WordPress SEO Checklist: 45 SEO Tips to Improve Your Rankings

WordPress SEO Checklist: 45 SEO Tips to Improve Your Rankings

Some may lead you to believe that “SEO is dead.” Google what search term and what comes back in return are more than 800,000 search results. However, the fact that SEO has changed dramatically in the last decade does not mean that it is dead, it simply means that it has changed. Companies now need to adopt new and unique approaches to SEO to win the endless game in SERPs.

Many new companies and blogs create their entire business from the beginning of the organic search. While this can be risky, it is still a sign that organic research is alive and well.

Below you will find our best WordPress SEO tips to help you optimize your website and enjoy SEO success. But just one quick word of warning first: these tips and tricks apply to those running self-hosted WordPress sites, not the WordPress.com hosted version of the platform.

What is WordPress?

WordPress is the world’s most popular content management system, managing 35% of the entire internet and activating many of the sites that you are likely to browse every day, including BBC America, Time.com, and TechCrunch. Even the Rolling Stones use WordPress for their official website. If it works for these global giants, you can see why it is the right choice for many website developers.

WordPress started as a blogging platform in 2003 but quickly became a powerful and flexible solution for running entire websites, and by 2020 it can also be used as an e-commerce solution.

What is WordPress SEO?

WordPress alone is not a substitute for a solid SEO strategy, and while there is no denying that CMS saves time and helps you adhere to inexperienced best practices, you need to understand that you have to work hard to rank your site on Google.

Your choice of CMS does not determine whether or not you can rank well unless your site experiences major technical issues that prevent it from being crawled and indexed.

You shouldn’t think of WordPress as a magic weapon without the extra effort; it takes time and effort. SEO can get technical very quickly, but the beauty of WordPress makes it easily accessible to those who are inexperienced or even those who do not qualify as technical.

#1. WWW vs non-WWW domain

If you are just starting your site, the first question you may have is whether you should use www and how it affects WordPress SEO. It’s very simple; there is no SEO benefit in having www in your domain. This will not affect your ranking in any way. But that doesn’t mean you should always use no www. So why do websites still use www? There are some reasons:

  • Using www as part of your domain used to be the old standard. But that is no longer necessarily true. Even we do not use www here in funnywill. One of the reasons why you still see that www is used a lot is simply because changing it after years of use can be complex and cause problems. Therefore, many older brands simply continue to use it.
  • Another reason why large companies with heavy traffic may want to use www is because of the DNS. Technically, bare domains (not www) cannot have a CNAME record to redirect failover traffic. However, there are solutions to this problem.

So, when it comes to www vs. no www, it’s more a matter of personal preference. You may prefer shorter URLs; In this case, you can use no www. Note that, regardless of the version you choose, you can configure redirects to be accessible. For example, if you visit www.funnywill.com, simply redirect to funnywill.com.

In the Google Search Console, you can configure your preferred domain to appear on Google as www or not www. We recommend that you configure this option, however, if you are running a WordPress plugin, such as Yoast SEO (which we will see later), this is not technically necessary since the plugin automatically adds canonical tags so Google knows which indexed version.

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Google Search Console preferred domain

[ Read: How to Setup an SEO-Friendly Site Architecture That Boosts SEO ]

#2. Install an SEO plugin for WordPress

WordPress ready to use is already excellent when it comes to SEO. However, we always recommend that people install an SEO plugin when working with the WordPress site.

This gives you complete control over the optimization of what Google sees on your site. In terms of popularity, free Yoast SEO and All-In-One SEO Pack plugin steal the scene with its end-to-end optimization features. We highly recommend the Yoast SEO plugin and, in fact, much of this WordPress SEO checklist will have examples that use this plugin.

Recommended reading: Best SEO Plugins for WordPress (And Must-Have SEO Tools)

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Yoast SEO WordPress plugin

Yoast’s SEO plugin allows you to write better content with the analysis of pages and keywords, automatically generate XML site maps, enable browsing paths, add social and schema marks, and many other optimizations.

At the time we wrote this, it has more than 1 million installations with an impressive rating of 5 out of 5 stars. You can download the free WordPress plugin from the WordPress repository or follow the steps below to install it in the WordPress panel.

Step 1

In the Plugin section of the WordPress panel, click “Add new.” Search for Yoast SEO and click “Install Now.”

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Install SEO plugin in WordPress

Step 2

Then click on “Activate”.

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Activate Yoast SEO plugin

Step 3

You now have an “SEO” menu where you can access the plugin settings. Later we will go deeper into more options of Yoast accessories.

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Yoast SEO settings

And remember, the plugin does not do SEO for you. It simply offers recommendations for you to perform more data-based optimizations.

#3. Setup Friendly Permalinks

By default, WordPress provides strange permanent links (URL structure) that are simply not very clean. The default structure currently inserts the day and name in the URL as shown below.

http://wp.dev/2016/11/03/hello-world/

Google likes URLs that contain the title or keywords of your post, but shorter URLs are usually better. We recommend using the permanent link setting ” post Name”, as it is clean and can still benefit you using the title or keyword in the URL. The format looks like this:

http://wp.dev/hello-world/

You can change to a permanent link structure ” post Name” by clicking “Permanent Links” in the setup menu in the WordPress panel. Select “Publish Name” and click “Save Changes.”

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WordPress default permalinks

It is important to keep in mind that changing the structure of permanent links after posts are published can make all previous links useless, and people who share them on social networks will still be unable to direct traffic to your site.

