Finding an exhaustive SEO checklist is nearly impossible. If you’re a beginner or intermediate SEO, you likely feel lost at times. SEO is essentially a long list of tasks to complete that will incrementally increase your search ranking. An SEO checklist compiling is a task for an expert with years of experience. Even then it is almost expected that they will miss out on something that is important. This checklist aims to serve as the ultimate resource for anyone in need of a fully-fledged SEO checklist to use with their first, 100th, or 8,000th SEO project. We’ll cover the tools and resources you’ll need to get started, then segue right into the main idea: the SEO checklist. We’ve split up checklist items between on-page optimization and off-page SEO tasks. Let’s get right into it.
There are several tools and processes you’ll need to get familiar with in order to maximize your efficiency and accuracy when performing SEO tasks. There are hundreds of helpful SEO tools and applications out there, but this is a basic list of what you’ll want to set up before getting started on any SEO project.
Many of these tools come directly from Google. This should come as no surprise. Google is the king of search engines and utilizing Google’s suite of tools will give you access to important information and data that you can use to steadily improve your PageRank and maintain compliance with Google’s standards. Every Google tool mentioned has its own set of learning materials that you can use to get the most out of each one.
after you set up your accounts, click through to each tool and look for videos and articles created by Google to help you master the tools and get results.
Through Google Search Console, you can view direct feedback related to your site’s performance. You’ll be able to submit your web pages for indexing, submit a sitemap to Google, access free tools to analyze and troubleshoot your site’s performance, and view Google’s webmaster, content, and quality guidelines. Google Search Console is a free tool and an absolute necessity for SEO.
- Set up Google Search Console and check out the available tools.
Another free tool from Google, Analytics allows you to view and track valuable data about the traffic coming to your website. You’ll be able to see where your traffic is coming from, basic demographic information about your website visitors, which pages are receiving the most traffic, what your bounce rate is, and quite a few other important SEO key performance indicators.
- Set up Google Analytics for your site.
- Setup or roll your own analytics. Piwik is a good choice.
In a nutshell, Google Tag Manager allows you to edit your website tags without manually changing the code. Add and manage pixels, tags, tracking codes, and more. This helps with tracking site user behaviour, conversion tracking, and remarketing. Using the tools and data offered by Google Tag Manager, you’ll have access to an entirely different set of metrics than you will in your Google Analytics dashboard.
- Set up your Google Tag Manager account.
With Bing Webmaster Tools, you’ll have access to a dashboard full of tools that you can use to get information about your traffic and performance. Bing includes a keyword research tool with their webmaster tools. While Bing will drive a tiny amount of traffic to your site compared to Google, you should still submit your site to get it indexed.
- Sign up with Bing Webmaster tools and submit your site.
Yoast is a WordPress plugin that will simplify many on-page SEO tasks for you. When optimizing a page or post, you’ll be able to tick several boxes off your to-do list from Yoast’s simple interface that appears below the draft of your content. Canonical tags and noindex tags become a breeze and you’ll see suggestions for tweaks to make to your content in real time, while you’re writing a post. Yoast also handles sitemaps for you.
During the writing process, Yoast will check over 25 different specific elements of your post and tell you exactly what to change. For example, it will help you with keyword density, keyword placement, and writing meta descriptions. Yoast makes creating SEO-friendly content in WordPress as simple as can be.
- Install and activate Yoast SEO if you use WordPress. Sync it up with your Google Analytics account.
- If you don’t use WordPress, but you use another content management system, find an SEO plugin with consistently good reviews and use that instead.
- Validate your code using the W3C validation tools.
- Get an SSL certificate installed.
- Claim your business on social media platforms, directories, and build out citations for your business.
- Fix 301 and 301 redirects. Screaming Frog will do this (and other things) for you.
- Create a sitemap. If you use a CMS, you can use a plugin to do this. If you use WordPress, use Yoast to generate your sitemap.
- Submit your sitemap to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.
- Get familiar with PageSpeed index. We’ll revisit this, but you want your website to load as quickly as possible. Do a test run to see where you’re at before starting.
- Create a robots.txt file. This file will give search engines information about which parts of your site to skip over while crawling your site. You may not want Google to crawl the admin area or members-only sections of your site.
