WordPress SEO: 36 Essential Website Settings (2021)

by Nikita Shevchenko

So you‘ve made it! The new website is launched and ready to rock.

Now you probably wonder:

“How do I optimize my WordPress settings in order to fulfill the blog’s SEO potential and to build a solid foundation for future projects?”

I got you covered here. This giant WordPress SEO list was created specifically for those who eager to start their blogging journey from the right step.

If you implement these techniques you will be WAY AHEAD of all of your inexperienced competitors.

Let’s get started!

How to Approach This Guide?

The whole idea of creating this list was to help you:

  1. Optimize
  2. Secure
  3. and Speed Up

Your website for receiving positive users’ feedbacks and boosting the blog’s rankings.

That said, it is totally up to you on how to approach the strategies outlined below.

Yet I strongly recommend you to go from up to the bottom of this page. This process will guarantee that you implement the strategies correctly and don’t omit anything of great importance.

If you find something that you’ve already done on your website, then simply skip the step and start with the next one.

Note: In order to maintain the right sequence, I suggest you work on these strategies even before you write your first blog post.

Now let’s get to work!

WordPress SEO Settings: Essentials

1. Clean Up Your WordPress Website

If you’ve just launched your website and installed the WordPress(WP) you might find some useless features and areas in its default mode.

Make sure you get rid of that junk to save the place for the necessary elements.

Here is where you can start from:

#1 WordPress dashboard

What can you delete here?

Depending on what themes, plugins and products you use, you may find some quite useless widgets in it. Default widgets may also distract you.

So if you want to keep the dashboard clean and tidy, here is how to do it:

Step 1: Visit the Dashboard and click on the “Screen options” drop-in in the top right corner.

wordpress dashboard screen options wordpress seo

Step 2: Check the options for the widgets that you would like to have on your dashboard and uncheck those that burn your eyes.

Clean Clutter on Dashboard 1 wordpress seo
#2 Delete Dummy Content

Your website should have no fluff and garbage articles, only high-quality content.

By default WordPress offers you a sample post called ‘Hello World’. There is no point to keep it on your website any longer. Delete it!

Step 1: Click on the Pages – All Pages in the Admin panel

Step 2: Click on the “Bin”(Or Trash) button

deleting sample page wordpress seo

#3 Delete Unwanted Themes and Plugins

There are usually some themes and plugins that you don’t want to see on your blog.

Erase them as fast as you can for maintaining a clean appearance and cutting off the website’s extra weight.

How to delete WordPress themes:

Step 1: Go to Admin Panel – Appearance – Themes and click on the “Theme Details” button.
Step 2: Click on the “Delete” button at the right bottom of the page.

delete button on unwanted theme wordpress seo

How to delete WP plugins:

delete plugin wordpress seo

Go to Admin Panel-Plugins-Installed Plugins and press the “Delete” button below the plugin’s name.

Note: You can’t delete an activated plugin, so make sure you deactivated it first

deactivate plugin wordpress seo

#4 Hide Plugins’ Description

Go to Admin Panel-Plugins-Installed Plugins and Press the “Screen Options” button at the top right corner of the screen and uncheck the description option.

plugin screen options hide description wordpress seo

#5 Remove Widgets from the Sidebar

If you want to remove all unnecessary elements from your website and make it clutter-free this is something you need to do right now.

Those widgets like weather, calendar, archives and so on are not usually effective for your blog, in fact, they make your blog look untidy and reduces the speed.

Here is how to remove widgets from the sidebar:

Step 1: Go to Admin Panel-Appearance-Widgets and look at the Widget Area on the right side of the screen.

delete unnecessary widgets 1 wordpress seo

Click on the down arrow beside the widget name and press the “Delete” button.

2. Encourage Search Engines to Index Your Site

Double check the Search Engine Visibility section. It should be UNCHECKED.

You can find Search Engine Visibility field on Admin Panel-Settings-Reading page.

discrorage search engines from indexing the website wordpress seo

3. Reset Installation Password

A strong password is one of the most vital elements of WordPress Security.

Your job is to make it super solid!

Forget about the home address and your pet’s name.

Go with a different number, letter, and sign combinations.