If you are changing the structure of permanent links in an old site, redirect the previous URLs to the new permanent link by editing the .htaccess file or taking advantage of a third-party add-on such as Change Permalink Helper.

[ Read: WordPress SEO: 13 Way Rank at the Top of Google ]

#4. Always use a Focus keyword

When it comes to WordPress SEO, it is important to remember that Google is still a computer algorithm, so keywords are still important in 2020. You should definitely write to your visitors and customers, as recommended by Google, but write intelligently.

You can easily write to your audience considering the best SEO optimizations. And remember, other search engines like Bing and Yahoo sometimes rely even more on what some call outdated SEO practices.

Every time you write a blog post or publish a page on your WordPress site, you should always have a keyword in focus. Publishing a post to get more content is not enough. We will go further to the keyword search below. Using the Yoast SEO plugin, you can easily define the focus keyword you want to write about.

For example, for this post, we are using the keyword “WordPress SEO“. You can see that Yoast SEO analyzes keyword density and reports that it is a bit low for this post. Usually, 0.5% or more is a good amount to reach. Therefore, we should find a way to include our keyword several more times, of course, in our content.

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WordPress SEO focus keyword

#5. Importance of Title Tags

It is important that you have your main “focus keyword” that you want to rank in your blog or page title tag. Brian Dean, an SEO expert, recommends placing your keyword at the beginning of the title if possible, as this will have more weight in the search engines.

You can manually configure a title tag in the Yoast SEO plugin as shown below. Please note that Google has a visible limit of 65 characters, so if you check it, it may not appear. Now they are really linked to pixels, but Yoast SEO uses characters, which is a close approximation.

And keep in mind that title tags not only affect SEO but also their click-through rate (CTR). Some reported seeing a 20% increase in the CTR simply by making small adjustments to their titles.

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WordPress SEO title tag

#6. Increase the CTR with Meta Descriptions

Meta descriptions do not affect your WordPress SEO when it comes to rankings. However, meta descriptions affect your CTR. A better-written meta description can motivate the user to click on your post instead of above or below it in the SERPs.

And it has been said that the higher the CTR you have, the more relevant Google will be to judge your data and rank it higher. So, to some extent, meta descriptions can affect your ranking. But not in the traditional sense. You can configure your meta description manually in the Yoast SEO plugin.

Previously, there was a 156 character limit. Google updated this in December 2017 to 320 characters, but then reversed the changes to 150 and 170 characters. Anything that is not visible in the SERPs.

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Meta description

In addition, it is good to include the keyword focus in your meta description, because Google will highlight the search term in bold. For example, let’s say we search for “the best car” on Google. KBB has a “coolest car” post in the meta description, so Google adds that keyword because it is relevant to the search term. So, by including your focus keyword in your meta description, you can highlight a bit more.

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Bold meta description

However, remember that Google also automatically rewrites some meta descriptions. Therefore, what you enter is not what will always be displayed in the SERPs.

Watch this excellent video by Brian Dean on how to increase the CTR in your meta descriptions using words that appear in competitive AdWords texts and what he calls “powerful words.”

#7. Should I Use Meta Keywords?

Meta keywords are really a thing of the past. We are simply including this in our list for those who wonder if they should use meta keywords or not. The simple answer is no. Google and Bing used to rely on meta keywords in their ranking algorithms, but they didn’t win.

It seems that Yahoo might still rely a little on the meta keywords, but we don’t recommend using them simply for that reason. However, depending on the location of your site, it is important to know that the Russian search engine Yandex and the Chinese Baidu still use meta keywords.

According to Yandex, – <meta name=”Keywords” content=”…”/> may be used to determine the relevance of the page for search queries. If you want to add meta keywords to the posts and pages of your WordPress site, you can enable it in the Yoast SEO plugin by following the steps below.

Step 1

Click on the “Title and objective” section of the Yoast SEO plug-in and click on the “Other” tab. You can enable the “Use keyword meta tag” option.

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Enable meta keywords in Yoast

Step 2

In its posts and pages, the Yoast SEO plugin now has a section to enter your target keywords, as seen in the example below.

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Meta keywords – Yoast SEO

Again, we do not recommend that you spend time on the target keywords unless you can use a search engine that still uses them. Target keywords have been discontinued for a long time on Google and Bing regarding SEO.

[ Read: SEO Ranking: 6 Step To Boost Rankings by combining internal link and backlink ]

#8. Header tags: H1, H2, H3

Google crawler (bot) verifies HTML header tags such as H1, H2, H3, etc. to determine the relevance of the content of your site. In general, it is a good practice to have only one H1 tag per post or page and then several H2 and H3 below.

Think about it has a hierarchy of importance. The H1 tag is one of the most important headings and should contain the focus keyword.

Additional headings can also include your keyword or long-tail variations of your keyword. However, do not abuse the headers. They are used to divide your content to facilitate visitor reading.

Most WordPress themes, if coded correctly, will automatically assign the title or post of your page as an H1 header. You can assign H2, H3, H4, etc. headers in your post or page. You can create a header using the drop-down menu in the visual editor. This automatically assigns the block of text the <h2> or <h3> HTML tags that Google will read.

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Header tags

You can also use the shortcut keys in the visual editor to apply headers faster:

ALT + SHIFT + 2 (H2 header)
ALT + SHIFT + 3 (H3 header)

#9. Image Alt Text

ALT text refers to the ALT attribute or alternative text applied to the images on your WordPress site. Google uses ALT tags to see how relevant your image is to surrounding content.

