How to Set Up Your SEO-Friendly WordPress Website in 15 Minutes

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For serious WordPress publishers with specific online business objectives, there is no more critical component to your website’s long-term value than its search engine rankings.

Brian Clark reiterated this just a few days ago when announced the launch of Scribe 4.0:

“… we consider targeted search engine traffic the most valuable site visitors you can get when it comes to meeting business objectives.”

We host some of the most serious WordPress users on the web over at Synthesis, and we’ve helped a lot of people ensure that the proper SEO fundamentals are in place from the get-go. And it’s surprisingly easy.

Let me show you how to get this done for yourself, right now.

Contrary to popular belief, good SEO has nothing to do with magic, fairy dust, or portly laptop sorcerers in black hats casting mysterious spells over domains and their ranking factors.

Good SEO is all about creating useful content for real people that’s convenient to read and share, while adhering to certain time-honored, algorithm-appreciated principles of structure and style.

You may not be able to write a great piece of content in 15 minutes. But you can get your site’s fundamentals into place in about that time. Just follow along with the simple tips below …

Choose the right domain name

The choice of a relevant domain name boasts the dichotomy of being the most overrated and underrated component of an SEO-friendly site.

Some people completely ignore all branding concerns and go overboard in their attempts to attain a keyword-rich domain name. This often results in domains that are too long or too hyphenated to be effective.

And with the recent Penguin/Panda updates by Google as well as a recent update affecting exact-match domains, the benefits of such keyword over-stuffing have diminished.

Still, other people disregard it completely, opting instead for a domain name that offers no keyword value whatsoever. That can be the right decision, as in cases where a non-keyword relevant word represents the brand. But you may be able to do better.

Take Scribe, for example. The term “scribe” has minimal keyword value, though it’s powerful from a brand perspective. The domain name provides the best of both worlds. The “scribe” branding is present, as is the keyword relevancy of “Content.”

When you choose your domain name, ask yourself: “Can I fit a keyword or two in here?” If you can — gracefully — then do it. It can only help.

Ensure indexability

This is going to come across as mega-obvious, but don’t laugh:

A major aspect of an SEO-friendly website is … its ability to be indexed by search engines!

You might be surprised by how many people inadvertently fumble this.

WordPress has a dashboard setting page called “Privacy” that allows you to block search engines from your site. Some folks like to use this option while developing the site, so incomplete pages do not get indexed and associated with the domain. However, if you forget to unblock the search engines upon launch, your pages will not be indexed.

That’s not very SEO-friendly.

Permalinks and URLs

WordPress’ default permalink structures offers no SEO value. However, it is quite simple to change your permalink structure to one that is SEO-friendly.

Simply navigate to the “Permalinks” link under Settings in your dashboard, and you’ll be presented with a number of options to choose from.

If you have time-sensitive content, then including the year and month in your permalink structure is beneficial. This is what I do at MSF.

However, if your content is mostly evergreen — meaning it’s relevant for any anyone at any time — all you need is the ability to use keywords in the URL. The default option WordPress presents is %title%, which will simply take your post title, hyphenate it, and then append your domain with it.

At the Edit Post level, you can then edit the link to display however you want. Here at Copyblogger, and on other SEO-friendly websites, that typically means two to three relevant keywords in the URL.

If you have an indexable, keyword-rich domain that uses post-relevant keywords in the URL, you are well on your way to organically building a powerful, SEO-friendly site.

Titles and descriptions

The most important piece of SEO real estate on any individual page is the title, which tells both readers and search engines what to expect from the rest of the content on the page. And getting relevant keywords into your titles consistently is imperative for SEO-friendliness.

Descriptions are also important. Remember that the description is what search engine users will see when your result pops up. Crafting compelling copy is the key here. You’ll want to include keywords as well, primarily because those are (by definition) the words your users have in mind when they’re looking for what you offer.

It’s great to rank high, but if your title and description don’t inspire the searcher to click, what good is the ranking?

The standard post edit screen in WordPress obviously provides space for a title, but there are times when you may want to use a different title for readers than for search engines. To do this, you need to have a theme framework or plugin installed that provides a place for a specific SEO title.

For example, The Genesis framework comes out-of-the-box with all of the SEO options you need to craft SEO-friendly content at the post level.


One way to ensure that search engines index your content properly is with a well-structured XML sitemap. There are a number of plugins that will do this for you, updating automatically whenever you publish a new post, but not all are created equal. Some can misconfigure the sitemap structure while others can chew up large amounts of resources.

A strong sitemap option that we recommend at Synthesis is Yoast’s, which is built into his SEO plugin.

And sitemaps are not just for posts. If your site hosts videos, there are major SEO benefits to a properly configured video sitemap. Yoast has a solution for that as well.

H1 tags

Here is a basic SEO fundamental that you shouldn’t have to worry about, but it’s worth mentioning.

