Ranking top on search engines is the Holy Grail for any business.
To help you rank your WordPress site, we’ve created the WordPress SEO Checklist for 2022. In this comprehensive guide, you’ll find the most effective tips and a suite of our recommended SEO tools for optimizing any WordPress site from the get-go.
The WordPress SEO Checklist You Need
A quick heads up before you dive into our comprehensive WordPress SEO checklist:
Don’t get discouraged if the sheer number of tools and tips below seems overwhelming. We tried to cover absolutely everything, so it is a long list! You can apply these tips and techniques over weeks or months and steadily improve your site’s SEO performance, and you don’t have to do everything we’ve suggested.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the primary suite of SEO tools and plug-ins we recommend for nailing your SEO, increasing site visibility in the SERPs and generating organic traffic.
Google Tag Manager
Not strictly an SEO tool, Google Tag Manager (GTM) is a tag management system that lets you easily deploy reliable tag solutions and code on your website.
This tool allows digital marketers to set up other essential optimization tools on their websites without needing to learn how to code. The best part is that you can access all of GTM’s solutions for free.
“Google tag manager makes it incredibly simple to manage pixels from many sites where we want to remarket to our clients and prospects” – Mark Buff, ProfitFrog.
Once installed, you can configure Google Tag Manager in three simple steps:
Google Tag Manager Installation screenshot. png
1. GTM comes with some prebuilt options, such as Google Analytics. Select the type of code you want to deploy.
2. Next, add the code details (The required fields will vary based on the type of code selected).
3. Choose the location where you will trigger the code.
Image: Google Tag Manager Code Deployment screenshot.png
Google Search Console
Like GTM, Google Search Console is another free tool for website owners. But unlike GTM, Google Search Engine is primarily used by digital marketers to explore key data regarding their search engine rankings and traffic. “Google Search Console is an essential part of our SEO strategy, and helps us uncover keywords to build our content around.” – Vasco Lourenço, vaslou.com
Image: Google Search Console screenshot.png
Remember that Google uses the Search Console to communicate findings about certain website errors, such as mobile friendliness, etc. It will also inform you about any manual penalties your site might have incurred.
If you want your SEO journey to be a breeze, integrate this invaluable tool into your system.
The free tool from Google allows users to
1. gauge the amount of traffic generated from the search engines for their website
2. identify the traffic-generating pages on your website
3. determine the bounce rate
4. keep tabs on the revenue generated
Image: Google Analytics Dashboard screenshot.png
“You can connect Google Analytics with Google Search Console to combine data from both these sources and perform a more thorough analysis of how much traffic your site has, and where it’s coming from.” – Nate Fineberg, Group 6 Interactive.
“Keyword research should take place before you even start thinking about the optimization process. The rule here is to derive your keywords from users’ search intent. Google rewards websites that best match the user’s queries in the best possible way.” – Shaun Connell, Rental Property Calculator
Image: keyword research screenshot.png
Understanding User’s Search Intent
If you want your website to rank higher on Google, you must not only upload valuable content but tailor it to match the user’s search intent.
Search intent broadly falls into four categories:
· Informational (users simply looking to scan information )
· Navigational (users specifically looking for a website)
· Transactional (Users looking to make a purchase)
· Commercial (Users browsing for products that they may purchase in the future)
Note that Google understands very well the differences between these four types of search intents and we advise you to do the same.
For example, if you’re a company offering a Google Analytics plug-in, targeting “Google Analytics” alone for being a high-volume keyword may not be the best idea. This is because most of the time the intent behind the search is to visit the website instead of buying a plug-in. Even if you rank higher for this keyword, it will not generate traffic to your site.
To generate optimal traffic, you must understand both the user’s intent as well as how the right keywords fit in your sales funnel.
Understanding the Sales Funnel, Keyword Volume, and Keyword Difficulty
As mentioned above, just because a keyword has high search volume doesn’t automatically mean that it will convert for your website.
“Sometimes keywords with low search volumes fit your sales funnel much better and direct traffic to your site more effectively. These keywords are typically long-tail and highly specific.” – Sam Browne, HARO SEO
Similarly, keywords come with a difficulty ratio. We advise you to invest in a keyword research tool (see our list of tools further down the page). These tools identify keywords for a specific content type along with all related metrics, including keyword volume and keyword difficulty.
If you’re targeting a high-difficulty keyword, it simply means it will be difficult to rank higher for that keyword. You will have to write better content than your competitors, along with ensuring other foolproof optimization techniques.