They are also used by screen readers for people with visual impairments. For example, if someone was using Dragon NaturallySpeaking software, ALT text can really help you navigate the page better. You should always add ALT text to your images. And if you haven’t been, come back and do it now.

Fortunately, with WordPress, you don’t need to know any code to add ALT text, just add it by loading images in the media library or by clicking on an image in the visual editor. Follow the steps below to quickly add ALT text to an existing image.

Step 1

In the visual editor, place your cursor over your image and click on the “Edit” option.

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Edit WordPress image

Step 2

You can enter your ALT text description in the “Alternative text” field. In general, it is beneficial to add the focus keyword, if appropriate to the image. However, do not add your focus keyword as ALT text to all your images. As with all things about SEO, do it in moderation. Google doesn’t like spam.

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Add alt tag to image

#10. Image title text

The image title text is not used for WordPress SEO purposes and Google or Bing does not crawl it, so you do not need to use them. Here is an example of what is the text of the image title or the attribute of the image title below.

However, the image title text allows you to add tooltips to the images. This can be a great way to simply add a small CTA when someone rolls the mouse over it. So, although technically it can’t help you rank better, it can help increase the user experience.

As with ALT text, you don’t need to know any code to add the title text, just add it by loading images in the media library or by clicking on an image in the visual editor. Follow the steps below to quickly add the title text to an existing image.

Step 1

In the visual editor, place your cursor over your image and click on the “Edit” option.

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Edit WordPress image

Step 2

You can enter the description of the title text in the “Image title attribute” field in the advanced options.

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Image title tag

You can see the text of the title in action as information about tools if you hover over your image.

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Image title tag tooltip

[ Read: 7 Google Ranking Signals: What REALLY Matters For Google Search Engine in 2019? ]

#11. Focus Keyword in the First Paragraph

The first paragraph of the content and pages of your WordPress post is very important! It is always recommended to add the focus keyword in the first paragraph if possible.

The reason is that Google crawls content from top to bottom, and if you find your keyword, it can help you consider your most relevant article for your topic. The Yoast SEO plugin still has control to make sure you are following these best practices.

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Focus keyword in first paragraph

#12. Content is king (word count)

The old saying “Content is king” is still alive and well. Google and visitors love high-quality content. In general, it is much better to publish higher-quality content and longer format than to publish shorter content more frequently.

This may vary, of course. If you are a news site, it could be the other way around. But long-format content has proven to be repeatedly successful in SERPs. Capsicum Mediaworks has published some statistics on the importance of content length.

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SEO content length

As you can see in the image above, the top-ranked sites have much more content. In fact, 2,000 words or more should really be your new minimum today.

Neil Patel, a well-known internet marketer, has an excellent 2016 post about how long-format content can help boost your ranking. And I can probably say that we saw the same results here in funnwill; Otherwise, we would not spend so much time posting content for so long!

CanIRank published its findings in a study in early 2017 on the effectiveness of content length. They analyzed everything, such as seeing if the longer content generates more backlinks and what happens to the rankings of those on the third and fourth pages. In short, they discovered that the length of the content, even with other possible factors in the game, is even better.

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Content length

Another advantage of long format content is that over time you will also begin to rank not only your focus keyword but many variations of long-tail keywords, sometimes hundreds of keywords. And sometimes the traffic of all long-tail variations will be more than your focus keyword. So it really is a victory when it comes to long-format content!

#13. Use short URLs

Google likes clean, organized and structured WordPress sites; This includes the use of short URLs. They can also help you improve your CTR. MarketingSherpa conducted a study and found that executives are 250% more likely to click on an organic list if:

  • it had a fairly short URL and
  • appeared directly below a list with a long URL

Therefore, keeping your URLs as short as possible can be a great competitive advantage. The only thing to keep in mind is that WordPress automatically creates a URL for you based on the title. For this post, we end with the following:

We can clean this up a bit and simply use our focus keyword. Follow the steps below on how to shorten a URL for a WordPress post or page.

Step 1

Next to your URL (also known as a slug), click “Edit.”

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Edit URL in WordPress

Step 2

You can type the URL you want to use. Be sure to separate your keyword with hyphens. Then click on “OK”.

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We finish with the following URL, which is much better.

It is also important to remember that each URL or slug in WordPress must be unique. Therefore, you cannot have two posts or pages that use exactly the same URL. So keep this in mind when writing.

#14. Use smart image file names

This is something that many WordPress site owners do wrong and it is to name their images correctly! With some of the best WordPress SEO practices, you can really see a small boost in both SERPs and Google Image Search.

  • Always name your image files with real words related to their content before uploading them. For example, instead of DC0000.JPG, name it WordPress-seo.JPG.
  • Always include hyphens between words in the names of image files. For example, if you name it wordpress_seo.JPG or wordpressseo.JPG, Google will not be able to read it. Google reads files with hyphens as individual words; so you can call it WordPress-security.JPG.
  • Include your focus keyword, if applicable, at least in your featured image. We always name our featured image in our blog posts in the same way as our focus keywords.

[ Read: Website Builder: How to Choose the Best Website Builder in 2019 (Pros & Cons) ]

#15. Importance of Dofollow vs NoFollow Links

There are two basic types of links on the Internet when it comes to WordPress SEO, and this is Do-follow links and no-follow links. Here are the basic differences between the two:

Dofollow link

By default, every link you create on a WordPress site is do-follow. Google crawls sites, and when it finds do-follow links, it passes the link between them and the site they link to. This helps create authority and affects your ranking on Google. You’ve probably heard people say that you need more backlinks, well, they usually refer to do-follow links from other high-authority websites. In general, the more do-follow links you get, the better!

