Use our comprehensive SEO Checklist to check how your website is performing in terms of on-page SEO, off-page SEO and Social Media.
Whether you are trying to optimize a blog, corporate website or ecommerce store our SEO Checklist can help you get SEO right and increase not only your organic rankings, but also your traffic and conversions.
I have separated the post into 4 subsections and each subsection covers a critical area of a website, whether this has to do with control, on-page SEO, Off-Page SEO and Social Media. While all parts of the SEO Checklist are important, I believe that by grouping them into areas it makes it easier to understand and implement.
Once you finish with the checklist, you can also take a look at these 20 digital marketing tips for getting more ideas on how to make your website even more SEO friendly.
Note: Although the list below it still valid, there is an update version here
SEO Checklist Download
The checklist is also available as a PDF download. The download includes only the elements of the checklist and not the explanations. You can print it or use it for reference when SEO auditing your websites.
#1 – Website Control Checklist
The foundation for a good SEO starts with efficient website control. Website control will help you monitor your website’s performance in Google (and other search engines), identify problems and troubleshoot errors.
Website registered with Google Webmaster tools? – Did you register your website with Google Webmaster tools. It’s one of the best ways to find out what Google knows about your website and also it’s the only way for Google to communicate problems and issues your website has.
Sitemap and RSS Feed Submitted to Google? Once you register with Google Webmaster tools the next step is to submit an xml sitemap and also an RSS feed. In a recent blog post, Google suggested that for best results you should submit both an xml sitemap (so that the google bot knows about the pages of the website) and also an rss feed (so that they know when the pages were last updated).
Checked for errors with fetch as Google (both fetch and fetch and render)? When you login to Google Webmaster tools, under Crawl there is an option Fetch as Google. This is one of the most useful features of webmaster tools and you can use it to see how Google crawls your website (Fetch) and also how Google ‘sees’ your website (Fetch and Render). When you run both tests Google will tell you if there is a problem accessing pages or resources from your website.
Checked for Crawl Errors in Webmaster tools? – Another very useful tool is the Crawl Errors report which is also located under Crawl in webmaster tools. The report shows you if there are any errors while Google is crawling your website like 404 errors (pages not found). It reports errors for both Desktop and Smartphones websites.
Checked robots.txt? Robots.txt is an optional file that may exist in your website’s root directory that can be used to ‘tell’ search engines which pages of your website they are allowed to crawl. If this file is wrongly configured you may have serious indexing issues. Google has a nice tool to check how your robots.txt file is configured which is available in the option robots.txt tester under Crawl.
Checked Site Settings? Another setting you should check in Webmaster tools is the site settings. This is found by clicking the gear icon (top right corner). In site settings you can choose the preferred domain of your website (either http://www or http://) and this has to be the same as the settings you have in your website software.
Website registered with Bing Webmaster tools? Everything that I mentioned about Google above is also applicable for Bing as well. They have bing webmaster tools and it is important that you use that too to register your website.
Google Analytics is installed and configured correctly? Besides the webmaster tools it is also important that you install and configure Google Analytics correctly. You need analytics to see more details about your traffic and how your website pages are performing.
#2 – On Page SEO Checklist
On-Page SEO is for me the most important aspect of SEO because it has to do with how optimized a page is for both search engines and users. The more SEO signals you can give to Google the easier will be to get higher rankings in the SERPS.
There is only one H1 tag per page and this is for the title of the page – Each page should have only one H1 tag and this is normally for the title of the page. You can think of a web page as a book cover that has the title with big letters on top. This is the H1 tag. The best way to find out if your website comforts to this rule is to click VIEW SOURCE in your browser window and search for H1. If you can find more than 1 then you need to either fix it or hire a programmer to change your theme or website to fix this issue.
