If your website can accomplish these two macro goals your website’s rankings will significantly improve. You will be taking a huge step towards this goal by using this SEO Checklist and making sure your website has all the outlined attributes, best practices, functionality, code and behavior and more. We would like to give credit to Brian Dean and
Backlinko for their tireless work in analyzing Google’s ranking algorithm.
So let’s get started.
The Website SEO Checklist
Website Framework and Set Up
Your website setup is crucial to your search engine optimization operations. Google wants to serve quality websites to their users in search results. There are many key algorithm indicators that deal with the structure of your site. In this section we are going to look at the individual characteristics your site must have.
Does your website support Schema.org Microformats? Schema.org Microformats is a code markup that structures data so search engines can better understand the information on webpages. In this video Matt Cutts explains that there may not be a direct correlation between Microformats and SEO but there are many instances where it will increase search click through rate which is a huge ranking factor. VIDEO
Links and Backlinks – Trust
We have labeled this section as such because the name of the game in today’s SEO world is how much Trust Google has in your website. Moz has their quantitative grade of a website’s Trust and it’s called
MozTrust. Majestic SEO has their version and it is called TrustFlow. Their are many factors about your website, as you will see, that go into how Google Ranks your site, but how much they Trust you is at the top of the list.
In this section of the SEO checklist we are going to address different factors which will increase or decrease the trustworthiness of your website as it relates to links and backlinks, as well as, making your site more structurally optimized.
Backlinks to Your Website
Diverse Backlink Anchor Text - This ranking factor was the primary focus of the Google Penguin Update. For a long time SEO professionals would develop a high number of backlinks with the same basic keyword phrase they were attempting to rank for. There may be some small variations but the same basic phrase was always present. This update penalized websites who had these unnatural link profiles. Backlinks from High Quality .com Sites - There are thousands of books written on this topic so I will just cover a few points. Forget Page Rank, that is over and done. You want link from trusted websites. Websites that have a high MozTrust or TrustFlow. News outlets, Wikipedia, popular blogs, well know brands and businesses are all examples. Five of these links are worth 50 or more links from irrelevant, unknown sites. Backlinks from High Quality .edu and .gov Sites - This is also a topic that has been covered at length. Just like the above example 1 link from say Harvard.edu can shoot your trustworthiness to the moon and your rankings will follow. Now very few people can procure such a prestigious link, however, there are many different methods of developing these links that are also 100% White Hat. Here is an excellent infographic on strategies that work from the guys at QuickSprout. Natural Link Profile Development - Have the links pointing to your website been developed over time or has there been a sudden dramatic increase? If a link profile looks like it has been developed using shady SEO tactics this will significantly hurt you website's rankings. Limited Reciprocal Links - These types of backlinks can look like link exchanges which are strictly forbidden by Google. Links from Google News Articles - This will also go a long way in establishing your relevance and authority. If you have links from articles that are good enough to be in Google News, that link juice will certainly flow your way. Even better, if you can get an article or post in Google News get ready for the traffic and SEO benefits because they are going to come. Link from DMOZ.org - DMOZ.org is the gold standard of web directories. It is not easy to get listed but if you have not at least submitted your website you are missing out on a huge ranking boost opportunity. Backlinks from Websites with Domain Age - Do you have links coming from websites that have been around for a while. This is another indicator of a quality link profile.
Diversity of Linking Domains - If all your links are coming from just a few websites in can look suspicious but at the very least won't carry much weight for ranking consideration. VIDEO
Links From Your Website
Outbound Links to Reputable Sources - This is a big one. By linking out to other high quality sources you will increase the trust, relevancy, quality and usefulness of your content which will have inherent SEO benefits. Make sure you are doing so to support your writing and adding value to your content. Links to References and Sources - This is like the above section but for this you can link out to specific resources, facts, figures and numbers you have cited in your posts. This is usually done in the footer section. No Links to Bad Neighbor Sites - Examples of these types of sites are those that host malware, have poor quality content, are involved in link schemes. I highly suggest that you use a tool that will scan you website and report any of the potentially harmful links. No Links to Bad Neighbor Sites - Examples of these types of sites are those that host malware, have poor quality content and are involved in link schemes. I highly suggest that you use a tool that will scan you website and report any of the potentially harmful links. Well Though Out Internal Linking Structure - Have you put time and thought into the way your pages and posts link to one another? Special attention must be paid to contextual internal links within your pages and posts. When you have the primary keyword phrases of one page being linked to by another, using that keyword phrase as the hyper link text, it increases the relevance of that page for that term. VIDEO Eliminate All Broken Links - This is an easy one. There are tons of tools out there, including Link Dynamo, that will scan your website in under 5 minutes and report any broken links.