The on-page post title should be wrapped in an <h1> tag. This alerts the search engine robots to its importance on the page. But don’t try to get cute and have multiple sets of <h1> tags. Use just one. All subsequent headings should then be in <h2> and <h3> tags.

Any WordPress theme worth installing will have the post title wrapped in <h1> tags. If for some reason you are running a theme that does not, it’s highly advisable that you make a switch or, at a minimum, edit the title’s heading tag.

Enable and encourage discussion

Comments add SEO value.

Not only will the discussion typically center around the main topic of the post, which will add additional keyword frequency to the page, a constant flow of comments will keep the page appearing fresh to search engines.

Remember that the goal of search engines is to deliver the most relevant and timely content to users. A post with an active discussion appears to be both, not to mention people are more likely to share a piece of content if they were compelled to comment on it.

Some people choose to disable comments on posts, which is understandable in certain cases. Just make sure that you have a legitimate reason for disabling comments if you do. Otherwise, keep them active and encourage people to participate, even if only for SEO.

Clean code

The negative effects of deploying shoddy code would warrant their own post.

Suffice it to say, search engines are going to have a hard time finding your content relevant for specific keywords if it has to waste time wading through ugly code to find your content.

Bad code can also negatively impact other oft-overlooked elements of SEO like page load time. Which reminds me …

Site speed, security, and uptime

You cannot really ensure fast site speeds, security, and uptime in 15 minutes. All three of these essential components of a good website require perpetual vigilance.

However, you certainly can get yourself on the right track in less than 15 minutes simply by getting started with the right WordPress host.

Search engines seem to be placing more importance on page load times with every update. And there is no better way to turn potential visitors away than with a malware warning.

So make sure your hosting is buttoned up on both the performance and security side to ensure that these ranking factors come out in your favor.

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Reader Comments (57)

  1. says

    Great post Jerod and I’m heading back to my blog just to double check that I have done all these crucial things.

    Just one question though, there is also an option to input tags when writing posts, how important is this in terms of SEO?

    • says

      Thank you Shola!

      Tags, at one time, were very important. And I used to spend a lot of time adding them to my posts, if for no other reason than for the keyword-related link that would appear on the page. As it is now, I don’t think they are nearly as important. I’m sure there is SOME value there, but I would use tags far more as a tool for organization (if you use them at all) and just gain whatever benefit occurs organically. Plotting tag strategies to dominate SEO probably isn’t going to be worth the time anymore.

      • says

        Thanks for this Jerod!

        That certainly clears it up a lot for me. I’ve only used it on one of my posts so far and just wasn’t sure if it was worth doing. But I’ll focus more on the points you mentioned in order to make the most of my time.

  2. says

    Quick question: I’m currently in the process of getting my site set up that will host my blog and copywriting portfolio. I chose my full name as the URL for the domain. Was it unwise to not include a keyword relevant to my field when I chose the domain?

    • says

      Unwise is the wrong word, though it is perhaps a missed opportunity. But it depends. If your website is all about YOU, then the branding of just having your name is a positive. Because you also don’t want the domain to be too long either. So I think is probably better than At a certain point it just gets too long. I think three words is the MAX, and sometimes I think even those domain names are too long.

  3. says

    I agree wholeheartedly with you about the domain name. Maybe, maybe you can get a keyword into your brand, but at the end of the day you need to build a domain around your brand, not a keyword. I’ve been against exact match domains for a long time, so the EMD update was something I’ve been waiting for.

    • says

      Yep, there is definitely a shift with the search engines to not give the keywords in domains quite as much credit as before. There is still value there, but the days of trying to hyphenate a bunch of keywords to be assured of search dominance are over. And that’s a good thing!

      • says

        Agreed Sonia! Tough to argue with Darren’s success. And it brings up this point: there aren’t necessarily rules for “right” or “wrong”. I think that would be a bad domain name choice if the ONLY goal was to try to make quick gains in the search engine. But Darren obviously has an entire long-term content strategy around it, and the domain fits perfectly into that. So it is situation-specific.

        • says

          Absolutely — it’s not a quick-and-dirty niche site, it’s a well-run business with tons of high-value content and a huge community around it.

          Of course, if Darren were starting the site today, he might come up with a different URL. We make these decisions in context.

  4. says

    This is not a knock on Yoast SEO but right now it is NOT playing well with WordPress latest update. My site was all screwed up… Categories weren’t connecting, there were 404 errors popping up and site in general was extremely slow…

    Removed the Yoast SEO plugin and all went back to Peaches… Love Yoast products but for now the SEO plugin might be hurting you.


    Ryan H.

  5. says

    Brilliant post Jerod – thank you. It’s reassuring to have a resource like this to take some of the more technical aspects of running your own site and translate them into plain English! All now present and correct and looking forward to learning more with the Yoast plug-in. Thanks again.

