WordPress SEO (Checklist): The 21 Absolute Steps to Follow in 2021

Referencing a website is fascinating: it is also endless.

Fortunately, a content management system like WordPress offers many ways to easily improve its SEO performance, through basic features and plenty of plugins.

All that’s missing is a good WordPress SEO checklist to know in which order to proceed:

Here it is !

Whether for your own WordPress site or that of your clients, you can use this checklist to manage your WordPress SEO campaign in 2021.

And this through 21 essential steps.

Here we go !

1) Define the conversions to track in Google Analytics

Track your users’ data directly in WordPress with Google Analytics.

In Google Analytics, you’re going to want to track the metrics that are most relevant to your business.

You will decide on these before setting up all GA follow-ups.

Some follow-ups are basic, others more or less useful depending on your website (they provide different information).

For example :

Downloads (ebooks, content, etc.): number of users who have downloaded a resource.
Clicks on inbound or outbound links: what other pages or sites users have visited.
Affiliate link clicks: how many users went to a promoted site?
Form filling: how many users have filled them out?
The scroll depth: how far do users read a page?
The authors of the blog: which are the most read.
Categories, tags: which topics work best.
E-commerce sales data: what sources of traffic do e-commerce revenue come from?
To decide which conversions to track, ask yourself the following 3 questions:

-> What is the objective of my site?
-> What are the actions that I want my users to perform?
-> What metrics do they correspond to?

If you have an e-commerce site, you will be looking at everything in user interactions that relates to your income; if you have an affiliate site, the clicks on your links.

For a local business, you will be interested in the generation of prospects / leads… etc.

2) Install Google Analytics

Maybe you’ve already installed and configured Google Analytics, but are you using it like a pro?

To set advanced goals and always have an eye on them, you’ll install Google Analytics on WordPress.

Use the excellent GAinWP plugin among all available Google Analytics plugins.

It is not yet translated into French, that is its fault.

This video shows you how to integrate it quickly.

In the General Settings of the GA extension, request your tracking code and enter it to link your Google Analytics account.

Next, you will configure:

The events
From the WP Dashboard, go to Google Analytics -> Tracking Settings menu -> Events Tracking tab

Activate all followings, and if applicable enter your Regex (= regular expression) for affiliate links, which is the most common term used in these links.

The dimensions of tracking metrics
Then in the Custom Definitions tab , assign a different dimension to each metric, so that they can overlap in your Google Analytics dashboard.

People excluded from monitoring
In the Exclude Tracking tab , check the boxes for site administrators and editors.

For e-commerce sites, specific monitoring:

You will also need to install this e-commerce plugin: Enhanced Ecommerce Google Analytics Plugin for WooCommerce .

Learn how to set up e-commerce tracking in Google Analytics here .

Finally, you will have to configure your tracking objectives, directly on the Google Analytics site.

In the Administration interface (sidebar, at the very bottom), click Goals in the third tab (View), and create new goals.

These will be reflected directly in your reports.

In step 1, you can create your goals from templates, which are offered if you have defined your industry sector category in the property settings (Property tab).

Otherwise, create a Custom configuration.

There are 4 types of objectives:

Destination (the user arrives on a page),
Duration (time spent on a page),
Pages / Screens per session,
and Event (“for example: watched a video”).
The latter type of goal corresponds to actions or other types of events that must first be configured with tags using the Google Tag Manager .

Example of a Destination type objective:

Email registration

in step 2, name your lens and select the type

in step 3, enter the URL of your landing page (the thank you page for user registration)

Example of an Event type objective:

Affiliate clicks

in step 2, name your lens and select the type
in step 3, define the category (“Affiliate”), as well as the action (“Click”), and check “Yes” to the option “Use the value of the event as the value of the objective for conversion “

Do not hesitate to train yourself to use Google Analytics; I shared some resources on this subject in chapter 7 of my article on learning SEO from a distance .

3) Install Google Search Console

To monitor the health of your site and track its SEO performance, you’ll log into the Google Search Console and link your WordPress site.

Start by entering your WordPress site address in the URL Prefix box (not your domain name).

Then to validate the property, select “HTML tag” in “Other validation methods”.

