In today’s post, I’ll show what I will do after installing a WordPress site to make it a better and SEO optimized site.
Whenever I am starting a new site these are the things I do. In fact, you can this post as a checklist.
So if you want to improve your WordPress site and its SEO, you’ll love today’s guide.
Let’s jump right in.
Domain Level Setting
1. www vs non-www Domain
If you are starting a site and considering whether to choose www or non-www domain for your site. Then Let me tell you there are no SEO benefits of using www or non-www. It’s just a matter of personal preference. You might notice big brands like Bloomberg, AOL, Forbes, etc. use the “www” version while a lot of new brands prefer the “non-www” version. It’s because back in the early days using www was a common thing like now using non-www is a common thing. But today if they(Forbes, AOL, etc.) want to switch to a non-www version after using it for many years it can be a complex process and create issues because of the many URLs they have.
Why do I choose the non-www version?
- Because I like short URLs
- Users do not have to type an extra four characters “www.” in the URLs.
Note: Google treats www and non-www as different sites. For Example, www.growthpix.com/seo-basics and growthpix.com/seo-baiscs are different URLs in google’s eyes. That is why we should redirect all the versions to one version.
No matter which version you choose you should stick to one version including trailing slash. And Redirect all the other versions to your chosen version. So that each URL is accessible and doesn’t create multiple URLs with the same content issues.
You can set up the preferred version in your hosting account’s cPanel or in the search console.
You can check the redirection status using htttpstatus.io
Having www or non-www in your URL doesn’t affect SEO. But you should stick to one version and redirect all the other versions to a single version including trailing slash.
2. Secure Your Site With HTTPS
Google has officially stated the HTTPS as the ranking signal
HTTPS is not only a ranking signal but it also increases the trust in the eyes of the users. So if your site is not secured go ahead and do it.
You can ask your hosting provider for migrating your site from HTTP to HTTPS.
And here’s a helpful guide on moving your site to https without hu
Or if you’re launching a new site then set it up before launching it. Now a day hosting sites provide free SSL so you don’t need to pay extra money for implementing HTTPS.
1. Install a lightweight, fast, responsive theme
Once you finish installing WordPress. Then you need a theme. WordPress provides a default theme but it does not give greater control over theme customization.
So which theme you should opt for. Here are the two important things you should look for.
- Responsive Design: As the mobile searches are increasing and google also wants websites to be mobile-friendly. The theme should be responsive to work great on mobile. Check your site on the Mobile-Friendly tool.
- Lightweight: Avoid Heavy themes. They slow down the website speed which gives bad user experience. Both users and Google don’t like slow websites.
I recommend these themes
2. Install a WordPress SEO Plugin
Having an SEO Plugin gives more control to optimizing your site for SEO. It makes it easy to change the stuff which is important for SEO like SEO title, meta description, no index tags, editing robots.txt, etc.
That said, here are the 3 popular SEO Plugins
- Yoast SEO (Oldest and widely used SEO Plugin)
- SEO Press (It is intuitive and easy to use)
- RankMath (New in the market but give lot functionality in its free version than SEO Press and Yoast SEO) (I am using this)
All these plugins are popular and available in free versions with limited features. But my recommendation will be RankMath. I think it is providing more functionality than Yoast SEO and SEOPress at zero cost.
At GrowthPix I use RankMath. By providing a lot of features in its free version (with a promise of keeping the current list of features free for life) RankMath is also gaining a lot of popularity and positive reviews.
To install the SEO Plugin
Plugins → Add New → Search for “RankMath” → Activate
After activating you need to set up the Rankmath.
Note: In the later points I’ll be using RankMath for demonstration. But if you are using other SEO Plugins still don’t worry these plugins work almost the same.
3. Installing Image Optimize Plugin
Having images in your content not only makes your content engaging but it also helps in reducing the bounce rate.
But the downside of adding images is that it increases the size of the webpage. And if your content is long then there is a chance that your content has more no. of images which increases the total size of the webpage.
And if the size of the webpage is bigger than it will take more time to load the page.
Also, here’s an important study.
According to Google, 53% of mobile site visitors leave a page if it doesn’t load within 3 seconds.
That said, we can’t avoid adding images and at the same time, we want our web page size to be smaller. And that’s where image compression comes into play. Compressing the images reduces the size of the image thus reducing the size of the webpage.
To do that I would recommend these three plugins.
All three of them work great.
Here’s how to set up imagify
- Step 1 : Sign up at Imagify
- Step 2 : Install Imagify Plugin
- Step 3 : Enter the API key in the plugin.
