SEO Checklist for WordPress

The key to SEO is execution. But, search engine algorithms are complex and the web contains endless and often confusing advice on how to do SEO. Enter our SEO Checklist, a 10-step list that helps you prioritize your time by simplifying SEO into executable, highly effective pieces.

We created our checklist for WordPress websites. Combining on-page optimization, technical SEO, local search, and link building, you can deploy this holistic SEO strategy on WordPress websites small and large.

We developed the SEO Checklist at the agency level, deploying and testing it on hundreds of WordPress websites with measurable results. Explore the 10-step process below and get started with do-it-yourself SEO for WordPress websites.


Step 1: Keyword Research



Step 2: Install WordPress Plugins



Step 3: Google Analytics



Step 4: Search Engine Verification



Step 5: XML Sitemap and Robots.txt



Step 6: Page Titles and Meta Descriptions



Step 7: Content Review



Step 8: 301 Redirects



Step 9: Local Search



Step 10: Link Building


Step 1. Keyword Research

What are keywords?

Search engine optimization (SEO) begins with the words and phrases people type into search boxes on Google, Yahoo, and Bing. We call these words and phrases keywords.

google search example

Keyword research is the process of evaluating phrases that are relevant to your business. Important metrics include:

  • Quantity – How many searches are there for a given keyword? Typically, the more volume the better.
  • Quality – How closely related is the phrase to your business? If a visitor reaches your website from a given keyword, will they have a positive experience and become a new customer? Focus on quality over quantity.
  • Competition – Is your website able to compete in the space? Do you have content on your website that matches the keyword?

Why is keyword research important?

As both an art and a science, keyword research is the foundation of your on-site SEO strategy. Optimize your website around the right keywords, and visits and sales will increase. Optimize your website around the wrong keywords — those with little search volume or relevancy — and you may rank #1, but receive no increase in traffic.

How to Do Keyword Research

STEP 1 – Brainstorm
Write 5-10 phrases relevant to your business on a piece of paper.

example keyword listUse Google Search Suggest to expand your list.

Google Search Suggest Example

STEP 2 – Create a Keyword List
Estimate volume for each keyword. Grow and expand the list with keyword suggestions. Subscriptions to WP SEO Hub include access to our integrated keyword research tool.  And there are several other great keyword research tools available online such as the Keyword Explorer from Moz and the Yoast Google Suggest Expander.

Some keywords reveal local intent, like when someone searches for “coffee shop”, “movie theater near me”, or “yoga studio”. In such cases, specify the location, so you see search volume estimates for the keyword in your area. Your audience could be national, which is the case for phrases like “best coffee shop in St. Louis” and “Long Island vacation rentals”.

Don’t forget to add your brand name to the list, as it’s not a given your website will rank #1 for your brand.

STEP 3 – Assess & Expand
Evaluate your keyword list. Add or subtract keywords. Consider how well matched a phrase is to your business. Is a keyword too general? If so, remove it, and focus on keywords directly related to your brand, geographic, and service areas. Think ahead to mapping keywords to pages.

STEP 4 – Rank Tracking
Start tracking your keywords. Rank tracking, while imperfect due to personalized search results and other variables, is a key metric to follow as you optimize your website. WP SEO Hub’s keyword research tool includes the option to save a keyword to a list and track ranking performance over time.

Step 2. Install a WordPress Plugin for SEO

A WordPress plugin extends your website’s functionality. To optimize your website for SEO, you need to install and configure an SEO plugin. Our favorite WordPress plugin for SEO is Yoast.

If you have a web developer, you can ask them for assistance installing Yoast. If you built your website, then you’re probably familiar with WordPress plugins, and installing a new one should be simple.

Installing the plugin is just the first step. Then, it needs to be configured. We’ll walk you through configuring your plugin in upcoming steps.