- Check for broken links. You can use a tool like Xenu’s Link Sleuth to do this for you. You can use a plugin for this if you’re using a CMS. When you are notified of broken links on your site, you’ll want to fix them as quickly as possible. Broken links frustrate your website’s visitors and will cause them to leave your site quicker.
You cannot afford to skip doing keyword research. Understanding searcher intent and what terms your target audience is using to find content like yours is essential to your SEO strategy. Once you get the hang of keyword research, it will become second nature.
To do this, use the Google AdWords Keyword Planner or a tool like Keywordtool.io. Google’s Keyword Planner will give you valuable insight related to who searches for your keyword phrase. You’ll be able to see how competitive that keyword is and compare it to other keywords. You can find additional, long-tail related keywords by using Google Related Searches (This shows up at the bottom of the SERP) and a keyword suggestion tool like Ubersuggest.
Ideally, you want to find the most relevant keyword with the lowest competition that has the highest number of monthly searches. You’ll want to start off with low-volume keywords if you’re creating a new website or blog so that you have a higher chance of appearing on the first page of the search results. The seo checklist will only improve your chances of ranking for specific key terms if your keyword research is fairly high value.
Perform a search for your keyword. Determine what Google sees as relevant to the search query. What kind of content is showing up? If your content a good fit or should you adjust your keyword phrase?
By including keywords that are closely related to your main keyword, you’re improving the chances of showing Google that your content is relevant to the search query. You can start collecting ideas for contextual keywords, also called LSI keywords. Use sites like thesaurus.com, tools like LSIGraph, Wikipedia, and search for synonyms to find LSI keywords.
Get your main keyword into your URL. If you’re able to get more than one keyword into the URL then do so. Keep in mind that shorter URLs typically rank better than longer ones. Don’t change existing URLs, this will have a negative effect on your page’s rank because it will cause existing links to break.
Get your keyword into your title tag and place it as close to the front as possible. Use a tool like CoSchedule’s headline analyzer to write a powerful title. Remove as many common words as possible and ensure the title is click-worthy. The optimal title is about 60 characters long.
Use keywords in your meta description and write a meta description for each page or post. If you’re using WordPress, you can write meta descriptions using Yoast. For the most part, the meta description shows up in search results. Write something compelling enough to make searchers want to click through to your content. Shoot for a meta description of about 155-160 characters.
Use keywords in image alt tags, the H1 tag, (only use one H1 element per page and place it before other headings) and in other headings if possible.
Use your keywords within your page content. Make sure that your keywords sound natural. Keyword stuffing is no longer a valid SEO tactic – search engines pick up on this and will penalize your website. Try to use your main keyword at least once in the first paragraph.
Link internally to your other content and use keywords as your anchor text. Make sure that this item is the one consistently verified in your SEO checklist.
The more high-quality links you include, the better. Aim for five to eight links to trusted websites in each article. Linking out to well-trusted websites helps to show Google that your content is well-researched.
In almost any circumstance, you should be writing in a friendly, natural tone that is easy to read. Creating high-quality, valuable content is the key to gaining authority and ranking higher in searches. Create evergreen content that isn’t regurgitated information.
sMake your content as shareable as possible. Everything you publish should be helpful, informative, or entertaining to your target audience. Include social sharing buttons on your website so that readers can easily share your content to a social media platform. Social shares are valuable for SEO – make sure that your content is better than your competitors’ and fills a need that your audience has. In addition, the more social shares you get, the bigger chance your website will earn high-quality backlinks from other websites.
Check your grammar and spelling and proofread your work before publishing it. It’s a good idea to wait a day or two before publishing a post you’ve just written. After editing the content, schedule the post and come back to it before it goes live to read through it once more before it gets published.
Rather than publishing a wall of text, chunk your content into smaller sections. Use paragraphs of between three to five sentences at the most. Users are more likely to make it through your content when fluff is eliminated and you get straight to the point.
Adding images and video to your content will increase the likelihood that people will share your content. Use at least one image in the first 25% of the article. Include some kind of related, downloadable file if possible (like a PDF).
Have a plan for earning high-quality links to your content. Can you guest post on a big blog in your niche? Can you get a social media influencer to share your content? If you have any connections who can help you snag a few good links for your website, take advantage of them. If you aren’t in that position, start making a list of blogs, websites, or publications you might want to inquire about guest posting for.