Eliminate All Broken Links - This is an easy one. There are tons of tools out there, including Link Dynamo, that will scan your website in under 5 minutes and report any broken links.
Your Website’s Content
This is one of the lengthier sections of the checklist and it is also one of, if not the most important for search engine optimization. We discuss the content of your website. When Google ranks web pages and determines the quality of a website the biggest factor is the content. This can make or break success in search.
Does your website provide useful, quality and relevant content? - I could go on for days about this subject. Google's algorithm is sophisticated enough now, combined with user behavior like repeat visits, to tell if your content is useful to your visitors. Do you have thoughtful, helpful quality content and relevant or is it an after thought. Take this post for example. If you have made it this far in the checklist you must be getting some value from it. Just do us a solid and share it! VIDEO Eliminate All Thin, Useless Content - This is an extension of the above section but deserves special mention. Is your website riddled with short, thin content? If so you need to get to work. This was the primary focus of the Google Panda Update which effected a huge number of websites. Google's primary focus is to provide the most relevant results to their users for a given search term. If your content is not useful and relevant there is no reason to use your website as a result. Enough said. VIDEO No Duplicate Content - Very simple, don't have it. Make sure all the content on your website is original. Do not take content from other sources and sites to use on yours. If you have to use your own content more than once, use the Canonical Tag. Use of the Canonical Tag - This is an extension of the duplicate content section. If you have content on your website that has to appear more than once, use the canonical tag. It will attribute the duplicate content to a single source on your website. User Reviews and/or Blog Comments - User interaction with your website is a strong indicator that you run a reputable website with quality content. User Reviews and/or Blog Comments - User interaction with your website is a strong indicator that you run a reputable website with quality content. User Generated Content - Content that is created by the users of your website has a tremendous positive impact on a number of ranking algorithm indicators. It shows people believe you have a quality website that they want to interact with. Original content can be ranked for a wide range of search terms. It increases a number of key on page statistics that Google looks at when ranking websites. I could go on and on but the point is that if you can get users to generate content for you it will help your SEO rankings in many different ways. Proper Use of H Tags Including H1 - Your website needs to properly use H tags for keyword optimization and the structure of pages. The use of these tags is a way to tell Google what your pages and posts are about in an elevator pitch. Only use 1 H1 tag with your primary keyword, 1 or 2 at the most H2 tags and increasing frequency (within reason) of H3 through H6. Don't use the same keyword phrase in each tag. Build the theme or topic with them. We are going to get into semantic search SEO later in the article but for now think about how these tags and keyword selection relate to each other to form the topic or theme. Are Your Images Optimized? - This is an extension of the page load speed section. There are many tools you can use to compress images. This will save space on your server and dramatically speed up your website. Your Site Does Not Have an Excessive Number of Ads - An excessive number of ads will degrade user experience. Anything that reduces user experience is reflected in your user and on-page stats which will hurt your rankings. This could also include ads above the fold. Pages are Not Over Optimized - The Google Penguin Update covered in the backlinks section is said to have also targeted pages that are over optimized. An example of this would be a page or post that has gone overboard trying to rank for a single keyword. Proper Keyword Density - This is not nearly as important as it once was, however you do want to make sure that no one word or phrase is used excessively. Excessive would constitute over 3%. Use Latent Semantic Indexing - This refers to how words within your text relate to one another. This is how Google extracts the topic, theme and/or meaning behind a page or post. In the old days (a couple of years ago) SEO Professionals would simply optimize for a keyword phrase. Now we must optimize for the meaning of a particular subject. In the video below there is a great example of this concept. VIDEO No 404 Pages - 404 errors or page not found reduces the overall quality of your website and user experience. Good Grammar, Spelling and Readability - This may seem like a given but readability is one that many people do not pay close enough attention to when writing. Do you have a lot of long, run-on and hard to read sentences? If so you need to go back and possibly re-write some of your content. Use Videos Whenever Possible - People love videos. They like watching a video much more than reading text. If you are producing video content and uploading it to YouTube, the video page has a very good chance of ranking well in search. Having a link in the description will help your SEO efforts. If you embed videos in your pages and posts, whether you created them or not, this will also increase key ranking statistics like time on site and dwell time. This search engine optimization checklist is a perfect example.
