No matter how small your website is, SEO is really important. After all, if people can’t find your website, you won’t attract new potential customers. For that reason, a lot of people want a guide to best practices. There are a lot of SEO checklists out there, but some are for local SEO, others are for international SEO, while others are for Ecommerce SEO.
What about a basic SEO checklist that covers most sites in most conditions without going into too much detail while making sure the must haves are covered? That is the purpose of this SEO checklist. Throughout this checklist I’ll also introduce you to some tools that I recommend that will make your SEO work even easier! Let’s get started!
Website Technical SEO Checklist
These are the things you should have in place to ensure that any content you publish on your site has the greatest chance for success. These are one and done so they are especially for new sites but a reminder for all of us!
1. Register on Google Search Console
Here, you’ll register your website with Google. To do so, you’ll navigate to Google Search Console and log into your Google account. From there, you’ll give Google everything they need to get started. Over time, you’ll be able to submit sitemaps and perform other maintenance tasks on the console.
2. Register on Bing Webmaster Tools
Just in case you didn’t know, Bing is a major search engine operated by Microsoft. With Bing Webmaster Tools, you get a huge variety of site owner tools that help you get indexed on Bing. In addition, they have SEO and other functions to help your site grow. To register, navigate to Bing Webmaster Tools and log into your Microsoft account.
3. Create and Submit an XML Sitemap to Google and Bing
Once you’ve registered your website, the next SEO checklist step is to create an XML sitemap. This tells search engines what URLs you have on your website, so they can be indexed faster. Indexing is what gets your site ranked on search engines. If you”re a WordPress user, use the Yoast SEO plugin to have this automagically generated for you.
4. Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a free tool provided by Google that every webmaster should have installed on their website. GA gives you a TON of data about anything and everything you would want to know about your website visitors and how they are engaging with your site. Later on, you’ll use Google Analytics as a strategic tool to help plan SEO strategy and other maintenance tasks.
5. Site Speed
An important ranking factor that not everybody thinks about is site speed. If your site runs slowly, the search engines penalize this. For that reason, you should ensure that your site runs quickly. Use Google Page Speed Insights to help find ways to speed up your site.
6. Mobile First Design
Another important ranking factor is the quality of your site’s mobile browsing experience. Be sure to format your website so that it looks good and is easy to navigate, even on mobile browsers. Google is clearly pushing Mobile-First Indexing, and you would be smart to align your website with this trend in order to maintain or increase your search engine rankings.
7. WordPress SEO
No SEO checklist would be complete without including a built-in tool. For this, I recommend the above mentioned Yoast SEO Plugin. Yoast provides important on-page SEO tips and tricks.
Further Reading: 10 Top Tips to Increase Your Blog Post SEO
8. External SEO
Besides site architecture and on page SEO, there’s off page SEO. This is the process of finding out how well your competitors are doing, checking backlinks, and working on social media competitiveness. For this, I recommend Serpstat, and I will be showcasing how to use this tool for other aspects of this SEO checklist and include screenshots from their tool in relevant sections below.
Keyword Research SEO Checklist
Once your website is set up, you should be planning your content. After all this is an SEO checklist, so ALL of your content on your website should be focused on search engine optimization. This is especially true for writing blog posts to help you get massive traffic from non-branded keywords. To get this traffic, you need to plan your keyword strategy carefully.
9. Find Keywords Relevant to Your Business
Once you’ve set up your website, the next step on your SEO checklist is keyword research. There are several ways to find keywords. The first place to look is actually. For other options, check out my SEO tools post, which will also help with other parts of this checklist.
10. Confirm Search Volumes for Keywords
Just finding keywords isn’t enough to optimize your SEO. That’s because some keywords are more popular than others. These differences can be due to relevance, awareness of an issue, or other factors. Here is a sample of a keyword search done inside Serpstat which shows search volumes by keyword variation.
11. Confirm Search Intent for Keywords
Simply put, search intent indicates what someone wants to know when they look up certain keywords. It also helps you understand why they look it up. So for example, someone might look up “puppy house training tips” because they are getting a new puppy and they want to know how to curb “accidents.” Or they might want to help someone else who has a puppy, with the same information in mind. This represents two separate search intents.
