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Check out my Really, Totally Ultimate SEO Checklist .... it's huuuuuuuuuuuuuge!

The Really, Totally Ultimate SEO Checklist for 2019

The Ultimate SEO Checklist with 109 actionable SEO checks anyone can verify. 93 On-Page SEO tests, 16 Off Page SEO actions, 28 Site wide audits, 65 page content checkups and a whole lot more!

Remember You don't need to apply every single step in this checklist. With Search Engine Optimization you just need to do more than your competitors.

1
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO

Check 1 : SEO your domain name

What

This is your www.mydomainname.com or mydomainname.com or mydomainname.info.

Why
  • The right domain name doesn't have the influence it used to (when Exact Match Domains were a fast way to rank) but its still a factor if you use it right.
How
  • Generally try for a .com, not because it carries more weight with Google but because most people assume .com and often use it when creating a link to you. That's link juice you would miss out on because of accidents and errors beyond your control.
  • But ... if you are focused on serving one country only use the correct ending for that country instead of .com (e.g. .co.uk for United Kingdom, .es for Spain, etc.) but buy the .com as well and redirect it to your actual domain.
  • If you have a brand name use it for continuity. If someone has nicked it use something like brandnameonline.com
  • If you don't have a brand name yet consider one that includes at least one of your core keywords - e.g. bedlinendirect.co.uk for bedlinen related products.
  • Even if you use keywords make sure your domain name is unique so Google can recognize brand names around the web - e.g. batteryguy.com for a battery related website
  • Be careful not to go too niche as changing a domain name because you are widening your topic area is expensive ... just ask Moz who were once SEOMoz but found their name limited their ability to target the entire online marketing audience!
Examples
  • Good example: batteryguy.com - for an online store selling batteries and battery related products. Keyword included and brand mentions can be seen
  • OK example: blindfiveyearold.com - catchy, memorable, provokes curiosity, brand mentions can be seen but doestn't contain keywords.
  • Bad Example: irelfink.info - nonsensical, difficult to remember, strange ending.

Just a clarity point on this. Strange domain names can be successful but usually need some other marketing to establish the name (e.g. TV advertising established confused.com as an insurance website).

Warnings
  • Do not change the domain name on an established website unless you know how to 301 redirect pages individually.
  • If you want to change your domain name consider other side effects and how to handle them - e.g. will returning visitors be disorientated and leave?
2
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO

Check 2 : Secure your site with SSL / https

What

Make sure your website has an SSL so all pages start with https:// and have a little green padlock beside the url

Why
  • Google and other search engines give preference to secure websites because ... they're secure!
  • Browsers like Chrome will fire all sorts of warning messages if your website is not secure sending many hard won visitors reaching for their back button.
How
  • The company which hosts your website should be able to sort this for you so no technical skills are required.
  • If your hosting company can't install an SSL for you move host. As you will learn in this checklist you need a host that can work with you if you want to be a SEO success.
  • Two website hosting companies that I use because they will do the whole job for you are:
When
  • Always! Even if your website is not a shop, has no login and no forms asking for user data. Google just likes secure websites and that's it!
Examples
  • Good Example - https://link2light.com and the green padlock shows next to the domain name in browsers
  • Bad Example - http://insecuresite.com

Note if you have an SSL but the padlock is shown as crossed out it could be because some elements of your page (such as images) are still using a non secure link. For example in your source code your site calls images like this have this:

<img src="http://mypicture.png" alt="My alt text" />

You will need to ask your developer to resolve this or Get SEO help.

Warnings
  • Google treats http and https as two completely different sites so if your website is established you will need to do site wide, page level redirects before changing in order to keep your current rankings.
  • Get SEO help to do this if you don't know how as getting it wrong can have catastrophic results on your visitor numbers!
3
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO

Check 3 : Get a local host

What

Host your website on a server that is in the geolocation of your target audience. If your audience is worldwide ignore this and see the checks later about good quality hosting and Content Delivery Networks (CDNs).

Why
  • If your website is hosted on a server halfway round the planet from your target audience your pages are going to be slower to load and Google gives preference to fast loading content.
How
  • Ask hosting companies where their servers are located before purchasing. Just because a company is based in the U.S. it doesn't mean their servers are there.
  • Once you have purchased a hosting service (or if you currently have one) double check by finding your IP address and then looking up its location on a service like IP Location
  • Many hosting companies give you a choice of server locations. Two hosts I use are:
When
  • If your target audience is in a specific geolocation - e.g. United Kingdom, North America, etc.
Warnings
  • If you need to change host make sure your new website is fully up and running on the new host before changing the DNS of your domain name.
  • Most hosting companies will do the transfer for you and change your domain DNS when you first purchase their services. Avoid any that don't, it is a sign of poor customer service to come!
4
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO

Check 4 : Host in a good neighborhood

What

Cheap hosting companies will allow customers to create websites which send spam emails, malware and viruses as well as crash entire servers via poor coding. You don't want to be anywhere near them.