Image Alt Tags - Search engines cannot see images. Image alt tags describe the images to them. Do yours have this markup?
In this section we take a look at the performance of your website because it directly impacts the usability for visitors. If visitors have a poor experience on your site the key indicators will show it and it’s bad news for your SEO efforts.
Page Load Speed Under 2 Seconds - If your website's pages take any longer than 2 seconds to load you can't check this off the list. There are many different things you can do which include optimizing images, minifying HTML / CSS / Java Script, reducing http requests and using a content delivery network. The simple point is that all things being equal Google will rank the site higher that has the faster load time. To test this you can use Google's Page Speed Insights Tool.
99.9% Site Up Time - Do you have quality hosting? Do they guarantee 99.9% up time? Are you monitoring your up time? If you didn't answer yes to all these questions you need to correct it. This may involve migrating your site to a new host but it will be well worth it down the road.
Page and Post Code
We have discussed what kind of content your website needs to have. Now we are going to look at the SEO code your posts and pages need to have to properly communicate to search engines what they are about. These factors will ensure you get maximum credit for all the hard work you have put in to your pages and posts.
Validate HTML and CSS - Sloppy error ridden code will defiantly hurt your rankings. This may not be as easy of a fix as some of the other items in this SEO checklist but it is absolutely worth cleaning up. There are many tools available online for validation. Free Formatter is an example of a HTML validation tool. Proper Character Length of Title Tags and Meta Descriptions - Make sure that your title tags are 50 to 60 characters long and your meta descriptions are no longer than 155 characters. Any longer than that and they will be truncated in search results which can impact the SEO relevancy and decrease search click through rates. No Duplicate Title Tags or Meta Description - If you have 2 or more pages with the same title tags and/or meta descriptions each version will essentially fight the other dividing the potential rankings among them. In other words if you are, knowingly or not, trying to rank the same two pages for the same keyword phrases, neither is going to rank very high. Keyword Positions in Page Title Tags - We all know that having the primary keyword we are targeting in the Title Tag of our pages and posts is a must. Did you know that having the keyword at the front, or even better, the first word makes a big difference? It does according to an Analysis done by Moz.
Description Tags that Generate Clicks - While Google does not use the description tag for traditional SEO purposes, it absolutely uses Click Through Rate of search results. If your page or post is getting clicked on more than another site's who are ranking a few spots above you for a particular search term, this tells Google that your result may very well be more relevant. Therefore it only makes sense to write meta description that are going to generate as high of a Click Through Rate as possible.
Social Media is an important channel for any business because it can bring in loads of traffic, customers and awareness. It is also important for SEO for many reasons but primarily it establishes trust in the eyes of the search engines. All legitimate Brands and businesses have social media profiles and pages. Even if you are a small business or a one man show you can compete with anyone else in this category.
Do you have Social Media profiles for your business on the major networks? - I get it. There is only so much time in the day. Not all companies can be everywhere and do everything, nor can they afford a dedicated social media manager. Well, you don't have to. Create a business profile and/or business page on the major networks. I recommend the following in addition to any niche (your niche) specific networks not listed below: Facebook Google + LinkedIn Twitter Reddit Instagram Pinterest Site Supports Social Mark Up - Facebook Open Graph tags, Twitter Card markup and Pinterest Rich Pins are some examples of this markup. It allows you to better optimize how your posts and pages will look when shared. This will positively impact social related ranking signals. Update Regularly - Now I know some of you are saying I don't have the time or resources to create content and constantly update every account. Well you don't have to if you work smart. Use a service like Buffer to update all your accounts at once. Post links to articles and videos relevant to your business. Robust social media accounts with 2 to 3 posts a day will definitely increase your website's trust factor. VIDEO
Does Your Website Have Social Shares - While there is debate as to if there is a direct correlation between social shares and rankings it is the case that they do create brand citations. Brand citations increase relevancy and trust which improves SEO.
As you can see by this checklist many of the SEO ranking factors Google uses can easily be incorporated into your website. White hat methods for improving your site will increase your rankings over time. You will never have to worry about penalties and you can become known as an authority in your industry vertical. The goal of search engine optimization should always be to increase the trust and authority of a website. The better you are able to do this the more exposure you will get in organic search.
If you want to take your SEO to the next level we suggest taking a look at Link Dynao, the #1 White Hat
Link Building and SEO Tool. If you have found use in this checklist you will love our flagship product. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us.