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Mastering WordPress SEO Without Plugins: How to Achieve Top Rankings In Search Engines

Unlock the secret to soaring to the top of search engine rankings in WordPress without relying on a single plugin – it’s simpler than you think! Learning how to perform WordPress SEO without plugins can help you learn common SEO tasks quickly without the need to rely on tools.

WordPress SEO without a plugin is possible, but is it a good idea? My view is that you can and should learn to manually complete SEO tasks for your website. Once you know how to manually do SEO tasks, you can then consider automating some tasks with an SEO plugin.

I will explain why SEO is crucial for driving organic search traffic to your website. Then how to manually accomplish SEO tasks in WordPress.

You can then decide if you want to add an SEO plugin to help you out with some tasks.

Table of Contents

The Importance of SEO for WordPress Websites

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a set of techniques you practise that helps your content rank well in search engines.

Your content needs to be people-first with the aim of providing valuable, relevant, high-quality content for your readers. You should, as a secondary consideration, optimize content in a way that is friendly to search engines.

I’ll explain how to do that shortly, but first let’s give a quick review of the benefits of SEO for your website.

how SEO benefits your website

increased visibility and traffic
  • Improving the website’s ranking in search results
  • Making the website more likely to be found by users searching for relevant keywords
  • Increasing the click-through rate (CTR) on the website’s search engine listing
better user experience
  • Ensuring website loads quickly (3 seconds or less)
  • Adding internal & external links
  • Including images to break up the text and be more visually appealing
Better Return on investment (ROI)
stay ahead of the competition
  • Your keyword optimized content ranks higher than your competitors content
  • Your content is more readable, mobile friendly and better structured (sub-headings/images)

Optimize your content for search engines after writing it for people

Is Using WordPress Without An SEO Plugin A Good Idea?

Not every problem needs to be fixed with a plugin. The temptation to give over control of SEO to a plugin and then forget about it is strong. After all, if you are paying for an SEO plugin shouldn’t it do all the work for you?

The reality is, even with an SEO plugin, you are still responsible for manually performing most of the SEO work.

The plugin only checks you did it correctly. Think of it as a glorified checklist…

Here are some of the issues you get when using an SEO plugin:

Yet Another Plugin…

Accumulating a large number of plugins, some of which are likely not well maintained. These plugins will likely slow down your website and leaves you open to security threats.

Manually Control SEO on Your WordPress Website

By manually optimizing your website, you have full control over the SEO of your website. This allows you to make changes and adjustments as needed, instead of waiting for a plugin developer to release an update.

What happens if the plugin is not compatible with the latest version of WordPress?

If you depend on your SEO plugin, you may no longer be able to perform SEO, or you may be forced to use an outdated version of WordPress.

By mastering SEO without the use of any plugin, you ensure continuous, flexible optimization, independent of external software constraints.

Most Benefits of an SEO Plugin Need to Be Paid For

Most plugins, especially SEO plugins, come with a monthly/yearly subscription, this can be costly especially if you have many websites.

However, it is worth noting that you can still use the free features provided by an SEO plugin. While these free features offer some benefits, the most valuable SEO features are typically reserved for paying customers.

Practical Advice on Mastering WordPress SEO Without Plugins

Okay, time for practical advice on how to perform SEO for your WordPress website using only the WordPress editor and free tools.

Document Outliner in the WordPress Editor

You can check for problems in your heading and subheadings by using the WordPress editor. Clicking on the three horizontal line icon at the top of the page and then selecting the Outline tab will show you your document outline.

 Document outline in the WordPress editor
Document outline in your WordPress editor

Notice how the heading levels are shown (Title, H2, H3). You can use the outline to check your headings and subheadings are correct. For instance H3’s should be directly underneath a H2. If you made a mistake the document outliner will mark it for you. You can change the header level easily from the WordPress editor.

For more on adding subheaders to your blog posts, read this: Web Page Layout: Adding Subheaders

Tip: Click a heading in the outliner to jump to that heading in your editor

How to Add Keywords in WordPress

You may be wondering how to add keywords in WordPress. There is no box or control to add them anywhere in WordPress.


A keyword is a word or phrase that describes the main topic or subject of a piece of content, such as a web page, blog post, or article.

Keywords are used by search engines to understand the content of a webpage and to match it with the search queries of users. When a user types a query into a search engine, the search engine uses the keywords on a webpage to determine whether or not the webpage is relevant to the user’s query.