Nofollow links

Nofollow links are links that contain the no-follow rel attribute, as shown below:

<a href="https://funnywill.com" rel="nofollow">my link</a>

Nofollow links inform Google that no link juice should pass and should simply be ignored. This does not mean that links not followed are not important. Note that nofollow links can still generate traffic, even if they don’t pass the link.

For example, the link on your Twitter profile is no-follow, as seen below. However, this link can still generate a lot of traffic and therefore remains important. Read our tutorial on the different ways to add nofollow links in WordPress.

Building a backlink link profile with a good proportion of do-follow and no-follow links is the best and safest approach. Read this post about other easy ways to find out if a link is do-follow or no-follow.

#16. Add Interlinks

Links are links that point from one page or publish on your WordPress site to another page or publish on the same site. This usually happens when you refer to other content that you have written or possibly link to your own landing page. Moz has an excellent article on why internal links are important.

  • They help people navigate their own sites and increase the time on their site.
  • They help establish a hierarchy of their information and structure.
  • They help spread the juice of links throughout their own site, as they are do-follow.

We always recommend adding at least 3-5 internal links to each post or page you write. And depending on the duration of its content, possibly even more. Follow the steps below on how to easily add a link.

Step 1

To create a hyperlink, click on the link button at the top of the visual editor or highlight the word and press CTRL + K. Then click on “Link Options”.

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Link in WordPress

Step 2

Then select the recent article to which you want to link it. You can also use the search to find the page or internal post.

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Internal link

#17. Add high-domain external links

Like adding the links above, you should also add some external links to websites with high domain authority. This helps WordPress SEO by informing Google that it is linking to high-quality content relevant to yours and improves the user experience by providing additional information.

It can also be a great way to start conversations with another brand. If you link to another business in your post, we will send you a quick email or a tweet after publishing it and request a share. If they share their social profiles, it can be free instant traffic for you! We use this approach a lot and it works very well.

We recommend adding at least 2 external links of high authority domain to your content. And remember, when adding external links, an interesting little trick to keep people on your site is to open the link in a new tab or window.

Some people may argue that they don’t like it, but it can help people navigate back to your site later when they have forgotten you. Follow the quick steps below to open a link in a new tab or window.

Step 1

To create a hyperlink, click the link button at the top of the visual editor or highlight the word and press CTRL + K. Enter the external URL and click on “Link Options”.

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Link options

Step 2

Then select the “Open in a new tab” link. This adds the HTML equivalent of target = ”_ blank” to your posts, as shown below:

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Open link in new tab

Another popular approach that many bloggers make is to establish external links to open in new tabs and internal links to go directly.

[ Read: WordPress Plugins 2019: 22 Essential Plugin For Website, Blogger ]

#18. Affiliate links

Many WordPress bloggers and even some companies use affiliate links on their websites. In general, affiliate links are used when you want to track a commission or referral for a product or cross-site registration.

The downside is that Google generally disapproves of affiliate links. Some sites have been penalized for having too many affiliate links. To safely use affiliate links, they must always be followed. An excellent way to keep track of your affiliate links and always make sure they are no-follow is to use an affiliate plugin, such as Pretty Links or ThirstyAffiliates.

Pretty Links allows you to create short and easy affiliate links, which are always no-follow and also redirect with a 301. For example, a link could be https://domain.com/go/funnywill. These links are redirected internally so you can access report data on how many clicks are made on each link.

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Affiliate pretty links

#19. Sitemaps

Search engines, such as Google, Bing and Yandex, use site maps to capture the hierarchy and structure of your WordPress site and ensure better crawling. Are site maps required? No, search engines will crawl your site without it, but by creating this file you can also get more data from reports on your site.

That’s why we always recommend using a sitemap file: thanks to it, you can provide a clear picture of your site’s structure to search engines that, among other things, will increase your chances to score Google sitelinks. The Yoast SEO plugin actually has the ability to automatically generate your sitemap file for you. Follow the steps below to enable or verify this function.

Step 1

Click on “XML Sitemaps” in Yoast SEO options and enable the functionality of the XML sitemap.

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WordPress XML sitemap file

Step 2

It is always good to make sure that the sitemap XML file is actually being created. You can click on the XML Sitemap button and it will start the file itself, usually located at the root of your domain:

It should look like this below. Here you will find more details on how to send this file to Google and Bing for quick indexing and tracking.

#20. Submit Sitemap to Google Search Console

Now that you have a sitemap XML file, we recommend that you submit it to the Google Search Console so you can access additional information about the status of your WordPress site. Let’s say you already have a Google Search Console account, otherwise, see this more detailed post on how to submit Google to your site.

In the Google Search Console, click on “Sitemaps” in the Crawl section, and then click on “Add / Test Sitemap”. Enter the location of the site map file that you set up in the previous step and click “Submit.” It will show how many pages/posts have been sent and how many are really indexed. Google will now automatically track your sitemap file regularly.

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Submit sitemap file to Google

#21. Submit the site map to Bing webmaster tools

As with the Google Search Console, it is also recommended that you submit your WordPress site to Google Webmaster Tools.

#22. Submit sitemap to Yandex Webmaster Tools

As with Google Search Console and Webmaster Tools, it is also recommended that you submit your WordPress site to Yandex. This is a Russian search engine, but if you have global traffic, it can help!

