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9 Step SEO Checklist for WordPress Websites

Do you know you need SEO but you’re not sure what to do? I’ve been there! SEO is one of those big marketing concepts that everyone knows they need for their websites, but it can also be intimidating. Sometimes setting it up correctly and “doing it right” feels like a giant mystery that takes a ton of energy to navigate. If keywords, back-end SEO, and site speeds have your head spinning…I’ve got you! This post covers a basic SEO checklist for WordPress that you can use to get your website Google-ready.


We’ll cover everything from on-page to off-page SEO, what you should do, and how to do it. Let’s dive in!


What is SEO?

SEO (or search engine optimization) is the thing that brings people to your website. You can invest thousands of dollars and dozens of hours into designing a gorgeous and strategic website. But SEO is the puzzle piece that will bring potential clients to your URL!


Building a website for your business is kind of like throwing a party. When you throw a party, you clean your whole house, put up decorations, and buy bottles of bubbly. But if you don’t send out an invitation with the date and time, no one will show up to your party. Maybe you’ll have a few neighbors or your closest friends pop by…but if you really want a party, you have to let people know what’s going on! 


Investing in SEO is like sending out the invitation to your party. Sure, you might get some traffic from people who click a link on your Instagram profile or email signature. But SEO makes it possible for people to find your brand through Google searches. 


It’s the cornerstone of a strategy that connects you with ideal clients on autopilot! And yet, only 63% of businesses have an SEO plan. If you’re feeling intimidated by SEO, just remember that by knowing what it is and using it, you’re already ahead of the game. 🎉

Seo Stat That Reads, Only 63% Of Brands Have A Seo Strategy In Place

Investing in SEO sets you apart from the competition

You can hire an SEO expert (like Southern Creative!) to optimize your site and get everything up to speed. And if you’re a service-based business, I definitely recommend investing in SEO at the same time as your website! You can always go back and optimize everything after your site is already live, but it’s easier to build everything into the building process.

But even if you DIY your SEO, you can do a great job! Yes, SEO can be daunting. But just by putting forth the effort, you’re already ahead of much of the competition!


How to up your SEO game

There are two main types of SEO to focus on for your website: on-page SEO and technical SEO. On-page SEO has to do with anything that users see on the page, like keywords or formatting. Technical SEO deals with off-page elements on the back end of your website that affect how your website runs, like site speed.

Google evaluates websites based on on-page AND technical SEO to decide how they will display search results. In other words, they’re both super important! Putting in the work to optimize both gives you the best shot at showing up in search results.

As a side note, one of the reasons that WordPress has an edge over all-in-one website builders (like Squarespace or Wix) is that you have more control over technical SEO. Seemingly small things like how fast your website loads can make a big impact on your Google ranking!


SEO Checklist for WordPress

To help you get your SEO ducks in a row, I’ve put together a step-by-step SEO checklist for a website. I’ve broken everything down into on-page vs. technical SEO, so you can easily check items off the list!


On-Page SEO To-Dos

On-page optimization focuses on making the content of each individual page ready for search engines and visitors. 


Choose keywords to focus on

Finding quality keywords is the first (and arguably the most important) step on any SEO content checklist. Every day, people are searching for answers to questions and to learn more about different topics. As people Google away, certain phrases come up time and again. 


Google’s algorithm collects data on those commonly searched phrases AND crawls websites to see what information they contain. When users type something into Google, the algorithm compares what someone has searched to all of the websites on the internet. Then, it displays search results based on which websites it predicts will be most helpful. 


Including those phrases on your website tells Google that your website can help users! Research which keywords your ideal client is searching for, then include those same words and phrases on your site. 


Want to know more about how to do keyword research? Read this blog post!


Make the most of keywords

While knowing your keywords is valuable in and of itself, using them correctly is also important! Here’s a quick cheat sheet of how to make the most of keywords:

  • Choose one keyword per page. Otherwise, multiple pages of your website will compete with one another for search results.
  • Write a short meta description for each post – include your keyword! Meta descriptions are short summaries that show up underneath a page link in Google results. Not only do they tell readers what to expect, they also help Google know what’s in your post. Meta descriptions should be about 150 characters long, max.
  • Add a featured image and use your keyword in the file name. Images add visual interest to your pages and increase your likelihood of showing up in image searches. Learn more about naming images here
  • In blogs, aim to use keywords in the title, at least one H2 section heading, and organically in the text. Just don’t be spammy with your keyword writing – it should read naturally in the blog! 


