Are you looking for ways to improve your site’s performance? If yes, then this post is for you. This checklist is the ultimate 64-point SEO Checklist you will ever need…period!
The ultimate goal of every website owner is to get their sites ranked high in Google search results. This means they should focus on improving their websites’ overall performance and user experience.
There are many things you can do to improve your site‘s performance. Some of these ideas include optimizing images, creating better titles, using relevant keywords, etc.
But, when it comes right down to it, all of these items are part of a well-oiled machine that’s designed to increase your site’s authority.
This massive checklist includes the following, which are all considered the critical components of successful SEO:
- The Basic Site Setup Checklist
- Keyword Research Checklist
- Technical SEO Checklist
- Content Checklist
- The Link Building Checklist
- The On-Page SEO Checklist
Although this is not a be-all, end-all checklist including every possible thing you must consider, this does cover a good majority. Other lists and tasks may cover things that are more niche-specific, such as international SEO checklists, technical SEO checklists, SEO audits (including our own!), and checklists for specific platforms (such as Shopify).
Hopefully, this checklist will get you started on performing great SEO on your own!
Basic Site Setup Checklist
1. Make Sure You Set Up Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools
Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools provide a comprehensive overview of your site’s health. They offer insight into what people are searching for, where they’re looking, and whether they find your site relevant. This information helps you improve your web presence and optimize your site for better rankings.
2. Be Sure to Set Up Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a free marketing analysis software that lets you see data and insights about how much traffic your site gets, where it came from, what devices people use to access your site, and how they engage with it. It does this by tracking visitor behavior and recording information like IP addresses, browser types, referring sites, landing pages, and even keywords used.
The easiest way to start using Google Analytics is to install it directly onto your web server. This will allow you to track visitors’ activity across multiple domains and subdomains. If you’re using WordPress, there are plugins you can download that do this automatically.
If you don’t already have a Google account, you’ll need to sign up for one. Once you’ve done that, you can log into Google Analytics and begin setting up your profile. First, choose whether you’d prefer to report on visits, sessions, or conversions. Then, select the type of device that you’d like to record information for, such as desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones, or other devices. Finally, you’ll need to enter a unique ID number. This helps Google identify your website accurately.
Once you’ve got your settings configured, you can start collecting data. Here, you’ll see three tabs: Traffic Sources, Demographics, and Goals. Each tab provides different insights about your audience, and you can change the options here to suit your needs.
Google Analytics is an indispensable tool that will help you analyze your traffic, conversions, and other on-site metrics for strategic on-site optimizations.
3. Install and Configure an SEO Plugin, and Assorted Plugins (If You’re Using WordPress)
WordPress is the world’s most popular Content Management System (CMS). As such, it powers 39.5% of the web. This makes it a very attractive option for ecommerce sites looking to build a strong online presence. However, while WordPress offers many benefits, being open source software, it doesn’t offer some of the functionality that enterprise level developers require. So what happens when you want to use WordPress like a professional development tool?
In addition to offering powerful tools for managing your blog posts and adding custom fields, WordPress also provides a number of built-in functions that help you manage your site’s SEO. But even though those built-in functions do a lot of the heavy lifting, they don’t always give you enough control over how your site performs. For instance, the default theme used by WordPress does not include things like breadcrumbs, meta descriptions, and canonical tags, which are essential components of a well optimized site.
That’s where plugins come into play. A plugin is essentially a piece of code that adds specific functionality to WordPress. They aren’t required to make WordPress work, but they sure do add a ton of value. And because they are written by third parties, they often offer better support than core WordPress itself.
Of course, there are hundreds of thousands of plugins available for WordPress. Some are free, others cost money. We’ve reviewed dozens of them here on our blog and put together a list of the best ones for beginners. These plugins cover everything from basic stuff like pagination and navigation menus to more advanced topics like image galleries and contact forms.
Now let’s take a look at some of the most important plugins for optimizing your WordPress site:
Yoast SEO is one of the most popular SEO plugins for WordPress. With over 2 million downloads, it boasts a huge following among both bloggers and professionals alike. Its clean interface and easy to follow instructions make it ideal for beginners. It’s also packed with tons of useful features including automatic page analysis, keyword research, and detailed reports.
All in One Schema Markup
All in One Schema Mark Up is another great SEO plugin for WordPress. It allows you to easily create schema markup for all of your pages using a simple drag and drop interface. The plugin includes a variety of prebuilt templates so you won’t have to worry about writing any HTML yourself.
WP Smush Pro
WP Smush Pro is one of the fastest ways to optimize images on your website. It automatically compresses large images before uploading them to your server, saving space and speeding up load times. In addition to this, it can reduce file sizes by removing unnecessary metadata and watermarks.
Google XML Sitemaps
Google XML sitemap generator helps you generate an XML sitemap that will be indexed by search engines. You can then submit this sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools to inform Google of new or updated content on your site.
Advanced Custom Fields
Advanced Custom Fields is a premium plugin that lets you create flexible front end elements for your website. It comes with a wide range of options for creating different kinds of input boxes, textareas, checkboxes, radio buttons, and select lists.
Contact Form 7
Contact Form 7 is a robust form builder designed specifically for WordPress. It offers a clean user interface and plenty of customization options. It also supports multiple languages and integrates with many other plugins.
