Do you want to use WordPress for your website? A good choice, because with WordPress you can do a lot personally – even without a developer. So that you can do everything right when it comes to search engine optimization, I have put together this SEO checklist for your website.
According to BuiltWith, almost 30 million websites are currently using WordPress – and the trend is rising. WordPress can be used not only to implement small blogs, but also large websites or e-commerce shops. Almost everything is represented: from the Tagesschau blog to the digital business magazine t3n.de to the Dallas Mavericks website.
Use the following checklist to get your WordPress site up on Google:
The checklist at a glance
- Use a hoster that specializes in WordPress
- Choose an SEO-friendly theme
- Use SSL
- Install WordPress plugins
- Set the preferred domain
- Check the visibility settings
- Enable SEO-friendly permalinks
- Use custom urls
- Create useful content
- Don’t get your tag pages indexed
- Use optimized headings
- Use unique titles and descriptions
- Strengthen the internal linking
- Check comments manually
- Use meaningful filenames for images
- Create an alt text for images
- Optimize your image size
- Improve the loading time of your page
- Verify your site for the Google Search Console
- Create and submit an XML sitemap
Use a hoster that specializes in WordPress
I recommend that you choose a hosting provider that specializes in WordPress for your website. Raidboxes, for example, is one such hoster from Germany. Raidboxes’ special WordPress server infrastructure ensures good loading times. Fast loading times are one of the most important ranking factors.
Choose an SEO-friendly theme
Note: If you are already using a theme, but your site is not too complex or has already been heavily customized, you can usually switch to a different theme without much effort.
When choosing an SEO-friendly theme, you should make sure that it is responsive and high-performance.
A responsive theme means that the presentation of the page adapts to the screen size of the respective device. How do you know that a theme is responsive? First of all, this should be mentioned in the description of the topic. In the next step you can have a look at the theme demo with your desktop browser. Then reduce the size of your browser window by dragging it smaller with the mouse pointer. Observe whether the representation adapts. It is always a good idea to actually take a look at the theme on your mobile phone. Finally, you can also throw the URL into Google’s mobile-friendly test tool again. If everything is green here, the way is also free for the theme.
The theme should not be overloaded with plugins and other 3rd party extensions, as the speed of the site can suffer from this. How good the theme’s performance is cannot easily be found out without further technical checks. You can try to get a brief overview of the PageSpeed Insights Tool by entering the URL of the demo there. Another good tip is to put the functionality of the desired theme to the test. Do you really need all of this? Often the motto is: less is more.
Just like HTTP, HTTPS is a protocol for transferring data on the Internet. The difference between these two protocols is that HTTPS transmits the data encrypted using SSL. So what’s SSL again? Well, that’s an encryption protocol. You don’t have to understand what exactly is behind it. It is important to know for your WordPress SEO that Google already communicated in 2014 that the use of HTTPS is a ranking factor. So you should use HTTPS on your website.
Install WordPress plugins
After installing WordPress, the best thing to do is to proceed with installing some important free plugins. These make your life a lot easier when it comes to search engine optimization.
The installation of plugins in WordPress is very easy. Go to Plugins> Install via the menu and then enter the name of the desired plugin in the search field. Now all you have to do is click Install Now. Finished.
Search and installation of WordPress plugins
The search and installation for plugins takes place directly in WordPress
Yoast SEO: A plugin with which you have a variety of setting options to bring your website forward in the search engines.
Set the preferred domain (www vs. non-www)
Whether the pages of your WordPress presence can be reached with www or without www may not make much difference to you. For your Google ranking it doesn’t matter whether your site uses www or not. The only important thing is that you have to decide on a variant. If your URLs are “both reachable”, these are different URLs for Google. This is unpleasant from an SEO point of view, because it can lead to potential problems with duplicate content. So decide on a variant. The corresponding setting is made under Settings> General. Once you have done that, WordPress will from now on always forward to the correct variant.
Check the visibility settings
In order for your WordPress website to be found on the Internet at all, it must be crawlable and indexable for Google and other search engines. So after the installation you should first check the setting visibility for search engines. You can find this under Settings> Reading. If this is checked, your site will not be indexed by search engines. In this case, it is high time to uncheck the box and save your changes.
Enable SEO-friendly permalinks
Your URLs should always be meaningful. Cryptic numbers, characters or IDs in the URL are a no-go. Ideally, the URL always contains a keyword that is important to you. Speaking URLs are not only relevant from an SEO point of view, but also from the user’s point of view. Based on the speaking URLs, the user can see very well what the page is about – and that already on the Google results list. You can select your desired URL structure under Settings> Permalinks. I recommend that you select the permalink by post name.
Use custom urls
Have you implemented my previous tip and now have a user-friendly and descriptive URL structure? Fine! WordPress will now use their title in the URLs of your articles by default. The longer the title, the longer the URLs. That can sometimes look ugly. Perhaps you also have a page that you would like to spruce up with a particularly crisp, short URL? You can also do that quickly, directly when creating the article under the title. Simply click on Edit and enter the desired URL.