“It is much more effective SEO-wise to compete for long-tail, low-difficulty keywords than what Google likes to call the ‘head terms’–keywords with high search volumes and high difficulty.” – Simon Bacher, Ling App.
“The first place to begin when optimizing your WordPress page is your website’s URLs.” – Steve Pogson, First Pier.
Here’s an example of what a good and bad URL looks like.
SEO-friendly URL: https://www.wphub.com/blog/wordpress-checklist-2022
Follow these simple tips for every page on your site that you wish to rank.
- The URL must describe what the page is about.
- The URL should contain a “-“ to separate each word component in the URL’s slug (the part of the URL that comes after the domain name).
- Consider the search engine AND the human with your URL text. Make it easy for a human to understand what the page contains.
Keep in mind that while the maximum count for a URL is 2000 characters, the shorter the URL, the better.
To configure your URL, simply scroll to “setting”, and below, you’ll meet a range of options to set up a URL. You have the luxury to choose from a pre-determined design or customize it according to your liking.
The Best Permalink Setting for SEO
The permalink, literally meaning permanent link, is the full link consisting of a domain name and a slug.
While setting up your permalink, ensure the URL comes directly after the domain name. Additional information will only make it difficult for search engines to spot it.
Note that there’s no need to include dates in the URL. Many companies include dates in the hopes of notifying the search engines about their latest releases but experienced SEO specialists use other means of doing that (e.g. RSS feeds, schemas, sitemaps).
You can also change the permalink without having to do anything since WordPress makes all necessary changes by adding the code to your .htaccess file.
You can test your new permalink and ensure it’s running fine by typing your old URL in a new browser and seeing if it redirects you to the new one.
Page Title Optimization
Page title optimization is simple but essential. Every page on your site that you wish to rank should follow these rules:
1. Titles should not be over 60 characters since this is the maximum number of characters shown in the SERPs.
2. Include keywords in page titles to further strengthen signals to the search engines of what the page is about.
3. To increase your click-through rates, make sure it is eye-catching and promising. Your page title needs to appeal to the search engines and to your human users.
4. Make sure that you do not under-deliver with your content. The content of your page should deliver what the title is promising. Doing otherwise will decrease the retention rate of your visitors, and signal low quality to the search engines.
5. Think of what keywords are important in your content and match the user’s intent. Then use one of them in your title for SEO. Check out this example by AdSense, where the first 50 characters do not include the word “AdSense” or “Google” but important keywords.
Remember that the page title is different from an H1 tag. What users see in the search result can be different from the first main heading that they see once they click through the page. As a rule of thumb, the titles are shorter and more SEO-friendly, while the H1 tags can be more descriptive.
Page Introduction Optimization
“Google assumes the content at the very top to be the most important part of your content.” – Howard Birnbaum, Magik Flame.
For this reason, you must optimize your introductions. Here’s what you can do with your introductory content to improve on-page SEO.
1. Sum up the content with a well-written, concise introduction.
2. Make sure your introductory lines accurately describe the page’s intent.
3. Use keywords that closely relate to your content.
An important trick is to use the first 150 characters of your introduction as the meta description tag to keep the relevance going.
Optimize Your Subheadings (H2, H3)
Generally speaking, long-form posts do better on search engines than shorter blogs. However, content that is 2000 words or beyond can be difficult for a reader to digest.
Keep your post engaging by introducing several sub-headings for each new subtopic.
Each page must have only one main heading- the H1. From there, use H2s (for sections) and H3s (for subheadings within each section).
Make it easy for both the search engines and human readers by neatly organizing your post into topics, subtopics, and subheadings within each subtopic.
Another way to rank higher is to format your content and make it look more appealing to readers.
This includes everything from sub-headings, font size, paragraphs, and bold text, to italics and smaller paragraphs. Include pretty much anything the reading experience of your content.
The more time users spend on your page engaging with your posts, the more likely that search engines will identify your website as ranking-worthy.
“Internal Links are a powerful way to boost your SEO rankings.” James Crawford – Dealdrop.
Before we dive deeper into this, let’s define internal links.
Basically, internal links are links that point to your own website’s internal pages (or posts) hence the name.
There are four ways in which internal links help your website.