Installing Yoast SEO Plugin

  1. Log into your WordPress website.
  2. In the left-hand menu, hover over Plugins.image iconexample
  3. Click on Add New.
  4. Search for “Yoast SEO”. If the Yoast SEO plugin is compatible with your version of WordPress, click install.image iconexample
  5. Activate the plugin.image iconexample

Bonus Option
The free version of Yoast is great. But the paid version of Yoast’s SEO plugin is even more powerful. Our favorite part of Yoast SEO Premium is the redirect manager and integration with Google Search Console, which we’ll dive into in Step 4. Consider signing up for Yoast SEO Premium. ** If you already have the free version of Yoast installed, then be sure to follow the upgrade instructions from Yoast to migrate existing configurations.**

      1. Go to Yoast’s website and select “Get Yoast SEO Premium Now”. Complete order.
      2. Download Zip file from MyYoast.
      3. Go to your WordPress website and click Add Plugin.image iconexample
      4. Click on Upload Plugin and upload the zip file.image iconexample
      5. Activate plugin.

    1. Connect the plugin to your subscription via My Yoast.image iconexample

Step 3. Google Analytics

Track results of your online marketing initiatives, including SEO, with Google Analytics (GA). GA is a free web analytics platform from Google that tracks visitor information, including how a person reached your website, actions they took on your website, and general demographic information. For privacy reasons, Google Analytics doesn’t share names, email addresses, or other personal details.

How to Add Google Analytics to Your WordPress Website

  1. Go to www.google.com/analytics. Click Sign Up.
  2. Now, log in, and enter your website information. Accept the terms and conditions, and you’ll receive your tracking code.image iconexample
  3. Next, log into your WordPress website.
  4. Hover over Plugins in the left-hand menu, and click on Add New. We recommend using Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights. However, you should install a Google Analytics plugin compatible with your version of WordPress. Install and activate your plugin.image iconexample
  5. Now, return to Google Analytics, and copy your tracking code.image iconexample
  6. Navigate back to your website, go to the Google Analytics Monsters Insights plugin via the left navigation and select settings. Manually add your tracking code by pasting it into the field or authenticate with your Google account.image iconexample

Optional Configuration

Add a filter in Google Analytics to prevent it from tracking your visits to your own website so you don’t skew user data.

      1. Navigate to filters in your Google Analytics admin panel by clicking on the gear icon in the lower left navigation. Select Filters under View in the far right column.image iconexample
      2. Go to http://www.myipaddress.com/. Copy your IP address.image iconexample
      3. Click on Add Filter in Google Analytics.
      4. Name the filter “IP Address – Exclude Internal Traffic”. Filter Type is Predefined. Complete the fields to read “Exclude traffic from the IP addresses that are equal to”. Paste IP address. Save.image iconexample

Step 4. Search Engine Verification

Google Search Console (GSC) and Bing Webmaster Tools (BWT) are webmaster platforms that allow you to review your website’s health. They create a communication channel between you as the search engine marketer and the two largest search engines. Verifying your website in GSC and BWT means proving that you own or manage your website.

Google Search Console Verification

The easiest way to verify is using your Google Analytics account. If you’ve already installed your Google Analytics tracking code on your website, we recommend going with this verification method.

Verify Using Your Google Analytics Account
  1. Log into Google Search Console using the same login information you use for your Google Analytics account.
  2. If this is the first time you’re adding a website in GSC, add your website in the field in between the Website drop-down menu and the Add a Property button. Next, click on the Add a Property button.image iconexample
  3. If you’re logged into the account you use to access Google Analytics, in this step you should see Google Analytics as your recommended verification method. However, if this isn’t the case, click over to the Alternate methods tab, and select Google Analytics. Then, click on Verify.image iconexample
Verify Using Yoast SEO Plugin
  1. Log into Google Search Console.
  2. If this is the first time you’re adding a website in GSC, add your website in the field between the Website drop-down menu and the Add a Property button. Then, click Add a Property.image iconexample
  3. Now, you’ll see a screen with your recommended verification method. If your recommended method isn’t an HTML tag, click on the Alternate Methods tab.
  4. Select HTML Tag. Copy the meta tag.image iconexample
  5. Now, log into your WordPress website.
  6. In the left-hand menu, click on the Yoast SEO plugin, which will bring you to the plugin dashboard. Or, hover over the plugin, and click on Dashboard in the menu that appears.image iconexample
  7. Navigate to the Webmaster Tools tab.
  8. In the Google Search Console field, paste the long string of letters and numbers between the quotation marks of content.image iconexample
  9. Click on Save Changes.
  10. Return to Google Search Console. Click on Verify.
Verify Using the WordPress File Editor

