Setting Your New WordPress Website for SEO

WordPress is immensely popular with bloggers, journalists, businesses, and publishing houses worldwide. It powers nearly one-third of the Internet!

WordPress is currently the MOST popular tool used by millions of individuals and companies to structure, manage, and publish content on the web.

If your new website is built on WordPress, let us tell you that you’ve made the right decision. Now that your WordPress website is ready, it’s important to follow some pre-launch SEO steps.

One of the chief reasons behind the popularity of WordPress is that optimizing websites built on this CMS for on-page SEO is relatively easy.

But, WordPress alone won’t help your brand-new website rank in search engines. You need to follow the SEO best practices to achieve that end.

The good news is that even if you are a complete beginner, you can still optimize your WordPress site for higher search engine rankings.

Here are the steps that you should follow for setting your new WordPress website for SEO when launching: 

  1. Integrate GA/GSC With Your WordPress Site 

Few days or weeks after you launch, how will you know if your WordPress website is getting any traffic? Which keywords is your website ranking for? Are there any issues in your WordPress website that Google wants you to work on? 

You can get all such information (and more) by simply integrating Google Analytics (GA) and Google Search Console (GSC) with your WordPress site. 

Watch the following video to learn how to add install GA tracking code for your WordPress site:

Watch the next video to learn how to add your WordPress site to GSC:

  1. XML Sitemaps 

An index of your WordPress website’s internal links, an XML sitemap is used by search engine crawlers (robots) to find, read, and add your web pages to SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). 

An XML sitemap provides a detailed map of your website to search engines – including pages, posts, and images. 

You can use a plugin such as Google XML Sitemaps to generate a sitemap for your WordPress site. A general-purpose SEO plugin such as Yoast SEO or Rank Math can also be used to generate XML sitemaps. 

SEO or XML sitemap plugins typically update sitemaps as more pages and posts are created on a WordPress website. 

You can even use an online utility such as to quickly generate a sitemap for your website. 

Next, you need to submit XML sitemaps to GSC. Here’s an easy guide. 

  1. Check Grammar 

Proofread all your content and get rid of typos and grammatical errors. Use online spell-check and grammar-check utilities. 

Here’s what John Mueller from Google stated when he was asked whether grammar affects SEO: 

“Not really….it is more a matter of how it is received from a user point of view. If you are a banking web site and you have terrible English on it, then I assume users will lose trust in your web site. But for other things, it is the way the web just comes…..”

Put simply, you need to earn your target customer’s trust by publishing a well-written copy free of typos, spelling mistakes, or grammatical errors. Higher content quality will lead more visitors to your website, reduce bounce rates, and affect your website’s SEO in a positive way. 

  1. Set Up Robots.txt File 

A robots.txt file sits at the root of your WordPress site. It tells search engines not to crawl specific parts of your website. 

Here’s how a robots.txt file works: 

I am text block. Click edit button to change this text. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

You can manually create/edit the Robots.txt file by using an FTP client. Alternatively, you can use an SEO plugin to create or edit it. 

When you are just launching, your Robots.txt will have only a few lines of code

  1. HTTPS- SSL 

Having an SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate isn’t a nice-to-have anymore. It’s a must-have. 

Google announced HTTPs as a ranking signal in 2014. 

Here’s what Google said in its official blog in 2015: 

“We’d like to announce that we’re adjusting our indexing system to look for more HTTPS pages. Specifically, we’ll start crawling HTTPS equivalents of HTTP pages, even when the former are not linked to from any page.”

  1. Secure from Hackers 

Make sure your website is protected against common cyber threats. Limit login attempts, use strong passwords, and setup WordPress backups. 

  1. Make Sure Your WordPress Site Is Visible to Search Engines

It’s a basic but very important step to follow when you set up a new WordPress site for SEO.

Under the ‘Settings > Reading’ option on WordPress Admin Dashboard, you can turn Search Engine Visibility on or off.

You can enable this option when:

  • You are still testing your site with dummy content (pages and blogs)
  • Your site is under development

With this option, you can set your WordPress site to block search engines.

Keep in mind that some web-hosting companies that auto-install WordPress for your domain, may have this setting ON by default.

So, when you are ready to launch, be sure to UNCHECK the Search Engine Visibility option. 

This way, search engines will have no difficulty in finding your new WordPress site. 

  1. Select the Right WordPress Permalink Setting for SEO Friendly URLs

Permalink or ‘Permanent Link’ is the full URL you see or use – for a WordPress page or post.

In WordPress, you are at liberty to choose one out of six Permalink Settings.

Under the ‘Settings > Permalinks’ section, you can choose one of the standard permalink options or opt for a custom URL structure.

The default option set in WordPress Permalink Settings with a trailing ‘?p=[id]’ isn’t good for SEO.

The permalink option highlighted in yellow in the image below is the one you should choose before you launch a new WordPress site.

If the newly built WordPress website has some static pages or blog posts, be sure to include focus keywords in the URL.

Keep in mind that once your website has been indexed by search engines post-launch, changing the permalink structure (without causing any 404 errors) can be a lot more complicated.

So, it is important to choose the recommended permalink setting before you launch a new WordPress site.

  1. Install a Good SEO Plugin

You can install a variety of plugins for additional functionalities on your WordPress site. When it comes to SEO, there is no dearth of WordPress SEO plugins to choose from.

In the WordPress Plugins directory, if you search for ‘SEO,’ there are 49 pages of results at the time of writing this post.

Different WordPress SEO plugins vary in the features they offer.