Copy the line of HTML code similar to:

“”

Then in a new window, go to your WordPress interface, and paste this line in the Tools -> Marketing -> Traffic menu

Save these settings, and validate the registration of your site.

That’s it, the GSC is linked to your WordPress site!

You can now choose your preferred domain, choose your target country, submit your sitemap, connect your Google Analytics account …

And of course, do the basic SEO checks:

Is your website well indexed? Go to the Cover menu. You will see indexed pages and those with errors.
Is the mobile version efficient? Go to Improvements (Essential Web Signals).
Are you subject to a manual penalty by Google? See Security and manual actions (Manual actions).
How are you performing in Google? Check basic metrics related to your position and appearance in the SERPs using the Performance tab.

4) Install Bing Webmaster Tools

We talk about it a lot less than Google, but Bing is still a rising star.

It accounts for around 8% of the online search market share in the world, which is a huge number of searches, which keeps increasing.

In addition, searches on Bing have a higher conversion potential than on Google.

Lower bounce rates, better subscription rates, affiliate clicks …

This is why the management of your WordPress site would not be optimal without an optimization for Bing.

Go to the Bing Webmaster Tools website to create your account if you haven’t already.

Use your Microsoft, Google, or Facebook address.

You can then add your site manually or through the Google Search Console.

If you do this manually, repeat the same process of adding the meta tag in the Bing field, via Tools -> Marketing -> Traffic on your WordPress account.

Once in your Bing Webmaster Tools account, make sure to send your Sitemap by submitting its address in the Sitemaps tab.

You will see that you can create your XML Sitemap with RankMath, just in the next step.

5) Install & configure Rank Math

A bit like Yoast SEO but a little faster and more complete for the free version, RankMath relies on the information you have given it to give you OnPage SEO (directly on your Page or Article) and technical advice.

To set it up, install the plugin . Then, in the sidebar, open RankMath -> Dashboard -> Setup Assistant tab , and click on “Launch Assistant”.

You will give the extension all the necessary information so that it can work in the background.

Enter your site information.

… Then connect the tool to Search Console.

In the next step, you can create your XML Sitemap.

Leave the “sitemaps” option to ON, as well as “Include images”, and check Articles and Pages.

Keep the default adjustments, such as:

Once all the basic information is entered, you can go back to the dashboard and make some small adjustments.

In the Titles and meta tab, for example, you can activate the automatic capitalization of titles.

In the Home page section of this same tab, fill in the information relating to the home page of your site.

In the Social Metadata section , enter your social media profiles.

If you are a local business, you will also fill in the information in the Local SEO section.

Your plugin is now ready to serve you!

6) Scan the site for problems

Now that you have the main SEO tools in place on your site, you can do an audit to make sure everything is working as it should.

This is what will allow you to work with a solid foundation.

To do this audit, I recommend that you use SEMrush or Ahrefs, the most powerful tools on the market, for which I recently published guides.

You will also find everything you need to set them up.

If you have opted for SEMrush

On the sidebar, go to the Site Audit tab, in the On Page and Tech SEO category, and click on the “New Site Audit” button.

You will then have access to this type of dashboard illustrated with graphs, with an overview of all the technical errors of your site:

If you are using Ahrefs

Enter the Site Audit tool located in the main menu (top of page).

If you have already created your project (the site you are working on), you just have to select it.

The first page that appears is a historical graph of the various audits carried out.

To access the latest audit, click on the corresponding row in the crawl summary table.

You now have an overview of the health of the site in front of you, with clickable graphics and a list of technical errors and SEO issues on the site.

7) Check if the site is mobile-friendly

It’s no longer a secret that Google prioritizes mobile search today.

You must therefore check the performance of your site on mobile.

To do this, use the Google Mobile Optimization Test (it is part of the Google Search Console).

This analyzes the pages one by one.

Start with your home page.

I recommend that you choose 5 main pages to analyze, starting with the heaviest (including your category page if you are an e-commerce site), and 1 or 2 blog pages.

You will know immediately if your page is suitable or not for mobile.

In the “Page Loading Problems” section, you can see if there are any resources on your page that are not loading, and determine if this may be affecting your SEO.

