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Wordpress SEO Checklist: 20 Tips to enhance Your Rankings

wordpress seo checklist Photo by Fikret tozak on Unsplash

One of the reasons you have chosen WordPress as your website’s CMS might be because you have read that it is SEO-friendly out of the box. In fact,  you simply  have to check out WordPress' own list of 'powerful features' on their homepage to see that they are proud that the platform is SEO-friendly:

But that doesn’t mean that simply launching a WordPress website is enough to rank at  the highest  of the search engines.  you continue to  need to understand the right SEO tactics to use and how to implement these, but  the great  news is that WordPress makes this easy to do and makes it easier for beginners to grow their traffic from Google.

The platform has many features that adhere to SEO best practices  to form  your life easier, meaning  you'll  focus your efforts on the tasks which make a real difference to your rankings and organic visibility. 

Below,  you'll  find our top WordPress SEO tips to help you optimize your website and enjoy SEO success. But  only one  quick word of warning first — these tips and tricks apply to those of you running self-hosted WordPress sites, not the hosted version of the platform. 

What Is Wordpress?

WordPress  is that the  world’s most popular content management system, which  runs 35% of  the whole  internet and powers many of the websites you likely browse every single day, including BBC America,, and TechCrunch. Even The Rolling Stones use WordPress  for his or her  official website. If it works for these global giants,  you'll  see why it’s the go-to for many website developers.

WordPress  started off  as a blogging platform in 2003 but quickly pivoted to become a powerful and flexible solution to run entire websites, and in 2020,  it's  also capable of being used as an eCommerce solution.

But why did WordPress become so popular? 

For many,  it's  because:

It s simple  and straightforward  to use. You don’t  have to  be a developer to launch a WordPress website, and  it's  extremely user-friendly, even for beginners.

It is flexible and adaptable. With literally thousands of themes available (including many free options),  you'll  tailor WordPress to your needs, while also extending the core functionality with  one among  more than 55,000 plugins available. The platform  also can  host fully bespoke themes, if  you're  an experienced PHP developer, want  to find out  the language or choose to employ the services of a professional to turn a custom design into a stand-out site.

There is an amazing community. WordPress is open-source,  and therefore the  community behind the platform is simply amazing. From support forums to easy-to-follow documentation,  there's  always help at hand, however simple or complex  the difficulty  may be. 

Of course, it isn’t  the proper  platform for everyone, and there are times when there  could also be  other CMS options that are better suited to your individual needs. Commonly cited disadvantages and cons of WordPress usually relate to  the necessity  for frequent updates, potential vulnerabilities (if  you're  not keeping your site updated), and  a touch  bit of a learning curve to launch bespoke themes.  except for  the most,  it's  an extremely powerful platform and one which also gives you great foundations for SEO success. 

What Is Wordpress SEO?

WordPress on its own isn’t a replacement for a solid SEO strategy, and while  there's  no denying that the CMS saves you time and helps you to adhere to best practices without experience,  you would like  to understand that you need to put in the effort to rank your website on Google.

Your choice of CMS doesn’t dictate whether or not  you'll  rank well unless your site suffers from extensive technical issues that stop it from being crawled and indexed. You shouldn’t think that WordPress  may be a  magic weapon without further effort; it requires time and effort. SEO can get technical very quickly, but  the sweetness  of WordPress makes it easily accessible to those who aren’t experienced or even those who don’t class themselves as being technical.

Just because you are using WordPress doesn’t mean the SEO tactics you use will change.  you continue to  need to create great content, earn great links, and  make sure that  your site is well-optimized and free from technical issues that could hold it back. But WordPress helps you  to require  care of, out of the box, many of the SEO basics which help your site to rank, and what  you'll  find below are tips and tricks which help you to implement growth-driving tactics specifically on the platform. Getting Started: Wordpress SEO Basics

Before you  find out how  to properly optimize your WordPress site and start to increase your organic traffic, there are  some  basics that you need to make sure you have covered to be confident that you are working with a solid build.

