Here is my detailed SEO checklist, which I have practiced during years of experience with SEO.
There are over 200 ranking factors.
Starting from technical SEO to link building, from keyword research to creating content, from on-page SEO to tracking performance.
It is super easy to get lost in the SEO world. There are so many ranking factors and aspects, which often depend on each other.
So, here is an ultimate SEO checklist so you won’t get lost.
Let’s start with technical SEO.
1. Choose a domain name (fast)
Is the domain name a ranking factor? No.
So, don’t spend a lot of time and money on choosing your domain name. For SEO it doesn’t matter.
If you want to rank for Boston pizza bostonpizza.com won’t improve your ranking possibilities. It is also insane to spend big $$$ on a fancy domain name if you just started your business or blog.
2. Decide how you will build your website
There are plenty of ways to build a website these days:
- Host on the third service (use Blogspot, Medium)
- CMS (WordPress, Wix, Joomla, Hubspot, etc)
- Web-framework (Bootstrap, Angular, React, Vue, Flask, Laravel, etc.)
It all depends on the purpose of your site.
If you just creating a personal blog or blog for your company – WordPress is the way to go.
It is a clear world CMS leader with more than 50% share of the market.
Benefits of WordPress:
- easy and fast to install
- relatively secure
- a lot of integrations
- customization opportunities
3. Get a good hosting
Good hosting can solve tons of SEO problems. Don’t save money on hosting. By saving money here – you will spend them on expensive developers.
Good hosting can provide you with:
- Fast website
- SSL certificate
- 99.9% uptime
- Staging environment
- Backup system
- CDN – content delivery network
- Tech support
4. For WordPress – quality theme
Similar to hosting, it is important to have a high-quality WP theme.
Crap WP themes can create a lot of mess.
- slow down website
- crash website
- create plugin conflicts
- bad UI & UX
- bad mobile experience
- security vulnerabilities
5. Website is indexable
After your website is live, the first thing to do is to check whether it is indexable and accessible by Search engines.
You can do it via robots.txt. There is a robots.txt tester in Search Console.
Also, in WordPress default option is to “discourage search engines from indexing”. You should uncheck that.
How to tell Google that your website is live and ready to rumble?
6. Submit a website to Search Console
There are two ways. The first way is just to submit it to Search Console.
7. Put a link to your site
Second way to notify Google about your site is just to link it from another (preferably high authority) website.
- Put a link in social media, forum, email signature, etc
- Ask someone to put a link to your site (friends, colleagues, bloggers)
Double-check that you have robots.txt, which doesn’t block your website from crawlers. Also, in robots.txt you can block other pages – e.g. /wp-admin folder in WordPress can be blocked from crawling.
Create a sitemap.xml file and submit it to the Search Console.
If you are using WordPress, there are bunch of plugins, which will do it for you – e.g. Yoast.
Here is my Yoast sitemap.
Otherwise, you can use something like https://www.xml-sitemaps.com/
10. Set up tracking
I prefer using Google Analytics, Search Console and Ahrefs.
- Google Analytics – for tracking overall statistics, bounce rate, session time, all acquisition, audience and behavior patterns; also to set up goals;
- Search Console – to track purely organic performance – Impressions, clicks, CTR, position;
- Ahrefs – to rank track keywords; backlink and domain rating growth.
11. Canonical tags
It is more related to big e-commerce projects with thousands of pages. Or when you have some duplicate content.
Let’s say you sell sneakers and for one product, there are multiple (or even dozens of) pages. It is better to tell Google, which page is main one, where there is best content, which one should rank in SERP.
So, on all other pages, related to this one product, you can put <link rel=“canonical” href=“https://sneakers.com/best-sneakers-page”>.
12. Hreflang tags
Hreflang tags, in my experience, are useful for multilingual sites. You can tell Google to show specific page for a specific location or language setting.
13. Check page speed
Page Speed is a huge topic.
Use PageSpeed Insights or Pingdom to check how fast is your website. You should aim for at green light both on desktop and mobile on Google PageSpeed Insights.
These tools also offer actionable recommendations to improve your page speed.
14. Consider AMP
If after all page speed optimizations, your site is still super slow on mobile, maybe you should try AMP – Accelerated Mobile Pages.
I use them on my sites, and mobile versions load instantly.
For WordPress, there are free AMP plugins.
Security is a ranking factor.
If you are using WordPress, consider some anti-brute-force, security plugins.
Consider also using Cloudflare – to prevent DDOS attacks.
Some hosting packages (especially WordPress ones) provide caching.
Cloudflare also provides caching.
Also, if you are using WordPress, there are plenty of caching plugins.
The content delivery network serves content from the closest location to user. Therefore, your site becomes much faster.
When you are using CDN, URLs of your assets are changed to something like this.
18. On-page SEO
Now, when we quickly run through some basic technical SEO checklist points, let’s dive more into on-page SEO.
One of the objectives of on-page SEO is to clearly tell Google what your content is about.
In short, your page should follow the famous Chocolate Donuts blueprint.
Personally, I don’t like to spend a lot of time on on-page SEO. I just use Yoast WordPress plugin and aim for a green light in the SEO section. If you don’t use WordPress, they also offer free real-time on-page SEO analysis tool.
Here are some recommendations you can see.
Also, Yoast provides content assessments. For me, orange color here is okay, I don’t always aim for the green one.