#23. Force Crawl for Faster Indexing

Usually, when you publish content on your WordPress site, Google determines the frequency of crawling at which you index your content. This can be a matter of minutes, hours or days. However, did you know that there is a way to instantly index your content on Google and Bing? This is just a useful little trick that you can use to see where it compares faster with competitive SERPs.

Force crawl in Google Search Console

To force the crawling of a WordPress post or page, simply click on the “Explore as Google” option in Crawl in Google Search Console and enter the URL. Click on “Fetch.”

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Force crawl in Google Search Console

Then click on “Request Indexing” and your URL will be instantly indexed in the SERPs. Please note that Google does not guarantee that you will index it immediately. However, in our tests, this always works. Some recommendations for faster indexing include making sure that your WordPress site loads quickly and that nothing stops Google crawling.

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Request indexing

Force crawl in Bing webmaster tools

You can also do the same in Google Webmaster Tools. Simply click on “Submit URL” under Configure my site, enter the URL and click on “Submit”.

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Force crawl in Bing Webmaster Tools

#24. Utilize Social Signals

Do social signals help your SEO in WordPress? Like tweets, actions, sites with positive votes, etc. The answer, unfortunately, is not black or white. However, we have seen firsthand that they may temporarily affect your ranking in the SERPs.

So what makes this happen? Our theory is that, due to a large amount of traffic and social signals combined, Google considers this page to be very relevant and, therefore, increases SERPs.

Many SEOs will debate this, but we have seen it happen first-hand several times. You go to the first page or Reddit and immediately rank the page by a very competitive term.

The following week, the post will close and you will be in the middle of the second page in the SERPs. This requires that you return and further optimize the post, create backlinks against it, etc. to return to work

Below is an example of something we wrote with a decent volume of keywords that were activated in the SERPs the next day because we sent a lot of social traffic.

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Social signals traffic

The main advantage is simply that actions, social signals and more traffic can influence your ranking, so we recommend that you enjoy social networks as much as possible.

#25. Do keyword research

91.5% never venture past the first page of search results.

Search Engine Watch

The keywords are still alive and well in 2019. That is why ranking is important. Remember, as we mentioned earlier, Google is still a computer algorithm. You need to look for something to calculate rankings, and keywords are still a big part of that.

This is an example of a customer site that began in October 2015. In less than a year, the site has expanded to a property that now receives more than 120,000 visitors per month and 95% of traffic is organic. And the amazing part is that they spent only 2-3 hours a week. How they did it? They found a good niche and did a keyword research strategy.

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Keyword research traffic

There are many excellent tools available to help you search for keywords. Some of our favorites are KWFinder, SEMrush and Ahrefs. The trick is to find a good keyword with the search volume and also not to choose something that is very competitive.

And don’t forget multilingual SEO! Sometimes keywords in other languages ​​are much less competitive. The English market is very saturated when it comes to content marketing and SERP. For example, in English, we search for the term “marketing strategies.”

We can see that it has a volume of approximately 40,000 searches per month. And it will be difficult to rank. If you look at the SERPs, you instantly face large domains with high domain authority. If you’re smart, you probably don’t try to address this keyword.

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Keyword volume

Now, if you use the same term in Spanish, “marketing strategies”, we can see that it does not have so much search volume, but still around 15,000 per month. And guess what? The difficulty is not difficult to rank. The domains with which it competes have little domain authority in less than 40 years. This is something you can face now. When it comes to other languages, you will find many search terms that are easier to rank.

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Keyword volume in Spanish

[ Read: How to Start a Blog 2019: 6 Easy Step To start Blogging (Bonus: Blogging Tips, Compare Hosting) ]

#26. Build backlinks

Backlinks are still very important when it comes to WordPress SEO. Google uses backlinks to transmit links, as we discussed earlier, and to show that there is another relevant or important site that has similar information. When a high authority domain site is linked to you, it does much more than people think. Brian Dean of Backlinko analyzed more than one million search results and discovered that backlinks remain an important ranking factor.

In general, a good sign is that the number of reference domains linked to you is in an upward trend. This means that over time, you will get more and more websites that link to you. And, in fact, in Brian’s study, the number of unique referring domains was the strongest correlation in the entire study. The sites with the most reference domains were the best ranked.

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Referring domains

Matthew Barby also reviewed 1 million URLs and found that yes, backlinks are important. On average, the results of Google’s first page 2 accounted for 38% of all backlinks on page 1.

Ahrefs is a good tool to get an overview of your backlink profile. You can see the total number of backlinks to your site, the number of referral domains, organic keywords, etc. Another great feature is the backlink notifications. We tested several backlink tools and Ahrefs definitely takes the palm for accuracy. The “new backlinks” feature allows you to see when new sites on the Internet are linked to your WordPress site. Below is an example of someone who linked to our Google Amp article in the last two days.

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New backlinks

A little tip: help share content when people link with you. This helps create social signals for them on this page, which in turn can help increase their authority on the page. And you want links with more page authority. So, in a way, you can help yourself by sharing third-party content that took a while to link with you. And never be afraid to contact other bloggers and ask them to mention your excellent blog post.

#27. WordPress SEO HTTPS Advantage

Google has officially said that HTTPS is a Ranking Factor. While it may be only a small factor in the rankings, wouldn’t it have an advantage in beating its competitors in the SERPs? And due to Google’s pressure for everyone to migrate to HTTPS, you can bet that the weight of this ranking factor will probably increase in the future. Here is a great article about the impact of TLS / SSL on ratings.

