.
In 2002 we launched a page with a set of guidelines for site owners that gave an overview of best practices when it came to building a site. A lot has changed since then, so today we're launching a refreshed, simplified version of the Webmaster Guidelines:https://t.co/0xXAcwDHSI pic.twitter.com/QotRXJLieT
— Google Search Central (@googlesearchc) October 13, 2022
19. Include LSI Keywords
To fully optimize your WordPress SEO, it is important to use LSI keywords in your content.
They are similar or related terms that search engines look for when determining a page’s relevance and ranking factors.
Using them can help improve the SEO of your site by signaling to search engines that you are semantically covering the topics in your content.
Some effective ways to use LSI keywords include adding them naturally in your writing, leveraging SEO tools to find relevant terms, and incorporating them into image captions and alt text.
To find them, you can use Google autosuggest or the “People Also Ask” section or even the related terms that show up below the SERPs.
20. Use “Updated” Dates in Posts
Finally, to fully optimize your WordPress SEO, you should use “updated” dates in your articles.
When you update a blog post or other piece of content on your site with new information, be sure to add an updated date so that search engines know that the page has been changed and needs to be crawled again.
This can help improve your SEO by signaling to search engines that you are regularly publishing new content, which will crawl more frequently.
To do this in WordPress, you can use a plugin such as WP Last Modified Info.
Or, if you have Genesis Framework, you can add this code:
By following these WordPress SEO tips and practices, you can improve your website’s rankings and visibility on SERPs.
Whether you are choosing a user-friendly theme or adding rich media to your content, there are many strategies that can help boost your SEO efforts.
So be sure to take the time to incorporate these techniques into your WordPress site and watch your results improve over time!
Now, it’s over to you.
Do you have any other SEO tips for WordPress?
Share them in the comments below!
And remember, with great SEO comes great website traffic, engagement, and ROI.
So start optimizing today and watch your results grow!
Randall Magwood says
Great SEO checklist. It’s a great refresher of things to keep in mind of when creating new content.
Erik Emanuelli says
I hope it could help new bloggers set up WordPress blogs for SEO.
Vishwajeet Kumar says
Great checklist for WordPress SEO. SEO plays an important role in driving targeted organic traffic. It also brings sales and conversions too. WordPress is indeed a SEO friendly CMS but we need to hone it further to rank well. Thanks for this detailed post
Erik Emanuelli says
That’s right, Vishwajeet.
Thanks for visiting and commenting.
Winfred Acken says
Great article as always. thanks Erik.
Erik Emanuelli says
Jitin Mishra says
Doing SEO in WordPress is not a complicated deal, but if you know what to do and how to do it correctly, basically, if you don’t know what to do in WordPress SEO, you can hire a professional for it.
Erik Emanuelli says
There are tons of guides out there that can help with WordPress SEO.
I would prefer to learn it, other than just hiring a professional.