1. Choose a Reliable Hosting Provider

You need to make sure you are hosting your site with a reliable provider —  site speed, uptime, and security are all key reasons to  think twice  about who you will use as your host.

Site speed  features a  direct impact on your WordPress site’s SEO performance, and both poor uptime and security vulnerabilities  may result  in site quality issues. Don’t be tempted  to travel  for the cheapest option, as  you're  more likely to suffer from performance issues.

WordPress themselves recommend three hosting providers, and it  is sensible  to consider these options if you are not sure where to start. 

2. Install an SEO-friendly WordPress Theme

When you first install WordPress,  you'll  almost certainly see the platform’s default ‘Twenty Twenty’ theme. However,  likelihood is that  this isn’t one you will want to use for your site. 

There  are actually  thousands of free themes available straight from the dashboard and many more premium themes,  you would like  to choose carefully,  otherwise you  could end up using one which isn’t SEO friendly.

While many themes claim to be SEO-friendly,  it's  not uncommon for themes to come bundled with scripts and plugins that you will not use,  which  will slow your site’s performance down. Before installing  a topic , run its demo through Google’s tool  to urge  insights on potential performance and SEO issues.

This should at least give you the confidence that you are choosing a theme that is not going to hold you back. 

3. Install a Free WordPress SEO Plugin 

Before  you start  to optimize your site,  you would like  to install an SEO plugin. Luckily, there are  a pair  of main options which come commonly recommended, both of which are  liberal to  install:

  • Yoast SEO
  • All in One SEO Pack

For  the aim  of this guide,  we'll  be using Yoast, but take  a glance  at our best WordPress plugins for SEO guide for both free and paid options.

Please note, a plugin won’t optimize your site for you; it just makes it easier for you  to try to to  blog SEO and to adhere to best practices.

One way to install a plugin on WordPress is to log in to the admin panel and navigate to the ‘add new’ plugin page down the left-hand menu: Plugins > Add new

Once  you're  there,  look for  the plugin which you want to install and hit ‘install now.’

Once  it's  installed,  you would like  to activate the plugin.  we'll  be installing additional plugins as we work through our top WordPress SEO tips.  to work out  other ways to install a WP plugin, visit this guide. 

4. Set Your Preferred Domain

Whether  you select  your preferred domain as or won’t have  an impression  on your SEO, but  you would like  to make sure your site is accessible on just one of these, as these are considered by Google to  vary  URLs.

The other domain version will then be redirected to your preferred domain. If  you're  launching a new website,  be happy  to choose either option, but if  you're  replacing an existing site,  make certain  to use the same version you have historically used. 

As a side note  to the present ,  you would like  to make sure you have an SSL certificate in place and run your website use HTTPS. If you haven’t got a certificate installed, speak  together with your  hosting provider or developer or explore the free Let’s Encrypt solution.

5. Check Your Site’s Visibility Settings

WordPress gives you  the power  to ‘discourage search engines from indexing’ your site, which essentially means it won’t rank.  this is often  commonly used by developers while a site is in development to stop it from being indexed while pages and content are not complete.

It is more common than you would think to find that this block is left in place after launch.  you would like  to check your site’s visibility settings under: Settings > Reading.

6. Enable SEO Friendly Permalinks

WordPress gives you  variety  of different options for how URLs are structured, and  you would like  to make sure you are using the most SEO-friendly option.

By default, WordPress uses URLs like this: These URLs  aren't  search engine-friendly, and  there's  absolutely no way to even begin to identify what the page is about from the URL alone.

Luckily,  you'll  choose a custom URL structure at: Settings > Permalinks

7. Verify Your Site with Google Search Console & Submit Your XML Sitemap

If you’ve not previously done so, you’ll  have to  verify your site with Google Search Console. If  you've got  never done this before,  you'll  learn how to do so in our definitive guide to Google Search Console.

Follow the verification steps listed and choose the ‘HTML tag’ method. From there,  skip  to the Yoast plugin: SEO > General > Webmaster Tools.