**More advanced. Be careful editing theme files!**

  1. Log into Google Search Console.
  2. If this is the first time you’re adding a website in GSC, then add your website in the field between the Website drop-down menu and the Add a Property button. Then, click Add a Property.image iconexample
  3. You should now see a screen with a recommended method for verifying your site. If your recommended method isn’t using an HTML tag, click on the Alternate Methods tab.
  4. Select HTML tag. Copy the meta tag.image iconexample
  5. Log into your WordPress website.
  6. In the left-hand menu, hover over Appearance, and click on Editor. If you don’t see Editor, ask your webmaster for access.image iconexample
  7. In the list of Template files on the right, find header.php. Click on it to open.image iconexample
  8. Paste your meta tag before the closing head tag, which looks like this: </head>. Find that closing head tag, and paste your code.image iconexample
  9. Click Update File to save your changes.
  10. Now, return to Google Search Console, and click on Verify.

Bing Webmaster Tools Verification

Verify by Meta Tag
  1. Log into Bing Webmaster Tools. If this is your first time using BWT, you may need to create an account with Microsoft first.image iconexample
  2. Add your website. Click on Add.image iconexample
  3. BWT will open another window. Complete the form and skip adding a sitemap as we’ll add a sitemap in Step 5. Click on Add or Save.
  4. In Option 2, copy the meta tag.image iconexample
  5. Next, log into your WordPress website.
  6. In the left-hand menu, click on the Yoast SEO plugin and navigate to the Webmaster Tools tab.
  7. In the Bing Webmaster Tools field, paste the long string of letters and numbers between the quotation marks of content=.image iconexample
  8. Click on Save Changes.
  9. Return to Bing Webmaster Tools. Click on Verify. Note that sometimes it takes 24 hours for the meta tag to verify with Bing. Check back later if it doesn’t work instantly.

Step 5. XML Sitemap and Robots.txt

XML Sitemap

An XML sitemap is a list of pages on your website that are accessible to the public. The list includes important elements such as when a URL was last updated and what the relative priority of the page is on a scale of 0 to 1. An XML sitemap is not a user-oriented page, but rather provides the search engines with a roadmap on how to crawl and index your website.

Create an XML Sitemap Using the Yoast SEO Plugin
  1. Log into your WordPress website.
  2. In the left-hand menu, hover over the Yoast SEO plugin, and click on XML Sitemaps.image iconexample
  3. The Yoast SEO plugin automatically creates an XML sitemap. Click on XML Sitemap to view the index (master) version which includes links to the individual sitemaps associated with your website.image iconexample
  4. By default, your XML sitemap will have most content types included and each will have its own sitemap accessible via the index version at www.mywebsite.com/sitemap_index.xml. We recommend reviewing each sitemap manually and deciding if it should be included. Does the sitemap include links to pages that you want the search engines to index, such as pages or posts? If yes, then keep those post or taxonomy types in the sitemap. If not, then set it to “Not in sitemap”. Avoid including pages with thin or duplicate content in your sitemaps. For example, the tag and category pages may be thin pages that waste search engine crawler bandwidth. The video above outlines how to evaluate each sitemap.image iconexample
  5. Of the sitemaps that remain, review each manually to ensure that all URLs are valid. If there are thin pages or theme files included, exclude those manually via the Excluded Posts tab. You will need to open the page that you would like to remove to get the page ID. When in edit mode, the ID is a number in the URL string.image iconexample

