WordPress is great for Search Engine Optimization and enabling success in the search engines. This checklist helps identify items that out of the box WordPress does not address and makes sure you are taking the right steps to ensure success with SEO and WordPress. SEO is an industry with a wide rang of professionals from actual experts to self-proclaimed experts. It’s useful to have a base understanding of how SEO works and be timid of those claiming to be experts making sure you feel good about any work you hire out that it’s from a reputable professional that’ll get the results you are looking for. Most importantly SEO takes time and any results you can expect to take at least 1-3 months, so remember it’s a marathon not a sprint, although there are some foundational items you need to have right.
Each checklist item is numbered in correspondence with the Master Checklist with a short summary and a link to more detailed information if available.
Master Checklist Table of Contents
- WordPress Website Analytics Setup Checklist
- WordPress Website Security Audit Checklist
- WordPress Performance Site Speed Optimization Audit Checklist
- WordPress SEO Audit Checklist [you are here]
WordPress SEO Checklist
If SEO means optimizing for Search Engines, then Google is the elephant in the room. Google Search Console (GSC) it’s Google’s free tool that gives you insights into how Google is viewing a WordPress website. It’s critical to ensure you’ve added and verified your site with GSC as a first step when launching your site or beginning optimizations. Learn More
4.2 Add Google Analytics as an “Associated Service” in GSC.
This allows Google Search Console and Google Analytics to share information, giving you and Google a better picture of your WordPress website. This is not a critical step if you happen to use a different analytics solution other than Google Analytics and don’t have the tracking code installed on your site. It’s more of one of those things that you know is not hurting you if done, regardless of how much it helps your WordPress site’s search engine performance.
4.3 Properly setup and submitted your Sitemap(s) to GSC.
Sitemaps have long been the way to tell Google how you want it to view and crawl a WordPress website. Google Search Console has a specific place to upload your sitemap by defining the URL where it lives. Google will tell you if the sitemap is Valid or not and after a few days will show you any error, warning or excluded pages. This is very helpful for ensuring the WordPress posts and pages you want indexed in Google and and those you do not want to be found in Google are not.
4.4 Check the ‘Coverage’ section of GSC.
Similar to the Sitemaps section the Coverage section will tell you how Google is viewing a WordPress site. It’ll point out any important crawl error that need to be addressed and enable those to be fixed. This is a powerful tool for WordPress sites not performing as they should in organic search results or even older sites that have a legacy of disregard for proper SEO best practices.
4.5 Check the ‘Performance’ section of GSC.
Use this section to gain and understanding of a WordPress website’s performance in Google over time. Get familiar with which queries searchers are using tofind your site, which pages their finding, visitor demographics, average click through rates CTR, and average SERP ranking position.
4.6 Review the rest of the areas of GSC for issues.
Google continues to improve upon Google Search Console, since sunsetting Google Webmaster Tools. If you are attempting to SEO a WordPress site, then you should be very familiar with ALL sections of the dashboard. Some GSC tools like Core Web VItal require a minimum amount of traffic so sometimes it’s not all that helpful on newer sites. And with anything Google you shouldn’t expect realtime results but rather be willing to check back on how things are progressing over days, weeks and months.
4.7 Consider using Bing Webmaster Tools in addition to GSC.
Bing Webmaster Tools is a powerful free tool you should be using as well. Although traffic from Bing will always be significantly less than from Google, the tool is still helpful for optimizing your WordPress site for search engines. Microsoft (Bing) has put a lot of resources into developing their alternative solution to Google and importing your GSC WordPress sites into Bing Webmaster Tools is easy to do.
This is a great trick for checking out how Google is displaying any WordPress website to searchers on the search engine results page. It limits your Google search to only the website url you put after the site: so you can see how Google is displaying the various pages of your site. Many indexing issues can be identified and resolved using this method. Learn More
4.9 SEO plugin is professionally configured.
SEO is not something that is learned overnight. Most SEO plugins have a ton of toggles and options for various configurations. Getting these settings set correctly can be make or break for SEO results and this is an area where consulting with a expert in WordPress SEO could really be a wise investment.
4.10 Search engines are not discouraged from the WordPress site (Settings -> Reading).
If a WordPress site is not index in Google, meaning unable to be found in the Google search results then the site might be discouraging search engine. This is a setting in WordPress that often is turned on during development of a website, but should be disabled at launch.
4.11 All images have defined ‘alt’ attribute.
This is a classic SEO requirement to include a descriptive alt attribute to every image on your site. Not only is this good for accessibility, but it’s also great for SEO as the alt attributes often contain keywords. There are tools available to identify images on your site with missing alt attributes and these should be filled in as descriptive as possible.