The Search Console Help Center gives you tips on how to correct any problems.

8) Check Google Page Speed ​​Insights scores on mobile & desktop

Another performance to analyze without delay is the speed of page loading.

Go back to the same 5 pages as before, starting with the home page.

It’s Google’s Page Speed ​​Insights that gives you the verdict.

Enter the URL to analyze in the search field.

The default search is mobile, you can then repeat it with the desktop scan.

The resulting report gives you all the ways to correct the problems. Don’t neglect speed on mobile.

9) Check the site’s performance

The free GTmetrix tool gives you additional insight into how quickly your site loads.

The first box (GTmetrix Grade) gives you the “grades” assigned by GTmetrix.

The second box (Web Vitals) reports the essential loading time data (directly related to the user experience):

LCP (Largest Content Element): The time it takes to load the heaviest content element.
-> Aim for less than 3 seconds
TBT (Total Blocking Time): how long scripts block your page during the loading process
-> Aim for less than 150 milliseconds
CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift): measure of unexpected movement of elements when the page loads
-> Aim for less than 0.1
The graph below these boxes gives you a visualization of the loading of the page, with the timing of appearance of the various elements.

10) Check if the site takes advantage of structured data

You can use Google’s Rich Results Testing Tool, which is intended to replace structured data testing.

The robot analyzes the structured data that you have added to your site to see if it can potentially make you appear in rich results.

If you use Schema.org structured data incorrectly or incorrectly, the report will show errors to be fixed.

11) Audit User experience (UX)

For this step, you are not going to use any tool.

The best way to check if your users are seeing your site exactly the way you want (and UX data is tracking) is to navigate it like a normal user.

The idea is to pay attention to a certain number of specific points.

Check that everything is in the right place and does not affect the reading.

Also test the proper functioning of the buttons and all interactive content.

Take the 5 referral URLs you chose in step 7.

You can start with:

The appearance / formatting of images, tables …
Positioning of headers
The appearance and positioning of the share buttons
How these share buttons work
The proper functioning of pop-ups and the ability to close them on mobile (forget about full screen pop-ups)
Your contact forms
The behavior of links
Access to protected content
The presence of advertisements above the waterline (beyond one, you risk a penalty)

12) Correct technical problems

Step 6 was used to detect technical problems; it’s time to take a closer look and resolve them.

If you are using SEMrush

Once you have performed your site audit, exit the Overview and click on the Problems tab .

You have the list of the types of problems encountered.

If you click on the gray and underlined line, you will have the explanation and a guide on how to correct the problem.

If you click on the problem itself, you will have a detailed list of pages that have this problem.

You can therefore solve them one by one.

When you are done dealing with errors, you can move on to “Warnings”.

If you are using Ahrefs

Once you are in the Overview of your last audit, go to the Reports -> Internal Pages menu in the sidebar.

Then, click directly on the Issues tab .

You will have a list of the types of errors to resolve for this part of the site.

Clicking on the title of the error will give you (in English…) the explanation of the error and advice on how to resolve it.

Clicking on the number under “Crawled” will give you a detailed list of URLs with that specific error.

Once you have resolved as many errors as possible in this part of your site, move on to the other menu options (Indexability, Links, Redirects, etc.).

13) Improve User Experience (UX)

Improve your WordPress theme

The choice of your WordPress theme is essential.

The fact that this one is pleasing to the eye is a positive factor.

But the most important are these two points:

-> That it perfectly matches your universe

-> That its navigation be easy and pleasant

And the point is, improving your theme can dramatically increase your conversion rate.

Some tips for a theme that works perfectly:

A simple and tidy theme for highlighted content (think white space)
Perfect mobile responsiveness
Optimized for speed
Optimized for SEO (plugins, only one H1 tag possible …)
Easy to personalize
With integrated shortcodes
And a good support service
Tips for a top design
Replace full screen pop-ups with less invasive floating bars, which won’t degrade the user experience on mobile.

This can be done with the OptinMonster plugin.

For longer reading time, remove sidebars when possible.

Choose simple, legible, large fonts.