And just look at some of the other SEO and HTTPS data! Matthew Barby reviewed 1 million URLs and found that more than 33% of all pages ranked by Google 1, 2 or 3 use HTTPS.

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HTTPS usage vs Google ranking

#28. Schema Markup

You have probably heard the crazy term “scheme marking” or “structured marking” that is published on the web. Schema marking is basically an additional code that helps search engines like Google provide more and better data to visitors. Have you seen those stars with a review on SERPs? Well, the stars are the result of scheme marking. Schema marking means that you can get special points in the SERPs, as well as a dramatic increase in the CTR.

How much do the stars really help in the SERPs? The CXL Institute conducted a study, and the two companies that used stars for analysis had a significantly higher click rate for organic SERPs, up to 35%. They concluded that this strategy produces better results.

Many WordPress themes have encoded schema marking, but there are also others that do not. You can test your website or blog with the Google Structured Data Testing Tool. In general, what you want to see is 0 errors and something in return. If it is completely blank on the right side, your WordPress site has no marked markup scheme.

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Google structured data schema

To add schema markup to your WordPress site, we recommend the free Schema plugin. This will automatically add the required markup. You can run another test in the Google structured data test tool.

[ Read: 6 easy Step How to Start an Online Store in 2019 (Ecommerce) ]

#29. Social Markup

Similar to scheme marking, there is also social marking. Do you know those thumbnails that appear on Facebook and Twitter when you share a blog post on your WordPress site? Well, these are generated by social tagging. Fortunately, once again the Yoast SEO add-on comes to the rescue. This add-on adds the social tagging you need. While it is not known how much this affects WordPress SEO, it never hurts to tell Google what social media profiles are connected to your brand.

We recommend accessing the “Social” options in Yoast SEO and completing everything. You can change things like the default thumbnail that appears when the site is shared and the type of thumbnail that Twitter uses.

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Yoast social markup

This is an example of code that the Yoast SEO add-on automatically adds. Facebook and Google use what they call OG tags to get information, and Twitter uses its own metadata.

<meta property="og:locale" content="en_US" />
<meta property="og:type" content="article" />
<meta property="og:title" content="How to Install WordPress Locally the Easy Way" />
<meta property="og:description" content="Sometimes it can be more convenient to work with WordPress on your own machine. Check out how to install WordPress locally the easy way with DesktopServer." />
<meta property="og:url" content="https://funnywill.com/blog/install-wordpress-locally/" />
<meta property="og:site_name" content="funnywill Managed WordPress Hosting" />
<meta property="article:publisher" content="https://www.facebook.com/funnywill" />
<meta property="article:section" content="Development" />
<meta property="article:published_time" content="2016-11-03T03:15:35-08:00" />
<meta property="article:modified_time" content="2016-11-06T18:55:53-08:00" />
<meta property="og:updated_time" content="2016-11-06T18:55:53-08:00" />
<meta property="fb:admins" content="1407415661" />
<meta property="og:image" content="https://funnywill.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/install-wordpress-locally.jpg" />
<meta name="twitter:card" content="summary_large_image" />
<meta name="twitter:description" content="Sometimes it can be more convenient to work with WordPress on your own machine. Check out how to install WordPress locally the easy way with DesktopServer." />
<meta name="twitter:title" content="How to Install WordPress Locally the Easy Way" />
<meta name="twitter:site" content="@funnywill" />
<meta name="twitter:image" content="https://funnywill.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/install-wordpress-locally.jpg" />
<meta name="twitter:creator" content="@brianleejackson" />

#30. Last Updated Date in SERPs

This is a controversial topic for some, so you should delete the dates in your WordPress posts or change them to “The last update?”. Some have even mentioned that the dates shown in the posts maybe some kind of direct or indirect sort signal.

It also depends on the type of website you run. If you have a lot of green content, yes, you may want to change the dates of the last update. In fact, we use the latest update on our blogs because we spend many hours updating the previous content. Follow the steps below to implement this on your WordPress site.

Step 1

Note: This may vary depending on the WordPress theme. First, you must edit your single.php file and find the following code:

<?php the_time('F j Y'); ?>

Step 2

Replace the previous code with this code:

Last updated on <time datetime="<?php the_modified_time('Y-m-d'); ?>"><?php the_modified_time('F jS, Y'); ?></time>

Your blog posts should now show a last updated date. The above code is validated in the Google structured data test tool and the updated date will be displayed in the SERPs. As you can see in this example below, we published this article 5 days ago. However, we added update 2 days ago. Google has tracked it again after our update and appears as new for SERPs. This can help increase your CTR.

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Last updated date in SERPs

Remember to update your content. You may lose the ability to display data lines if you trick Google by faking the date to be more recent than the actual date/time it was published.

[ Read: Keyword Research: A Step-By-Step Guide to Keyword Research (Best Keyword Research Tools Compared) ]

#31. Evergreen Content

Permanent content can be very important when it comes to WordPress SEO and long-term organic traffic. Evergreen means that content is always relevant no matter when you read it. In general, when it comes to publishing perennial content, the writer needs to update it occasionally, since most industries always change a little over time. See some evidence about the power of permanent content.

Another advantage of permanent content is that you can share it repeatedly and continue creating backlinks and social cues against you. If you have the option of publishing perennial content versus news, you should definitely play long term!

