If you’re on this page, you’re probably already convinced of the importance of SEO and organic traffic.
Just in case you aren’t, here’s a surprising number: according to HubSpot, 61% of marketers say that improving SEO and growing their organic presence is their top inbound marketing priority.
In order to stay ahead of the curve and keep your organic search presence in tip-top shape, you’ll want a good SEO checklist.
That’s why we’ve created this 25-point SEO checklist of all the essentials needed to help you optimize your content, drive quality organic traffic and deliver more conversions.
In this guide:
- Create Relevant, Quality Content
- On-page SEO Checklist
- Technical SEO Checklist
- Security Checklist
- Reputation & Backlinks Checklist
Create Relevant, Quality Content
This should be the first item on any SEO checklist. No matter what format your content takes, it needs to be valuable for the user and match the user’s intent.
Take these steps to ensure relevant content:
1. Do keyword research.
Do your research to find the terms that matter to your target audience. What topics or phrases are they searching for that you can answer in a relevant way? Use a tool like Alexa’s Competitor Keyword Matrix to see what keywords your competitors are targeting, what keywords fit your competitive search profile, and what content other sites that target your audience are producing.
2. Search for your target keywords.
Once you’ve done your keyword research, search for your target keywords to see what Google thinks the user intends to find when they perform that search. Are they looking for something educational? Do they intend to make a purchase? This should guide what kind of SEO content you produce.
On-Page SEO Checklist
Continuing the SEO checklist from above, let’s look at the on-page SEO check you can do to make your quality content crawlable and understandable in the eyes of users and search engines.
3. Check for pages with low word count
The amount of text on your pages indicates to crawlers the depth and quality of the content you can provide. Pages with low word counts may receive poor placement in SERPs (see Google’s Panda update) because crawlers can’t determine the viability of the content.
The number of words you have on a page will vary, and this isn’t a hard and fast rule for all content. As long as your content is relevant and targets a specific keyword(s) that addresses customer need, great. Low word count aims to address poor user experience more than anything.
4. Incorporate subheadings, lists, and tables
Headlines, tables and lists break your content into digestible chunks to make it easier on the reader. Add your target keyword or related keywords in headlines when appropriate.
Tables and lists can help you acquire featured snippets. Featured snippets, often referred to as position zero, generally feature short paragraphs, lists, or tables. Answer questions that have search potential in one of these formats to increase likelihood of acquiring the featured snippet position.
5. Check your title tags
Search engines use title tags to understand if and how content on a page would be useful to a user.
Because search engines display multiple search results, a concise and descriptive title helps the user know your link is the best to click on.
Check your site for these potential title tag issues:
- Duplicate tags: Duplicate title tags confuse search engines that are trying to determine the relevancy of each page on your site. If you can’t create unique title tags for certain pages, consider whether the content should exist in the first place. If it should, adjust one or both titles. If the content on the pages is largely the same, consider adding a canonical tag to one of the pages to indicate to Google which one is important in search.
- Missing title tags: Because users and search engines use title tags to understand what a link is about, missing title tags compromise a page’s ability to rank for that content in SERPs.
- Long title tags: If a title tag is longer than 65 characters, it may be cut off when it is displayed on a search results page. Titles that are cut off may cause searchers not to click your link, whereas a fully visible title helps them know exactly what to expect.
- Multiple title tags: In the event that a page returns multiple title tags, it’s important to get rid of the least relevant. Pages with unique, descriptive titles are favored by search engines.
6. Include relevant meta descriptions
A meta description is the descriptive text that sits underneath the title tag on the SERP. It’s important to write a compelling meta description even if search engines don’t always display the one you write.
Also watch out for duplicate metas for multiple pages on your website. This can reduce traffic from search engines if users aren’t able to differentiate between pieces of content on your site.
7. Add image descriptions
Image alt tags or image descriptions assist search engines with indexing your site’s non-text content. Incorporating appropriate keywords into your image descriptions or titles may allow those images to show up in search engine results, potentially driving additional traffic to your site. Image descriptions also benefit those using text browsers, screen readers, or other assistive technologies for the vision-impaired.
8. Watch your URL length
Although it’s tempting to use the entire name of your article in a URL, keep an eye out for URLs that are getting too long. Long URLs can be truncated in search results and deter users from clicking. Shorter URLs are easier to share socially and are more readable.
9. Add an appropriate amount of links
Link your content to relevant related content when appropriate. This could be an internal link to another page on your own site or a link to another reputable site.
Be careful not to add too many links. Too many links can negatively impact how search engines assess the quality of the page, and make your site harder to navigate. If the page contains user-generated content (UGC), make sure the UGC content isn’t full of spammy links.
10. Interlink your articles
On-site links (also known as internal links) refer to the way pages on your site lead to one another. On-site links help visitors navigate the content you provide. They are also the building blocks for the structure (or hierarchy) of your site. Finally, on-site links help distribute page authority throughout your site. Better internal linking means increased and better-quality visitor engagement. It also makes it possible for crawlers to navigate and index your site – hence, better rankings.
11. Check for duplicate content issues
Duplicate content refers to the same or very similar content that appears on more than one URL. As a result, search engines are forced to prioritize the relevance and originality of each piece of content. Often this means only one piece of content will be ranked in SERPs, which may lead to poor placement for your URL. Canonicalization or 301 redirect can be used to address duplicate content.