- Step 4 : Go to “Media” → Bulk Optimization →Select the Compression Level (Normal, Aggressive, or Ultra) → Select “Imagif’em all!”
By following the above step you will optimize all the images of your website. And to automatically optimize the image while uploading it you can select the following setting.
Settings → Imagify → Auto-Optimize images on upload
Next, set Image resizing.
Set the image “max-width” dimension according to your WordPress theme. You will need to set the widest image resolution that can be displayed on your site.
4. Installing Cache Plugin
Caching makes your website load fast which is good for users and SEO.
But wait. What is caching?
Every time you load a web page, browsers have to download the page from the server and show it to you. With the help of caching the browser stores the page as a duplicate copy of that page and next when you load the page browser doesn’t need to download that page and thus saves time.
To help you get this done I use a cache plugin. And these are the plugins I recommend..
Here’s the setting I recommend in WP Fastest Cache
5. Database Cleanup Plugin
If you’ve been using WordPress for a while, chances are your WordPress databases are filled with junk files (trash, spam comments, spam folder, post revisions, etc.)
This junk data makes your database bloated and cluttered. So, cleaning up the unnecessary data from the WordPress database clears up space and improves the performance of your site.
That is why it is recommended to perform a database clean up regularly.
The easiest way to clean up your WordPress database is by using Plugin. So, I recommend these plugins
6. Installing a Security Plugin
Keep your site secure and safe from hackers, viruses, and malware with security plugins.
Sometimes websites lose their ranking and traffic after being hacked. So if you’re not concerned about your site security you’re putting your business at risk especially if it heavily relies on traffic from google.
That’s why after installing WordPress I install a security plugin Wordfence Security. It comes with a free and paid version both.
1. Setup Friendly Permalinks
Permalink is the full URL of the page, post, landing page, or any content on your site. The default URL structure in WordPress is weird and not clean which is not good for user experience and SEO.
In the default setting “Day and name” WordPress insert date and name in the URL slug.
Info: Slug is the remaining part of the URL that comes after the root domain.
But as URL is the important thing in SEO we should carefully select the URL structure.
I use and recommend choosing “Post name” as your permalink settings. It will make your slug shorter and will include your title or keywords which is good for SEO.
To change the permalink setting go to Settings → Permalinks → Select “Post Name” → Save.
Note: If you are changing the Permalinks of an older site or you have already published articles then you need to be careful doing it. In this case, changing the permalinks will cause issues in already published articles, you need to edit the permalink using .htaccess or using a plugin like Change Permalink Helper.
2. Noindex Archive, Category, Pagination, Tag Pages
I don’t want google to index my websites archive, category, and tag pages. These are generally thin pages and provide low value to search engines and many times to users as well.
To keep my site look good in the eyes of google I noindex them. This is especially good if you’re going to publish a lot of content. Because a big number of blog posts can generate a lot of things like tag pages and archive pages.
Although if you install rankmath it would automatically set these pages to noindex. Still, you should confirm it.
All you need to do is Go to rankmath → Titles & Meta → Global Meta and turn on “Noindex Empty Category and Tag Archives”
Do that will put the noindex tag on these pages and also they will be removed from sitemaps. That way, when Google crawls your sitemap it will crawl only the important pages and pages you want Google to index.
3. Setting Image direction Setting
Whenever you upload an image it creates its own dedicated page. What do I mean? Check this screenshot.
As you can see the page has only image and nothing else. It has no value to users and search engines. And having this type of page will only increase the crawl budget and decrease the overall value of the site in the eyes of search engines.
Most of the time this issue occurs because of the wrong setting on SEO plugin. Due to the wrong setting, every image you upload will create a separate page of itself. That’s why I make sure this setting is properly set up.
If you’re on rankmath follow this.
Go to rankmath → General Setting → Links and turn on “Redirect Attachments”
If you’re on yoast follow this:
4. Insert Sitemap URL in Robots.txt
Robots.txt is the first file crawler read before crawling the site. Robots.txt files tell the crawler which pages to crawl and which should not be crawled.
And sitemap.xml we have already discussed in the previous point. It is the file which is made so that crawlers can easily access all the URLs you want them to crawl and index.
So if you place the sitemap URL in robots.txt it will be easier for Google to find the sitemap.xml file and crawl all the necessary pages present in the sitemap.
The easier we’ll make crawlers to find pages, the faster it will index.
Here’s the snapshot of growthpix’s robots.txt file
Usually, when you install SEO Plugin it will create a virtual robots.txt file. And you edit the robots.txt file using the SEO Plugin in the WordPress dashboard.
