Optimizing WordPress for SEO Right Out of the Box

Cai EllisRobert Brandl

By Cai & Robert

So you’ve just installed a fresh copy of WordPress, and you’re ready to start building up your site!

But not so fast – before you start, it is important to first make sure your WordPress site is properly optimized for SEO.

Why? Freshly installed right out-of-the-box WordPress is unfortunately not configured so that your site stands the best chance at showing up in search engines.

Before you start adding content to your new WordPress site, set your site up for success by making the updates outlined in this guide.

Immediate Updates You Can Make in WordPress Settings

Freshly installed, WordPress itself, needs some tweaking. The first step is permalinks:

Change your Default Permalink Structure

Step one is to adjust your permalink structure. The words that search engines read in your URL play a role in whether you rank in search results, so it is important that this is configured optimally.

You can edit this by going to Settings > Permalinks.

We recommend selecting “Post Name” so that each word in your post title can be read by search engines.

Hint: When you’re about to publish a post or page, you can manually edit the permalink to even further optimize it.

Modifying post name permalink settings

Choosing WWW or a Non-WWW URL

You need to determine whether you want your site to show up as “http://www.yoursite.com” or simply “http://yoursite.com”.

Either one is fine, but you should choose a version and make sure to stick with it.

To adjust this, go to Settings > General and ensure your preferred method is selected.

Also remember to adjust to tell Google which version you prefer in your Google Search Console.

Adding www to site address

Turn off Post Comments

Although not as important as it once was, keyword density still plays a role in whether your site ranks in search.

Comments can really skew your keyword density, so it is important to turn these off.

To do this, go to Settings > Discussion and uncheck “allow people to post comments on new articles”.

Note that post comments can be beneficial for a site and create user engagement. So think twice before doing this.

You can also simply monitor your comments for “spammy” responses before approving them.

Turn off post comments

Installing Plugins

Now that you’ve tweaked all the default settings within WordPress, the next step is to install SEO plugins to further help optimize any new (and existing) content that you may have on your site.

There are several great WordPress SEO plugins available. It’s really up to personal preference on which one to choose.

These plugins essentially do the same thing and help optimize things like description tags, sitemap creations, canonicalization, etc.

To simplify the plug-in selection process, we’ve rounded up our top favorite plugins below.

Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO is one of the most popular SEO plugins as it offers numerous features and a user-friendly interface.

Some of the top features include meta tag configuration, XML sitemaps, canonical tag configuration, robots.txt editing, .htaaccess editing, and breadcrumbs.

It also provides real-time alerts when you’re logged in to WordPress if it identifies an issue with a page.

Yoast SEO configuration

All in One SEO Pack

All in One SEO Pack is one of our favorite SEO plugin that has been well-known in the WordPress community for a while.

Top features include meta tag configuration, XML sitemap configuration, Google Analytics support, canonical URLs, automate meta tag generation, and meta tag formatting.

W3 Total Cache

W3 Total Cache is a caching plugin that helps to optimize the performance of your WordPress website. It will compress and minify your site’s files to increase page speed, which is important for seo.

Miscellaneous Plugins

There are a variety of other plugins out there as well that we left unmentioned. These may do more complex functions like identifying 404s, finding broken hyperlinks on your site, and various other tasks.

Once your site is up and running, it may be worth testing a few to see which is best for you.

Further Discussion

What else do you think is important to configure out of the box? Do you have any favorites that weren’t listed here? Let us know in the comment below!

Cai Ellis

SEO Manager

Hi! My name is Cai. Over the years, I've used countless hosting providers, built innumerable ecommerce stores and picked up a bit of SEO know-how too. If you've got questions about these or any related subjects, I'll be happy to help!

Robert Brandl

Founder and CEO

Hi, my name is Robert Brandl, and I am the founder of Tooltester. I used to work in a digital marketing agency where I managed website and email marketing projects. To optimize my client's campaigns, I always had to find the optimal web tools. Tooltester (founded in 2010) opens this knowledge to you, hopefully saving you endless hours of research. If you have any questions, please leave a comment. You can also find me on LinkedIn.

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