12. Create custom Page Not Found pages
Otherwise known as a HTTP 404 code, Page Not Found errors appear when a visitor tries to access a page on your site that does not exist–e.g., has been deleted or moved. If moved, a 301 redirect would be the appropriate solution.
Customized Page Not Found pages can create a better experience for visitors, and tell search engines not to send traffic to a non-existent page. Here are some great examples of creative Page Not Found pages.
13. Resolve dead-end pages
Dead-end pages have no outgoing links on them. If a user or web crawler hits a dead-end page, they are unable to navigate anywhere else on your site. Dead-end pages are a poor experience and can negatively affect SEO.
Technical SEO Checklist
No matter how good your content is, a site with a number of technical SEO issues may never reach its full ranking capability. A technical SEO audit is key, and you can start with these items:
14. Resolve performance issues
How fast your web pages load has a tremendous impact on user experience, conversion rates, and the number of pages that search engines can index. Introducing unnecessary friction into the user’s journey may cause them to abandon your site for another, reducing your conversion rates. Crawlers have designated crawl budgets, so the longer your pages take to load the fewer pages may get indexed.
15. Focus on mobile-friendliness
Google announced in early 2018 that they had started moving towards a mobile-first index. This means that if your site is not mobile friendly, you may see your rankings drop. Google doesn’t want to show pages with a poor mobile experience when over half their users come from mobile devices.
Check your site’s mobile friendliness here, and consider creating AMP versions of your key pages so your site loads faster for mobile users.
16. Add schema markup
Schema markup is additional code you can add to your page that provides more data about your content to search engines. Schema is basically a language that all major search engines can understand, and can allow you to acquire rich results—like star ratings reviews—in organic search.
You can check whether your site already has schema markup with Google’s structured data testing tool here.
17. Resolve broken links
Broken links are links that return an error instead of going to the destination page, file, or image. They can occur for a variety of reasons, like linked content being deleted or a URL being moved.
Broken links can negatively affect search engine rankings because they stop crawlers from creating a complete index of your site. This means less coverage and poor rankings. Broken links are also a poor experience for the user. If a user encounters a broken link, they may be discouraged from visiting other pages on your site.
18. Identify and fix server errors
Server errors indicate there is a problem that keeps your web server from returning a requested page. There are numerous server error codes, but common ones include:
Error 500 – Internal Server Error
Error 503 – Service Unavailable
Error 504 – Gateway Timeout
19. Make the pages on your site reachable (create a sitemap)
Reachability refers to the ability to access the most important pages on your site in a small number of clicks. Good reachability makes for a better user experience. It also helps search engines crawl more pages, faster. If search engines can’t access, and therefore can’t read, pages on your site, then such pages cannot be indexed or ranked.
You can check if reachability is an issue via an Alexa Advanced account. If it is an issue, consider creating a sitemap for your site or adding more links from important pages to other, easier-to-find pages.
20. Create a Robots.txt file
Robots.txt files can be used to restrict search engines’ access to all or part of your site. They can also be used to save bandwidth on your site, which can contribute to faster page speed and load times.
21. Implement SSL Certification
A secure site is becoming more of a necessity to rank in SERPs. If you don’t have a secure site, users may bounce before they even see your page because they will see a security warning.
22. Make forms secure
When forms aren’t accessed through a secure connection (https), the security of information visitors submit through such forms may be compromised. Secure forms help protect emails, passwords, and more from being intercepted by malicious individuals.
23. Make sure your meta information is secure
Insecure meta tags on your site provide information about the underlying software that could help someone attack or compromise your website.
Reputation & Backlinks Checklist
24. Get links from top sites
Your site’s reputation and search engine placement can be influenced by the number of sites that link to it. The more sites that link to your pages, the more authoritative, trustworthy, and relevant search engines will interpret your site to be. If the sites that link to your pages are very authoritative, this is an even stronger signal to search engines that your pages are authentic.
An important rule of thumb for any linking strategy is to always prioritize quality over quantity, because search engines use a number of variables for link analysis:
- The number of links to your pages
- The popularity of the sites linking to you
- The relevance of links to your pages – Does the anchor text include target phrases about your content?
- The linking history of the sites linking to you (Spammy websites tend to link to each other)
- The freshness of the links to your pages
- Social shares – Are your pages linked to on social media?
25. Fine tune your anchor text
Anchor text is the clickable text of a hyperlink that leads to another page on a website. Like title tags, users and search engines use anchor text to help decide what the destination page is about. This makes for more efficient indexing and more relevant user browsing. Descriptive anchor text also contributes to link relevancy – a big factor in SERP rankings.
Having descriptive anchor text applies to internal links on your site as well as external links from another site to your site. If you’re guest-posting, for example, try to hyperlink back to top organic pages on your site with the target keyword for that page in the anchor text.
Following this SEO Checklist will help you navigate the “must do’s” for an optimized website. Sign up for Alexa’s Advanced plan today to get a list of personalized SEO recommendations for your site through our SEO Audit Tool which includes an on-page, technical, and off-page SEO checklist for your site. Knowing your next move has never been simpler.
Download our Checklist for Writing SEO Friendly Posts here.