    Add the number value to the Excluded Posts tab and hit save.

    image iconexample

  6. Refresh your XML sitemap, and review once more.
Submit Your Sitemap to Google Search Console
  1. Before submitting your sitemap to Google Search Console, complete Step 4. If you completed Step 4, then you can continue.
  2. Log into Google Search Console.
  3. Click on your website.
  4. In the left-hand navigation under Crawl, click on Sitemaps.
  5. Next, in the upper right corner, click on Add/Test Sitemap. Add your sitemap.image iconexample
  6. Click Submit, and refresh the page.
  7. Check in a few hours or the next day to see if Google Search Console processed your sitemap, and to review any messages or errors.
Submit Your Sitemap to Bing Webmaster Tools
  1. Before submitting your sitemap to Bing Webmaster Tools, complete Step 4. If you completed Step 4, then you can continue.
  2. Log into Bing Webmaster Tools.
  3. Click on your website.
  4. In the Sitemaps section of your Dashboard, click on Submit a Sitemap.image iconexample
  5. Add your sitemap.image iconexample
  6. Click Submit.
  7. Check in a few hours or the next day to see if Bing Webmaster Tools processed your sitemap, and to review any messages or errors.

Robots.txt

Before a search engine robot crawls your website, it checks the robots.txt file for instructions on how to do so. Check out your robots.txt file by going to www.mywebsite.com/robots.txt.

WordPress websites in development typically use the robots.txt file to block crawlers from indexing the website. The code looks like this:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

The statement “User-agent” directs all crawlers to follow the request. And the request in the line “Disallow” is to not crawl any page on the website.

You can update your robots.txt files under Reading settings. When you’re ready for the search engines and people to visit your website, make sure to go to Settings > Reading in the left navigation of WordPress. Uncheck the box for “Discourage search engines from indexing this site”.

image iconexample

Then, your robots.txt file will read:

User-Agent: *
Disallow:

We recommend a very clean robots.txt file as the search engines would like to crawl not only the pages on your website, but also the JavaScript, CSS, and Ajax files.

In Step 5, you added your XML sitemap to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools, so you can skip adding it to your robots.txt file.

One more thing about your robots.txt file. If there are pages or folders on your website you don’t want search engines to crawl or index, we recommend against blocking these pages in your robots.txt file. The reason is that search engines won’t count link value from a page blocked in the robots.txt file. So, instead, we recommend using the robots meta directive “noindex, follow”, which allows you to keep a page out of the index while retaining its value.

Interested in diving deeper into robots.txt files and robots meta directives? Explore our how-to information.

Step 6. Page Titles and Meta Descriptions 

What Are Page Titles and Meta Descriptions?

A page title is an HTML element specifying a web page’s title. Web browsers show page titles in the browser window tab. Search engines show page titles as clickable headlines, and social networks use your page title when people share content. In a page’s HTML, a page title looks like this:

<header>
<title>Your Title Goes Here</title>
</header>

In a web browser, a page title displays like this:

 

 

 

And in the search results, people see this:

 

 

 

A meta description is another HTML element that provides a concise summary of a web page. Meta descriptions are commonly shown beneath the page title and URL in a search engine results page. Like page titles, meta descriptions live in the header of each page and look like this in the HTML:

<meta name="description" content="Meta description goes here.”/>

 

And in a search engine results page, meta descriptions looks like this:

 

 

 

Why Are Page Titles & Meta Descriptions Important for SEO?

Page titles and meta descriptions are important because they tell the search engines, and your users, the focus of each page. They’re an essential ingredient to quality on-page optimization. Page titles impact a page’s rank in the search engine results page. Page titles and meta descriptions are people’s first impression of that page. Well-written page titles and meta descriptions impact how likely a person is to click on the result (click through rate).

Ever seen a page with “Home” in the page title? Not very helpful. Customize your page titles and meta descriptions to ensure your website meets SEO best practices and is user and search engine friendly.

