I like to think of SEO as building a house. You wouldn’t just randomly start building walls and hope the house comes together. It helps to have a plan, but even with that, you must lay a solid foundation before adding more layers and eventually building the house.
The SEO checklist we’re about to dive into is the foundation. It’s what will get your house standing before you fill it with content and fun decorations. From fixing broken links to optimising page speed, this checklist has everything you need to make sure your SEO strategy stands strong on a solid foundation.
Ready to start your SEO journey? Here are 25 tried-and-tested ways to increase your search traffic.
SEO Basics Checklist
SEO basics are the foundations of your SEO strategy. Without paying attention to these basics and getting them right, you won’t see much in terms of results.
You do not want to skip a single step and miss out on potential search traffic, so make sure you follow this checklist and check off each box as you go:
#1. Set Up Google Search Console (GSC)
Google Search Console is a powerful SEO tool from Google. It’s 100% free, and you can use it to understand how Google views your website, what content is performing well in search engines, and to identify any technical SEO issues.
Here’s a list of all the things you can do with Google Search Console:
- Identify the errors on your website.
- Monitor your website’s performance in search results.
- Get notifications about any manual actions taken against your website.
- Submit a sitemap for faster indexing of pages on your website.
- Track the number of backlinks pointing to your website and more
- See what keywords drive the most traffic to your site.
Setting up a GSC account is an absolute must for every website owner.
#2. Install Bing Webmaster Tools
Similar to GSC, Bing Webmaster Tools is another free SEO tool from Microsoft that gives you insights into your website’s performance in Bing search results.
Remember, Bing is the second most popular search engine after Google, controlling about 8.85% of the search engine market. That means any traffic you can get from Bing is a bonus.
Bing Webmaster Tools comes with a bunch of features, including:
- Analysing your website’s performance in Bing search results.
- Submitting an XML sitemap for faster indexing.
- Tracking inbound links pointing to your website.
- Identifying potential SEO problems on your site and more.
Installing Bing Webmaster Tools is a quick and easy process. All you have to do is sign up, submit your website, and use some of the provided suggestions to optimise your website for Bing.
While at it, don’t forget to track your website’s ranking on Bing using a Bing Rank Tracker tool such as AccuRanker, SEO Powersuite, or SE Ranking.
#3. Set Up Google Analytics
How would you know if your website is improving if you don’t track it? That’s the purpose of Google Analytics. It’s a powerful tool from Google that gives you insight into your website’s audience, traffic sources, and conversions.
While GSC and Bing Webmaster Tools give you insights into your search engine performance, Google Analytics gives you an in-depth look at how your website’s visitors behave.
You can use it to do things like:
- Track the number of visitors to your website.
- Measure the effectiveness of your SEO campaigns.
- Analyse user behaviour on your website.
- Track conversions and goal completions.
- Measure the performance of individual pages and more.
Setting up a Google Analytics account shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes. All you have to do is sign up and add the tracking code to your website.
#4. Install an SEO Plugin such as Yoast SEO, Rank Math, or All-in-One SEO
After setting up GSC, Bing Webmaster Tools, and Google Analytics, it’s time to install an SEO plugin.
These plugins will help you optimise your website’s content for search engines and ensure it’s both user-friendly and search-engine-friendly.
Popular SEO plugins include Yoast SEO, Rank Math, and All-in-One SEO. They come with features such as keyword optimisation, XML sitemap generation, readability analysis, link management, and more.
We recommend Rath Math for the following reasons:
- It’s easier to use
- Has more SEO features
- Doesn’t bog down your website’s speed
Rank Math can also help you handle technical SEO tasks, like creating canonical URLs, setting up redirects, etc.
#5. Create and Submit a Sitemap
Google might have advanced a lot in terms of crawling, but it’s still not perfect.
As a website owner and SEO master, it’s your job to ensure the search engine finds and indexes every single one of your web pages.
One way to do that is by creating and submitting an XML sitemap.