Are URL’s properly formatted? A properly formatted URL follows these simple rules:
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- Lower case characters
- Dashes to separate the words
This is an example of a good url: http://www.example.com/this-is-a-good-url and this is an example of a bad url: http://www.example.com/pageid=1?Doc8
Each page has a unique title and description? This is SEO 101 but still very important. Each and every page of your website needs to have a unique title and description. Titles should be less than 65 characters and not keyword stuffed and descriptions need to be up to 150 characters.
Sub headings are in H2 and H3? When you want to use subheadings in your text or page in general, make those H2 and H3. It’s a better practice to use a CSS and define your H2 and H3 classes rather than just making the text bigger and bolder whenever you want to add a heading.
Do you have a logo and favicon? Each website needs to have a unique logo and favicon (this is the small image that is shown next to the website title in the browser tab).
Font size for body text is big enough? This is important for the users. You need to make it easy to read your content on various types of screens (both in terms of size and resolution) so make sure that you use a large font that is easily read. Add some space between the lines too to make it less tiring to read and easier for skim reading.
Are you using small paragraphs? This is done for the same reasons as above. Don’t just throw text on a page but take some time to beautify it and make it readable.
Content checked for grammar and spelling mistakes? Check your content and make sure that there are no spelling or grammar mistakes. If you are not a native English speaker (like me) then use Word grammar checker (or any other similar tool) to help you find and correct your mistakes.
Too many ads above the fold? This is important because it is a known ranking factor. Websites that have too many ads above the fold (that’s the area that is visible to users without having to scroll vertically) will not rank high in the SERPS. Google imposed these rules a couple of years ago and websites that violated this rule lost their rankings. To get an idea of where you should put ads look at the AdSense revised guidelines.
Is your content Unique and original? Perhaps the most important item in this SEO checklist. If your content is not original and unique and it is something that was already published in some other website online, then you have no chances of achieving good rankings in Google. I will create a separate post to explain more about content uniqueness and how to ensure that your content is both unique and original but for the purpose of this checklist, what you should check is that the content you publish on your website is not found on any other website in exactly the same form.
Content Freshness – Google likes new content so in order to stay relevant you need to have fresh content on your site. Of course fresh content is another incentive for users to come back to your website and see what’s new and also a way to promote your content in social media but when it comes to SEO, publishing fresh quality content on a frequent basis can help your rankings as well.
Content Length – Although there is no magic number regarding the optimum word length a blog post or webpage needs to have, it is always suggested to make your posts informative and not just publish a couple of lines for the sake of updating your website or blog. There were a few studies that analysed the top results of Google and found out that the average word length was between 1500-2000 words but that does not mean that you should make your posts that long. Try to provide enough information in your posts that will keep both users and search engines happy. Don’t forget that you can always take a look what search engines like by searching for your post title and see what others have written about it.
Proper use of rel=canonical – ‘rel=canonical” is a way to tell search engines what is the original source of an article. If for example you have a post in multiple categories on your website to avoid the issue of duplicate content, you need to have a rel=canonical in every article that will point to the url of the post. In this way, when the post is republished on your own website or some other site, Google will know what the original source is and keep that in their index.
Pages that don’t have unique content are no-index – I mentioned above about the importance of content uniqueness but there are some cases that you want to publish content on your website that is already available online. In such cases you can safely do so by adding a ‘no-index’ attribute to the particular webpage. This will instruct search engines not to take into account that page so you don’t have to worry about duplicate content issues.
Do you follow Internal linking best practices? Internal linking is a great way to build your own small web by linking the relevant pages of your website together. It is good for SEO and users and a feature that many bloggers or website owners make wrong by either not using internal linking or by linking pages together without using the proper anchor text.
Have a look at the screenshot above from the webmaster guidelines and see how Google is using internal links. Notice how they link pages by using keywords in the anchor text. This helps both users and search engine crawlers understand what the linking page is about.
Proper use of Images and Video – It’s always nice to enhance your content with images and video, users like to see images and view videos than reading text. What you should make sure is that images have proper ALT text and that the file size of both images and videos does not slow the website down. If you are using a lot of images and videos you can use a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to host your images and YouTube to host the Videos.