STEP 1 – Write Page Titles & Meta Descriptions
Writing page titles and meta descriptions is an art and a science. We recommend writing page titles and meta descriptions in a spreadsheet so they’re easy to edit and review. A few guidelines include:

Page Titles
– 50-60 characters.
– Formatted like the title of a book with capitalization.
– A separator such as | or – is typically used.
– Unique for every page on your website.

Meta Descriptions
– Target 230-320 characters with 300 characters being ideal. **Learn more about the recent meta description length change.**
– Sentence format.
– Unique for every page on your website.

Process
Writing – If you have a relatively small website (1-15 pages), then aim to draft custom page titles and meta descriptions for all pages. If your website is larger, you may decide to focus on custom page titles and meta descriptions for the most important pages, and then automate them for the rest of your website. Start a spreadsheet with a column for URL, page title, meta description, and focus keyword. Decide which pages you will write custom page titles and meta descriptions for, and include them in the first column of your spreadsheet under URL.

focus keyword spreadsheet

 

 

 

Revisit your keyword research from Step 1 and map keywords to pages by listing the focus keywords for each URL. Aim to integrate different focus keywords for each page and make sure they are relevant to the copy on the page.

Next, draft page titles and meta descriptions for each page. For the page title, we recommend the format of “Brand | Focus Keyword” for the homepage and “Focus Keyword | Brand” for all other pages.

page title example

 

 

 

STEP 2 – Coaching Session
As writing page titles and meta descriptions is one of the more important SEO tasks, consider scheduling a call with an SEO coach from WP SEO Hub to review your work. Your coach will help ensure your keyword research is sound and that the page titles and meta descriptions meet best practices. Along the way, your coach can also answer your questions.

STEP 3 – Add Page Titles & Meta Descriptions to Your Website
How to Add Page Titles & Meta Descriptions Using Yoast SEO Plugin

  1. Log into your WordPress website.
  2. Navigate to Yoast > Titles & Metas in the left navigation.image iconexample
  3. Configure the automation component of the page titles and meta descriptions for your website. First, select a title separator. We like |.image iconexample
  4. Select the Post Types tab. Here you can automate page titles and meta descriptions using variables, which ensure that your page titles and meta descriptions are unique for all pages. You can learn more about variables in our how-to documentation. Apply variables to posts, pages, and other content types.image iconexample
    Title Template - %%title%% %%sep%% %%sitename%%
    Meta Description - %%excerpt%%
  5. Save changes.
  6. Now, let’s add your custom page titles and meta descriptions from your spreadsheet. Go to the page or post you would like to edit. At the top of the page, click “Edit Page”.
  7. Scroll to the Yoast SEO plugin section and click on it.image iconexample
  8. Add your page title to the SEO title field.
  9. Add your meta description to the Meta description field.
  10. Save your work by clicking on Update.
  11. Repeat for all pages in your spreadsheet.

And voilà, your page titles and meta descriptions are complete!

Step 7. Content Review

In search engine optimization, we’ve been saying “content is king” for 10+ years now. And while the search engine’s ability to understand content on a page has improved over time, the basic premise holds true that quality, unique content is the most essential aspect of an SEO initiative.

When evaluating your website’s content, here are some questions to consider:

    • Does your website’s content ― the text, images, video, and other media ― deliver all of the information your visitors need to learn about your business, make a decision, and act?
    • Is your content unique? Avoid copying and pasting content from other websites, unless you’re using quotes and citing your sources.
    • Is it easy to find your contact information and/or make a purchase? Your phone number, address, and hours of operation should be clear and easy to access.
    • Does your content integrate keywords that align with your keyword research (Step 1) and the keyword to page map (Step 7)?
    • Are there pages that you’d like to perform well in the search engines that are lacking content? For example, a portfolio page that’s image heavy but light on copy.
    • Does your website have a blog? If so, are you blogging regularly? And if you don’t have a blog, do your competitors blog? If they do, we recommend adding a blog to your website. Still, if your competitors aren’t blogging, you could still add a blog and get a leg up on the competition. Learn more about blogging.