An XML sitemap is a list of all the URLs on your website. It helps search engines know how many pages you have and which ones to index.
Creating an XML sitemap isn’t complicated, but it does require some technical knowledge. Your best bet would be to use an SEO plugin such as Rank Math or Yoast SEO for easier creation and submission.
For more information about XML sitemaps, check out this post:
#6. Generate Robots.txt File
Robots.txt is a file located on your website’s root directory, and it helps search engine crawlers understand which pages to index and which ones not to index.
There are pages on your website that you don’t want search engines to index:
- Login page
- Admin page
- Thank-you/confirmation page
- Contact page
- Checkout page
Robots.txt will keep search engines away from the wrong pages and help them better understand what content to index.
Again, here’s an article you want to read if you’re looking for more information about robots.txt.
If you have a WordPress-based website, we recommend using Rank Math, as it will help you generate and manage your robots.txt file with just a few clicks.
#7. Technical SEO Checklist
After you finish the basics, it’s time to peek under the hood and dig into the technical aspects of SEO.
Technical SEO refers to the behind-the-scene activities that enhance user experience and ensure search engines can efficiently crawl and index your website.
It includes things like page speed optimisation, mobile optimisation, structured data implementation, etc.
Here are some of the most important technical SEO activities you should consider:
#7. E-A-T Signals
EAT stands for:
=> Expertise: Ensure you have the necessary expertise by regularly publishing authoritative content.
=> Authority: Establish trust by providing evidence of your authority on the topic.
=> Trustworthiness: Show that you’re credible and trustworthy in everything you do
Put simply — EAT signals Google that your website is a reliable source of information.
And unless you have this signal, your website won’t rank in the top positions.
Whatever your website is about, you must ensure it has high levels of EAT signals.
That is especially important if your website is in the YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) category.
YMYL websites provide advice on topics such as finance, health, and law.
#8. Make Sure Your Website is Mobile-friendly
Google has been pushing mobile-first indexing since 2019, and it’s not like they’re about to stop anytime soon.
Your website should be fully optimised for mobile devices. Not only will this help you rank better on mobile searches, but it will also improve user experience and boost conversions.
To check if your website is mobile-friendly, use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool.
It also helps to watch for any changes in the mobile search algorithm, as they can significantly impact your SEO performance.
#9. Make Sure Your Website Loads Fast
Google is all about providing the best user experience, and page speed is a big part of that.
Make sure your website loads fast on desktop and mobile devices.
Website load speed is also one of Google’s ranking factors, a serious one at that. In 2021, they even intensified their stance on page speed and are now using Core Web Vitals to measure website performance.
To check your website’s load speed, use Google’s PageSpeed Insight.
You also want to head over to GSC and check the report under “Page Experience.”
Ideally, ensure your website’s URL is as close to 100% as possible (on both mobile and desktop).
Aim for 90% and above, and you’ll be in good shape
Ideally, you want your website to load in less than 3 seconds.
Here are a few tips to help you improve page speed:
- Optimise images
- Leverage browser caching
- Use a content delivery network (CDN)
- Enable Gzip compression
- Use a caching plugin
- Remove unnecessary plugins and scripts
If you’re struggling to speed up your website, here’s an article you want to read.
Optimise Website Speed: 7 Methods Using Performance Tests And Improvement Practices
#10. Find and Fix Crawling Errors
Crawling errors stand in the way of search engine bots and can prevent them from crawling your website’s content.
You want to ensure there are no crawling errors on your website, as this will prevent you from ranking for your target keywords.
The best way to find and fix crawling errors is by using an SEO tool like Ahrefs or SEMrush.
An SEO tool will analyse your website in-depth and identify all the crawling errors. From there, you can work on fixing them and improving your website’s overall SEO health.
Common crawling errors include broken links, 4xx errors, and redirect chains.
#11. Find and Fix Indexing Errors
Crawling and indexing are two different things.
Crawling is when search engine bots find and analyse your content. On the other hand, indexing is when they add your content to the search engine index.