User sitemap in main menu – A user sitemap (or HTML sitemap as it is also known) is a page that lists the available pages of a website so that users can find easier what they want. Think of it like the table of contents you find in the beginning of a book.
Does your website has a breadcrumb menu? A breadcrumb menu is a set of internal links on top of a webpage that shows users how far from the home page is the page they are reading. Usually a breadcrumb has this form: Home >> Category Name >> Page name. A well designed breadcrumb does not only enhance the user experience but it is also used by search engines in their attempt to understand a website better.
Blog Comments have the nofollow tag? Most websites allow users to enter comments and in order to keep spammers away, any links in the comments section (including the author name and website url) should be nofollow.
Did you check your website for broken links? It’s always a good practice to regularly check your website for broken links. Broken links (either internal or external) are not good for the user experience or SEO. Tools like XENU can help you identify both internal and external links that are not working.
Do you have a fast loading website? Page speed is a ranking factor and one of the most critical user friendliness factors. You can use Google Page Speed Insights to see how your website is performing in terms of speed on both desktop and mobile and get recommendations on how to improve it. Faster websites not only rank higher but they also make more conversions.
Is it visible who is the author of the particular page or post? I said many times that the web is no longer anonymous so you need to show users details about the author of a page. Usually author information is shown below the main content and gives users information about the author name, expertise and contact information. For search engines author information is another signal that may enhance the overall trust of a web page.
Do you have a contact us page? Besides the about page you also need to have a ‘contact us’ page. Typical items in a contact us page are: mail address, telephone numbers, online contact form, email addresses, google map (if applicable) and any other items related to how people can contact you.
Is your website mobile friendly? Can people browse your website from mobile (or tablet) browsers without any issues. The best way to offer a mobile friendly version is to create a responsive website but if this is not possible, you should at least provide your users with a separate mobile friendly version.
Are you targeting the wrong keywords? This is a huge topic for discussion but what you should check at this stage is that you are not trying to rank for high competitive keywords only but you also target long tail keywords that are less competitive.
#3 – Off Page SEO Checklist
Off-Page SEO is still needed and although the checklist below does not cover all possibilities for link building, it’s a safe way to start promoting your website and get noticed.
Links from your social media profiles and pages – When you create your profile in social media (either your personal or business) you can link back to your website. It’s not the strongest link in the World but it is still a link.
Create a Slideshare Presentation – Slideshare is a high traffic website and a good way to get some links pointing back to your website. You can allocate some time to create a nice presentation and publish it on slideshare. If your presentation is good you will also get traffic and media attention.
Publish a Post in LinkedIn – LinkedIn besides being the best social network for business it’s also a great way to get some links pointing to your site. You can use LinkedIn Publisher to publish a post that can bring you traffic, links and more LinkedIn connections. This article from Social Media Examiner has more details.
Quality Guest posting on other websites – Guest posting is one of the best ways to get quality links if done the proper way. If you guest post on high quality sites that have high quality content and Google trust, the advantages are a lot. If on the other hand you overdo it by guest posting on low quality sites just for the purpose of link building, it can turn against you. See what Google’s Matt Cutts said about guest posting a year ago.
#4 – Social Media SEO Checklist
Although there is still some debate as to the role of Social Media in SEO, for me it is very important because it can help you spread the World about your website and find new visitors but also people that will like it and reference it from their blogs or websites. Read my other post for more information on how to run successful social media campaigns.
- Do you have a Facebook business page?
- Do you have a Google+ Business Page?
- Did you create a LinkedIN Page for your website?
- Did you setup a Twitter Account?
- Did you setup a Pinterest Page?
- Do you have a dedicated YouTube Channel?
- Do you promote your posts in social media?
- Did you run Facebook ads for increasing your page likes?
What items are missing from my SEO Checklist?
From my experience, if you are able to satisfy all the above items then you can feel confident that your SEO level is good. That of course does not mean that the list is complete or that we cannot add new items to it, if this is the case do let me know in the comments below!