4. Create and Submit an XML Sitemap
An XML sitemap is a simple file that lists every URL on your site — including those that aren’t visible to visitors — so that the web server knows where to go to fetch the data. This lets Google know what pages exist on your site, and makes it easier for the crawlers to crawl everything correctly and efficiently. Search engines like Google use the sitemap to determine whether a particular page is relevant to a specific keyword phrase, and whether the page needs to be included in the index.
The purpose of a sitemap is to help search engines determine which pages should be crawled, and identify which is the canonical version. For instance, if there is another page named “contact us,” you’d probably want to keep that separate.
You can generate a sitemap manually, but it’s much faster to do it automatically via a plugin. There are several options out there, such as Yoast’s Sitemap
Generator, which allows you to choose the type of sitemap you want to generate. Some plugins even let you submit a sitemap directly to Google without having to upload it yourself.
5. Create a Robots.txt File to Control Crawling and Indexing
Quite simply, your site’s robots.txt file tells search engines the pages and files that crawlbots can or cannot access. This file is typically located within the root directory of the website, but some platforms like WordPress let you manage it directly from the backend.
Most common use cases include preventing crawling of specific directories or files, such as images, videos, and PDF documents. However, you can also block entire domains, including subdomains, if you want to prevent a whole site from being indexed.
If you do not have a robots.txt file, you can easily create one. Simply open up a text editor and type in the following code:
Having disallow blank might seem counterintuitive, but it is the default option and this means that you are allowing all spiders and bots through, to crawl your site.
Means that everything from the top folder down is blocked. So, if you have this code in your robots.txt file, and you are not gaining all that much in terms of traction from Google, here is part of your problem.
6. Check Your Google Search Console Account for Manual Actions
In rare instances, you might see something called a “manual action.” These are generally triggered by a violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines or some sort of manipulation of your site. A manual action doesn’t mean that your site gets banned or penalized; rather, it simply tells Google that there is something wrong with your site and that it needs to take extra care about how it handles it.
You’ll usually be notified via email if your site receives a manual action, but it’s worth checking your Search Console account every now and again to make sure that nothing untoward is happening. If you’re unsure whether or not your site has received a manual action, go ahead and head over to the Manage Your Site section of Search Console. Here, you can view information about each manual action that has been applied to your site, along with the date that it occurred.
As mentioned above, most sites don’t receive a manual action and never will. But if you do happen to find yourself in this situation, it’s important to know exactly why you’ve received a manual action. This way, you can focus your efforts on fixing whatever issue prompted it.
7. Make Sure That Google Can Actually Index Your Website
Google doesn’t always index every single website out there. Sometimes it just won’t find anything worth crawling. This can happen because of a variety of reasons,
- A web developer mistakenly leaves noindex tags in place while migrating a site from a development server to a production server.
- An admin removes the robots.txt file in the root directory of a website.
- Some sites are set up to prevent crawlers from accessing certain parts of the site.
As a result, Google might not know about some of the pages on your site, or even what those pages look like. If this happens, you could lose traffic to your site. To avoid this problem, make sure that your website can be indexed by Google—and that includes all of the pages on your website.
8. Keyword Research Checklist
One of the most import parts of a successful SEO campaign involves keyword research. You must create a plan to target specific keywords with enough search volume in order to keep your site sustainable. In addition, you have to also make sure that these keywords are something that you can realistically rank for.
In the beginning, no site is going to have full ranking capability. That is built up over time with authority.
9. Identify Your Competitors
If you want to know what keywords people are searching for, there is one place where you should start: your competition. If you don’t already have access to your top competitors’ data, it doesn’t matter much whether you’re running AdWords campaigns or optimizing your site; you’ll still need to do some preliminary work to understand what keywords they’re targeting.
With competitor research, you can do just that. For example, using competitor research, you want to figure out what keywords your competitors are targeting that would be useful for you. You also want to figure out what’s happening with the kinds of links they are getting, as well as other SEO-specific items.
More specifically, with keyword research, you are focused on trying to figure out what your competition is ranking for, and why they are going after those keywords.
10. Find Your Main “Money” Keywords
Money keywords are those keywords that are most likely to have a high profit on your site. Which keywords should you go after that are going to drive the most profit? After that, you can work on figuring out all the other keywords that are likely to add to your site’s authority.
11. Find Long-Tail Keyword Variations
Keywords play a vital role in driving traffic to your site. But it doesn’t matter how many times you try to optimize your content around a particular keyword; unless you know what variations exist, you won’t see much improvement in your rankings.
Long-tail keywords are often less competitive, meaning there’s room to grow. If you want to rank better for certain queries, it makes sense to consider targeting long-tail versions of those queries. These keywords might include misspellings, synonyms, plurals, and other forms of variation.
You can use the Semrush Keyword Magic tool to help you find long-tail keywords. Simply enter your main keywords into the tool and select your country. The tool will return a list containing keywords where you can change the match type by broad/phrase/exact/related keywords.
12. Map Your Keywords to Your Website Architecture
Keywords are one of the most powerful tools in digital marketing because they allow you to focus your efforts on creating high quality content that matches searcher’s needs. However, there are many different ways to go about finding the best keywords for your site, and doing so can take some trial and error.
Once you do find those keywords, next you have to map them out to your website architecture. Doing this requires identifying which keywords are your main head terms, and then using your supporting terms to create pages based on that topical hierarchy.