Good password: T1v^;Q9bZ1#7w).@4Vdsz
Bad password: QWERTY111

How to change the password in WordPress:

Go to Admin Panel-Users-All Users and click on the user name in the list.

all users choosing username wordpress seo

Scroll down to the “New Password” section and click “Generate Password” button, then “Update Profile

generate new password in wordpress wordpress seo

4. Change The Default Admin Username

If you’ve just started with a new website, chances are that your username is “Admin”. You should change it ASAP.

You probably wonder:

“Why should I change my default admin username?”

Because it is one of the weak spots that hackers can use to get into your blog.

WordPress Security is a huge topic in modern blogging, and if you don’t take it seriously, it may cost you trouble and money.

So how do you actually change the username in WordPress settings?

add new user in wordpress wordpress seo

Go to the Admin Panel-Users-All Users then click Add New:

Create a new unique name and give it an administrator role:

wordpress new admin wordpress seo

Make the “admin” user a simple subscriber with NO rights to moderate content and settings.

5. Setup Your Website Title And Tagline

You definitely don’t want your site to have a random title.

So go to Admin Panel-Settings-General and type your site name in the Site Title box:

wordpress seo site title and tagline

Also, you need to come up with a creative site tagline. (A brief description of what your site is all about)

website tagline wordpress seo

Pro Tip: Make sure you include your niche relevant keywords in the website title and tagline. Try to experiment with LSI keywords as well.

6. Adjust WordPress (URL) Address And Site Address (URL)

It is one of the most essential steps in the WordPress SEO settings.

When you are done with the website title and tagline you will see the WordPress (URL) Address and Site Address (URL) boxes below.

Type the desired URL structures in them, you can make them “WWW” or non “WWW”.

My website address doesn’t include “WWW”.

the website address url wordpress seo

7. Uncheck Membership Option

This step will allow you to get rid of some sneaky visitors.

Membership Option Uncheck wordpress seo

8. Setup Website Language

Here it all depends on your own preferences and the preferences of your website audience.

If I want my blog to serve the Chinese public, I will choose the Chinese language.

site language in general settings wordpress seo

9. Set The Timezone, Date And Time Formats

By following this step you will guarantee that the date and time on your website are displayed correctly.

It is also necessary when you are scheduling your posts.

date and time formats wordpress seo

10. Setup SEO-Friendly Permalinks

Permalink structure is very important for WordPress SEO. It determines how website URLs will appear when you publish new content.

Basically, there are two types of website URLs:

  1. Ugly – Long and not SEO-optimized
  2. Pretty – Short and SEO-friendly

You should always pick up the second type.

How do you set up WP-optimized permalinks?

Go to Admin Panel-Settings-Permalinks.

There you will see a number of options for your permanent URL structure.

I suggest you go with the Post Name option. This makes your URLs more appealing and WordPress SEO friendly

dashboard permalinks postname wordpress seo

Don’t forget to click on the “Save Changes” button.

SEO-friendly permalinks will keep your website architecture structured and optimized.

11. Rename The Uncategorized Category

Categories are very important for SEO and user experience(UX). They help group the content on your website and make it more reader-friendly.

By default, WordPress offers you the category called “Uncategorized”. It would be a bad choice to leave it as it is and use in your future posts creation.

You must rename it into something more meaningful like “Blogging”, or “Marketing”.

Now how do you rename a category in WordPress Settings?

Step 1: Go to Admin Panel – Posts – Categories and click “Edit” under the category name.

editing uncategorized category wordpress seo

Step 2: Type in the new title in the Name and Slug boxes.

creating new category wordpress seo

Note: If your website is brand new, and you haven’t published any posts yet, you may freely type in the new Slug name in the box, using lowercase letters. On the other hand, if you have some content on your website, chances are that you will have some pages broken and need to fix the issues using redirects.

12. Work On Reading Settings

Go to Admin Panel-Settings-Reading.

Step 1: Choose what your blog’s homepage will display.

There you have only two options – the latest blog posts, or a static page.

If you have the main landing page then go with the second option. Otherwise, choose the first one for showing the visitors up-to-date content.

Step 2: Set up the number of posts displayed on one page.