After evaluating your site’s content, write down ways you can make improvements. Reading SEO Copywriting Tips: Write for People Not Search Engines can be useful as you brainstorm. Then, in the coming months, actually make those improvements, whether that’s writing a monthly blog post or improving copy on an existing page.

Step 8. 301 Redirects

Fair warning. This step can be challenging. If you’re struggling with 301 redirects after watching the video and reading the instructions below, consider a call with your SEO coach.

What are 301 redirects?

A 301 redirect sends users and search engines to a different URL than the one they originally requested. For example, with a 301 redirect, we could direct a person trying to access www.wpseohub.com/cats to www.wpseohub.com/pets.

How are 301 redirects used?

301 redirects are a useful tool for technical SEO as they allow a webmaster to communicate to users and search engines when a URL has changed. They pass 90-99% of the original page’s value to the new page, which is great for SEO. And they ensure that a user doesn’t hit a page not found error, also known as a 404 error, which is great for user experience.

When should I create 301 redirects?

  • New Website Launch – If you’re launching a new website, then your URLs might change. The search engines have indexed the content on your existing website and will expect to find content at those URLs. If you simply launch the new website without mapping old URLs to new URLs, then the search engines will get lost in the shuffle. Use 301 redirects to map old URLs to the new URLs so credit is passed from the old page to the new on.
  • Content Updates – Removing a page from your website? Merging the content from two pages into one? Let the search engines and users know with a 301 redirect.
  • Broken Links – Sometimes there are broken links on the web that send the search engine crawlers to a page that doesn’t exist. The broken link could be on your own website or could be on another website pointing to your website. Google will report these to you as Crawl Errors in Google Search Console. Learn how to review and respond to crawl errors in the steps below.

How do I add a 301 redirect to my WordPress website?

In WordPress, there are several options for adding 301 redirects to a website:

.htaccess File – Manually adding 301 redirects to the .htaccess file is one way of managing redirects on an Apache server. It requires FTP access, can be cumbersome, and occasionally leads to a much larger issue, like the website not rendering if there are errors in your code. Thus, we don’t recommended this method.

Headers – Create a redirect in the header of a page with PHP. Another manual approach which is hard to manage over time.

WordPress Plugins – Our preferred method of easily adding and managing 301 redirects, WordPress plugins don’t require code.

Let’s install a 301 redirect plugin on your website so you’re ready to address page not found errors.

  1. Log into your WordPress website.
  2. In the left-hand menu, hover over Plugins, and click on Add New.image iconexample
  3. We recommend Redirection by John Godley or Simple 301 Redirects by Scott Nellé. However, the redirect plugin you choose must be compatible with your version of WordPress. If you already have Yoast SEO Premium, then you can use their redirect manager to add new redirects.image iconexample
  4. Install and activate your plugin.
  5. Test your plugin by adding a test redirect. For example, create a redirect from the page /test-123 to your homepage. Then, go to www.yourwebsite.com/test-123 and see if it successfully redirects to the homepage. If so, you have successfully installed a 301 redirect plugin and can delete the test redirect. If not, then take a closer look at your plugin’s preferred format for adding redirects. Still stuck? Schedule a call with a coach for a deeper dive into this technical SEO task.image iconexample

Now, let’s determine if your website needs 301 redirects. Follow the directions below based on your current website’s status — live or in development.