Create useful SEO content
Whether your website ranks high on Google depends on a variety of factors. However, a very important aspect and basis for being able to rank at all is your content. They’re the fodder for Google, so to speak. The likelihood of landing in the top positions on Google grows with the quality and usefulness of your content. Before you start writing right now, you should first think about the right keywords for you and watch our video on text creation.
If you want to rank high for a highly competitive term, you should consider creating Cornerstone articles. Cornerstone articles are main articles on a topic that have high added value, are very informative, and point to other peripheral topics. The marginal topics in turn refer to the Cornerstone article and thus strengthen its internal links. By the way, in the Yoast plugin you can choose whether an article is a Corner Stone article.
Don’t get your tag pages indexed
You have the option of using tags for your articles. WordPress creates its own pages from these tags, on which all pages with this tag are collected. These tag pages often do not represent any added value for the user when searching. Therefore, they should not end up in the Google index in the first place. Make sure that the corresponding setting is set to No in the Yoast plugin. You can find them under Yoast> Display in search> Keywords:
Use optimized headings
HTML headings are implemented with the help of heading tags. They are intended to help structure documents. Never abuse the headings as a means of formatting text. You can also use headings in WordPress, which can then be seen as headings in the source code. When creating your articles, you should make sure to use meaningful headings and subheadings. Note that heading 1 should only appear once. All other URLs must be used in a clean structure. This means that heading 1 should always be followed by heading 2 and not jumping to heading 4 or 6.
Use unique titles and descriptions
The HTML title of a website is very relevant for search engine optimization. Google evaluates the title as an important signal for the page content. The description of a page is also of certain importance because, together with the title, it forms the preview on the Google results list, the so-called snippet. Would you like to know how to optimize your titles and descriptions? Read our articles on creating optimal titles and descriptions and the optimal length of titles and descriptions here in the blog.
If you have installed the Yoast SEO plugin, you should scroll all the way down when creating your post. You can then enter your title and description there.
Strengthen the internal linking
The number of links and the anchor text are very important for the evaluation of linked pages. The more often you internally link another page on your blog, the more important it becomes. In principle, you should also make sure that the link text contains the keyword relevant to the target page when creating internal links. To do this, simply mark the words you want to link, choose Insert Link and enter the desired internal URL.
Check comments manually
In an ideal world, great dialogues develop with or among your readers in the comments on your WordPress website. You will receive inquiries, praise or other feedback to which you can react. But in the real world there is also spam. If a user writes a comment, a website link can also be given. Spammers are users who take advantage of this and automatically set backlinks to their website on thousands of blogs. This method has not had a positive SEO effect on spammer websites for a long time. But it can have a negative impact on your site. Google itself communicates a whole bouquet of reasons here. Among other things, poor quality content can affect the ranking of the entire website. Therefore, you should always check comments manually and not have them published automatically.
Use meaningful filenames for images
Similar to the URLs, you should also make sure that the naming of image files is meaningful. Cryptic names such as 4711acfg.jpg or img0815.jpg should be avoided here. If you choose a short description of the image as the file name instead, you are spot on with your image optimization.
Create an alt text for images
Alt text is an important element in your page optimization. First of all, Google cannot read the content of images. By using an alt text, however, you are giving Google a textual (and thus readable) signal of what can be seen in the image. In addition, you also help your users, for example, for whom the picture is not loaded, or people with visual impairments who have your page read out to them with a screen reader.
Optimize your image size
Large images can negatively affect the loading time of your page. A long loading time always leads to a negative user experience and is a negative ranking signal. Since you have hopefully already installed the Imagify plugin, you no longer need to worry because the plugin takes over the optimization as if by magic.
Improve the loading time of your page
As already said when optimizing the image size, the loading time is an important ranking factor for your website. To further improve the loading time, I recommend using a caching plugin, such as W3 Total Cache. What does a caching plugin do? Instead of generating it dynamically every time a page is called, caching ensures that the page is statically cached. This can significantly improve the loading time of your website and ensures a positive user experience.
Verify your site for the Google Search Console
The Google Search Console is a free tool provided by Google. In the Search Console you get valuable data about your website. You want to know which keywords you are ranking with, how many clicks you got or which of your pages are indexed – or not? The Search Console provides you with answers to your questions – firsthand. Use this information specifically for your search engine optimization. You can find some tips on this in our blog post.
Create and submit an XML sitemap
A so-called XML sitemap typically contains all the URLs of a website to be indexed by the search engines. You can use such a sitemap to help Google understand your website better. The creation and transmission of the XML sitemap is not that difficult if you have installed the YOAST plugin and your page is already verified for the Google Search Console.
In the settings of the Yoast plugin, activate the item XML sitemaps under functions.
Now check whether the XML sitemap has really been created. To do this, call up your domain, but still attach sitemap_index.xml to it, i.e. www.your-domain.de/sitemap_index.xml.
If you then get a page that looks like this, the creation of the XML sitemap worked:
In the Google Search Console, tell Google that you have an XML sitemap. This works under Index> Sitemaps:
With this checklist you now know the most important points that you should consider when optimizing your WordPress website. In addition to some general settings, onpage optimizations and the use of plugins, you should always keep an eye on your users and give them useful information with added value with the content of your website. I hope you enjoy optimizing your website.