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.
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.
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.
We’re always being told to create “good” content but besides being a skilled writer, what else can we do? Well I’ll tell you. We need to spruce it up! We need to focus on aesthetics, user-friendliness, optimization, and leveraging all those tools/plugins we have available.
You probably know that from an SEO perspective, good content naturally ranks high and is the best strategy for getting links, social shares, and all those nice SEO signals. I use every strategy in this list and it has helped me tremendously (with SEO, since that’s what I do).
I hope it can help you too.
1. Use A Table Of Contents
Use a table of contents to organize key topics (often your subheadings). This can also help you outline your articles. It only takes a few minutes and will make your readers happy.
How to do it… Table Of Contents HTML should look like this… <ul class=”listSquare”> <li><a href=”/your-permalink-here/#item-one”>Item One</a></li> <li><a href=”/your-permalink-here/#item-two”>Item Two</a></li> <li><a href=”/your-permalink-here/#item-three”>Item Three</a></li> </ul>
Each subheading’s HTML should look like this… <h3 id=”item-one”>Item One</h3> <h3 id=”item-two”>Item Two</h3> <h3 id=”item-three”>Item Three</h3>
Knowing your content dimensions (in pixels) helps you create graphics or find images that fit within those dimensions. I’m specifically referring to your content body and sidebar width. Since my content body is 680 width (pixels), I know that if I’m using 2 columns, each graphic should be around 340 width. I also know my sidebar widgets are 295 width.
9. Better Graphics
Start by redesigning graphics that appear in the most places (sitewide graphics): logo, footer images, sidebar images. Then move to individual pieces of content (content design graphics).
These are the widgets people see after the end of your articles (located between the content body and comments section). They usually have a call to action. For me I’ve included a newsletter box and my author profile. “Related articles” is also a popular one.
In most WordPress themes you can find these under (Appearance –> Widgets –> After Entry). Decide what widgets you want to show here. But there should be something.
11. Image Styling
Style your images by adding borders, margins, padding, captions or other customizations. There’s 4 different places to edit images, all of which have different styling options…
Clicking on an image and finding the “edit” option
Finding the insert/edit image icon in your visual editor
The CSS editor
12. Font Styling
13. Killer Headlines
It all starts with writing a great headline. The “perfect” headline includes:
Here is a tutorial by Neil Patel that explains the formula for a perfect headline. He says 8/10 people will read your headline, but only 2/10 will read the rest of your post. Choose wisely.
SEO Titles + Meta Descriptions
Your SEO title and meta descriptions are the forefront of your SEO – they’re the first thing people see in search results and on social networks. Writing descriptive, compelling snippets will increase your clickthrough rate and drive more visitors to your content.
Rich snippets enhance your search engine snippets with additional information about your content. It’s one of the best ways to stand out in search results and get more clicks.
Each social network formats your content differently, so you’ll want it optimized to format properly across the main social networks (your thumbnail image is the correct size and your titles and descriptions are tailored for each social network if you choose). The Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin does a fantastic job with this and I will assume you’re using it.
Step 1: Go to the “Users” section in WordPress and make sure each person fills out their Facebook, Twitter and Google+ fields.
Once you’ve configured Yoast’s social settings, edit the page or post you want to optimize for social. Scroll down to the Yoast section and hit the “Social” tab…
Yoast gives you the option to display custom titles, descriptions, and properly formatted images for these main social networks. If you leave these blank then your SEO title, meta description, and your main content image (or featured image) will be used. It’s a good idea to at least upload an image for Facebook / Twitter / Google+ so the image formats properly when shared across these main social networks. Here are the correct dimensions…
Facebook Image: 1200 x 630px
Twitter Image: 1024 x 512px
Google+ Image: 800 x 1200px
16. Show Yourself
You’ll see a cropped version in my right sidebar where I introduce myself. That’s where I would add your bio since people can immediately see you.
Add sidebar widget for single author…
First create your bio in HTML. You can create it in the Visual Editor which is easier. When you’re done, go to the Text Editor and copy your bio’s HTML. Now go to (Appearance –> Widgets) then add a “Text” widget to your blog sidebar. Paste the HTML and save.
You’ll see my signature at the bottom of each article I write. Adds a personal touch.
How to do it…
Get a blank piece of computer paper
Write your signature
Take a close picture of it
Crop your signature
Add it to the end of your articles
18. Load Times
The easiest way to improve load times is through sitewide optimizations that affect your entire website (getting faster hosting, lightweight themes, cache plugins…). I cover all this in my WordPress speed guide. You can also improve load times for individual pages by using less videos, large photos, and code. Run the URL through GTmetrix for recommendations.
19. TinyMCE Advanced
Ever feel like you don’t have enough options in your visual editor? Install the TinyMCE Advanced Plugin to style your content with more advanced options.
20. TinyMCE Spellcheck
Before publishing an article, try running the TinyMCE Spellcheck Plugin. Select what type of errors it scans for in the “Users” section or add words to ignore…
Before you promote your content, it’s a good idea to do some testing…
Mobile Responsiveness – even if your WordPress theme is responsive, some content doesn’t always format correctly. Pull up it up on your phone/tablet to double check.
Table Of Contents (Step 1) – if you’ve setup a table of contents, always test each link.
Tom Dupuis started OMM in 2011. He falls asleep to serial killer documentaries and pukes in Mobil garbage cans. Read his bio to learn 50 random and disturbing things about Tom, as well as the full story of starting OMM.