#32. Google Knowledge Graph

Have you ever seen this box appear at the top of Google? This is called Google Knowledge Graph or featured excerpts. If you can do that, it essentially means that you can rank twice for the same keyword and publish it in SERPs. As you did, Unfortunately, there is no magic recipe to achieve this 100% of the time, but from our personal experience, add outline marks and use bullet headings and lists, as they should help you highlight the fragment. Structure your posts in an organized way with the labeling and you should be on the right track.

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Google knowledge graph

#33. Negative SEO

Negative SEO is a very important issue since many people do not know how to handle it. Normally, with SEO, you want to get backlinks from others, as this helps increase the authority of your domain and page bypassing the link juice. However, this strategy can also be applied reverse engineering to damage your site.

That is why you should control your backlink profile. That is the only way to know that there is no negative SEO in your business. Check out this case in which a Business was attacked and the next morning woke up with more than 200,000 bad backlinks against them, all with viagra and pharmacy terms. And guess what? It took more than 2 years to clean up the mess. This is how negative SEO is bad.

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Bad backlinks – negative SEO

This does not seem fair at first, because you cannot prevent someone from sending you a bad backlink against you. So, if this happens to you, Google has what they call the Disavow tool. This allows you to create a list of domains that you want Google to ignore. Then, at least, there is a way to protect yourself.

#34. Claim social profiles

Another tip is to claim all your social media profiles as soon as possible. Typically, companies should do this immediately after launching the site. Most of the backlinks of social media profiles are no-follow, however, they can send a lot of traffic. Another great advantage is that social media profile pages rank very well in SERPs! So, to mark this, it can be huge. Take funnywill, for example.

If you search Google for our name “funnywill”, you can see that our Facebook page and our Twitter profile are on the first page. And our LinkedIn company page is at the top of the second page. The use of social media profiles is almost an instant gain for your brand and requires almost no effort on your part.

You can use a free tool like Namechk to see what names are available on all social networks. Be sure to claim all of yours today!

#35. Local SEO

Local SEO is a great topic. Much more than we can cover only in this post. Some quick tips are that local businesses must register their site immediately with Google Business and Bing Places. Both are completely free and will help you appear in the SERPs locally. For example, then I looked for “organic Italian” foods and those from Picazzo, a local Italian place, topped the list.

does social media affect seo ranking
Local business SEO

#36. Google Image Search

A good reason to set up your Google Search Console account and upload your site map file, as discussed earlier, is so you can monitor the status of your image index in Google Image Search. Image traffic can increase dramatically over time, so it is important to make sure your images are indexed. According to Jumpshot data, Google Images accounted for more than 22% of web searches in 2018.

You can click on “Site Map” in the Monitoring section in GSC and check the status.

how many seo ranking signals are there Ultimate WordPress SEO Checklist
Google image search indexing

You should also ensure that your images are still indexed to Google when you switch to a CDN. For Yoast SEO plug-in users, add the following code at the bottom of the functions.php file. Replace, of course, the domain and the CDN domain with yours.

function wpseo_cdn_filter( $uri ) {
return str_replace( 'http://yourdomain.com', 'http://cdn.yourdomain.com', $uri );
}
add_filter( 'wpseo_xml_sitemap_img_src', 'wpseo_cdn_filter' );

If you do not, the images can be de-indexed (as shown below), which means that you will lose all the benefits of Google image search. You can always verify this yourself in Google Search Console.

how to improve seo rankings Ultimate WordPress SEO Checklist
Images not indexing on CDN

In September 2018, Google also changed the way the image algorithm works.

[ Read: AdSense Alternatives – 22 Best Alternatives to Consider for Your Website in 2019 ]

#37. Don’t Index Image Attachment Pages

Each time you load an image and insert it in the normal way, it creates a separate WordPress file attachment page where the image resides. If you’re not careful, Google can start indexing these pages, which is sometimes not good. If someone goes to an image attachment page, all they will see is the image, not the content of the post.

This will probably cause them to leave immediately, simply causing the bounce rate to increase. If you notice this on your WordPress site, the Yoast SEO plugin has a redirect option to fix it. Simply click on the “Advanced” Yoast SEO settings and enable “Redirect URL of attachments to the main post URL”.

how to increase seo ranking
Redirect attachment URLs to parent

#38. Multilingual SEO for WordPress

Adding additional languages ​​to your site can be a big change when it comes to WordPress and SEO traffic. Neil Patel experienced this and saw a 47% traffic increase after translating his site into 82 languages. Obviously, this will not work for everyone and depends on your business and geographic location, but it is definitely something to think about.

When it comes to actually implement this on your WordPress site, Google does not require duplicate content as long as you have the correct hreflang and canonical tags installed. In the following example, these tags basically tell Google that the English version is the original version and is only a minor version in Spanish.

English Version

<link rel="canonical" href="https://funnywill.com" />
<link rel="alternate" href="https://funnywill.com" hreflang="x-default" />
<link rel="alternate" href="https://funnywill.com/es" hreflang="es" />

Spanish version

<link rel="canonical" href="https://funnywill.com/es" />
<link rel="alternate" href="https://funnywill.com" hreflang="x-default" />
<link rel="alternate" href="https://funnywill.com/es" hreflang="es" />

There is a plugin that you can use to translate your content as WPML or WordPress translation services such as Weglot. Remember that no machine translation tool will be better than a real person translating it for you. We recommend hiring a native speaker or using a translation service.