4.12 Theme utilizes Schema Markup.
Schema Markup is a structured data vocabulary that search engines understand that can be built into a WordPress theme or page. These standardized data point can enable Google to show rich snippets search results such as prices for example. Embracing schema markup on a WordPress site can have many SEO benefits.
4.13 The content on the website is unique and not copied or duplicate.
Google does not appreciate duplicate content. This is why you can just go duplicate (steal) another website’s copy/design and rank well in search engines. Ensure that you have original content on your WordPress site and it will perform better in Google. Remember that Google wants to display the best result for searcher, not a copy of the same thing.
4.14 Permalinks are configured correctly.
With WordPress it’s important to pay close attention to your permalink structure. Post Dates and Post Numbers are less relevant to Google thank Post Names for example which are very descriptive. Keeping an orderly link hierarchy with clean and descriptive permalinks from the start will help avoid pesky redirection in the future.
4.15 Use a redirection plugin and monitor for 404s (broken links).
Every WordPress site ends up needing to use redirections when pages and posts are deleted, changed, or for a multitude of other reasons. Some redirection plugins can also monitor for broken links allowing a WordPress admin to snuff out any issues, perhaps after a website launch. Make sure you are finding and fixing 404s on your site as they make for a poor user experience which is bad for SEO.
4.16 Website speed is not an issue.
Make sure you site is fast enough. Every page too, not just the homepage. You might not need the fastest site in the World but make sure it’s fast enough for your users and mobile users especially. PageSpeed became a ranking factor long ago for Google, so ensure you’ve paid close attention to your website’s speed.
4.17 Every Page’s SEO Title is within width constraints.
It’s not a character limit but rather a width constraint that limits the SEO Title of a page in WordPress. Make sure your posts and pages have well defined SEO Titles that allow a searcher to have an easy description of the page. Don’t have SEO Titles that are too long and result in a … in the search engine results pages.
4.18 All pages have a defined Meta Description that is proper length.
Similar to the SEO Title, make sure you are following best practices with the Meta Description for every page and post in WordPress. Meta Descriptions are a great SEO opportunity in WordPress to make sure to use and deliberately set. Google does not always display the set Meta Description but rather with sometimes substitute content from the page if more relevant to the searcher’s query.
4.19 Properly utilize Heading H1 – H6 tags to add hierarchy to content.
Proper headings are as useful to Google as proper SEO Titles and Meta Descriptions and they are easy to use in WordPress correctly. Think about newspaper and how the hierarchy of information is separated by different sized headings. Google and the user want to be able to scan the content and proper headings are good for UX and in turn SEO.
4.20 If Tags are used they are used for users not Google.
Stop stuffing Keywords and especially in WordPress Tags. This will not help your SEO in WordPress to just stuff all the keywords you can into Tags in your WordPress posts. It can even cause great problems if you do this and have tags set to be indexed in Google creating duplicate content problems. Use tags only to allow users to better sort posts and do not try to SEO game the WordPress Tags.
4.21 Use Bing Webmaster Tool Robots.txt Tester: https://www.bing.com/webmasters/robotstxttester
The old Google Webmaster Tools used to have this tool now it’s best found over at Bing Webmaster Tools. If you having prolonged indexing problems with a WordPress page or entire site, this tool can help you make sure there are no issues with your robots.txt file that could be the cause.
4.22 Website is responsive and mobile friendly.
This is one of the most important items on the WordPress SEO checklist – that the WordPress site is optimized for mobile users. This is increasingly important for SEO. Invest all you can in making sure the mobile experience on any WordPress site is proper as possible. For SEO, a WordPress site not only needs to be fast on mobile but the UI/UX must be top notch as well for Google to display in the search results.
4.23 Audit internal linking and interlink older posts.
Having a well-thought-out internal linking plan should a a part of your WordPress SEO plan. There are many tools, free and premium, that can help with your internal linking structure. Having proper internal linking on a WordPress site is a powerful contributor to a solid WordPress SEO plan.
4.24 Easily found social media sharing buttons.
Backlinks are critical to a WordPress websites success with SEO. Social media mentions and links are as good as any these days for telling search engines what content to serve. Make it easy for website visitors to share the content on any WordPress site so that rankings can be improved. Place social sharing buttons prominently at the start and/or end of blog posts, pages or even pinned to the sidebar.
4.25 Active monitoring of which content is getting the more organic traffic.
Content is another critical part of SEO in WordPress, perhaps one of the most important. Closely monitor which content is getting the most of the right kind of visitors to your site and promote and do more of what’s working. Organic traffic from proper SEO in WordPress can be very powerful and make sure you stay centered around creating quality content that your ideal audience finds resourceful.
Got a WordPress SEO checklist item that we didn’t cover here? Please leave a reply in the comments below.
Make sure to download the master checklist and audit all the other areas of any WordPress website.