Add an SEO plugin to your website

An SEO plugin, like Rank Math, can take out some of the guesswork. It will help you format content and follow SEO best practices for each page and post. All you have to do is add a focus keyword for each page or post, and Rank Math will guide you through SEO optimization! 


Check the URL structure

Every single page of your website has a unique URL, or unique address where it’s found on the internet. Google’s algorithms also use URLs to rank search results, so it’s a great place to use keywords! By default, page URLs are numbered or randomized, so you’ll have to manually change them for each page.


Best practice tip! Keep each URL short and tidy. For example, “WordPress Theme vs. Template: What’s the Difference?” is a compelling blog title. But that would be too long for the URL. The URL for that post is “”. “Blog” tells Google what kind of page this is, and the “wordpress-theme-vs-template” lets the algorithm know what the post is all about. 


Use the focus keyword as the H1 for each page

Every page of your website has something called an “H1” tag. H1 is an HTML tag that’s used to mark up a page’s main subject. Any website page can only have one H1. Usually, that’s the same thing as a page title. For example, for blog posts, the title of the blog is almost always the H1. 


But that’s not always the case. For example, a website’s homepage is designed differently than a blog post. There might not be one main headline right at the top of the page! In that instance, it’s usually possible to choose your H1 tag. That means you can get a little creative with on-page copy – just be sure to tag your keyword as the H1! 


If you need help with headline structure, the Header Checker Google Chrome extension is a great visual checker!


Technical SEO To-Dos

Everything that happens on the back end of your website can also increase your chances of showing up in Google results. Here’s what you should pay attention to.


Submit your page for instant indexing

The internet is a big place, and it can take time for Google’s algorithms to “find” your content. However, you can flag your content for “instant indexing,” which means that you can shortcut the wait! Having an edge on indexing can help your content rank more quickly and give you a slight edge.


The best way to submit your site for instant indexing is with Rank Math. It’s a somewhat tech-y and complex process, but Rank Math has an excellent tutorial to walk you through it


Make sure your pages are crawlable

In order for Google to find your website, it has to be crawlable by their robots. That process helps Google’s algorithms see what’s on your site so it can start displaying your site in search results. 


Double-check that your WordPress site isn’t blocking the robots.txt files that Google needs! Log into your WordPress account. Go to Settings → Reading → Search Engine Visibility. If your box is checked (like in the picture below), uncheck it. 

Do You Know You Need Seo But You’re Not Sure What To Do? I’ve Been There! Seo Is One Of Those Big Marketing Concepts That Everyone Knows They Need For Their Websites, But It Can Also Be Intimidating. Sometimes Setting It Up Correctly And “Doing It Right” Feels Like A Giant Mystery That Takes A Ton Of Energy To Navigate. If Keywords, Back-End Seo, And Site Speeds Have Your Head Spinning…I’ve Got You! This Post Covers A Basic Seo Checklist For Wordpress That You Can Use To Get Your Website Google-Ready.

Optimize website speeds

Site speed is one of the most important details that can affect your overall website success! Loading speed is a direct ranking factor for Google…and they’ll keep visitors engaged on your website.

Website loading speeds are so important that I recently did a whole post on how to get it right! Read 8 tips for improving your website speed here


Claim your business on Google My Business

When you claim your business on Google, it officially becomes a “verified” business. That’s amazing for building trust with potential clients! It also allows you to control the information that appears on your business listing. And, best of all, it gives you more SEO authority when it comes to showing up in search results. 


Want your own SEO Checklist for WordPress?

Optimizing your WordPress website for SEO can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be difficult! 

Seo Checklist For Service Providers


Download our free SEO Checklist for websites! 

*This post contains affiliate links, so I may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on my site at no additional cost to you.

Steph O'Keefe, SEO strategist and WordPress designer sitting at desk wearing a white shirt in Raleigh, NC.

I'm Steph!

I'm the Founder and creative Director behind Southern Creative, a.k.a. your SEO strategist and web designer.

My passion is crafting websites rooted in strategy so you can put your focus where your heart is while we launch your dream website that shows up online.