Live Websites — Google Search Console

  1. Go to Google Search Console and log in.
  2. We verified your website in Step 4 so you should see your site listed here. Click on it.image iconexample
  3. Navigate to Crawl Errors in the Current Status section of your Dashboard. You can also navigate to your Crawl Errors via the left-hand menu. Click on Crawl, and then click on Crawl Errors.image iconexample
  4. Review your Not Found errors for desktop and smartphone. You can sort the errors by Priority, URL, Response Code, and date Detected. You can also view more than 25 URLs on a single page.image iconexample
  5. Click on one URL to test if it really is showing your 404 page. If the page is fine, then you can mark it as fixed. If the page shows your 404 page, then address it with a redirect by copying the URL. Copy everything after the end of your domain. For example, if the URL showing a 404 is https://www.mywebsite.com/my-website-should-be-here. You want to copy /my-website-should-be-here.image iconexample
  6. Next, return to your website. In your redirect plugin, paste what you just copied into the old URL or source URL field.  Now, enter a valid URL for a page with similar content as the old URL into new URL or target URL. Add redirect or save.image iconexample
  7. Next, navigate back to Google Search Console. Open the page you just created a redirect for to check that your redirect is working. If you now see the new URL you chose, your redirect is working!
  8. Return to Google Search Console. Click on “Mark as fixed” to tell Google you created a 301 redirect for that page.image iconexample
  9. Repeat for as many page not found errors as your time allows.

Websites in Development

If your website is in development and you have an existing website, now is a good time to create a 301 redirect strategy. You’ll want to map the URLs with 301 redirects so that the search engines don’t get lost in the shuffle.

For example, if your live website has a page www.mywebsite.com/services and the new website has similar content at www.mydevsite.com/service, then redirect /services to /service on the development website. When the site goes live, and the search engines go to /services, they’ll quickly get routed to the right page at /service.

    1. Create a spreadsheet with two columns — old URLs and new URLs. Your old URLs are the ones on your current, live website.image iconexample
    2. List all of the pages on your current, live website under old URLs. You can do this manually if you have a small website. We like Screaming Frog for larger websites, as it allows you export a list of URLs.

  1. Map old to new URLs. If the URL isn’t changing from old to new, then remove it from the spreadsheet.image iconexample
  2. Log into WordPress and implement your redirects using the same method you did when you created the test one while adding the redirect plugin.

Step 9. Local Search

Local search is about local visibility. Can people in your area easily find your business online? The goal of local search is to make finding the correct information about your business online as easy as possible. Gaining visibility in local search requires managing your business listings across the web. And, we promise, that’s easier than it sounds!

Google Maps & Google My Business

A listing on Google Maps is the place to start and Google My Business (GMB) makes it easy to create and manage your listing.

  1. Go to Google My Business and log in.
  2. Add your business information and click on Continue. Complete the form as accurately and thoroughly as possible. Do not use a PO Box. If your business is a service area rather than a storefront, you can select an option to hide the address and define the service area in the next steps.image iconexample
  3. Google My Business will look up your listing in their database. If it already exists, select it and continue to avoid creating a duplicate listing. Check the box to agree to the terms of service.image iconexample
  4. Google My Business will display ways to verify your local business information. The options available depend on the trust Google has regarding the listing information and your relationship to manage it.image iconexample

    Options include:
    – By phone now (available for select businesses): An automated system will call your business at the primary phone number. A person must answer the call and enter the pin number provided by Google into Google My Business.
    – By text now (available for select businesses): Receive a text at the primary phone number with the verification number and enter it into Google My Business.
    – By email now (available for select businesses): Receive an email at the address defined by Google, which will have an @yourbusiness.com association. Enter it into Google My Business.
    – By mail: Receive a postcard in the mail in 1-2 weeks with the verification code. Enter it into Google My Business.
    – Instantly with Google Search Console (available for select businesses): Occasionally, you can instantly verify your listing with Google Search Console.

  5. After verifying your listing, update it to include hours of operation, additional categories, photos (profile and cover photos are the most important) and attributes. The more detail you provide, the better.

Add-On Service — Distribute Your Local Listing

There are 100+ online local business directories, like Apple Maps, Bing Maps, SuperPages, and CitySearch, just to name a few. Ensuring your business’s name, address, and phone number, NAP for short, is consistently listed is the next step in local search. Manage your local business information in one spot with WP SEO Hub. We’ll help you get the right information about your business out there through our distribution network of 100+ local business websites.

New phone number? Change of address? No problem. Make updates in WP SEO Hub and we’ll distribute the information online.