Your topical hierarchy will determine how your website architecture flows from parent page to child page. Using this logical hierarchy will help you arrange your pages properly according to their context, to help Google better understand your website.
13. Analyze the User Intent of Pages That Rank
You need to ensure that the content on your site matches the intent of the person searching for it. To do this, you must analyze the pages that rank well for your target keywords. There are three main types of intent: informational, navigational, and transactional.
Informational queries are used to find information about products or services. For example, someone searching for “best dog food” wants to learn what brands work best and whether there are certain health benefits associated with certain foods.
Navigational searches are used to move around a specific topic. Someone searching for “dog training near me” wants to know where he or she can go to train their pet.
Transactional searches are used to complete a task online. Someone searching for “buy shoes online” wants to buy a pair of shoes and may not care much about the brand.
The good news is that you can easily tell which type of intent each page on your site has. Here’s how:
- Analyze the top 10 competitors that are ranking for your targeted keywords.
- Ask yourself: what is the dominant search intent for this search engine results page?
- Construct your page based on this dominant search intent.
This can get more nuanced and complex depending on your niche, but that is a bare bones process you can use to do this when you start out initially.
14. Figure Out What Questions are Being Asked
Knowing the questions that your audience is asking can help you to best answer these through your site’s content. You can start by finding a list of related questions by busing the Semrush Keyword Magic Tool. Enter a keyword and filter to “Questions” to see results. This is a great starting place and can provide great inspiration, especially if you enter more focused keywords as a starting point, such as “how to make money blogging” or “best blog monetization strategies.”
Additionally, you can use tools like AlsoAsked.com to scrape and return “People Also Asked Results” to discover even more ideas and questions to answer within your niche.
15. Make Sure You Understand Your Targeted Keyword’s Difficulty
Keyword difficulty is one of the most important metrics for a successful SEO campaign, because it helps determine whether it’s possible to rank well for a particular phrase. If you don’t know what keyword difficulty is, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What is my competition doing?
- Do I want to compete against big brands?
- Will my audience understand what I am talking about?
- Am I willing to spend money on paid ads?
- Can I afford to lose traffic?
- Are there any risks involved?
If you answered yes to any of those questions (after the first one), then you might want to think twice before targeting difficult phrases. You could end up spending a lot of time and money without seeing much return on investment. But if you answer no to all of them, then you might just find success.
16. Technical SEO Checklist
SEO can be highly technical. So much so, that there is a separate subfield within SEO dedicated to it: technical SEO. This particular type of SEO is concerned with all the technical moving parts that can plague a website. From the server, to code, to links, to page speed, and much more.
The following includes several items (but not all) that you will want to consider as you work on improving your site’s technical SEO:
17. Make Sure Your Page is W3C-Valid
When you create your page, you want to check its code against the W3C standard. The World Wide Web Consortium is an internet standards body that creates most of the standards you see today. From XML to XHTML and CSS, they write the standards that govern how code reacts and how it is interpreted by the browser.
These standards are what dictate how your code is, well, coded. If you don’t follow W3C standards, then you risk running into rendering problems and issues that can impact your Core Web Vitals. Although W3C is not the be-all, end-all word on everything in coding, it comes pretty close. And you can’t ever go wrong by following standards.
Just use the W3C validator to check your code and make sure that it validates according to these standards. Your users will thank you.
19. Map Out Your Website Architecture (for brand-new websites)
Whenever you create a brand-new website, it’s imperative that you decide on what kind of architecture it will have. Will you have a flat or silo architecture? How will you map your keywords? You also want to make sure that you follow the parent > child rule of creating a website hierarchy.
This hierarchy will help both Google and your users navigate the site, while also making sure that it’s easily crawlable and indexable.
This hierarchy will also provide Google with more context surrounding the site’s information architecture. Having a silo architecture is preferable because this gives Google greater context about the information that’s organized within your site. If you have a flat architecture, then Google may have a more difficult time picking and choosing what to crawl.
Either way, it’s important to observe website architecture best practices as you continue working to create that site.
20. Ensure That Your Site Is Easily Crawlable
Making sure that your site is easily crawlable is one of the first steps towards a fully functioning site. Also, you must know the difference between crawling, indexing, and ranking. All three are separate processes.
Crawling is the first part of the process and this is when Google crawls your URLs. Google then indexes your URLs. But, this doesn’t mean that your URL is ranked.
The ranking process is next, and this is where a myriad of smaller parts of an algorithm kick in to evaluate your page. If your page passes the algorithmic checks, you may end up ranking. If it doesn’t, you won’t rank.
That’s an incredibly simplified explanation of crawling vs. indexing vs. ranking but it pays to be a little simplistic so we can then build on that.
Making sure that your site is crawlable means finding and fixing redirect errors, 4xx errors, soft 404 errors, 5xx server errors, broken internal links, and other errors that impact how Google sees your pages.
21. Make Sure That Your Site Is Easily Indexable
The indexing process is generally fairly simple (but can also be complex with a whole host of problems). Just make sure that you have a page with a proper URL, that it registers 200 OK, and that you have content that satisfies Google’s minimum quality rating.
It’s simple in theory, yes. But in practice, it can be even more challenging. In recent years, it has become even harder to ensure that your pages are indexed.
John Mueller has stated on a number of occasions that the quality and value of your content matters. Google’s not going to index everything just because it exists.