When you are finished with the technical SEO checklist, let’s take a pause before you rush into writing.
Ask yourself a few questions:
- why do you need this website, blog?
- who will read it?
- can you define clear personas?
- which problems will you solve?
- which content, medium, topics do they like?
Of course, you will not have answers to all these questions immediately, keep asking them again while your website grows.
SEO performs much better, if your campaigns have focused approach and you don’t just put sh** on the wall. (It’s ok to use the later approach, when you just starting though 🙂 )
19. Identify main 100-500 keywords you want to target
If you don’t do keyword research before writing content, you may be wasting your time.
Super important to do research and get content ideas, based on data. Of course, it is not 2006 and one-keyword pages are really dead – e.g. separate blogs for “SEO Chrome extensions” and “SEO Chrome Browser extensions”.
There are plenty of keyword research tools, here is a screenshot from Keywordtool.io:
20. Divide keywords in main clusters (based on common intent)
I personally use keyword research to have an idea of main problems, which user tries to solve. I try to group multiple keywords into one keyword cluster, which shares the common search intent.
Search intent is the core thing in Google ranking after RankBrain update.
For example, all these keywords – things to do in London, London attractions, what to do in London, London sightseeing, London sightseeing tips – share one search intent – “things to do in London”. Therefore, instead of creating one piece of content for every keyword, just focus on one detailed blog post about “things to do in London”.
This is my keyword framework.
Actually, keyword research is one of my favorite areas in SEO. Check out my keywords guide.
21. Start with low-volume keywords
If your site doesn’t have enough domain authority at the beginning, you should aim at low-volume keywords and clusters.
I would suggest to first target keywords with under 100 monthly searches. And then gradually try with keywords in 200-300, maybe 500 searches.
Until your DA (domain authority) is higher than 35 it is super hard to rank for more popular terms.
22. Create a content schedule
I would recommend starting with 8-10 content pieces per month. It is totally enough. Especially if you have limited resources.
Instead of posting a blog every day, you can create a blog once per week or even once per month, but of extreme quality.
23. Write content
So, just start writing.
Don’t overthink too much. There isn’t some universal SEO secret, which will make your content rank on the first position. Let it flow and try to solve problems for your audience.
Only you can test and improve your writing style, find your audience and communicate with it.
Remember, the best SEO advice is to create content for f***ing humans. 🙂
24. Follow E-A-T guidelines
E-A-T means Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness.
More and more SEOs nowadays instead of “high quality” use “high EAT” content.
25. Optimize for RankBrain
What does this mean? Basically, RankBrain is Google AI technology, which tries to process the content same way as humans – understand the context, synonyms, paraphrasing, etc.
After RankBrain algorithm update, keyword-stuffed pages officially died.
So, to optimize for RankBrain:
- while doing keyword research, try to understand intent behind the keyword(s);
- focus your content on giving an answer to this intent or solving a problem;
- just write your content naturally, for humans, no need to put 50 repetitive keywords.
26. Build backlinks
Backlinks is one of the most important parts of any SEO campaigns. Along with content and RankBrain, backlinks are consistently identified among top 3 ranking factors.
In my experience, backlinks are what made the difference on many projects.
Here is a website with nice content, but without link building. It is a very slow growth over the years.
Here is a website with link building.
I’m not a native English speaker and sometimes not the best expert on specific topics.
But, if you can build high-quality links, from high authority sites, which people might actually click – that’s a story changer.
In fact, I looked at some sites with great content, with and without link building activities. Sites, which actively build good quality links – perform much better.
27. Submit guest posts
How to build links? One of the most effective ways is high-quality guest posting. To reiterate, not a spammy one.
Guest posting only works as a form of engagement with the community. Try to get your content posted on high authority sites in your niche, which you might actually read.
28. Start an outreach campaign
There are dozens, hundreds of SEO outreach techniques. If your outreach is effective – your site will be successful in Google, it is a fundamental thing.
Try to find your best working outreach technique and focus on it: either skyscraper, influencers outreach, including in lists, creating an award – find your technique.
29. Start amplification
When your site is young and doesn’t have a lot of authority, you should spend “20% of the time on creating content and 80% on amplifying it”.
By amplification I mean promotion, getting instant traffic.
There are plenty of ways to increase traffic:
- post in social media groups
- engage in discussions on forums
- ask to be included to “top blogs lists”
- influencer outreach
- answer questions on Quora
- participate in Reddit conversations
- post comments
- advertisement (cheap Facebook ads or Google ads)
Here is my amplification guide with 60+ ways to increase your traffic.
30. Set up your SEO metrics and KPIs
You should clearly understand what works and what doesn’t. And you should focus your SEO resources on a few goals. Otherwise, SEO can easily become really overwhelming.
I’m trying to track:
- organic traffic
- conversions growth (from organic)
- nr of organic keywords
- nr of referring domains
- domain authority (either DA or DR)
In fact, what matters, in the end, is organic traffic and how many conversions (signups, sales, deals, etc) can you get from it. If your traffic is growing, but conversions are not – “Houston, we have a problem”.
Here is my list of top SEO KPIs and metrics.
To sum it all up
Of course, this SEO checklist can be much longer and include hundreds of points.
But, I just tried to include the main steps, which I regularly use on my projects.
I will continuously update this checklist with the new points, so Bookmark it.
Hope you learned at least one new thing and didn’t waste your time. 🙂