Why is it important?

It helps to organize your articles’ structure and also speed up the page loading time, which is crucial for WordPress SEO.

I suggest you go with 5-10 posts per page and a Summary option.

adjusting wordpress reading settings wordpress seo

13. Create Basic Site Pages

There are certain pages that almost every website should have.

Without them, your blog will not be taken seriously and earn trust.

What are the most essential blog pages?

  • About
  • Contact
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Affiliate Disclosure(if you get money from affiliate programs)
  • Advertise Page(Required if you want to earn on ads)
  • Custom 404 Page(Will be helpful for UX)

14. Setup Your Site Menu

Every blog should have one.

This way it makes it super easy for readers to access all necessary posts and pages in a couple of clicks.

A well-organized menu will help you improve visitor dwell-time and reduce bounce rate.

These two factors are huge in Google RankBrain universe.

How to set up a website menu in WordPress settings?

Step 1: Go to Admin Panel-Appearance-Menus and click on “Create a new menu

create new menu wordpress seo

Step 2: Name it something like “Main Menu”, and click Create Menu.

naming new menu wordpress seo

Step 3: Check the required pages on the left side and click “Add to menu”.

add new items to menu wordpress seo

Don’t forget to save the changes.

WordPress SEO Settings: Basics

15. Create Posts Categories

In step ten you’ve already met with WordPress categories.

By renaming the uncategorized item you’ve done the half work.

Now let’s say you renamed it into “Blogging”.

But what if you also write about WordPress SEO, SMM, and E-commerce?

Then you need to create a post category for each of these niches, later when you write about one of those fields you will be able to set up the right category from the drop-down menu.

How do you add post categories?

Go to Admin Panel-Post-Categories and fill in the Name and Slug, then click on “Add New Category

creating new category 1 wordpress seo

Repeat the process as many times as you need.

Note: Additionally to picking the right category for your post, I suggest you think about good tags. Tags, if properly used, can help in WordPress SEO.

16. Turn Off Comments For Pages

Now you must have created the main pages for your blog as you followed Step 13.

The smart thing to do would be disabling comments for pages on your website.

This way you will prevent spammers from trashing your pages and making them repulsive.

How can you disable comments for pages?

There are 3 easiest options you can use:

Option 1: Lots of quality premium WordPress themes come up with this feature. Use it.

Option 2: Head over to Admin panel-Pages-All Pages.

Hover the mouse over the page title and click on Quick Edit.

Uncheck the option Allow Comments and click on Update.

uncheck allow comments and update button 1 wordpress seo

Option 3: Install a plugin that will do the work.

17. Fill In The WordPress Profile

You can do it by heading to the Admin Panel-Users-Your Profile.

Scroll down to the Name field. There you can add some information about your biography.

personal admin information wordpress seo

18. Install Premium WordPress Theme

This one is HUGE! It’s your site’s face, security, and speed!

The great-looking theme will attract visitors and stick them for good(It is important for Google RankBrain)

You don’t want to pick a random theme for your website that will make your competitors laugh.

If you want to get a fast, secure and professional theme for your blog you may have two options:

  1. Get it exclusively designed for you and be ready to spend a couple of thousands of dollars.
  2. Buy a WordPress premium theme from the reputable resource that already has been tested by real users and has all positive feedbacks.

Now, where do you find such a theme?

I personally use and recommend to all of my readers GeneratePress premium themes.

The guys are crafting fantastic and reliable themes for super affordable prices.

And they are fast. Like, SUPER FAST. This factor alone can boost your WordPress SEO.

generatepress themes wordpress seo

Premium WordPress theme is also the best solution for Mobile SEO.

Note: Don’t forget to create a child theme for the main theme and activate it. This way you’ll be able to edit your theme’s settings beyond theme customization level. Each time you update the main theme, the settings will not disappear.

19. WordPress Login Logo

Why not give your blog an extra level of authenticity?

By default, the admin login page has a quite mediocre WordPress logo that should have nothing to do with your personal website.

Let me tell you why:

  1. The WordPress logo doesn’t represent your brand.
  2. It contains an image alt text that is not relevant to your blog and bad for WordPress SEO.
  3. It also points to another URL.