22. Ensure That Your Site’s SSL Certificate for HTTPS is Properly Configured
It’s important to make use of a secure certificate. In recent years, Google has implemented a ranking benefit for SSL (although it is only a tie-breaker ranking benefit).
If you’re looking to get ahead of the game, you should start thinking about implementing SSL into your site now. It’s easy enough to set up and there are many free options available.
23. Your Site Must Be Accessible as Only One Domain
You also want to make sure that you can only access your site on one version of your domain. This is called canonicalization.
Google wants to see that all versions of your site are pointing to the same place. So, if you have multiple domain variations (such as https://, https://www., http://, and http://www.), they’ll need to figure out which one is the primary version of your site.
There are two parts to the canonicalization process: the canonical tag, and redirects. First, you have to implement a self-canonical tag on your homepage. Second, you have to make sure that all versions of your domain redirect to the primary version that’s canonical.
24. Optimize Your Pages for Fast Page Speed
Page speed is another important aspect of your technical SEO that you need to get right. You don’t want to slow down your users’ experience by having long load times.
Your goal here is to keep your site loading fast. There are several things that you can do to help improve your page speed. Here are some tips on how you can do so:
Use a CDN – A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a service that distributes static files across multiple servers around the world. By doing this, you reduce the amount of time it takes for your web visitors to download your content.
Optimize Images – Use image compression tools like TinyPNG or ro to optimize images before uploading them to your server.
Optimize for Google’s Core Web Vitals – While all of the above can be factors that contribute to fast Core Web Vitals metrics, the fact is that not everything up there can contribute. You can have the best image optimization available, but if your code is lackluster, then this optimization will not work all that well.
That’s why optimizing for Google’s Core Web Vitals is not a one-and-done deal, especially for larger websites.
Core Web Vitals also take into consideration how your page loads, how that page load is physically structured, as well as numerous other things than just CDNs, image optimization, and code minification. That’s why having a pro-level developer on hand is necessary – especially if you don’t have a background in web development. And not just somebody that loads plugins.
This is a critical skill that can mean the difference between a properly SEO’d site and not.
25. Ensure That Your Site Meets Google’s Mobile-Friendly Requirements
Being mobile-friendly does not just mean showing up on a mobile device. No, there are other requirements to being mobile-friendly including fast page speeds on mobile, as well as being optimized for Google’s mobile-first index.
26. Find and Fix 4xx Errors
Finding 4xx errors is an easy way to identify problems with your site’s performance. These errors indicate that something went wrong while trying to connect to a resource on your site. For example, 404 errors occur when someone tries to access a page that doesn’t exist, 500 errors occur when there is a problem accessing a particular page, and so forth.
27. Find and Fix 3xx Errors
Finding and repairing 3xx errors is not an easy task, especially depending on the website. You have to understand exactly how your 3xx redirect errors are happening, why they are being created, and whether they end in 404 or soft 404 errors. You also want to make sure that your sitemap doesn’t include such 3xx errors. Once these have all been fixed, then you can update your sitemap accordingly.
These are not going to show up as errors in a crawler, however. 3xx are just going to show up as a type of redirect, and they may or may not land on a page that is erroring out with a 404. This is something that you have to eyeball individually to make sure that it’s not happening.
28. Find and Fix 5xx Errors
Depending on the site, this can be a breeze (maybe 1 or 2) or it can be a challenge (maybe you have a huge mess of thousands of 5xx errors after a site migration).
Either way, these have to be found and repaired. You don’t want to have significant amounts of errors such as this when Google crawls your website.
29. Find and Fix Robots.txt Errors
While robots.txt has been discussed above, this is a different type of issue. There are a number of robots.txt errors that can plague a website. From indexing issues, to errors that cause Google to see things very differently. You always want to make sure that your robots.txt file is up to the job. For example, if you have confusing redirects or indexing instructions, then your robots.txt file could be responsible for potential ranking issues.
If your site’s robots.txt file has the following line:
You have just caused Google to stop crawling your site altogether.
Also, you want to point to your sitemaps by using the sitemap directive, like so:
Also, other things such as improper wildcard use, randomized URL parameters resulting from wildcard use, and any combination of other issues can cause Google to stop crawling your website entirely.
30. Content Checklist
Aside from technical SEO and links, content is another very important factor that you need to get right. If you don’t have the right content and at the sufficient level of quality that Google expects, they could ignore indexing your site altogether. Indeed, it has been harder to get sites indexed initially from the get-go, because they may focus on important SEO, but they ignore the quality of their content. This is why content should never be something that you just skimp on.
31. Do Your Research Into Your Audience’s Pain Points
What is a “pain point”? This is any product or service that you can create which will alleviate your audience’s troubles. For example, somebody may want to have a unique approach to selling real estate. In which case, your audience’s troubles would include finding a great real estate course. Or, perhaps your audience includes SEO professionals. The latest and greatest guide to the most current SEO techniques could be right up their alley, depending on who you are talking to.
Through deep analysis, it’s important that you perform research into your audience’s pain points to find out what is important to them, and create content that they will be able to find through search easily, so they can then consume it.
32. Present a Solution That Solves Your Reader’s Problem
Your content, primarily, should be solving a problem that your readers have. Whether it’s performing a website audit, or your audience is looking for the latest financial advice. Your content must present a credible solution that they will take with them when they finish reading your content. However, there’s not always a “problem+solution” scenario. Sometimes, your audience is just searching for information and may not be ready to take action – in any form.