Consider working the space above the waterline:

Make you want to scroll if the text is important, highlight important content on a home page, insert a call-to-action …

14) Add / Configure Open Graph tags

OpenGraph tags allow you to better represent your site on Facebook and other social networks, through the structured information they transmit.

To add them automatically, you just need to use RankMath.

Go to Titles & Meta -> Global Metadata , and start by adding the thumbnail you want to show as your site image on Facebook.

This image will be used for the appearance of all posts that do not have an associated image.

Also verify that the Twitter card type is a “Big Image Summary Card”.

Then continue in Social Metadata and fill in all the requested information.

In the Home page section just below, fill in the title and meta description of your home page, as you want it described in Facebook and Twitter.

If some pages have OpenGraph markup issues and you need to fix them individually, the specific OG tab is at the bottom of each page.

15) Profit from Rich Snippets

Rich Snippets bring real added value to your site and make you eligible for very attractive rich results on Google.

There are 9 different types, which you can get to know in this short article .

It is again with RankMath that you will set them up easily, and this on several levels: they correspond to what you present on an article, a page, or at the level of the entire site.

Have you activated Schema in the RankMath Dashboard?

If so, to start, create Rich Snippets templates by going back to the RankMath -> Titles & Meta menu , and this time head to Articles .

Choose the Type of Diagram for your articles: a priori, the most common is … “Article”.

Also select the type of article you post most often.

When you want to customize a Rich Snippet for a specific article, it is at the level of the article edition that it will be done.

After you have created your structured data model for an article, you can move on to the “Pages” level, and so on.

If you have custom post types (for products, recipes, online courses …

You can go to see in this article what they are and how to create them), they will appear normally in the RankMath menu, so you can create a Schema model for each of them.

When you are done implementing your Rich Snippets, you can re-audit them using Google’s Rich Results test (see step 10).

16) Improve site performance

To improve the speed of your site, a cache plugin will allow information to be stored on the server so that it does not have to be loaded dynamically at each page load.

The plugin that will do this for you is WP Rocket.

After downloading and installing it, go to its Dashboard.

Then go to the Cache tab and enable caching for mobile devices, as well as “Create a separate cache file for mobile”.

Further down, under JavaScript files, check “Load offline JavaScript and” Safe mode for jQuery “.

Then, in File Optimization, check “Optimize CSS loading”.

In the Media tab, check “Activate for images”, “Activate on iframes and videos”, as well as “Replace the Youtube iframe with a preview image”.

And further down, Disable WordPress emojis and embeds.

In Preloading , enable cache preloading .

In Database, check “Spam comments” to clean them as well as “Expired transients” and “All transients”.

If you have a CDN (Content Delivery Network), you can enter it in the next tab.

Activate it and add your CNAME record in the corresponding field.

FINALLY, in the Add-ons, Google Tracking and Facebook Pixels should be activated.

And that’s it for the caching of your site!

You can do another speed audit after this solid improvement.

17) Use the HTTPS protocol

Using the secure HTTPS protocol is not really optional, it is an important ranking factor on Google and will soon become essential.

If you are not yet using HTTPS, migrate first:
To migrate to HTTPS, I recommend using these two key things: Kinsta , and Social Warfare.

To migrate with the WordPress Kinsta host, take a look at the procedure detailed in their article .

This is a process that is not complicated but can be a bit long (you will need to update your Search Console, Analytics and Bing Webmaster Tools profiles).

The Kinsta article warns that you may lose your social shares unless you use the Social Warfare plugin .

To do this, once the plugin is installed on WordPress, go to Settings , Advanced tab , under “Share Recovery”:

If you already have HTTPS , check if the configuration is correct:
Do a 1st test on Qualys SSL Labs , to check if your SSL certificate is valid and correctly installed.

If your score is not an A or a specific result is not optimal, you should contact your hosting service with a screenshot of your results.

Then do a redirection test with the Varvy tool : the results are good when you have 3 “1 Redirect” boxes and one “No Redirect” box (the “www (https)”).

If not, this is also an error for your hosting service to resolve.

18) Optimize the site pages (on-page)

A large part of the SEO effort is to do On-Page optimization, you just have to see the number of Google ranking criteria that concern the On-Page (use the “On-Site” filter if you go see my article to get an idea).