Without including any unnecessary words, put out long-form content as often as you can. It’s recommended that you shoot for 2000-3000 words if you’re writing cornerstone content. For all other posts, try to reach 800 words. 300 words should be the minimum post length in most circumstances.
- Use a maximum of ten tags per post.
- Use a maximum of one category per post.
Use Ahrefs or a similar tool to view your domain score. You’ll be able to view what kind of link profile your website has and spot any links that may be relatively affecting your PageRank. Using the same kind of tool, you can view the link profiles of your competition. When your competition has more authoritative backlinks than you, you’ll generally be able to find insight into where you can get more links.
Crawl errors stop Google from viewing sections of your website. Log into Google Search Console and click on “Crawl”, then “Crawl Stats”. Then, enter a URL from your website. You’ll get a list of errors to comb over for potential issues. Anything that you intentionally included in your robots.txt file to remain untouched by Google should be included in this list. Anything else is an issue that you’ll need to fix. Duplicate content should be fixed. You can use 301 redirects, Google Webmaster Tools, or canonical tags to handle duplicate content.
Use Google Search Console to find any duplicate meta tags. Click on “Search Appearance” and then “HTML Improvements”. You’ll be able to check for duplicate tags and you’ll also get suggestions regarding the length and content of your meta descriptions and titles.
In short, schema markup helps search engines understand what your content is about and who it’s relevant to. Structured data improves targeting and click-through rates and helps to rank your content for the right terms. Do some research about structured data and schema markup and then use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to get started with schema markup without having to do it manually.
If there are any 302 redirects on your website that should be 301 redirects, get them fixed as soon as possible. 302 redirects are optimally used for temporary purposes, like site maintenance. These “bad” redirects don’t pass on the SEO value of the original page to the new page. 301 redirects are permanent and the SEO value carries over from the old page to the new page. Try using Browseo to find bad redirects.
Keeping your website fast is a huge part of providing a top-tier user experience. When your website loads slowly, users are over ten times more likely to click away without reading any of your content. Use Google’s PageSpeed to get details on how quickly your site loads and to speed up your website.
Your website should be responsive. This just means that it needs to look good and be accessible on all screen sizes. Your website’s usability is critical. More users than ever are performing search queries on their phones. If your website isn’t responsive, users will get frustrated, leave your site, and move onto the next search result. Use Google’s mobile-friendly test to check if your website is correctly optimized for mobile viewing. Also, test your website on all of the top browsers: Firefox, Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Safari, and Opera.
Rich snippets can be added to your HTML to help search engines understand how best to display your content in search results. If your website hosts recipes, reviews, videos, news, event information, or products, you can make use of rich snippets. Your content will be displayed more beautifully in the SERP, often with a photo or screenshot alongside your title and meta description. Reviews and products will have their ratings displayed directly in the search results. Rich snippets improve click-through rate dramatically because they communicate more information to users than simple text.
Switch your website from HTTP to HTTPS. Google favours websites with this extra layer of security and users will feel more comfortable using your website knowing that their personal information is being encrypted.
Use NameChk to claim your brand name on every social media website that makes sense for your business to be on. Having control over your brand name on social media will make things easier for you in the long run even if social media isn’t part of your current marketing strategy. Reputation management is a large part of your brand’s image. Stay on top of what’s being said about your brand on social media platforms and respond to customer complaints and reviews. Brands with more reviews and social media interaction are boosted in search results because Google sees them as buzz-worthy brands.
Local SEO demands a few extra steps out of you. Use your city or area name within your keywords. Sign up for Google My Business and maintain your listings. Utilize posts in Google My Business to keep customers updated on sales and events. Have a call-to-action button installed on your Google My Business listing: Customers should be prompted to call your business or to book an appointment. Google My Business can sync up with most appointment-scheduling programs to allow customers to set their own appointments through Google without ever talking to someone from your company.
Build out citations in local search directories and ensure that all of the contact information posted is consistent. Discrepancies in your contact information will hurt your rankings. Start with big websites like Yelp and YellowPages. Many of these websites allow users to suggest a change to a listing even if they don’t own it. Avoid having false information by checking up on them once a week or once a month.
Maintain your online presence and be sure to respond to customer reviews in a timely manner. Encourage your customers to leave you reviews when allowed – Google encourages businesses to ask customers to leave an honest review while Yelp does not. Reviews boost your search visibility and responding to each review shows potential customers that you care about your customer’s experiences.