This is where your user intent research comes in: to figure out exactly where their pain points are so you can solve them with the right kind of content. By addressing your audience’s problem, and identifying solutions, regardless of where they are in the funnel, you can hit as many points in that funnel as possible.
33. Create a Winning Introduction
Think about the most memorable pieces of content you have read. How did they leave you feeling? Sad? Angry? Happy? Smart? Figuring out the type of emotion you want to elicit from someone who reads your piece of content is more of an “icing on the cake” type of thing. It adds just a little bit of sweetener to an already excellent post.
You want to introduce your content with a winning introduction. A boring intro just won’t cut it. Creating a winning intro involves some creativity, but can mean the difference between mediocre content and exceptional content.
Although you shouldn’t just focus on your intro, creating a winning introduction can really add a one-two punch that catches your reader with the desire to continue reading further.
34. Make Sure That Your Headings Establish Page Hierarchy
When you create a page, you also want to create the page’s heading hierarchy. This helps establish what the page is about (its main topic) along with everything it talks about (its supporting topics). Your page hierarchy could look something like this:
- H1 heading
- H2 heading
- H3 supporting heading
- H3 supporting heading
- H3 supporting heading
- H2 heading
- H3 supporting heading
- H3 supporting heading
- H3 supporting heading
- H2 heading
- H2 heading
- H2 conclusion
The above structure shows H1 heading, H2 headings, along with H3 heading tags. These are all arranged in a logical, sequential order that shows a parent > child hierarchy. This type of hierarchy should be used in order to organize and display content for those readers who want and need it.
35. Use Images to Break Up Long Text
This is another one. You want to make sure to use images effectively. Use them in a way that supports your content. For example, if you’re creating tutorials, you might want to create screenshots that show exactly how to accomplish the tips in your tutorials.
If you are creating product-based content, you may want to show images that show the ins and outs of that product.
If you are creating service-based content, then you might create images that show off what the service can do for customers.
It all depends on the type of content that you create as to which kind of images you want to include with that particular piece of content.
Use these images to support the telling of your story with that content, and enhance your content’s presentation for your readers.
36. Make Sure to Vary Your Sentence Length In Order to Keep the Reader Engaged
Some rules say “use shorter sentences online,” but that’s not quite exactly right. You want to vary your sentence length by changing things up a bit. You don’t always want to use longer sentences, and you don’t always want to use shorter sentences.
Using the same sentence length all the time could lead to reader fatigue, and could be deemed less valuable for readers from a reader point of view.
The thing that you don’t want to have happen: you don’t want to fatigue your readers! You want to delight your readers and give them a reason to read your blog…over and over again!
37. URLs Should be Short and Descriptive
Shorter URLs, in general, is a hallmark of good SEO. You use the length of the URL in order to communicate what your page is about. By making sure your URL is as short as possible at the same time, you can get the best of both worlds.
While they do not help with rankings, they can aid in the indexing process by not being too confusing.
38. Create Title Tags With Compelling Hooks
The title tag is one of the most critical components of a web page because it appears in search engine results. A great title tag helps you rank high and attract visitors.
Title tags should be within 60-65 characters (going up to 70 characters to consider mobile devices). You must use keywords in the title tag, though Google does allow some flexibility. For example, you can add punctuation like commas and periods without worrying about any issues. However, you don’t want to repeat keywords within the title tag.
Don’t create uncompelling title tags, because there won’t be much to entice the reader to click through to your website. You want to include the keyword, but also be descriptive, and make sure that you reflect what the page is about.
39. Ensure Your Meta Descriptions Are Compelling for Increased CTR (Click-Through Rates)
It has been known that Google shows custom meta descriptions in the SERPs roughly 1/3 of the time. Although Google can and does auto generate parts of the meta description based on your page’s content, you should still ensure that a compelling meta description exists for the SERPs for ranking pages. This is because the
more compelling your meta descriptions are, the more interesting you make your page to potential users.
When writing a meta description, you want to expand on your page title a bit. Expanding on this page title provides more detail about what your page is about, giving the reader information that will help them to better judge why they should click on your link.
You also want to double down on that search intent that you established in your page title. You want to make sure that your meta description matches the search intent found in the page title, along with the overall page. So if a page has a buyer intent, this should be reflected in the meta description also.
When writing your meta description, make sure to write it in active voice rather than passive voice. In active voice, the subject of your sentence is what performs an action. When it comes to passive voice, your subject is what receives the action.
An active voice adds a little more urgency, and has more of a likelihood of being clicked on than passive voice does.
40. Make Sure That You Link to Relevant Internal Resources
If you have internal resources that are directly related to your page, you may want to link internally to them. Including these resources adds even more context and helpful information for your reader and helps to expand the subject without writing duplicate content. Also, internal links are beneficial to Google. By including these, you help Google in the crawling and indexing of all pages on your website.
There’s really not much you have to observe for internal links, except: do not link constantly using exact match anchor text. Instead, you want to describe what the page is about. Also: keep in mind that the link anchor text should describe the page it’s going to, not the page that it is on.
Although Google has said that you can “do whatever you want,” in our experience making sure that the link anchor text reflects what the user can find on the next page appears to work best.