Now how do you change the default WordPress login logo?

The work can be easily done by one of the plugins that are responsible for this kind of task.

There are some good plugins on the market and you may start with Login Logo by Mark Jaquith. It has positive feedbacks and easy to use.

20. Keep Working On Website Design

After installing a premium theme you need to work on its appearance.

If you’ve decided to go with GeneratePress product, then you will be greatly pleased by an amazing feature called “Site Library

With its help, the design process will be fast, smooth and joyful. Just pick up the website look you enjoy and install it!

If you happened to have other themes it all depends on their own unique features.

Anytime you have any questions about working with the theme you may contact the helping center to receive some advice.

What are the main things to pay attention to first?

  • Colors
  • Fonts
  • Layout

Pro Tip: If you want your website to have a really distinctive look in SERP and in general, I suggest you adding your website a unique Logo and Favicon.

You may get it done on Fiverr or any other freelancing websites.

+ Gravatar will help give you a recognizable look in author bio and comments.

If you are a solo writer use a professional headshot, otherwise you may use your company logo.

Let’s move on and install some of the most important WordPress plugins.

We will need them in order to continue adjusting website settings.

WordPress Most Essential Plugins for Optimized Performance

21. Install Sucuri Security Plugin

Sucuri Security plugin 2 wordpress seo

This powerful plugin helps you maintain website security at a high level.

It scans your website for potential threads and offers some hardening options, such as:

  • Removing WordPress Version
  • Blocking PHP Files in Uploads Directory
  • Blocking PHP Files in WP-CONTENT Directory
  • Blocking PHP Files in WP-INCLUDES Directory
  • Stoping Information Leakage
  • And so on.

If you are serious about your website security, this is the very first plugin you need to install.

22. Install Caching Plugin W3 Total Cache

W3 Total Cache download wordpress seo

Website speed really matters!

In fact, it’s one of the most important ranking factors in the modern SEO world. It improves UX dramatically!

One of the easiest ways to increase your WordPress SEO efforts and speed up the website is to install a solid caching plugin.

I personally use W3 Total Cache. It offers a legit pack of features that improve the website’s loading time in a blink of an eye.

23. Install Anti-Spam Plugin- Akismet

akismet plugin wordpress seo

Popular blogs tend to get lots of spam comments.

This plugin fights comment spam like none of the other plugins.

If you run a blog you sooner or later you WILL get spam comments. They dishonor your online property and you as a blog owner.

The best way to protect your comment zone is by installing Akismet.

24. Install the WordPress SEO Plugin

worpdress seo pluigin rank math wordpress seo

The reputable SEO plugins offer your website lots of ways for entire inner website optimization.

I simply cannot imagine a modern blog without a powerful SEO plugin.

Now you probably ask yourself a question:

“Which is the best WordPress SEO plugin for my website?”

There are some certain market leaders:

  • Yoast SEO
  • All in One SEO
  • PackSEOPressor

You may wonder which one of them do I personally use now?


Although all of them include great features and high standards of performing I have not been entirely satisfied with their performance.

The plugin I am currently using is called RankMath.

It is 100% complete and offers everything I need(and even more) to control the On-page SEO.

But at the end of the day, the choice is up to you, all the WordPress SEO plugins I have outlined above are dependable and powerful.

25. Install Updraft Plus WordPress Backup Plugin

Updraft Plus WordPress Backup plugin wordpress seo

Website backups are something that can save your entire blog one day.

They are like multiple extra exits in case of an emergency.

Anytime something goes wrong with your blog, whether it’s settings errors or malware, with backups you can always restore the normal copy and have your healthy site back again.

Pro Tip: Schedule the regular backups, every day/week/month. Consider purchasing a paid version if the budget allows.

26. WooCommerce Plugin

woocommerce plugin wordpress seo

If you are running an e-commerce website, you probably use a WordPress theme that requires WooCommerce.

In order to make sure that everything works fine you should install a WooCommerce plugin.

And now when all plugins are installed successfully we can come back to the website settings, the next step is essential!

27. Generate Google XML Sitemaps

Now, as you have followed all the previous steps your website is completely ready for showing up in search engines.