1. They allow users to gain in-depth knowledge about a certain topic.
2. They point to other pages of your website which increase your site’s visibility for the crawlers.
3. The search engines look at the anchor text of your internal link and determine what the linking post will be about.
4. It also helps differentiate the important pages of your website from the others. This helps when you’re trying to rank a page for a certain keyword.
Below are some tips to optimize your content with internal links.
1. Make sure you are using internal links for actual educational purposes and not just for the sake of it.
2. Google does not penalize you for using keywords in your anchor text.
3. Keep in mind that over-optimization alerts suspicion, even with internal links. Make sure you vary the anchor text for different internal links.
4. You do not always have to link new posts to older posts. You can also go back to the older posts and drop some anchor texts that link to your newer posts. This is a great way to keep optimizing all of your content
A backlink is a white hat link pointing to your site from another site.
Backlinks work hand in hand with content to signal to search engines just how good your site really is. Here are some of our tried and true methods for generating backlinks for WordPress sites.
Citations refer to the online mention of a business name, address, or phone number. Citations can occur on both regular websites and social media sites. Web users use these listings to discover your business, and this impacts your local ranking on the search engines. Though not strictly a “backlink” in some cases, Google views each citation as a small vote of confidence for your website.
There are dozens of directory websites that offer citations or a free listing for businesses. These include Foursquare, Truelocal, HotFrog, Yellow Pages, Yelp, etc.
Keep in mind that even nofollow citation links are still worth having as part of a complete SEO strategy.
Devised by Brian Dean, the skyscraper technique is an effective link-building tactic that reverse engineers top content found on the search engine for gaining backlinks.
Here’s the step-by-step process of building skyscraper content.
1. The first thing to do is to find some of the top-ranking content related to your industry on SERPs. A simple Google search will do that for you. Simply type a keyword in the Google search bar and navigate the first few results. This is the relatively simple part.
Image: Google screenshot.png
2. Here comes the hard part. Once you’ve figured out what kind of content performs best, create content that is even better.
Image: Google screenshot2.png
For example, you will notice that all of the articles ranking first for the keyword “skyscraper content” are How-To articles. Typically, these will contain a slew of tips to follow.
To write a better article, you can give more in-depth information on the tips than your counterparts, combine tips from different articles ranking on the top and give a more comprehensive list, add more interesting imagery, create an infographic, etc.
This is not easy to do, but creating extremely high-quality content is what it will take to rank for competitive keywords.
3. Finally, promote your content.
Creating skyscraper content is always a good thing for your site, but it’s not enough to secure backlinks unless you effectively promote it.
There are a bunch of ways to do that. The most effective of them is via email outreach to potentially interested websites. The easiest way to find those sites is to identify sites linking to the existing competitor content (using tools like SEMRush or Ahrefs) and let them know you’ve written a more up-to-date version of the current ranking post(s).
You can also reach out to anyone you’ve mentioned in the post.
“I strongly recommend emailing people that you mention in your posts. Chances are they are going to link back to your post for visibility or at least mention you on their socials.” – Amy Bos, Medium Chat.
You can also try sharing a link to the content on social media, though this alone will most likely not generate backlinks for you.
Help a Reporter Out connects journalists looking for sources to experts who have industry authority.
Image: HARO homepage screenshot.png
“HARO presents a killer opportunity for talented people looking to build some of the best possible backlinks to their websites” – Jennifer Christensen, co-founder of Beacon Media.
The first thing you need to do is to sign up for an account on HARO and choose from one of their free or paid packages.
Image: HARO screenshot.png
Next, you must join the site as a Source.
Finally, navigate the requests page on the site and write a brief but value-based pitch where you offer a contribution to the journalist’s query.
Be patient – HARO typically results in a lot more misses than hits, but the quality of the links you get is second to none.
“Ultimate guides are a powerful way to generate backlinks. They take time to build out, but the links you get over time are worth the effort.” – Byron Redhead, First Page.
Stock images. Png
There are several reasons why ultimate guides work so well for generating backlinks.
First, they are long! Ultimate guides can squeeze in a ton of information, making room for more journalists and bloggers pointing to your page for backup, and creating more backlinks.
In fact, studies on Google rankings suggest that long-form content does better on the search engine than shorter blogs.
Secondly, other bloggers find it easier to link to your post since all of the information is available on a single page.
To create a top-ranking ultimate guide, you must:
1. Google popular topics by feeding keywords in the search bar.
2. Now based on the findings, create an outline for your ultimate guide. This should include subtopics that relate to your keyword. Each subtopic can be a section of your guide.