And just because Google crawled your page doesn’t mean they indexed it.
Indexing errors prevent search engines from correctly understanding and indexing your web pages.
Here are some of the most common indexing errors:
- Submitted an URL marked as “no-index.”
- Removed a page from your website without using a 301 redirect
- Blocked crawlers with robots.txt
- Submitted a URL not found (404)
- Redirect Error (301, 302, etc.)
Again, you want to use GSC to find and fix indexing errors.
You can log into GSC and click on the “Coverage” report to find these errors.
You’ll find a list of all your website’s errors and warnings here.
Alternatively, you can use SEMrush (even their free trial) to audit your website and find these errors.
Once you’ve identified the errors, you can work on fixing them to improve your SEO performance.
#12. Use HTTPS
HTTPS is the secure version of HTTP, the protocol over which data is sent between your browser and the website you’re connected to.
It’s a lightweight ranking factor and could give you an edge in the SERPs.
Since 2014, Google has been using HTTPS as a ranking signal.
Not having a secure website affects the following:
- Your website’s security: HTTPS protects data in transit and allows people to make sure they’re talking to the right server.
- Your website’s SEO performance: Google uses HTTPS as a ranking signal. The more secure your website is, the better your chances of ranking higher in the SERPs.
- Your website’s trustworthiness: Visitors will feel more secure with the “green padlock” in the browser bar.
- Your Users’ Data Security: HTTPS will protect your users’ data from getting intercepted.
Remember, not every SSL certificate is the same.
You want to get an SSL certificate from a trusted provider like Symantec, GeoTrust, or Comodo.
If you already have the certificate, you can run an SSL Labs Test to see what grade the certificate gets.
The higher the grade, the better.
#13. Eliminate Duplicate Content
Duplicate occurs when you have the same content on more than one page.
It occurs when your landing pages, product pages, or blogs are duplicated, mostly without you even realising it.
In such cases, Google will only rank one of the pages.
And you can’t predict which one.
As an SEO master or website owner, you must ensure they’re ranking the right page.
You can use canonicalisation to eliminate the confusion and help search engines rank the right pages while ignoring the rest.
You can also use the noindex tag if a page you do not intend to rank contributes to the duplicate content problem.
#14. Check for Canonical Tags
Canonical tags are HTML elements that tell search engines which version of your content you want to rank.
It’s a powerful tool, but only if used properly.
You do not want to canonicalise your pages by mistake.
For example, if you have a blog post with multiple versions (desktop and mobile), you might want to canonicalise the desktop version.
You do not want to canonicalise the wrong version by mistake.
The most common culprit for duplicate content is the homepage.
For example, your homepage might be accessible in three ways:
If so, you will want to canonicalise to one version.
If you’re a WordPress user, you can use a plugin like Yoast or Rank Math to canonicalise your pages.
#15. Find and Fix Broken Links
Broken links occur when a page can’t be found or has been moved to another URL.
For example, you might have a page on your website that links to another page, but the other page has been deleted or moved.
In such cases, the link will be broken and won’t work.
Broken links affect your SEO performance and hurt user experience since it doesn’t let the users access the content they are looking for.
You can use a tool like SEMrush, Ahrefs, or Screaming Frog to find and fix broken links.
Once you have identified the broken link, you can either remove it or redirect it to another relevant page on your website.
How to Find Broken Links:
Use Ahrefs to scan your website to find broken links.
Go to the “Internal Page” report and click “Issues.”
You will see all the broken links on your website.
Fixing Broken Links:
Once you have identified the broken link, you can either remove it or redirect it to another relevant page on your website.
Using Screaming Frog
Go to “Client Error (4xx) report on the right-hand side.
You will see all the broken links with an error status code.
#16. Add Structured Data Markup
Structured data markup is the code that tells search engines what your content is about.
It’s like providing a map to the search engine so they can better understand your website and its content.