You can encourage search engines to index your site by unchecking the option you have checked in Step 2 of this guide.

Let’s generate XML sitemaps now!

This map is crucial if you want Google to index all your website pages properly.

How to create Google XML Sitemaps?

If you are using a WordPress SEO plugin(which you should) you can get it done with its help. All big SEO plugins have the “Generate Google XML Sitemap” feature.

This article shows exactly how to set up the map using Rank Math WordPress SEO plugin.

28. Verify Your Website By Adding It Google Search Console

You should verify your website in Google when you finish optimizing your WordPress website settings. This step is CRUCIAL!

How do you add the website in Google Search Console?

Step 1: Head over to Google Webmaster Tools and click on the “SEARCH CONSOLE” button.

google webmasters search console wordpress seo

Write down your website address and click on ADD PROPERTY.

search console add property wordpress seo

Copy the HTML tag.

copy html tag wordpress seo

Step 2: Verify your website by installing a required plugin.

Again, if you have an SEO plugin installed on your blog, it will be the EASIEST  way to verify your online property.

All ultimate SEO plugins have this feature.

Note: You may also verify the website by uploading the meta tag in header.php or using theme settings, yet the plugin option is the easiest and least time-consuming.

How do you verify the website with Google Webmasters using RankMath?

  1. Go to Admin Panel-RankMath-General Settings and choose Webmaster Tools.
  2. Paste the code in the “Google Search Console” field, scroll down and click “Save Changes”.
  3. Head back to Google Search Console and click “Verify”.
rank math google webmaster verification wordpress seo

You’ve done it!

The next step you should implement is adding Google XML sitemap to Google Search Console. You have already generated it in Tip #27.

How to submit Google XML sitemap to Google Search Console?

Login to your Google Search Console and look at the right side of the page.

There you will see a button called “ADD/TEST SITEMAP”, click on it.

add sitemap button wordpress seo

Type in the map URL in the box and click Submit.

submit sitemap wordpress seo


Now your website can be properly indexed by Google, though it may take some time for a new blog to get indexed, that should not bother you as after setting up the website you will need to focus on creating quality content.

29. Connect Your Website To Google Analytics

Google Analytics statistics help you understand your overall website performance.

This online service provides general analytical tools for search engine optimization and marketing goals.

Here are a couple of things it can do:

  • Provide website traffic numbers
  • Show traffic sources
  • Help understand the site’s visitors location
  • Identify the best/worst performing pages
  • Demonstrate average time on site and bounce rate
  • And many more!

With that said, how do you add Google Analytics to your website?

Step 1: Head to Google Analytics Page and click on the Sign-Up button.

sign up button google analytics wordpress seo

Step 2: Fill in the fields with required data, scroll down and click on Get Tracking ID:

google analytics setting up account wordpress seo

You will receive a unique tracking id.

Step 3: Copy and paste it in your website footer.

If you use a WordPress theme from GeneratePress it is super easy to do!

This article explains everything.

Note: There are quite a few ways to connect your blog with Google Analytics, the easiest way is using the WP theme that allows you to do the process effortlessly. If your WP theme does not support this feature you may use special plugins such as Monster Insights.

30. Create Robots.Txt File

This WordPress SEO guide would not be full if I did not include this step in it.

As a part of standard practice, you might consider writing Robots.txt file. It will tell search engines bots what website pages they are not allowed to index.

Each of the “robots” is unique and different for each website. But you may freely use the template below, it fits many blogs:

Disallow: /wp-admin
Disallow: /wp-includes
Disallow: /wp-content/themes

Upon creation, you need to add it to the root of the website host that it applies to.

Note: If you are unsure where to locate the file, you may consult your web host provider.

Now if you are ready for even bigger website improvements, let me show you some of the finest advanced settings for WP.

WordPress SEO Settings: Advanced level

31. Pump The WordPress Ping List

By default, the WordPress ping list includes only one ping service.

You may consider adding some legit update services so they can recognize when the new content is published on your website.

It helps to get your website post’s indexed FASTER.

Where do you get the list of these services?

They are lots of websites out there that post these lists occasionally, to give you a kickstart I may suggest you check this one.