Where do you add keywords? The answer is everywhere. More specifically:

  • Title
  • URL
  • Subheadings (H2, H3, H4, H5, H6)
  • image alt tags
  • text
  • meta description

As you can see from the above list. You need to add keywords throughout your article.

If you’re seeking guidance on the optimal number of keywords to use for each blog article, I recommend referring to this article: For SEO how many keywords should I use?

Keywords are just words, the only difference is you are trying to rank for them in search engines.

If you don’t know how to find keywords you can use a keyword research tool to help you.

I personally use the SE Ranking keyword tool for conducting keyword research. It offers some free functionality, allowing you to test it out for yourself. Feel free to give it a try below.

A keyword research tool is essential if you want to rank your content highly on search engines. Here is my review of SE Ranking keyword research and SEO tool: SE Rankings Review – Affordable SEO tool that’s surprising good

Adding Images To Your Content

add images to your content

Images help your content in two ways:

  • Giving the reader a pause by breaking up the text with an image
  • Providing information in a visual way – images are processed much faster than text

For SEO purposes there a few issues you need to be aware of:

  • Large images can slow down your website
  • Images that are too wide can cause horizontal scrolling on mobile devices
  • You need to provide a text description for each image (using “alt text”)

Don’t worry, I’ll explain these issues and how to fix them below.

Wide Images Can Cause Horizontal Scrolling

Horizontal scrolling on mobile devices is to be avoided. It’s annoying to readers and it is not mobile friendly. This will result in Google lowering your ranking position as Google uses your mobile version of your website for indexing purposes.


average width in pixels on mobile devices 2022 (source)

To fix this issue ensure your images are not excessively wide and ensure when you add them to content you don’t use a fixed width.

From the WordPress editor you use an image block to add images. On the right hand sidebar select the Block tab and you will see the image settings (if you don’t click on the image in your editor). See screenshot below:

WordPress SEO Without Plugins: set the alt text using the image block in the WordPress editor

Below the ALT TEXT block (this is where you add a text description of the image) you can select the image size.

You can also specify the image as a percentage of its width. For images it’s a good idea to always check these settings for each image to ensure you don’t cause horizontal scrolling.

Adding an ALT TEXT description for each image

It’s easy to forget to add an alt text description for each image. I forget to do this sometimes, this is why learning how to do a Web Audit can help you find and fix SEO issues after you have published content.

As shown in the screenshot above just type in a textual description of the image in the image block editor.

Word Count for Your Articles

To provide useful content for your readers in most cases you will need to write hundreds of words of text, if not thousands.


Number of words for a well written, high quality article that can rank on the first page of Google. (For smaller articles try for 400+ words)

Google considers thin content to be low value.

Again, the most important point is to write high quality content for your readers.

Tip: The WordPress document outliner shows the number of words in your content

Proofreading Your Content

It’s important to find and fix any spelling or grammar mistakes in your content before publishing. Mistakes stand out and will lower your credibility with your audience.

Use a free grammar checker such as Hemingway app.

You can also use ChatGPT (which is free to use) for all your common editing needs such as :

  • Find and fixing spelling mistakes
  • Simplifying a block of text

and much more. See my article on using ChatGPT for writers.

Let’s give ChatGPT a simple sentence to proofread:

Asking ChatGPT to proofread some text
Ask ChatGPT to proof some text

Notice how ChatGPT found and fixed not only the spelling mistake but removed the unnecessary comma in the sentence.

ChatGPT is not limited to a single sentence, you can give a large block of text to proofread.

Submit Your Blog Posts to Google

After publishing your article on WordPress, don’t stop there. Manually submit your blog post’s URL to Google. This step ensures Google crawls and indexes your new content faster.

Use Google Search Console to request indexing of your blog post. You can click in the search widget at the top of the page and paste in your URL.

Google Search Console
submit your blog article URL to Google using the Google Search Console

This process is straightforward and essential for boosting your SEO. Additionally, consider submitting your URL to Bing using Bing Webmaster Tools at for wider visibility.

Final Thoughts

Thanks for reading this blog post on mastering WordPress SEO without plugins. My take is you should use an SEO plugin – I use one for this website: All in One SEO Plugin.

For those starting out blogging you may decide to manually handle the SEO tasks for now, you can always add an SEO plugin later. After all you will have many other tasks you need to do such as:

If you found this article helpful, please consider sharing it with your network by using the social media sharing buttons below. Thank you for your support!

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