41. Make Sure That Your Images Are Optimized
This may seem obvious, but there are many cases we have discovered in audits where others have not optimized their images! The worst we have seen includes a 100MB image on one single page! This will lead to a significant increase in the time it takes anyone to download your page. Ideally, you should never have any image over 1 MB on any page of your website. Your images should be around 120KB (Kilobytes) – 150KB (in some cases going slightly over 200KB maybe due to higher pixel densities for devices like the iPhone). Otherwise, you should observe these file size recommendations for images.
The reason being is that the web is not an infinite source of resources, and not everyone has the same connection. Resources should be optimized to be fast to download on any connection, not just prioritized based on traffic. The reasoning behind this approach is because you never know when someone with a legacy 14K connection (extremely rare nowadays with broadband, but sometimes it can happen) is visiting your site. And, you also want to provide a high page download speed to all consumers.
42. Make Sure That Your Site’s Content is Up-To-Date
Freshness is no joke. There is a component of Google’s algorithm that rewards content freshness. Having fresh, original content on a regular basis can only help you, rather than hurt you. Also, outdated information is something that can hurt you.
43. Avoid Duplicate Content
Duplicate content is another issue that should be mitigated. In fact, Google has a section of their webmaster guidelines devoted to discussing duplicate content.
Canonicalization is a tool you can use that helps with duplicate content, by ensuring that Google knows about the primary version of any web page. Just add a canonical tag to every web page on your site that canonicals to itself, and you’re done.
It’s also important to make sure that you don’t have too much physical duplicate content on your site.
It’s worth mentioning at this juncture that Google has a duplicate content filter, but it’s not a penalty. You won’t get penalized for simply having duplicate content. Rather, Google will choose to show more unique content pages above your page in the search results, that do not have duplicate content.
44. The Link Building Checklist
Link building is a critical part of any enterprising SEO professional’s activity. It’s impossible to rank in super competitive niches unless you have 1. A lot of great quality content, 2. A lot of great quality backlinks. The two go hand-in-hand however, or at least they are supposed to. Creating that great content is supposed to lead to people linking to your site naturally over the course of time.
But there are also some things you can do to tip the scales in your favor.
45. Do an Analysis On Your Competition’s Link Profile
Aside from doing content gap analyses, you can perform a deep dive analysis on your competitor’s link profile. This link profile analysis should help you find what your competitors are ranking for that you are not, along with making sure that you can really dial in your own link building efforts.
By finding the most competitive links in your competition’s link profile, it’s possible to literally “steal” your competition’s backlinks and rank better than them as a result.
46. Perform a Link Intersect Analysis
AHREFs has a link intersect analysis tool that can help you find links that your competitors rank for that you don’t. By performing a link intersect analysis using their tool, it’s possible to build links to your site that are also linking to the competition. And, this kind of analysis also helps you create links back to your site that are going to be valuable. It’s not just blind, blasted link building. Instead, this is a more strategic and beneficial approach that could help your site in the long run.
47. Find Unlinked Mentions and Turn Them Into Links
What are unlinked mentions? If you haven’t heard of these before, this is when another site mentions your site or brand without linking to you. With these kinds of mentions, the hard part of earning links is half way done. Now, you can just reach out to these particular sites who mention your brand, and ask if they would mind turning that into a link. They’ve already mentioned your brand, so it’s easier for them to link because they already have that positive association which you don’t have to sell them on.
48. Uncover New Link Building Opportunities
Let’s re-examine our competitor link analysis from above. By going deeper, you can uncover new link building opportunities this way by going through and finding those links that your competitors link to. You can also do a Google search for your target keyword and identify which sites are appearing in the top 20 there.
Then, see how you can leverage reaching out to those sites for possible links. And you can repeat this process for each of your target keywords that you want to get a link from for that search result.
49. Create and Optimize Your Google Business Profile Page
If you are doing local SEO, having a Google business profile page is a critical element to getting your local link building right. Not only does this help give you exposure on Google, it can help increase your credibility as a result. Don’t just create a Google Business Profile page and let it sit, though. You want to make sure that you include all the relevant information about your business, including its location, address, opening and closing hours, and so on. Don’t forget to include photos and other detailed information that further establishes your business as an entity within Google’s knowledge graph.
50. The On-Page SEO Checklist
As important as implementing technical SEO and creating the right content is, your on-page optimization is something that needs to be addressed. By making sure you tackle all three areas, you give your site the absolute best chance of ranking a page for a specific key term.
51. Analyze and Figure Out the Search Intent of Your Pages
One of your first steps is to figure out where your pages fall on the spectrum of search intent. You can have one of three: buyer intent, informational intent, and navigational intent. You analyze the SERPs in order to figure out what the dominant search intent is, and you can create your page based on that dominant search intent. Then, everything else should fall into place.
52. Assess Your Chances of Ranking on Google for Your Target Keywords
Once you have performed a competitor analysis, you should have a list of target keywords you can reasonably go after. For example, when analyzing your competitors, typically you would want to take a look at keyword difficulty, backlinks, and CPC (cost per click) of the advertising end. This will give you an idea of how challenging the keyword is. And, in most cases, the higher the number the keyword difficulty is and other numbers, the more challenging it will be to dominate the search results for that particular keyword phrase.
When you have identified the difficulty of ranking on Google for your targeted keywords, you can then begin creating pages targeting these keywords with a number of SEO elements built in.