The best way to confirm the search intent for your keyword is to simply Google it and see what Google serves in the search results. Google is a smart company who have figured out what people are searching for when they enter a keyword, so if the results for a keyword that you want to target are not relevant to your company’s product or service, move on to the next keyword, for chances are you are not going to rank for it with your perspective, and even if you do it might not stay on the first page for long.
12. Make Sure You Check the Competitive Difficulty of Your Keywords
Likewise, part of everyone’s SEO checklist should be finding out how competitive each keyword is. So, a keyword likely won’t be very competitive if there are few web pages devoted to it. On the flip side, something that everybody is writing about will have a higher competitive difficulty. In many cases, it’s smart to target the “easier” related keywords until you build up greater domain authority in relation to your competition.
On-Page Content SEO Checklist
Now that you have your keyword strategy setup you are ready to start the actual content creation using your target keyword to create SEO-optimized content. SEO is as critical here as is is in previous sections of this checklist, so here are the main things to check off this SEO checklist as you create content.
13. Include the target keyword in the most relevant parts of your website.
In particular, be certain to include it in your SEO title, SEO, description, H1 title, some of your subheadings, and the first paragraph. Putting your keyword here makes it easier for the search engines to see it. In addition, earlier placement signals the importance of that keyword in general.
14. Keep Your URL Short and Include the Target Keyword in it
If your URL is too long, then it’s harder for people to share it online. While Twitter has a URL shortener, not all content distribution channels do. In addition, putting the target keyword into your URL highlights its importance, both to the search engine and people who see the URL. This way, your page is easier to find and easier to remember.
15. Optimize Your Images for Speed
Remember, if your website loads slowly, then it hurts your SEO automatically. Google and Bing don’t like slow sites and, worse, people tend to leave sites that don’t load fast. When people leave, it contributes to bounce rate and reduces your SEO rankings.
16. Include Alt Tags on all Images
An alt tag is text placed behind your images. The text describes your image and is useful for SEO because it’s something the search engines can index. In addition, alt tags provide a description that screen readers for the blind can detect and will appear if the image doesn’t load.
17. Link to Authoritative Sites
No SEO checklist would be complete without discussing domain authority. Sites with high domain authority are the ones which search engines have identified as being a major destination for information on a topic. If you link to these authoritative sites, you’ll help enhance your own domain authority by establishing yourself as an expert. In turn, this improves your position on the SERPs.
18. Make Sure You Include Internal Links to Your Strategic Content
Another essential step to maximizing your SEO performance is internal linking. This practice encourages readers to check out other pages, which gives them more opportunity to see what your site has to offer. Especially for ecommerce and professional blogging sites, having customers linger on your website as a whole greatly increases overall effectiveness. And, the links strengthen your SEO in general. If you’re on WordPress, check out LinkWhisper to help you do this effectively.
19. Leverage Semantic Content Optimization with Keyword Clustering
Keyword clustering is the process of breaking your keywords down into categories. For instance, one category on my site is SEO related, while another relates to content marketing. Check out this post from Serpstat for a definitive explanation: How To Group Keywords Automatically With The Serpstat “Clustering” Tool.
Further Reading: Unlocking The Full Potential of Topic Clusters For Your SEO Strategy
20. Include Visual Elements to Increase Dwell Time
See what I just did here?
Simply stated, dwell time is the amount of time that your visitors spend on your web pages. There’s also a dwell time for the entire site, per visitor. Both of these metrics help search engines determine how valuable your site is to people who are interested in your niche. By adding visual elements, you make the site a pleasant place to hang out and thereby increase dwell time. Plus, visuals are another opportunity to add SEO keyword information.
21. Add Schema Markup Where Possible
What’s schema markup? It’s a system that many major search engines developed for site owners to show them why their content is important. The markup does this by helping the search engine understand the site properly, and therefore catalogue the information more accurately. So, if keywords are the high-level category tools, schema markups help the search engine dig deeper.