Google supports different structured data types, like products, FAQs, recipes, how-to’s, breadcrumbs, reviews, articles, organisation information, and events.
You can use a tool like Schema.org to identify the type of data markup that best suits your content.
Implementing Schema is even easier with a WordPress SEO plugin, especially RankMath.
It has built-in support for popular types of structured data markup:
Once you have added the correct Schema, test it with Google’s Structured Data Validating Tool to ensure everything works correctly.
#17. Fix Orphaned Pages
Orphaned pages are pages on your website that do not link to any other page.
It’s like an island; no one can reach it because there are no links leading to it.
Orphaned pages are bad for SEO because they are hard to find and crawl by search engine bots.
Google may not even index them, meaning all the effort you put into creating them will be wasted.
You can use a tool like SEMrush, Ahrefs, or Screaming Frog to find orphaned pages. Use any of these tools to run a website audit and locate the orphaned pages.
Once you have identified the orphaned page, you can either remove it or link it from another relevant page on your website.
Keyword Research Checklist
While keywords may not be as important as they used to be, keyword research is still critical to SEO.
If you want your website to rank higher in the search engine, you need to optimise your content for relevant keywords.
Here are the SEO checks for keyword research:
#18. Build a Keyword Strategy
You don’t want to optimise your website content for a random list of keywords.
A successful SEO strategy requires a well-defined keyword strategy.
It goes beyond finding a good list of keywords and writing your website content to target them.
You need to be more strategic and plan for the long term.
First, you want to list your top 10 or so competitors, their DA, and the keywords they rank for. For each keyword they rank for, you can also check their search volume, the websites linking to them, and the quality of their content.
You can use an SEO tool like Ahrefs or SEMrush to get this data.
The idea is to use these sites to benchmark your content’s quality and link-building efforts.
We suggest you enter this information in a spreadsheet to track your progress and adjust as needed.
Next, prepare another spreadsheet with a list of all the keywords related to your business, their respective keyword volume, difficulty, featured snippet potential, intent, and a checkbox for each keyword.
Enter as many keywords as you can, hundreds if possible.
These are the keywords you will use to create content and build links.
Finally, review the list and identify the keywords you want to target first. A simple trick is to choose the keywords with high search volume and low keyword difficulty.
You want to prioritise these keywords in your content and link-building efforts.
Here’s a template you can bite.
#19. Use Google Suggest to Find Long Tail Keywords
When starting, you don’t have to pay for expensive tools for keyword ideas.
Google Suggest is a great tool for coming up with long-tail keywords.
Simply type in a keyword, and Google will suggest related search terms.
However, searching for each keyword manually can be time-consuming.
If you don’t have the patience, a better alternative would be Soovle, another free tool that scrapes Google Suggest, YouTube, Yahoo Answers, and other search engines for related keyword ideas.
With Soovle, generating hundreds of long-tail keywords you can target should only take minutes.
#20. Steal Featured Snippets
If one of your pages ranks on page 1 or 2 of Google, you can get your content featured as a snippet.
Here’s what you should do:
Look at the current featured snippet and analyse the content of the featured page.
Take note of whether it’s a:
- Short paragraph
- Bullet point list
You also want to analyse the website and the page itself. You primarily want to pay attention to the words used and how they appear in the snippet.
Now it’s time to replicate this on your website.
You want to edit the page by adopting a similar content structure and words as the featured one and submit it to Google for indexing.
Now wait and see if your page gets featured as a snippet. If you do everything right, your page will usurp the current one.
#21. Pay Attention to Your Content-Length
If you want your content to rank higher on the SERPs, you must pay attention to its length.
Longer content tends to rank better because it provides more value and allows you to cover all angles of a topic.
An average blog post on the first page of Google is 1447 words long.
So, how long should your blog post or page be?
The right answer is it depends.
What you want to do is run that question into Surfer SEO. Surfer SEO will analyse the top 20 posts on Google and calculate the optimal length for your content.
It will even tell you what keywords and phrases to use and how many times.