53. Uncover and Repair Missing, Duplicate, and Truncated Page Title Tags
After the crawl, one critical step of SEO audits includes finding and repairing title tags that may not be all that. You know the ones. You may not have spent all that much time on them, or you have let them go for too long. Either way, you must find and repair any page titles that are missing, duplicate, and so on. The issues that you need to look for when it comes to title tags include:
- Page titles that are Missing – You never want to have missing page titles. Because then, Google may write their own page title that’s about your page. And Google does not always get this right. In fact, it could be a complete abomination compared to what you could write and optimize yourself. This is why you have to go over your page titles with a fine-toothed comb to ensure that they are all optimized according to SEO best practices, and see how you can improve that.
- Duplicate page titles – The more duplicate page titles you have is not better. While it may save you work, especially when you are in a bind, making it seem more attractive, Google will think that all of these duplicate page titles mean the same thing in terms of being the same page. They may not give your page a second chance for indexing if they find all of these duplicate page titles. During the audit implementation phase, this is where you need to make sure that your duplicate page titles are all weeded out and optimized to the page properly.
- Page Titles Less Than (Certain Character Amount) – In our experience, we have found that page titles around 60-70 characters are best. Why 70 characters? Making sure that they are less than 70 characters means that they will be better optimized for Google on mobile devices. 60-65 characters is the recommended length to target the majority of devices. This way, you can make sure that you don’t have page titles that are cut off on any specific device, ending in an ellipses (three periods) – (…).
- Include The Targeted Keyword Phrase While Also Being Descriptive – Before, in the olden days of SEO, it was enough to include the targeted keyword phrase in your page title and boom, it was considered optimized. Nowadays, however, it’s considered a best practice to make sure that your page title, while including the targeted keyword, is also descriptive. This is a little bit harder than it sounds. While optimized character count needs to be observed, you also need to make sure that the page title reflects user intent, but is also descriptive about the page that it’s being written about. For example “Google Analytics Mistakes” may not be something that’s entirely descriptive, even though it’s short. A better page title would be “Google Analytics Mistakes That SEO Pros Make.”
- Page Titles That Are Too Short – You don’t want to have page titles that are too short. Some SEO Tools like Screaming Frog show short pages titles as page titles that are less than 30 characters. While they don’t carry a penalty or many major issues with ranking, they can indicate missed opportunities. And these missed opportunities could mean missed ranking opportunities, and another missed opportunity to obtain valuable traffic.
- Page Titles That Are Too Long – In Screaming Frog, it’s possible to set your specific length where you want your page title to fall. If you believe it’s 56-60 characters, then you can set it to this. If you want to be a little more liberal when creating title tags, you can set it to 70 characters. Either way, you will be able to figure out page titles that are too long in most SEO crawlers. These types of page titles end up truncated in Google’s search results, because they extend beyond the length that the search results can display. While long page titles are not a concern from a ranking perspective, they can lead to low click-through rates (CTR) because they do not communicate everything that is behind that page title to users, even though only Google might see the content behind that truncation.
All of these attributes are good starting points in your page titles analysis as part of your SEO audit.
54. Uncover and Repair Missing and Duplicate Meta Descriptions
Finding and repairing meta descriptions that are missing (or duplicated) is something that has to be done as well. The same thing happens to these meta descriptions when you don’t write compelling ones: Google will choose it for you. And this is not likely to be something that you want to see happen, because it could be an inaccurate description of the page, a jumbled mess, or both.
In which case, not putting the effort into these meta descriptions means that you miss opportunities where your users can read more about what’s behind that page, and you lose an opportunity to entice a click.
55. Analyze and Improve Existing Page Content
Have you thought about analyzing and improving your existing page content? You should!! Because this does create an opportunity for your page to rank even higher.
For example: say that you have content that you initially created 6 months ago. But, through some competitor analysis, you found that other competitors have surpassed your site in the search results. Because of this, you could potentially lose out on ranking opportunities.
You can test this in Google Search Console. Find pages that don’t necessarily have all that many rankings or clicks, but are getting a lot of impressions. These are pages that may not be ranking. Then, you can examine them along with what’s in the search results for what’s missing. Using Frase is a great tool for doing this. Once you have determined weaknesses in your page’s initial optimizations and perform those, you can then move on to the next page.
Rinse and repeat until this strategy is fulfilled for all of your weaker pages in Google Search Console.
56. Uncover and Repair Spammy Text
You may have seen these types of websites when surfing the web: pages that don’t exactly make all that much sense, but have “readable” content. While not conclusive by themselves without testing, these can be indications that such content was created by an AI spinner program, such as Word AI. It’s also an indication that the creators of such content did not pay all that much attention to its quality.
And sometimes, some webmasters get lazy. They would rather create AI-generated content than spend the time it takes to create quality content.
In general, you can uncover this type of content by eye-balling it. Of course, using a custom scraper you might be able to do this at a larger scale. But it would require a custom scraper to do so.
57. Perform a Content Audit and Prune Thin Content That’s Not Valuable
Part of on-page optimization is eliminating thin, junk content that’s not valuable. But, this isn’t something you can just filter out in Google Analytics by low or zero traffic. This is something else you can do by looking at your crawl and seeing the kinds of pages in your website architecture. If the page is irrelevant to the overall topic it might be time to revise or prune them.
But, relevancy is kind of tricky. And it’s not something that can be dictated by traffic alone. Quality, along with how it contributes to your overall authority are valuable as well, and these are not dictated by simple and blind traffic and rankings metrics.