And If you are using Yoast you checkout this tutorial
But we would recommend you to go to your cPanel then file manager and create robots.txt file (if it’s not created ) and then add the sitemap or code.
Here’s how you can do this.
The steps shown in the video are similar whether you are using Siteground hosting or any other hosting.
You can follow this path
Go to cPanel → File Manager → Root Directory → Create New file → Name it “robots.txt” → Right-click and then click on “Edit” → add the sitemap and the code → save it
Note: Skip creating a new file if you already have robots.txt file in the root directory.
5. Comment Settings
The main goal of configuring the comment setting is to reduce the comment spam.
Even after a few days of launching the site, you’ll probably start getting comments. These are annoying spam comments who just want to place a link to their website.
To reduce this headache. I use this setting to make sure I get a few spam comments as possible.
You can get the comment blocklist from here.
Why not use Plugin?
I don’t think plugin is required to reduce comment spam. Besides that, I try to keep the no. of installed plugins as small as possible. Because plugins require frequent updates, maintenance, consume server resources, slow down the website.
6. Enable Breadcrumbs (Optional)
Breadcrumbs give the clear path of the page or post to the user and Google Crawler. With that users can easily navigate to the previous page or directly to the root page.
Benefits of Using Breadcrumbs
It helps web crawlers to understand the hierarchy and structure of the website.
It provides a better user experience by providing information about where the users are on the website.
Here are the helpful tutorials on adding breadcrumbs
- If you are using SEO Press premium Plugin and GeneratePress Theme.
- If you are using Yoast SEO Plugin and GeneratePress Theme
- If you are using Yoast SEO Plugin
Adding and Removing
1. Removing Extra Pages
Every time you install WordPress you’ll get some default pages. These pages have no content and no value to the search engines. So, It’s better to delete them before they get indexed.
Most usually you’ll get a hello post and sample page. So, check both the posts and pages. Delete all the pre-built pages.
2. Adding Important Pages
Important pages are..
After removing the extra pre-built pages. It’s time to add important pages. These pages will build trust in the user and search engine eyes. And if you’re planning to apply for any ads platform like AdSense. These pages will help you get approval much faster. Because they give the signal of being a legitimate site.
These are the first four pages I add-in on my site.
3. Add First 5 Post in your WordPress dashboard
It’s time to add the most important part of your site. Content.
In the end, content is the things that will rank on google and users want to read.
After adding 5 pillar blog posts you can relax because you have something to give to the readers and the search engines.
Also, when you add a post, you can check how your content will look on your site and then you can make informed decisions on UX and Design(covering later)
So, before you do anything else to your site. Add the 5 blog posts. I prefer 5 but if you think 10 is a good number, that’s perfectly ok. Usually, I prefer launching my site with 5 blog posts.
And keep in mind this can cost time(if you write yourself) or money(if you outsource it). That said, if you outsource the content writing then it is better to give the article writing job before installing the WordPress so when you come to this point you’ll have the blog post ready to add.
Design and UX
1. Logo Design and Setting up
A logo is an essential part of site branding and good design.
That’s why I put the logo on the site when starting site design work.
That said, the logo design shouldn’t be stylish or too complicated. You should not waste too much time on logo design. It can be as simple as bold letters like this…
Or with only one different letter in the name like this…
The above logo can be easily made from a free graphics design tool like canva.
The best way to find logo inspiration is to look at other big websites in different niches. And add your little creativity and you’re done.
Once the logo is done. I set them up for mobile, desktop, and favicon.
2. Homepage Design
Here I don’t mean design a homepage like this….
Although if you can build a homepage like this then it’s great and do it. But I mean you should design a homepage so that when you launch your site. It should look good and decent.
You can set up a simple homepage like growth pix…
Or like this….
Or if you don’t have time you can just simply set up the blog post feed as a homepage. It will show all the latest blog posts on your homepage.
3. Improve your Overall WordPress Site Design
Website design is not directly related to SEO. But it affects a lot of other factors that are important to grow your website and build your brand.
When users visit your site they make a lot of split-second decisions in their subconscious mind about your blog and your brand. And good design is the best way to give a good first impression to your users and to build trust.
Here’s a great quote by Paul Rand
“Design is the silent ambassador of your brand.”
That said, good design doesn’t have to be fancy. It should be clean and simple.
Here are some blogs that have a nice design
Here are a few things you can do right now to improve your site’s aesthetic looks and UX.
- Make your body font size at least 14 px.
- Move your content above the fold.
- Aim for using 2 -3 colors on your site. One should be your brand color and use other colors for other details on your site.