3. Finally, make sure that you do not leave out any topic remotely connected to your main subject matter. This is the only way to make your guide “ultimate”. And do not worry about word length. Some of the best guides have crossed over 10,000 words of content.
Authority Resource Pages
Securing a backlink from a resource page is a dream come true for most digital marketers. This is because resource pages are literally there to link to other websites.
The problem is that most resource pages have obscure titles instead of simply being called a resource page.
Chances are if you’ve landed on a page that is mostly about “useful resources” or “additional resources” or “further reading”, you’ve landed on a resource page.
Here’s a step-wise method to secure a backlink from a resource page.
Step 1: Perform a Google search using the following keyword.
This took us to a cohort of valuable resource pages. Here’s one of them.
Image: Resource page screenshot.png
Step 2: Now that you’ve found yourself a resource page, reach out via email to the owner of the said page and politely ask for a link.
Make sure you personalize your email and do not sound spammy. You may use the following template or create a better one yourself.
I came across your (resource page title) while looking for some articles today and found your page very helpful.
I must say, it’s quite thoroughly written.
However, I couldn’t help but notice you have a section on ________(Your topic). I recently wrote an enormous guide loaded with information on the same topic. If you don’t mind, I think the guide might be worth adding to your list.
Would love to hear what you think:)
Have a great day!
__________ (Your name)
Remember to sound as polite and personalized as possible and you should secure yourself a link on one of these pages in an unexpectedly short while.
Content is king for a reason. Every month, bloggers generate 77 million new posts. Almost 82 percent of all businesses actively employ blogging and content creation as part of their digital marketing strategy.
“To create ongoing SEO wins, you need a content strategy. Good content should educate, inspire, help and answer any and all questions your ideal customer has about what you do.” – Jay Bats, ContentBASE.
Here’s a list of tips to keep in mind when creating content.
Step 1: Define your content goals. Defining your goals will make you more aware of the kind of metrics that you should keep tabs on for long-term success. The following flow chart by Ahrefs can help you define your goals.
Step 2: Identify your audience. You must have a clear idea of your customer demographics.
There are a handful of analytics tools discussed towards the end of this guide that you can use to gauge the statistics on your target demographics.
Step 3: Understanding your audience will give better insights into the type of content they are consuming and the type you should create. Get clarity around the type of content your audience prefers to consume, and double down on that.
Step 4: It is time to create your content. Remember, when it comes to content, focusing on searcher intent, delivering value and showing your authority are key.
Image source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/548102217146889527/
Step 5: Promote your content and measure the results. This is the part of your strategy that is typically known as content marketing.
Once again, you must know which digital channels are the most popular with your audience and consistently target those with your content.
Also, do not forget to keep tabs on how well (or not) your content is doing.
Did the incoming online traffic experience a spike or decline? Was the rate of retention higher or lower?
Fortunately, there are a handful of tools that can gauge your results in a matter of seconds. These tools are discussed in our final section, “Technical SEO”.
Technical SEO means optimizing every aspect of your website’s performance to make it easy for both the search engines and users to access your content.
“It is your job to ensure that technical issues are not preventing your website from getting noticed by search engines.” – Lisa Teh, co-founder of NFT consultancy Mooning.
Here’s what you can do to maximize your chances of visibility by working on the technical side of things.
1. Fix crawl errors
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Crawl errors can be identified using Google Search Console.
2. Fix Broken Links
When Google comes across a site that has many broken links, it assumes the page needs an update and hence considers it as less helpful for users. You can use tools such as Ahrefs and Link whisper to detect and deal with broken links.
3. Switch to HTTPS
Switching from HTTP to HTTPS may introduce a small boost in your website’s ranking. This is because Google deems HTTPS a safer alternative. If you’re starting a new site, you can simply use HTTPS right away.
4. Eliminate duplicate content and duplicate meta tags
Duplicate content issue arises when two or more URLs on your site become identical. This can lead to indexing or penalization. You can use the Google Search Console to fix any such issue.
Similarly, fix missing or duplicate meta tags. Once you find them, you can head over to Yoast to fix them for you.
5. Invest in a sound SEO Tool
“One of the greatest investments you can make for your WordPress SEO and marketing strategy is investing in a competitive SEO tool.” – Vasco Lourenco, Vaslou.
These tools are responsible for determining and improving the possibility of your website landing at the top of the search engine pages.
