You have a new WordPress site, now you want it optimized for search engines.
My 12 step WordPress SEO checklist will help you do that. I’ll walk you through keywords, Yoast’s SEO plugin, Google Search Console and other ways you can optimize your site. There’s a lot of good stuff here (and I know it can be overwhelming) but take it step-by-step and please do NOT hesitate to leave me a comment if you have a question… I’m here to help.
I’ll keep my intro short and sweet because I know you will find something you didn’t know before, and I’d rather you spend time working on improving your own Google rankings.
Here’s what to do…
1. Research Your Keywords – this should ideally be done before building your website so you can align the content with your keywords – though you can always go back and make changes. Start by using Google Autocomplete (see that article to learn the “complete the phrase” and “fill in the blank” tricks I use)… to find long-tail keywords. These are very specific phrases with 3+ individual words and have lower competition + higher conversion rates. Use Autocomplete to create a list of long-tail keywords for all phrases you want to rank for… if you’re a photographer in Chicago your keyword list might include: Chicago wedding photographer, Chicago newborn photographer, Chicago family photographer, etc.
2. Configure Your Permalinks – a few common examples are /services/website-design, /team/john-doe, /locations/chicago. It depends on your pages but consider doing this if you have multiple items under a category. Use permalink settings and parent pages to do this.
3. Configure Yoast WordPress SEO – Yoast can be broken down into 3 steps: configuring the settings, researching keywords, and optimizing content. This will be a core part of your SEO and I suggest anyone writing content on your site be knowledgeable on Yoast. For $295 you can do a training session with me and know it like the back of your hand – or just read those articles. Just be aware that any SEO plugin does not magically shoot up your rankings.
4. Write (And Design) The Content – only target 1 keyword per page and focus on the type of content people want to see when they search a keyword (testimonials, videos, etc). This can be SUPER beneficial for both SEO and website design. For ideas, check out these 21 ways to spruce up your WordPress content. Seriously, doing this has helped me sooo much.
5. Optimize The Content – go to a page you want to optimize. Scroll down and use Yoast to set a focus keyword. Refresh the page and scroll down again to Yoast. Now use the keyword where it tells you to. Writing descriptive SEO titles and meta descriptions is a big part of this since these appear in Google’s search results. Don’t forget to use the “page analysis” tab to see more content optimization tips… getting green lights means you’re on the right track.
6. Create Internal Links – this is an item you’ll see in Yoast’s page analysis tab but I want to put some emphases on it since links to a page are 20% of a page’s SEO. Using internal links in your content means you’re linking to relevant pages/posts on your website/blog and is the best way to create natural links. Some people don’t like using links for styling purposes (even though you can style them in the CSS) but 20% makes this very, very important.
7. Focus On Site Speed – website speed is a sitewide optimization which can benefit your entire website’s SEO and conversion rates. Setting up the W3 Total Cache plugin, optimizing images to load faster and deleting unnecessary plugins are just a few ways to do this. See my WordPress speed guide for a full tutorial which thousands of people have used.
8. Use Rich Snippets – these make your site have “enhanced” information in search results. You see these with reviews, recipes, even event times. If you have pages that include certain data types you can use my WordPress rich snippets tutorial to markup those pages/posts. Aside from having the best content, these may be the best way to stand out in Google.
9. Configure Google Search Console – setting www vs. non-www, submitting your Yoast sitemap, and checking for HTML improvements in SEO titles/meta descriptions are just a few ways to improve SEO with Search Console. Also check for mobile and security issues.
10. Setup Google Analytics Dashboards – taking 5 minutes to install these 7 Google Analytics dashboards helps you measure traffic from SEO, social media, mobile, referral websites and more. Use these to find specific improvements to make in your website and content. It’s one of those things that is super easy, yet helps a ton. Google’s Page Analysis Chrome extension can also help you see where people are clicking on a page.
11. Local SEO – Local SEO has different ranking factors so optimizing for a town/city is also different. Your keyword(s) should include the town/city name and your landing pages should be optimized to reflect those. The main different though, is that you want to build citations, get reviews, and make sure you’re using a mobile responsive WordPress theme.
12. Setup Redirects (If You Migrated Your Site) – if you recently redesigned your site and your permalinks (URLs) have changed, you want to do this ASAP. Setting up 301 redirects will direct visitors and search engines from each page’s old URL to the new one. You can do this with the Quick Page/Post Redirect Plugin then go to quick redirects –> quick redirects. Add both the old and new URL and this plugin will take care of the rest. Easier than it sounds.
Ongoing SEO Maintenance
These are the core parts of your WordPress SEO so before you move forward, spend some time making sure everything is setup correctly and that you’re knowledgeable about each section. I linked to a ton of articles which break down these topics quite nicely, but if you’re stuck you can hire me for a couple hours of SEO consulting and I can work with you 1 on 1 to get your SEO on track – or just leave a comment and I’ll answer them fo’ free!
For ongoing maintenance you’ll want to continuously add new, keyword-targeted content to your website/blog. Use your keyword list for your content development strategy and remember, you’re better off writing 1 AMAZING piece of content than writing 3 mediocre pages. Give people something to share and link to because that is what SEO is all about.
If you need help, leave me a comment and I’ll usually respond within 2 days.