Using an On Page Optimization plugin is a kind of guarantee that you are clear on the basics of On Page SEO and your personal goals.

But there are a multitude of tools to optimize its content or keywords, which are much more connected to SEO trends and your competitive landscape.

For now, you’ll be using RankMath again, this time to optimize your posts.

One of its advantages over Yoast SEO is that it allows you to optimize for multiple keywords for free.

RankMath guides you directly to the bottom of the post you’re editing.

To add keywords (5 maximum), simply enter them after the first in the “Main keyword” field.

To the right of this field, is your optimization score for the chosen keyword (s). The minimum to aim for is 85/100.

3 lists just below give you basic advice, additional, readability of the title and content. And most of them are in French, hurray 🙂

Hover your mouse over the question mark if you are not sure you understand any of these recommendations.

A good rule of thumb for adding internal links that will send good signals to Google (and guide your users) is to select the pages you are going to cite by focusing on their relevance.

It is also best to use an exact link anchor – corresponding to the main keyword -.

You can even come full circle and use Google to find your most relevant posts.

Use this search operator: site: yoursite.com followed by your keyword.

If you’re adding your internal links after you’ve created the first draft of your content, you may need to adjust words, phrases, or entire sentences.

The important thing is that they fit as naturally as possible (no need to hide them).

I take this opportunity to point out my article on internal networking if you want to optimize your internal links as much as possible.

20) improve content

Varying your content will promote your user experience.

Because you need to regularly publish quality content, one of the ways to avoid redundancies is to alternate between various models among all those that have proven their effectiveness.

This will improve your CTR, lower your bounce rate, and has the potential to boost your conversions.

Among the most infallible types of content, we can mention:

List articles – to share tips, ideas …
Informational content – which answers the questions “what” and “why?” “
The tutorials – which rather answer “how?” “
Product reviews – which provide reviews sought by users.
Expert round tables – giving expert advice on a topic.
Ego bait articles – which list resources by creating links with players in an industry / niche.
The ultimate guides – which exhaust a subject: comprehensive and evergreen.
Lists of the best products.
Comparisons – which go deeper into product reviews (with the same commercial intent)
Some WordPress plugins make your life easier to boost your various content:

For these latter types of articles, a classic way to add a visual dimension to the comparison is to create tables.

Try WP Shortcode (create columns or tabs by embedding shortcodes with a button), or TablePress (create your tables in the plugin and add it to your content with a shortcode).

Another way to improve your content, especially longer ones (ultimate guides, etc.) is to make it more readable .

To do this, add a table of contents.

Not only is it a great shield against your bounce rate, but it also makes your page much more attractive in the SERPs.

Thanks to the tables of contents, the users see the point which interests them and can go there directly thanks to the sitelinks (complementary links).

The WordPress Table of Content Plus plugin is free.

Among other features and customization possibilities, it creates your table of contents from your titles, and it positions it for you or provides you with the shortcode to insert it yourself.

21) Convert traffic into subscribers with pop ups

The last step in making your content more valuable is to make it explosive – capable of triggering conversions.

To achieve this there are of course the pop-ups (which you can create and manage with OptinMonster), but also a bunch of shortcode tricks that you can integrate to make certain pieces of content stand out.

Some Page Builders like Elementor or Divi already offer many effects accessible in WYSIWYG.

If you don’t have the right theme or the right Page Builder to set them up, here you have the list of all the shortcodes that you can use with the WP Shortcode plugin – which we already used in step 20 – , for example :

Attractive checkpoints of lists
Quotes that highlight quotes
Colorful alert boxes
Accordion lists
Highlights
Audio, video, map integrations …
Text boxes
Even empty spaces … (the ones that WordPress censors!)
And so on…

It’s your turn!

You have reached the end of the 21 essential steps.

Well done !

You now have a WordPress site with very solid SEO foundations.

Of course, the efforts don’t stop there, but all of these setups and presets are going to allow you to automate your efforts as much as possible.

If you yourself put in place actions that you think are essential but that you have not seen them here, do not hesitate to tell me in the comments 😉