A post can be high-quality and valuable without sending all that much organic traffic. In which case, you may want to keep it. But, if you’re writing about attorney advice on a car blog (unless it’s car accidents), you may want to avoid doing that, in which case, that post could be removed.
58. Make Sure That Your Images Use Alt Text
Alt text, or alternative text, is an element of the image tag. This element is designed to provide further contextual information about an image that Google and other crawlers wouldn’t be able to visually see in the image itself.
It’s also an accessibility point, because it is an assistive element designed to help people with disabilities. For example, someone who is blind tends to use screen readers for browsing the web. These screen readers read the screen and speak what’s in the image alt text.
Thus, in comes spammy alt text, which is a problem, and there are some things you have to watch out for. For example, adding the entire article within alt text is not a good thing, and should be removed. Make sure to use keywords while describing what the image is. This is an important part of alt text optimization.
- Example of good alt text: “Screenshot of an image showing traffic statistics from Google.”
- Example of bad alt text: “Google traffic stats.”
- Example of spammy alt text: “Google traffic stats, traffic stats, stats of traffic, and all the statistics of traffic in the world.”
Oh yes, Google also recommends using alt text in images that have significant value. For design images, alt text is not quite as important and these can be left blank.
59. Analyze and Improve Internal Links
Internal links are something usually left to the discretion of the SEO professional. But, you want to have internal links on your pages. Quite simply, internal links are any links to another page of your website on the same domain. They tell Google exactly what other pages on your site could be related to this one, and provide another way for Google to crawl through your site and provide context about your website’s architecture.
With the right internal linking, it’s possible to guide your users along with Google, and these internal links should point to your most important pages.
Although there is an understanding about the relationships between pages, there is also another component to internal linking: link value. By ensuring that your post has links to internal pages that are relevant, you help boost the value of these linked internal pages.
60. Uncover and Repair Any Existing Keyword Cannibalization Issues
Keyword cannibalization is when you have more than one page ranking on the SERP. By itself, this usually is not an issue. But, the issue comes into play when it steals traffic from a more deserving page that should be getting that traffic.
The traffic is split between pages, which also leads to some misinformation about which page is driving the most traffic.
Thus, you want to make sure during your on-page SEO tasks that you ensure that existing pages do not have any keyword cannibalization issues that you were previously unaware of.
61. Find and Fix Orphaned Site Pages
On a small scale, say one or two pages, having orphaned pages is not a major issue that needs to be fixed in the short term. But, the trouble comes into play when you have more than several orphaned site pages, and they continue becoming more and more as time goes on. This is when repairing orphaned pages will provide the most value.
But, simply by itself, having one or two orphaned site pages isn’t a major issue.
62. Make Sure That Your Internal Link Anchor Text is Aligned
The alignment of your internal link anchor text to your overall website architecture’s topic is also important. For example, you might have some anchor text saying “click here,” or “go here.” That’s perfectly fine. But, if all your internal link anchor text does is use the title of your articles as the link, you may have a problem.
This is why having internal links within your content is always a good idea. It’s also a common on-page optimization metric in most page optimization tools like Frase.
63. Ensure Breadcrumbs are Properly Setup
Conflicting breadcrumbs can be a problem, especially if you have script errors or other types of issues that are not reflecting the right breadcrumb setup for your site.
For example, say that you have breadcrumbs that go from your home page to a 5-click deep authority page on your site. But, your breadcrumb plugin is producing breadcrumbs that don’t reflect the accurate URLs within that URL path.
This is a problem that needs to be rectified. Either there is an issue with the plugin, how the breadcrumbs are set up, or both.
64. Repair Canonicals on Your Pages With Errors
Canonical errors can be a major issue of inaccurate crawling and indexing. For example, if you don’t have self-canonicals, but instead you set your canonicals to another page, you have just told Google that you consider that other page to be valuable and the original page it should evaluate, rather than the page it is currently on.
Additionally, trailing slash issues can rear their ugly heads as well. For example, say you have the following URLs:
And both of them load without issue. This is considered duplicate content, because you’re duplicating the URL itself twice. Also, Google could potentially read both duplicates separately, and become confused as to which one you want Google to evaluate from rankings.
Having a self-canonical tag removes the possibility of this happening. Also, you may want to consider creating 301 redirects from the non-trailing slash page to the trailing slash page if it’s the trailing slash page that’s also canonical.
Feel Free to Use This Checklist for Your Own SEO Endeavors
This ultimate checklist was created for you, the SEO professional. Feel free to use this checklist for your own SEO endeavors. If you are in the mood for another checklist, be sure to download our Ultimate SEO Audit Template.
There are many factors at play in SEO, and this is why – unless you have years of experience – simply following a checklist is not always going to yield the absolute best results for your site.
It can get you to a certain point, yes, but there are subtleties involved. For example, with canonical issues, these can also be impacted by other things happening on the site that are not-so-obvious.
For example, perhaps you created a category and category-news structure, and it was only supposed to be category level. But, through a misconfiguration, unbeknownst to you, selecting these categories generated pages automatically left and right.
So, after a few months of creating content, you find out that you have accidentally created over a thousand pages worth of duplicate content.
This can happen to even some of the best SEO professionals, so it pays to have a checklist that goes beyond just the basics. This particular checklist is – mostly – the basics.
It’s the advanced, subtle situations that can also make a difference in your website’s success.
When do you plan on using this checklist for your next SEO project?