Once  you've got  verified your site,  you would like  to submit your XML sitemap by heading to the ‘Sitemaps’ tab. (Yoast generates an XML sitemap by default — check

WordPress SEO Tips: Optimizing Pages & Posts

Once  you've got  implemented the WordPress SEO basics,  you're  ready to get started optimizing your site and working through the things that will make a real difference to how you rank.

First,  we'd like  to look at how to approach SEO when optimizing pages and posts before sharing a number of advanced tips and tactics you can use to take your site to the next level.

8.  perform  Keyword Research

Without keyword research,  you're  not going to know which search terms you should be optimizing your site’s content for. In fact, keyword research should come at  the beginning  of any SEO project and be used to plan your site content and on-page optimization.

You can use our Keyword Overview tool to identify the keywords you should be using and optimizing for.

To learn how to use SEMrush to carry out keyword research in more detail, take  a glance  at this guide.

Whether  you're  starting to optimize your site from scratch or are creating new content, knowing the keywords  you're  trying to rank the page for is essential.

9. Install the SEO Writing Assistant by SEMrush Plugin & Create Great Content

Before  you begin  creating or optimizing the content across your site, install our SEO Writing Assistant plugin (also available as a Google Docs add-on). As you write (or review) content, the plugin will  facilitate your  to ensure that it is written in an SEO-friendly way,  and can  give recommendations and an analysis based on your Google top 10 rivals for a given keyword.

Perhaps it goes without saying, but if  you would like  to rank at the top of Google with your WordPress site,  you would like  to make sure that you are creating great content. The SEO Writing Assistant will help  make sure that  your content is optimized and structured in a search-engine-friendly way, while also recommending additional keywords  you would possibly  consider working into your copy.

eview Ranking Content

It is important that you spend some time analyzing the content which already ranks for the terms you are trying to target. Without understanding  what's  already ranking,  you'll  start creating content blindly — why create content that won't work?

Here’s  an excellent  guide that gives more insight into creating content for SEO to help you improve your skills while approaching and writing content that will help you rank better.

10. Set Custom URLs for Pages & Posts

By default, WordPress uses your page’s title  to make  the URL, meaning that these can  find yourself  being lengthy and sometimes truncate on the SERPs.

Let’s say  you've got  launched a piece of content which is titled ‘The Best Dogs Beds to Buy In 2020.’  hooked in to  how you set your permalinks,  you're  likely going to end up with a URL of

11. Use Optimized Page Headings

As well as creating your page’s default URL, the page title also defines your H1 heading. Not  conversant in  what this is?

A page’s H1 heading  is meant  as a way to give context on what your page is about to both users and search engines.  consider  it the same as the title of a book.

Best practices typically  involve  using one H1 heading (the page’s title), but  you ought to  also use H2 - H6 headings; they t give structure to your content, also  to interrupt  up the text and make it easier to read.

If your H1  is that the  book’s title, the H2s are chapters, with subsequent tags acting as sub-headings. Page headings are  an excellent  place to include your page’s main keyword and variants but don’t over-do this and never force the inclusion of a keyword somewhere that it doesn’t naturally fit.

12. Craft Unique Optimized Title Tags & Meta Descriptions

Your page's title tag tells users and search engines what your page is about and  is usually  regarded as being an important ranking factor.  it's  what feeds the clickable page title you see on Google search results.

You can either use snippet variables, add custom text as your title tag, or use  a mixture  of both.

Use keyword research to guide how you optimize each page’s title tag  and skim  this guide to learn more about how to structure this important page element. 

13. Use Internal Linking

You need to use internal linking within your content to help establish topical relevancy between different pages on your site, to pass authority earned from external links, and  to assist  users efficiently navigate.

Adding in internal links to other pages in WordPress  is basically  simple. All  you would like  to do is highlight the text which you want to link (this will be your link's anchor text) and click the ‘link’  button on the toolbar,  which can  then allow you to either paste a URL or search for pages within your site.