Local search listing distribution is a subscription add-on service that is available to all WP SEO Hub subscribers and costs $200/year/location.

Step 10. Link Building

Link building involves acquiring links from other websites that point to your website. Links allow people to seamlessly navigate the web by going from one website to another with a simple click. Search engines evaluate the quantity and quality of links pointing to your website as part of their algorithms, with links passing authority from one website to another. In the simplest terms, links act as votes of confidence from one website to another. The higher the trust and authority of the website granting the link, the higher the value of the link for the receiver.

Quality vs Quantity

The quality of the links pointing to your website is more important than the quantity. The links that point to your website are called your backlink network, and it’s important that your backlink network is full of naturally acquired, user-friendly links from high-quality websites. Buying or trading links violates Google’s policy, so avoid these schemes because Google devalues these links and they might even penalize a website in the SERPs.

Link Building Strategy

Staying within search engine guidelines is essential. You can do this with topically relevant links, which make the internet a better place. We recommend a link building strategy that focuses on acquiring links from your professional network. Avoid paying for links or trading for links with websites that have no logical connection to yours. For example, if you own an art gallery, it would be fitting to get a link from a local hotel on their “Area Activities” page. But, it wouldn’t be fitting to receive a link from a car dealership in another city on their “Helpful Links” page.

Ideas for Acquiring Links — It’s as simple as asking.

  • Partnerships – Your business has natural partnerships. For example, architects partner with contractors, interior designers, and other local businesses. A florist partners with wedding planners, restaurants, and funeral homes. Contact your business partners and request that they link to your website.
  • Community Involvement – A great way for businesses to acquire links is through community involvement. Sponsor a local running race and ask the organizer to include your business and a link to your website on their website. Donate goods or services to a silent auction to benefit a nonprofit and get included in the list of donors online. Do you serve on a board of directors? Suggest that they update their website to include short bios for all board members and include links to board members’ businesses.
  • PR – Press is an often overlooked means of acquiring links. If your business is featured in a top 5 list, such as the top 5 restaurants in Asheville, NC, make sure the online version of the article includes a link to your website. Reach out to journalists in your area who report on topics related to your business and offer to provide quotes or other industry-specific expertise for upcoming stories.
  • Guest Blogging – Reach out to bloggers or partner businesses and offer to write a guest blog post. For example, if you’re a realtor, you could offer to write a blog post for a local accountant’s website about the nuts and bolts of a 1031 rollover. Include a brief bio at the end of the guest blog post with a link to your website.

What about using links to other websites?

It’s also important to link out to topically relevant, high-quality content on other websites. An easy place to use links to other websites is on your blog. For example, if you write a blog post for your hotel’s blog about fun local activities, like snowmobiling or hot air balloon rides, it would make sense to link out to the websites of the snowmobiling company and the hot air balloon company.

Next Steps

Great job completing the SEO Checklist for WordPress websites! As SEO isn’t a set it and forget it marketing initiative, we recommend an ongoing effort to continue improving your website’s visibility in Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

Monitor Results – Analyze the results of your SEO efforts using Google Analytics and Google Search Console. WP SEO Hub features monthly reporting that aggregates rank tracking data with performance metrics from Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Google My Business.

Content Marketing – Keep your WordPress website fresh with new content. This tells prospective customers and search engines you're in business and allows you to share your expertise. Be part of the online community. Write. Edit. Publish. Share. Repeat.

Stay Current – SEO is ever evolving, so stay up-to-date with industry trends. A few of our favorite SEO resources include Moz, Search Engine Journal, and Yoast. Also, consider attending WordCamp to learn about the latest about WordPress. Plus, WordCamps are fun and one of the most affordable conferences around. And sign up for the WP SEO Hub monthly e-Newsletter for SEO insights.

And More – There's a long list of ongoing tasks you can employ to continually evolve your SEO for the better. Subscribe to WP SEO Hub for additional monthly suggestions. Subscriptions start at $35/month and a 15-day free trial lets you take it for a spin.