List of top SEO Tools
Following is a list of some of the top competitive SEO tools in 2022.
Image: SEO Press screenshot.png
, “SEOPress is a powerful all-in-one SEO tool for WordPress”. – Will Donnelly, Lottie
With 250,000 active installs and a cohort of features in its freemium model, SEOPress is easily a contender for the top spot against other popular SEO tools.
With SEOPress, you can easily manage Google and Bing indexing, page builder integration, SEO title and meta tags, Google Analytics, and much more.
WP Rocket Home page screenshot.png
WP Rocket is one of the fastest-growing SEO tools out there. It’s an all-in-one web optimization plug-in that can do wonders for your page speed scores. It applies 80% of all the web optimization best practices to your WordPress website, including handling your page caching, browser caching, GZIP compression, and much more.
Image: AIOSEO home page screenshot.png
Exclusively designed for WordPress, AIOSEO is a powerful toolkit and plug-in that with over 3 million users. Amongst its extensive list of features, you have local SEO, advanced SEO modules, smart sitemaps, Rich snippets, and much more.
Image: Ubersuggest homepage screenshot.png
“Ubersuggest is a smart SEO tool that enables users to reverse engineer the content marketing strategy of their top competitors.” – Dr.Ritesh Jain, What a Sleep
This you can do using key metrics and data analytics features offered by this tool. All you have to do is enter a keyword in the search tab to get started, and the tool puts out insightful data that allows you to understand the strategies that are working for others.
Image: SEMrush screenshot.png
“SEMRush is a class leading SEO tool. It gives you everything you need to perform at the highest level with your SEO.” – Kane Taylor, Before You Buys.
SEMrush is one of the most popular SEO toolkits today. It offers around 55 different tools and reports to help you optimize your website. From domain overview, traffic analytics, and keyword search to building backlinks, site auditing, and on-page optimization, SEMrush can do it all.
Image: Schema pro homepage screenshot.png
Schema Pro is another widely trusted digital toolkit designed to help users outdo their competitors in the world of SEO. Schema Pro offers multiple schema markups so you can use the right schema for the right situation. It also offers automation for multiple pages, so you’re only required to configure the markup once.
Image: WP Engine home page screenshot.png
WP Engine offers WordPress users fully managed WordPress hosting with speed and accuracy.
With WP Engine, you can enjoy a seamless migration process as well as create a powerful network of customers.
Image: Yoast homepage screenshot. Png
Yoast is, by far, the most popular SEO plugin for WordPress. It offers a comprehensive suite of features, even in its free version. Yoast is particularly well suited to SEO newbies who just want to nail the basics and get on with their business.
Image: ahrefs homepage screenshot.png
Another mammoth all-in-one SEO plug-in, Ahrefs can do everything SEO related imaginable. It is not cheap, but if you are looking for a truly complete SEO app, Ahrefs is it.
“Ahrefs will audit and optimize your website, analyze your competitors’ websites, find high target keywords, explore top content, and much more.” – Josh Tyler, Tell Me Best.
Image: SEMrush Writing Assistant screenshot.png
SEMrush Writing Assistant is a smart writing toolkit that helps you boost your content’s engagement and SEO stats. Not only that, but it also takes care of finding the right keywords, optimizing your titles and meta tags, and producing real-time data on your competitors.
Image: Rank Math home page screenshot.png
Rank Math is another powerful SEO tool for WordPress users. Rank Math does have a free version, but it is a lot more limited in terms of features than some of the other counterparts on the list. Nevertheless, it offers powerful insights on local SEO, image SEO, schema, sitemap, and much more.
Image: Serpstat home page screenshot.png
Serpstat is a powerful keyword and domain analysis tool that can come in handy for WordPress users. Its suite of wonderful features includes, but is not limited to, site audits, keywords and rank tracker, team management, search volume crawling, etc.
Image: Link Whisper home page screenshot.png
Link Whisper has revolutionized ranking on SERPs by automating the link-generating process for WordPress users. It can find and build links from old posts saving you the manual load, perform in-depth internal link reporting, fix a broken link, target keywords, and do much more.
Time to Get to Work
Now that you have a solid idea of what WordPress SEO entails, there is only one thing left to do: implement it! Still not convinced how to optimize your website? Be sure to read our newest article where we asked 10 SEO experts and specialists on how to speed up website ranking.
Let us know which of these tools you decide to use, and how they worked out for you.