Check out our guide to building an internal linking strategy to learn how to choose the most suitable pages to link to.

14. Use Optimized File Names for Images

You should be using images and rich media within your content. In fact, a Backlinko study found a correlation between using  a minimum of  one image on a page and rankings.

It is all too easy to simply upload a screenshot or image with a useless file name, and  it's  not something we always pay attention to, but  we should always .

Before uploading  a picture  to the WordPress media library,  ensure  you are using optimized file names — this helps to give further context to a page.  instead of  /image123.jpg for  a picture  of a large dog bed, use /large-dog-bed.jpg.  it's  simple; make sure that the file name of the image reflects what it shows.

15. Add Alt Text  to pictures 

When using images in your content,  ensure  you are adding alt text to each of them. Not only are alt tags a principle of web accessibility  to assist  visually impaired users with screen readers, but  they assist  to give context and a description of images to search engines.

16. Install a Cache Plugin  to enhance  Site Speed

While WordPress undoubtedly offers strong performance almost out of the box, there are improvements to site speed  that nearly  all sites can make, especially  once we  consider that a site’s speed is a strong ranking factor.

You can get very technical on improving your site’s speed, but  one among  the most effective ways to increase this is by using a caching plugin to cache your posts and pages as static files. These static files are served to your users,  instead of  being dynamically generated each time and can significantly improve performance.

17. Optimize Images

Another proven  thanks to  improve your site’s speed and performance is to optimize your images, as these are  one among  the most common things which contribute to slow speed.

If  you're  using lots of images and rich media within your content,  the dimensions  of the page can increase noticeably, but  this is often  often because images not being properly optimized.  a standard  image issue is using one that is much larger than the size than the image will actually display at — this is a sign that the image was not optimized.

The good news is that you can quickly optimize your WordPress site’s entire media library,  also  as all future images you upload using the Smush plugin.

18. Noindex Tag Pages & Other Low-value Content

WordPress uses  variety  of different page taxonomies, including categories and tags. Categories serve  an excellent  purpose, especially when grouping content together:

Example: You launched a recipe collection, and  you would like  to use categories for different cuisines.

Tags are smaller and typically focused on specific topics.

Example: One recipe my tag parmesan cheese, pasta, and butter. 

Tags are rarely useful to users that aren’t already on your site. From an SEO perspective, these pages rarely offer anything  useful , and  you sometimes  don't want these pages to be indexed and send traffic from Google (traffic quality is low).

And the same applies to media pages and other post formats that WordPress uses. Usually, you don’t want these to be indexed by Google, and  you'll  add ‘noindex’ tags straight within Yoast.

Head to: SEO > Search Appearance > Taxonomies

Here,  you'll  choose whether or not to show the taxonomy type in search results.

Make sure you select ‘no’ for any taxonomies, content types, or archives (found in another tab), which you don’t want Google to index.

As another note here, head to the ‘Media’ tab and  ensure  that the ‘Redirect attachment URLs to the attachment itself?’ option is selected as yes, as this helps  to stop  an issue which occurred in Yoast back in 2018 where individual attachment URLs were being indexed.

19.  price  Your Pages with Schema

Schema markup can help  to reinforce  your SEO efforts by adding context to your content and data. It helps Google  to know  your content, present it  in several  and useful ways,  which reinforces  a searcher's experience.

To put it simply, by adding context to your pages,  you're  making it more likely that you not only rank higher but also get clicks when your page receives impressions.

20. Use ‘Last Updated’ Dates

You should regularly be updating your evergreen content to ensure it is always current and relevant, but  an issue  that is often asked is whether you should be changing the original publishing date of your pages and posts, removing dates  all at once  or something else.

One suggestion is to use ‘last modified' or 'updated on'  to point out  users and search engines when your content was last updated, giving them  the arrogance  that the information is current and relevant right now. Thankfully,  you'll  easily add last modified/updated info on your WordPress pages and posts using the WP Last Modified Info plugin.