12 Ways To “SEO” Your New WordPress Website

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 citationsget 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.


Tom Signature

Setting Up Your WordPress Permalink Structure For SEO

WordPress Permalink Structure SEO

When we think about the structure of our WordPress permalinks we should be thinking about the organization of our website and it’s hierarchy. Kind of like a sitemap.

We want to provide an optimal experience for users (by giving them helpful pages) but we also want to make sure we have the best WordPress permalink structure for SEO.

This article covers how to structure permalinks for pages, posts, as well as some other related permalink settings that will help you maximize your WordPress SEO.



SEO-Friendly Permalinks in 6 Steps

  1. What Makes an SEO-Friendly Permalink Structure?
  2. Permalink Structure For Pages (Parent Pages)
  3. Permalink Structure For Posts (Categories)
  4. Changing Permalinks and 301 Redirects
  5. Yoast Permalink Settings
  6. WWW vs Non-WWW



In addition to good site architecture and user-friendly navigation (people can find the pages they want), structuring permalinks also encourages you to split up pages so you can target more keywords.

Let’s say you have 5 offices in different locations. Creating a page for each office helps you target each one’s geographic location much better (Chicago Web Designer, San Diego Web Designer, etc). This will rank those pages higher since each page will do a better job of targeting it’s focus keyword.

Permalink structure for blog articles just help people find what they’re looking for.



2. Permalink Structure For Pages (Parent Pages)

Using parents pages is a way of categorizing pages by hierarchy. For example services can be a parent page of web design. In this situation your permalink structure would look like this: example.com/services/web-design

Common Uses

Common Permalink Structures

I created this on Created Using WriteMaps if you want to do your own. Also, heres a video of Googles Matt Cuts confirming this is a good permalink structure to use:


How To Create Parent Pages

In your WordPress dashboard, edit a non-parent page (Web Design) and on the right you will see a section to select a parent page (Services).

WordPress Parent Pages



3. Permalink Structure For Posts (Categories)

This is how WordPress sets your default permalink structure:

WordPress Permalink Structure Default

The default ?p=123 format is not a descriptive permalink structure for SEO and is not recommended, ever.


There is no best permalink structure for SEO since it’s a matter of preference, but I will say that Matt Cutts (who advises us SEOs) says in this video at 1:51 that he uses a custom structure of /%postname%/ because it’s “simple.” I use this too.

Best WordPress Permalink Structure


But what if you have a lot of articles? Some will argue that using /%category%/%postname%/ is better. Well again it’s a matter of preference. If you have a long domain name then also including a long word in the permalink path could hurt your SEO. That’s why if you do use that structure, you  may want to just use something like “articles” which you would set here:

Custom WordPress Permalink Structure

As for dates and numbers, they are not very descriptive. Plus using dates in your permalink structure can eventually cause your content to look outdated which can hurt your SEO.


How To Set Your Blog’s Permalink Structure

Just go to Settings –> Permalinks.



Changing permalinks is not recommended unless they’re really ugly, like this one…


If you do ever change a permalink, you’ll want to setup a 301 redirect to direct visitors and search engines to the new permalink. I use the Quick Page/Post Redirect Plugin which is very easy to use. Once installed, go to Redirect Options –> Quick Redirects. Now follow the “request” and “destination” examples below:

301 Redirect WordPress



If you have the Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin installed, there is a section where you can edit more permalink settings. Here’s what I recommend:

Yoast Permalink Settings

Have questions about this? I explain this more in my Yoast tutorial’s permalink section.



6. WWW vs Non-WWW

Do you want your website to show up as www.website.com or website.com? I prefer without the www but it’s also a preference and does not affect SEO. You can switch anytime, just make sure your preferred domain in WordPress is the same as it is in Google Webmaster Tools. Here’s how to do that…

  • In WordPress, go to Settings –> General
  • In Google Webmaster Tools, go to Gear Icon –> Site Settings –> Preferred Domain

Finally, redirect the one you’re not using to the one you are using.


Tom Signature