- Keep your sidebar clean. Don’t make a cluttered sidebar
4. Featured Image Size Selection as per layout.
Many times because of different featured image sizes either they look distorted in feed or cut down. That is why you should check the featured image size first and then create all the featured images of the size.
Also, it helps in improving the speed. As if you upload a bigger image it will increase the page size. At the same time, if you upload the exact image size, it will not increase the page size unnecessary and WordPress does not have to resize them as well.
That said, here how you can check the features image size.
- Install the Image size info chrome extension.
- Upload the bigger size image.
- Open the feed page (where your featured image will be shown) like this…
- Then Right-click → View Info → Check Displayed size
Displayed size is my blog’s featured image size that shows on feed. Also, you can see the Dimensions and Display size is exactly the same in the image because I created the exact image size featured image.
5. Featured Image template
Creating a featured image template is going to save a lot of time. You don’t need to create an image from scratch every single time for a new blog post.
Every time you want a featured image for your new blog post. All you need to do is make a few changes in the image template and you’re done.
A good example is Robbie Richards’s blog.
As you can see these are very simple and Robbie doesn’t need to think about image design every single time. Again you can create these types of images in canva.
Also, in the long run, these image templates can be a unique identity to your blog. People will be able to tell your blog name by just looking at the featured image. If anyone shares your post on social media platforms like Twitter, Linkedin, and Facebook, then many of your readers will know that this image belongs to your blog and this post is from your blog. And if they like your content they might click and read the post.
Good Font size and type can make a good first impression. It can help you to make your site look trustworthy and more appealing.
To make it clear. Check this paragraph.
And now if I change the font of the same paragraph.
As you can see, fonts can make a big difference in aesthetic appeal and readability.
That is why I give a bit of time in font size and style selection.
So, first I start with the style. You can use canva’s free tool to match the heading and body font.
Once my font style is selected I move on to set the font size.
Correct font size will improve the readability of your post and also improve the site look. As I mentioned earlier, keep the body font at least 14 px. In fact, medium uses 21px font size. Not only the good font size looks good but it also improves the readability of the post.
Similarly, I set the size for Heading tags H1, H2, and H3, and again I prefer big fonts because they look good. Take a look at Nerdwallet.
See how good they look. It instantly improves the look of the blog. So try the different sizes of heading tags and see which looks great for your blog.
Bottom Copyright Setting
This is minor and a few seconds work. But it shows that you care about the details.
So, at last, I fix the copyright settings by adding copyright symbols, my site name, and year.
1. Setting up the Bing webmaster tool and Google Search Console and adding the Sitemap
A sitemap is a file that contains all the URLs of pages, posts, videos, images, etc. which the webmaster wants the search engine to index.
It is the easiest way to help web crawlers to discover all the important links to your site. That’s why every site creates a sitemap
And for WordPress users, SEO Plugins makes it easier because it automatically creates the sitemap.
Usually, you can access the sitemap by placing the /sitemap_index.xml after the root domain like this yoursite.com/sitemap_index.xml. Here’s what growthpix sitemap looks like generated by rankmath
Before that, you need to set up the account on both the platform and verify your site.
Now, it’s time to submit the sitemap in the search console. I am showing how to do it for the search console and you can search for submitting a sitemap on bing on google or bing itself.
Moving on, Submitting the sitemap in google search console is the easiest and fastest way to get your URL indexed by the Search Engines. And here’s how you can do it.
- Step 1 : Go to Search console
- Step 2 : Select “Sitemaps” on the left-hand side
- Step 3 : Insert the sitemap URLs
- Step 4 : Hit “Submit” Button
Note: Before submitting the sitemap URL first check that the URL is working correctly by loading the URL in the browser. If it doesn’t show any error it means the sitemap is working fine.
Similarly, you should submit the sitemap to bing webmaster tool as well. Here are the full tutorials on submitting a sitemap in bing.
To know more about sitemaps
2. Setting up Google Analytics
Search console and bing webmaster can only track organic traffic from google and bing search engine. But a site can get traffic from various methods like paid promotion, social media, referral traffic, direct traffic, etc.
So, to track all those visitors I setup up google analytics.
And here’s how you can setup GA for the new site and add the code in WordPress.
If you’re using GeneratePress theme than read this post to add Google analytics code using hook.
Now It’s Your Turn
I hope you got a ton of value from this WordPress Checklist type post.
If you’re starting a new WordPress website then copy this checklist (in Google Sheets) and use it or just give it to the person who’s going to set up the site for you.
In case I miss anything? Let me know by leaving a quick comment below right now.