Why
  • Many websites use hosts that place multiple sites on one IP address. If one site starts spamming or hosting viruses the entire IP address can be blacklisted causing browsers to fire warning messages to your visitors that your site is unsafe and they shouldn't open it.
  • If another webmaster cocks up their code and crashes the entire server well ... your website is going to go down as well ... and Google doesn't like unreliable websites!
How
  • Good hosting companies monitor websites for malware and suspicious activity and block accounts when necessary.
  • A quality host will halt code on a website that is putting a server in danger of crashing.
  • Ideally you want a Virtual Private Server (VPS) as a minimum because these have their own IP address and ring fenced resources that others can't affect but expect to pay around $250 per year for a quality, high speed service. That might not make sense until you have high visitor numbers.
  • Two secure hosting companies I use won't even allow spammers to get started are:
When
  • Always!
5
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO

Check 5 : Add Google Analytics to your website

What

Google Analytics is a free to use tool which collects data about where your visitors come from and what they do on your website. There are other services but this is the only one that connects in seamlessly with Google Search Console (coming up below!) and services like Google Ads.

Why
  • If you are going to SEO you will need to see what works and what doesn't on your website. Analytics provides this data but only if you can interpret it correctly - more on that later.
  • Further down this checklist we'll reference specific analytics data and how you can use it to take action which will improve your rankings.
How
  • Here is the setup tutorial
  • Most platforms (like WordPress) have plugins or are already set up so you can add Google Analytics without needing to insert the code Google will give you.
  • Sit the Google Analytics Course by Google itself - its free and will introduce you to what you can see and how you can use it
When
  • Register as soon as possible. Google Analytics will only start recording data from the day you set it up so the sooner it starts the better.
6
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO

Check 6 : Register your domain with Google Search Console

What

Google Search Console is a free service no webmaster serious about SEO can be without.

Why
  • Google Search Console provides a massive amount of data useful for Search Engine Optimizing including:
    • How often you are being shown in Google's search results and how often people click through
    • Which pages rank for which keywords and where they really rank (Worldwide and by country)
    • What people are searching for when they find you.
    • Any issues the Google Crawler has when accessing your pages and understanding your content - more on these later
How
When
  • Register as soon as possible. Google Search Console will only start recording data from the day you set it up so the sooner it starts the better.
7
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO

Check 7 : Connect your Google Analytics and Google Search Console accounts

What

Get your two key Google data sources working together and sharing data

Why
  • Getting your Search Console Data into Analytics places almost all your key data in one place and so makes your SEO work more efficient.
How
When
  • Do it as soon as you have set up Google Search Console and Google Analytics and start being efficient from day one
8
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO

Check 8 : Set up goals in Google Analytics

What

Goals tell you when a visitor has carried out an action that you want them to (like viewing a certain page, buying a product or signing up for a newsletter).

Why
  • Knowing how many visitors are converting (carrying out the action you want them to) helps you monitor how successful your website is in turning visitors into customers or clients.
  • If you carry out design changes or A/B testing (see later) you can compare before and after performance objectively.
  • Conversion optimization (getting as many visitors as possible to do what you want them to do) is a key part of SEO because it reduces Pogo Sticking (visitors coming to your website from Google but then bouncing back) and increases Dwell Time.
How
When
  • All websites should have goals, otherwise you are flying blind and you don't know what is really working and what isn't
Warnings
  • Activating Ecommerce Tracking does require extra code to be inserted on certain pages of your website. Some platforms (like Wordpress) may offer plugins to do this. If not ask your website developer or Get SEO help.
9
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO

Check 9 : Set up Funnels in Google Analytics

What

Funnels track how many visitors move from one step to the next step (such as moving through a checkout) and what percentage abandon the process.

Why
  • Goals tell you what percentage of your customers are converting - doing what you want them to.
  • Funnels tell you how close they get to converting. They are popular on Ecommerce websites to follow:
    • What percentage of visitors put something in the cart
    • What percentage then proceed to the checkout page and enter their details
    • What percentage then proceed to the payment page
    • What percentage get to the 'Thank you payment received' page (this would be one of your goals)
  • Funnels are also useful outside of Ecommerce if you have a long onboarding process - e.g. customers move through 3 pages of sales chat before being asked to sign up to a service.
  • Using funnel data helps you improve your website's design so less people abandon processes you want them to complete.
How
When
  • All websites that have designed pathways they hope visitors will follow before they convert should have Google Analytics funnels set up so visitor movement can be analyzed and improved.
Examples
  • You set up a funnel on your Ecommerce site and find 10% of your visitors put something in the cart.
  • The funnel data tells you 90% of these potential customers abandon the purchase at the payment page.
  • You add two more different ways to pay to your website - e.g. PayPal and Amazon and find the number of visitors who complete their payment increases by 200% (Yes, I have seen this happen!)
10
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO

Check 10 : Register your domain with Bing Webmaster Tools

What

A very similar service to Google Search Console but telling you how you are ranking and performing in Bing and its search partners (like Yahoo).

