Are you looking for a complete SEO checklist to help drive more traffic to your website?
The 31 points below are based on the principles at Ahrefs, a company specializing in SEO tools. I believe they are one of the best in this area.
They’ve grown their blog traffic 100% in a year, largely by following the principles below, but most of these principles are applicable to all types of sites: blogs, ecommerce stores, local businesses… everyone.
I’ll list just the checklist titles here and include a few examples, for you to see what it’s all about. For explanation of each of the items in the checklist, see the full article (link at the bottom).
Basic SEO Checklist
Do these before doing anything else. It’s the base. Note that these things are unlikely to have a direct effect on rankings. They’re just the basics that every website owner should have in the bag.
1. Install Yoast SEO (or a similar SEO plugin)
2. Create a sitemap
3. Create and add a robots.txt file to your site
4. Install Google Analytics
5. Setup Google Search Console
Keyword Research Checklist
Keyword research is perhaps the most crucial piece of the SEO puzzle.
After all, if you don’t know what people are searching for, how can you possibly optimize your content for search engines?
1. Find a primary keyword to target
Each page/post on your website should target one main primary keyword.
2. Find long‐tail keyword variations
People search for the same thing in different ways. So much so, that 15% of Google searches are new and have never been searched before.
That’s why it’s important to optimize for long‐tail keyword variations.
3. Understand ‘search intent’
4. Delve deeper into the questions people are actually asking
Look at the “People also ask” box in the search results to get some ideas…
… along with the “Searches related to” section at the bottom of the page:
5. Make sure that ranking for your chosen keyword is an achievable goal
Nothing is worse than pursuing an unachievable keyword. Some are pretty damn close to impossible to crack, especially if you’re competing with strong pages.
You can get a sense of keyword difficulty by looking at Ahrefs’ Keyword Difficulty score.
On‐Page SEO Checklist
Your next job is to optimize the actual content on your page.
1. Use short, descriptive URLs. Pages with shorter URLs rank better.
2. Write a compelling title tag and description
Your primary goal shouldn’t be to shoehorn keywords into such places. Instead, work to craft an enticing title and description that will increase CTR and bring more traffic to your website.
3. Use one H1 on your page (and include your keyword in it)
4. Link to relevant internal and external resources
Web pages that link out to high‐quality resources rank higher than those that don’t.
5. Optimize your images with descriptive “alt” tags
Alt text is helpful with providing context for when the images don’t load, but it’s also extremely helpful for Google Images — if you want your images to rank there.
6. Intelligently “sprinkle” long‐tail variations throughout your content
Most of the time, the bulk of your traffic won’t come from your primary target keyword—it’ll come from long‐tail variations.
7. Add schema markup to enhance SERP visibility (where relevant)
Here’s a page with schema markup that currently ranks for “pizza dough recipe:”
Here’s what it would look without schema markup:
Schema markup can increase click‐through rates and bring more traffic to your website. It’s not that technical to implement either. Use Google’s markup helper or this Schema markup generator to do it with ease.
Now it’s time to write some great content.
1. Write a kick‐ass intro
Good introductions should do three things:
- Resonate with the reader;
- Build trust;
- Promise a solution to the user’s problem.
2. Focus on readability
Always break up your content with subheadings, images, quotes, etc.—anything that will keep the reader glued to the page.
3. Use short sentences and paragraphs
4. Create the best piece of content on the topic
Use E-A-T framework.
- The expertise of the creator of the MC (main content)
- The authoritativeness of the creator of the MC, the MC itself, and the website.
- The trustworthiness of the creator of the MC, the MC itself, and the website.
Technical SEO Checklist
It’s not uncommon for technical SEO issues to hold a website back from ranking as high as it deserves.
1. Identify (and FIX) any crawl errors
You can find crawl errors in Google Search Console > Coverage.
2. Make sure your site loads FAST
You can use GTMetrix to see how fast your web page loads.
As a general rule, aim to keep the Fully Loaded Time below 3 seconds.
3. Fix outbound broken links
4. Make sure your site is mobile‐friendly
Check whether or not your site needs work with Google’s Mobile‐Friendly Test tool.
Fix any issues with mobile‐friendliness as a priority.
5. Switch to HTTPs
6. Fix duplicate content issues
Duplicate content occurs when you have two or more similar or identical pages on your website. It’s a common ecommerce SEO issue thanks to faceted navigation. That alone can cause hundreds of duplicate content issues because of URL parameters.
Fix these by canonicalizing the affected pages to a “master” page.
Link Building Checklist
Link building is perhaps the most challenging SEO task because not everything is within your control. You’re often reliant on other people giving you links as a result of your outreach efforts. Here are a few tried and tested tactics you can use:
1. Replicate your competitor’s links
One quick win is to find sites that are linking to multiple competitors as the chance of them also linking to you is high.
2. Monitor and reclaim any lost links
These are links that the author decided to remove from their page.
So your job is to figure out why that was and give them a compelling reason to reinstate the link (or a link to another relevant resource).
3. Pursue unlinked mentions
4. Let the right people know about your content
People can’t link to content if they don’t know it exists. You can let them know about your content by performing blogger outreach.
SEO is an ongoing process, and it would be impossible to include everything that’s important in one checklist.
Having said that, if you tackle the checklist items above, you’ll be well on your way to higher rankings. You’ll also probably be well ahead of your competition. That’s all that matters.
PS. Start with the basics first (the first part of the checklist). And then switch to HTTPS if you haven’t already. It’s easier to do than ever before.