One common method that most blog posts can utilize is the FAQ Schema, which you will see at the bottom of many of my own blog posts in the form of Frequently Asked Questions.
Post-Publishing SEO Checklist
Just because you pushed the “publish” button does not mean you are done with SEO! In order to acquire more organic traffic from search engines, make sure you continue to maintain your website and build upon your existing content and drive more links to it by following this post-publishing SEO checklist.
22. Keep an Eye on Your Google Search Engine Rankings
If your SEO efforts are successful, you should hopefully begin to rank for the targeted keywords that you have created content for. Keep an eye on them and monitor if there are large changes, which might indicate trends in search intent, competitors or something else that might need your attention.
23. Optimize Google CTRs
When it comes to the SEO checklist, you need to build upon those favorable rankings that you begin to receive and help maintain them. One way to do this is using A/B testing to increase your CTR on Google. For example, you can use a tool like ClickFlow to do exactly that and boost your chance of success. As people clickthrough on search engine results to view your page, it helps increase your SERP ranking even more.
24. Republish Outdated Content
Not all content is evergreen, even if you work hard to make it relevant over a period of time. For instance, content about large in-person gatherings hasn’t been as important over the last couple of years. People posting about these sometimes needed to update their content. To do this, you’ll want to say things that people want to know, given the change of circumstances or shifts in discussions.
25. Regularly Prune Irrelevant Content
An important part of any SEO checklist is knowing when to take something offline. When a piece of content becomes so outdated that it’s irrelevant, it’s time to remove it from your site. That is, if you can’t update it. By pruning less valuable content, you can keep people interested in your site and, over time, keep your SERP position more easily.
26. Keep an Eye on Google Search Console Crawl Errors
Even smart machines make mistakes. In Google Search Console, you can see when and where Google crawled your site to index it. And at the same time, you’ll see where there were technical problems and errors made, such as misunderstanding your material. From here, you can submit corrections to Google as needed.
27. Fix Broken Links
Another threat to great SERP rankings is broken links. Over time, site owners remove and relocate pages. When that happens, you can end up with a broken link. Search engines penalize your site for having too many of them, so removing or fixing the links is important. Besides which, most people find it frustrating when they run into broken links. Get a lot of them, and people will quit coming.
Use the SEO audit functionality of SEO tools like Serpstat to find broken links and redirect them if necessary.
28. Guest Post to Build Backlinks
One thing I enjoy about being a blogger is that I can guest post on other people’s blogs. This is fun, but it also helps both of us with our SEO through backlinks. My audience checks out the other site, and vice versa, so guest posting is an all-round smart idea for SEO.
29. Appear on Podcasts to Build Backlinks
Another great way to get backlinks is appearing on podcasts. I have a podcast that I run, but you’ll also see me join other people’s podcasts as a guest. Likewise, I have guests on my own Your Digital Marketing Coach podcast on occasion, and I will normally link to their website in my show notes as a courtesy to them as well as to help my audience.
The more you can get other websites and creators to link back to you, the better, so long as you are not trying to appear on podcasts JUST to get a backlink. You should always be serving first and the backlinks will naturally follow.
30. Build Backlinks through HARO
The last item on our SEO checklist also relates to backlinks. HARO stands for “Help a Reporter Out,” and it’s a place where reporters and other media are asking for sources for content that they want to create. You might get interviewed over the phone or asked to submit a quote, and often these quotes will also add a link back to your website when published as attribution. HARO is a great way to be found, showcase your expertise, and build backlinks back to your website.
No matter how you cut it, SEO is hard work. This is especially true since the level of competition on the internet has increased exponentially over the last few years. In addition, there are more tools than ever which can be used to boost search engine rankings. Luckily, by following the steps in this SEO checklist, you have a fighting chance against the competition.
Further Reading: 11 SEO Trends Every Marketer Should Know in 2022
Hero photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash
This is a post that was inspired by and supported by one of my marketing partners. All opinions and experiences written above are 100% my own.