  6. says

    Great content! Also, the URLs or links provided should be reliable and not those that give the ‘404- Not found’ results. Ideas on a blog should be gathered and brought out clearly.

    Thanks for the post.

      • says

        That’s correct and we should always remove the broken link from our website or getting it indexed by just using the webmaster tool.

        Also people should think about the content more than SEO part as Google prioritize site with good content more than any other site :)

        Thanks for the great post.


  7. says

    Nice post but I guess you forgot to mention about the social bookmarking icons that you need to have on your WordPress site so that people can share content. Plugins like Sharebar are very helpful though.

    • says

      Richard, good point! Having social media icons on the page is definitely helpful, both as a “suggestive sell” for the sharing, and to make it easy. Excellent addition!

  8. says

    Pretty sure my theme has post titles wrapped in h2 tags, not h1, so I’m going to change that right away. On a side note, installing a new theme for this is going to a bit of an extreme. Editing the code literally takes less than a minute. (if you know where to look, that is)

    • says

      Charles, exactly. The key is knowing where to look, which usually is pretty easy. And if you don’t know, probably better to just ask someone – even the theme creator – rather than switch themes if that is the ONLY difference you are looking for.

  9. says

    Excellent post with all the right nuts and bolts! These things should be nailed down before you start thinking about off site optimization, or you’re just missing opportunities.

    • says

      Thanks Matt. And I agree. I see people frustrated that their SEO isn’t where they want it to be, only to realize that they really didn’t get the fundamentals right. Just like in sports, it starts with the fundamentals.

  10. says

    SEO on WordPress is one of those cases where 80 % of the benefit comes from 20 % of the work, and you’ve done a nice job of nailing down that 20 %. Especially enjoyed the definition what good SEO is – sharable, usable content that happens to align with a few algorhymic guidelines.

  11. says

    Great breakdown, all these elements will help a site improve its SEO but once a site is competing for the top positions I think aside from having original content it really comes down to site speed and having clean and simple code. Those two elements are very important to me at least.

  12. says

    Site speed seems to become an increasingly large faster. After all, who wants a slow site? Get stuff like the W3 caching plugin or WP super cache. Add to that smash .it from Yahoo and WP Minify and you’ll be above the rest of the pack.

    • says

      Yes using caching plugin helps in reducing the site load time.W3 Total Cache seems to work well for VPS and dedicated servers more than shared hosting servers.For shared hosting WP Super Cache works well compared to W3C.

  13. says

    Agreed on Great Post Jerod. WordPress is by far the best platform I have used to build and rank successful websites on – it is so easy in it’s simplicity yet for power users can boast a whole lot of functionality from Plugins or Themes. Yoast’s is a great SEO Plugin too – definitely recommended.

  14. says

    Thanks for highlighting these points Jerod. However, when I click on my title in the title box and select H1, instead of the title text itself changing, my first heading in the actual blog text changes .That makes it larger than the text in the title box! Any suggestions welcome! Thanks a lot .

  15. Bel says

    Did you realize you are amazing? I just bought the WordPress for Dummies book which is great but you just summarized the whole chapter on SEO in one article. They really should contact you. You could be (even more) rich and (even more) famous. Of course if you are too famous then you might attract stalkers. Better stay right where you are.

  16. says

    just one problem. When I used the custom permalinks it screwed up all the category links and page links – got a 404 redirect error. Post links worked perfectly.

  17. says

    This 15-minute guide in establishing an SEO friendly WordPress site is awesome. I am truly amazed by how you presented these techniques in creating an SEO friendly website. Now, I am starting to get convinced that WordPress is my go to site in creating a website. I am not even that familiar with WP but I am starting to love it and the benefits my website will be getting from it. It excites me.

  18. says

    Man you guys are absolutely crushing it with Synthesis. It is really inspiring to see.

    Gotta love how Brian’s (I assume it’s Brian) vision for all these integrated WordPress products are coming together. I thought about coming over to you for my blog hosting recently.

    Still thinking about it…

  19. says

    Thanks, great introductory write up for SEO.

    How do you feel about adding noindex to tag, category and other pages that are not the primary content of the site? I noticed on a new site that Google indexed my tag pages right away but not the pages themselves… I am concerned about the indexing but then also possible duplicate content issues since the tag archive pages have content made up of the “real” pages.

  20. says

    I was thinking about disabling comments for my whole website. But after reading this article I think that it would not be worth it to disable the comments.
    I had disabled comments for three of my consecutive posts. I didn’t even come close to top ten pages for my chosen keyword for that.
    So, I think unless you are a very powerful and established blogger with lot of link juice, you should not disable them.

  21. says

    Most of the time I don’t approve comments. I want to ask you a question, If any comment has too many keywords and it’s grammar is poor what one should do?
    The other question is related to content. If someones copies content at the same time when it is published on one blog and Google indexes copied site, who will get ranking?

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