Since there are 100s of such plugins, it’s advisable to stick to ones that have been tried-and-tested by thousands of other bloggers, business owners, eCommerce website owners, etc.

To get your WordPress website’s SEO off on the right foot, you can choose either one of the reputed SEO plugins such as Yoast SEO, All In One SEO Pack or Rank Math.

But, should you use the free or paid version of a WordPress SEO plugin?

Well, you can initially use the free version and upgrade later on when you have better understanding of your website’s SEO requirements.

Reputed SEO plugins for WordPress include various important features such as XML sitemaps, no-index tags, meta-titles and descriptions, schema markups, redirects (301, 302, 307, 410, and 451), etc.

Can you change your WordPress SEO plugin in the future?

Yes. It is generally easy to transition from one SEO Plugin to another. You can, for example, follow a few steps to switch from Yoast SEO to Rank Math.

While you can always install niche SEO plugins that offer one key feature in later stages, a new WordPress site should ideally have one general-purpose SEO plugin installed and configured.

A WordPress SEO plugin like Broken Link Checker, meant for specifically checking broken links, for instance, can be installed later on, if required.  

  1. Check If You Are Using An SEO-Friendly Theme

Make sure it’s a responsive WordPress theme with fluid layout that rearranges or resizes various page elements depending upon the access device such as laptop, tablet, and smartphone.

Use Google’s Mobile Friendly Test to be double sure your WordPress theme creates mobile-friendly web pages.

You can validate a WordPress theme’s semantics with W3C. Errors in the code can make it difficult for search engines to move through your site.

Make sure your WordPress theme does not have any spam links pointing to sketchy websites.

Use themes that prioritize mobile-first design, provide cross-browser compatibility, have user-friendly navigation, load fast, include schema markups, and are compatible with your SEO plugin.

  1. Speed Test Your New WordPress Site

Companies that create WordPress themes and third-party plugins often brag about features and benefits of their products. But, a theme that looks elegant or a gallery plugin that works just fine may take too long to load on the browser.

So, use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to check if the web pages load fast.

Keep in mind that other factors such as the type of web hosting, location of web server, etc. also have an effect on page speed.

12 Set Up ‘Content Caching’ For Your WordPress Site 

A ‘content cache’ is a program that runs on a web server.

It creates ‘static versions’ of your WordPress website’s pages and posts. When you enable content caching for a website, your posts and pages are served quickly to end users with minimum delay.

This is how caching works:

Since Google loves websites that load fast, content caching can help your WordPress site rank higher up in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).

Google has already confirmed that page speed is a ranking factor for both desktop and mobile searches.

W3 Total Cache is one of the most trusted WordPress caching plugins.

  1. Enable Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs are navigational elements that give both visitors and search engines a clear trail to navigate or explore your website.

Put simply, breadcrumbs can improve user experience (UX) as well as crawlability of a new WordPress site.  

Google has been displaying breadcrumbs in search results for a long time now.

The search engine uses breadcrumb markup to categorize content from the web page in the search results.

Google has even added a new Structured Data Report for breadcrumbs in the Google Search Console.

Breadcrumbs on your new WordPress site can be:

  • Attribute based breadcrumbs (e.g. Home > Adventure > Trekking > Flashlight)
  • Hierarchy based breadcrumbs (e.g. Home > Resources > For Parents)
  • History based breadcrumbs (e.g. Home > WordPress SEO Introduction > WordPress SEO Beginner Level > WordPress SEO Advanced)

You can enable breadcrumbs for your WordPress site via your theme options or an SEO plugin. Alternatively, you can ask your WordPress developer to add the required code.

  1. Disable Auto Approval of Comments

Blog comments aren’t always about your readers asking legitimate questions or voicing their thoughts.

Spammers are on the lookout for WordPress sites that automatically approve comments.

Here’s what a spam comment looks like:

Spammers use automated software programs to post such comments on hundreds and thousands of websites.

Although links in WordPress comments are ‘nofollow’ by default, spam comments can still have a negative impact on your WordPress website’s SEO.

Google can demote pages with user-generated spam comments.

Needless to mention, such comments can distract your website visitors as well.

Therefore, it is important to disable auto-approval of comments.

You can turn manual approval of comments ON by accessing the ‘Settings > Discussion’ section of WP Admin Panel.

Alternatively, you can install plugins such as Akismet to deal with comment spam. But, unless you are expecting at least a few hundred visitors each month, manual comment approval should work just fine.

  1. Optimize Images

According to Google, more than half of mobile internet users leave a website if it takes longer than 4.2 seconds to load. That’s ‘bad’ user experience.

In most cases, large image files increase the total page size. To keep the total size of a page or post lower than 3MB, be sure to compress and optimize your images.

You can use a plugin such asSmush Image Compression and Optimization’ to optimize all new images on the go.

  1. Use Alt Text for Your Images

Add alt-text to all images via the visual editor.

Although alternative text for an image is added to make a web page accessible for internet users with vision impairment (who use screen readers), it does more than just cater to the visually-impaired.

It helps in SEO as well.

When you hit the ‘Add Media’ button and upload an image file on your WordPress site, you will see an option to enter the ‘Alt Text.’

In case your WordPress designer or developer has added images already, consider editing them to include alt-text for all images.

According to John, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, ‘alt-text’ helps you rank in Google Images as well.

Final Words

Remember to always complete pre-launch SEO steps for a new WordPress site. This will help your website’s on-page SEO move forward in the right direction. 

Consider hiring a WordPress SEO expert if you find it difficult to complete pre-launch SEO steps discussed here.