[ Read: Website Traffic: 28 Way To Increase Website Traffic Fast 2019 ]

#39. Website speed

The speed of the website is enormous when it comes to WordPress SEO. Google announced in 2010 that this affects its ranking. The speed of the page is important for Google and you know why? This is because the speed of the page is important for visitors! Here are some statistics for you:

  • 1 in 4 visitors would leave a site if it takes more than 4 seconds to load.
  • 46% of users do not revisit sites with poor performance.
  • Website owners have only 5 seconds to attract visitors before thinking about leaving.
  • 74% of users accessing the mobile site would log out if the load takes more than 5 seconds.
  • Every one-second delay in page load time can generate annual losses of $ 1.6 billion for online merchants as large as Amazon.

Some ways to easily fix it are: First, use a quickly managed WordPress host, implement a CDN and optimize your site accordingly.

#40. Fix broken links

Nobody likes broken links, and neither does Google. There are some ways to fix broken links on your WordPress site. The first is simply to register in Google Search Console. This is another reason why you should use it. If you click “Tracking errors” in the Tracking section, you may see errors not found. You can click on each error and see where the broken link is.

There are broken WordPress plugins, however, we do not recommend them because they impair the performance of your site. If you want to scan your site for broken links, it is better to do a single scan with a free online tool like Online Broken Link Checker, or use a site audit tool, as we will see below.

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Broken links in Google Search Console

#41. WordPress SEO audits

An excellent way to instantly see how your WordPress site is optimized is to do a quick WordPress SEO audit. There are excellent free and premium tools available to help you. SeoSiteCheckup is a great free tool that has more than 50 controls to let you know how you are doing. Varvy also has a great SEO tool where you can run your site. Check access to Googlebot, mobile usability, security, accessibility, page speed, etc.

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Varvy SEO tool

SEMrush is a premium service that also has a great SEO audit tool. It lets you know if there are missing ALT tags, pages with a low HTML-text ratio and even a low word count. While these tools are quite basic, they can be a good way to start.

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SEMrush SEO site audit

#42. Mobile usability

Google recently announced the proof of its mobile indexing, which means that its algorithms will ultimately use mainly the mobile version of the content of a site to rank the pages. This is a big change in the way Google will index the content.

This means that mobile is now more important than ever. If you do not have a responsive website yet, discard everything you are doing and continue immediately. You can use Google’s mobile-optimized tool to verify that your current WordPress site passes the test.

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Google mobile-friendly test

Another option is to implement Google AMP, which is an open framework that allows websites to create lightweight web pages.

Always check Google Analytics to see how much traffic your site receives from mobile devices. This will help you determine how much priority you should put in this.

[ Read: How to Write a Blog Post 2019: A Step-by-Step Guide (Example) ]

#43. WordPress categories

This is optional, but Google’s indexing categories can also increase the relevance of your content to increase page rank and increase traffic and improve WordPress SEO. Many WordPress themes, by default, do not display the category description. Follow the steps below to index your categories and display them on your site.

Step 1

To see if your categories will be ranked and displayed on Google, click on “Titles and goals” in Yoast’s SEO options. Click on the “Taxonomies” tab and make sure that the meta robots are configured to be indexed in “Categories”.

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Indexing categories in WordPress

Step 2

If your WordPress theme does not display category descriptions in the front-end, use the following code and add it to the top of your archive.php file. This varies according to your current topic.

<div><?php echo category_description(); ?></div>

step 3

Then enter the category description in the specific post category you want to index.

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Category description

#44. Google Analytics

The best way to know how your WordPress SEO works overtime is to set up a free Google Analytics account. If you need help, follow this step-by-step integration tutorial. One of the first things you should do is link your Google Analytics account to your Google Search Console account. In the configuration of your domain properties, click on Search Console Settings and it will guide you through the linking process.

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Link Google Search Console and analytics

This will add an additional section to your Google Analytics account, which will allow you to see search queries and your best landing pages.

what does seo ranking mean
Search queries in analytics

Another section to consider is the “Organic search” channel in the process of acquisition. This is the traffic coming from Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.

how to check seo ranking Ultimate WordPress SEO Checklist
Organic search channel

[ Read: SEO Writing: Ultimate Guide to Writing Blog Posts That Rank 1 of Google ]

#45. Track keyword rankings

And last but not least, we recommend that you keep track of your keyword rankings. This allows you to monitor the progress of your “focus keywords” in your SEO campaigns. If you spend time optimizing your posts, you also need to monitor your long-term progress. A great strategy with which we have succeeded is to track your keywords that are at the top of the second page of Google. Spend time with them, add content, add images, create backlinks, etc. And before you know it, this content is now on the first page!

We highly recommend AccuRanker. It is a great tool with amazing developers.

how to boost seo rankings Ultimate WordPress SEO Checklist
Track keyword rankings

Additional reading

When it comes to SEO, there are optimizations on-page and off-page that can be done. We share with you some of the above, all very important. But if you want to dig deeper, we recommend that you check this SEO checklist on the Robbie Richards page (along with a huge time-saving automation model) or this other detailed SEO guide on the page.

WP Buffs is also a great post on the top 9 SEO forums. If you need SEO help or are starting and confused, these can be great places to request additional help, for free!

[ Read: SEO Tools: Ultimate List to Optimize Your Website ]

Summary

As you can see, there are many WordPress SEO factors to consider when running your WordPress site. It can definitely be overwhelming if you’re just getting started, especially since not everything with SEO is black and white. Fortunately, the checklist and the above tips help you progress. Have we missed any important advice or maybe you have questions? If so, let us know below.

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