32. Add Your Website To RSS Feeds

This step is similar to the earlier one in some way. The main purpose of RSS feeds is to help you get your new content noticed more quickly.

There is one particular service called Google-FeedBurner. It’s arguably the most popular one and lots of bloggers use it.

I DO NOT recommend you do this!

The main problem of the FeedBurner is there are a lot of bugs in it nowadays! Many users are facing problems while using it.

So instead of depending on the most convenient way, you may check the service below:

  • RapidFeeds

They provide a more pleasant experience and service.

33. Change The Default /Wp-Admin URL

The reason why you need to do this is an extra layer of security that you will add to your blog.

It is one of the methods for fighting brute force attacks.

Now, how do you change the wp-admin URL?

The easiest way is by installing the right plugin. Try WPS Hide Login or Custom Login URL.

WPS Hide Login plugin wordpress seo

Write the new URL in the plugin settings and remember it, or bookmark in your browser.

Note: These two plugins were tested on lots of websites and work flawlessly. However, I suggest back-up your website before the WP-admin URL change.

34. Limit Post Revisions

Your posts may be quite memory wasting.

WP post revision function consumes a lot of places and basically is not necessary to some extent.

This feature is helpful indeed, yet should me limited right from the beginning of website life.

Usually, it’s enough to have 3-5 post revisions. Storing more copies would be a rather useless practice.

How to limit WordPress post revisions?

You have two options here:

1. Use a plugin
2. Use your hands

As this is an advanced part of this guide let’s take a look at the second option.

The limit can be set in wp-config.php.

And this is the code you will need to use:

define( 'WP_POST_REVISIONS', 5 );

35. Disable HTML In Comments

This step will help you eliminate bad links inside your comments. As lots of themes allow HTML in the comment section it raises the risk of spamming.

How to eliminate HTML in WP comments?

Place this code in your function.php file:

add_filter(‘pre_comment_content’, ‘wp_specialchars’);


36. Add NoFollow Attribute To External Links In WordPress

The last step in this guide will allow you not to lose “Link Juice” when linking out to other internet resources (which you should do).

Nofollow link attribute prevents page authority from leaking.

How to make the outbound links nofollow?

If you’ve already installed RankMath then this function can be adjusted in the plugin settings.

If not, then you may need to use an extra plugin called “Title and Nofollow For Links”. It works out of the box and you don’t need to work on its settings whatsoever.

Now with its help next time you add an outbound link to your post, it will offer you an option – “add rel=nofollow” to link.

add rel nofollow option wordpress seo

Check anytime you want.

Pro Tip: Though adding a rel=noffolow attribute is a good SEO practice, the times of page rank sculpting have gone for good. Consider adding some niche relevant outbound links with a dofollow attribute in every post you publish.

If you want to go even deeper in Website Optimization you can Conduct a Technical SEO Audit.

Bonus Tip #37: Utilize SSL Certificate

Keeping in mind that the HTTPS standard is now one of the top Google ranking factors. (Source) You should leverage this step ASAP.

SiteGround gives you a great chance to get your website encrypted for FREE.

Final Words

These were some of the most necessary settings for WordPress SEO and On-Page SEO.

The best part is that most of the steps do not require the repeating process. Set them up and you are good to go. The guide is simple enough so anyone can execute the strategies.

Which step was the easiest and hardest to implement?

Leave a comment below.

Also, add me on LinkedIn or follow me on Quora, I share some useful stuff there 😉

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2 thoughts on “WordPress SEO: 36 Essential Website Settings (2021)”

  1. Hey man, I have to say that I love what I just read!

    Unfortunately, my blog is almost 3 years of age so lots of the settings were not quite applicable to it, yet I’ve managed to adjust some of the most important ones with your help.

    I will definitely refer to this guide when I create my new project.
    By the way, I don’t want to be pushy but could you please check out my blog and tell me what you think about it?

    Have a great day!

    • Hi Brian! Glad to hear that, I really appreciate your support. It took me a long time to create it. Sure, I can take a look at your blog, feel free to use a contact form on my blog to get in touch with me and share the link. I will try my best to promptly respond. You too have a great day:)


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