Why
  • Don't ignore Bing even if it has a tiny official share of search in your targeted location. Via its many search partners it has more share than you think.
  • Many webmasters report traffic from Bing converts better - in other words it sends higher quality visitors!
How
  • Here is the setup tutorial
  • Most platforms (like WordPress) have plugins or are already set up so you can add the code required to verify ownership without needing techie knowledge.
When
  • Register as soon as possible. Bing Webmaster Tools will only start recording data from the day you set it up so the sooner it starts the better.
11
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO

Check 11 : Set up a Pingdom Monitor

What

Pingdom checks your website is up and running every few minutes by trying to get a response from your server. It will carry out this test from different places around the world.

Why
  • Google doesn't like ranking unreliable websites even if they have great content
  • How do you know if your site is reliable when your getting your 40 winks? Pingdom
  • Pingdom will notify you immediately when your website is down as well as providing monthly reports detailing how many times your server was down and for how long.
  • Pingdom will also tell you about changes in your server response times and with page loading speed being essential to rankings knowing this, especially if it is getting better or worse, is absolutely essential.
How
  • Here is the signup page
  • There is a small monthly fee to pay but if your site is unreliable then all the time, cash and effort you spend on your SEO could be for nothing.
When
  • As soon as possible. Pingdom only starts monitoring from the day you set up your account.
12
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO

Check 12 : Learn about VPNs and Private Browser Windows

What

Search engines know where you are located. VPNs (also sometimes called Proxy Servers) allow you to access the internet from anywhere in the world so even if you are sitting in New York you can make it look like you are hanging out in Singapore.

Google knows what websites you have visited. Private Browser Windows (sometimes called 'Incognito Browsing') hide your past activities from search engines.

Why
  • Search engines like Google use something called Personalized Search - what you see in the search results depends on where you are geographically and what websites you have looked at in the past.
  • If you want to know where you really rank in a certain country or region or what other people in that country or region see when they carry out searches you will need a VPN and an Private Browser Window.
  • VPNs will also show you what advertisements are firing in the search results in that particular region ... these are your competitors as well and may help explain why you seem very popular in one place but get less visitors from another.
How
  • To find out how to activate an Private window in your browser just Google "[Browser Name] open private window" - e.g. "Chrome open private window"
  • VPNs are paid for services although they're usually about $5 - $10 per month so they won't break the bank. Here are some that I use:
When
  • Private Browsing windows come with most browsers for free. They'll stop you suddenly thinking you rank #1 because you see yourself at the top of the search results when the only reason you are there is because Google is showing it to you only because you spend a lot of time on your website.
  • VPNs are only necessary if you need to see the search results in an area different to the one in which you are located.
Warnings
  • Google is a like a rabid dog when it comes to figuring out your location - it will try all sorts
  • Just because you have a private window open and are using a VPN doesn't mean Google won't take a different guess as to where you are.
  • To check this do a search on Google and scroll down to the bottom of the search results. In the bottom left Google will tell you where it thinks you are and why.
  • You might have to try using your VPN to access the web from several locations in the area you want browse before you can shake Google off!
13
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO

Check 13 : Javascript checking

What

Different websites use different types of code to create (aka render) what the visitor sees. Javascript is one of these code types.

Why
  • If your website uses javascript in a certain way to show key areas of your page (the main content, navigation menu, internal links, etc) it will take much longer for Google to find your content, recognize any changes you have made or find other pages on your site.
  • The delays can be days, weeks or months because, for Javascript content, Google (and other search engines) use something called Second Wave Indexing.
  • If SEO is key to your website's success I strongly recommend moving key content out of Javascript. There are a number of fixes available so you don't need to change your design.
How
  • Here is how to check if your website is over using Javascript:
    1. Open the source code of one of your pages (here's how to view your source code and activate a search box)
    2. In the search box type in some of the key text that appears on the page - for this page I might type in 'Here is how to check if your website is over using Javascript'
    3. If this brings up no results it is because your content is in Javascript and it will take Google a loooooooooooong time to index it.
    4. Next try typing in some of the texts from your navigation menu - I might try 'SEO Glossary' as it is one of my menu options.
    5. If this brings up no results your navigation links are in Javascript. Google won't discover them straight away.

There are plenty of ways to resolve Javascript issues but they are technical fixes. Either talk to your website developer of Get SEO help.

When
  • Do this right now and get started on resolving the issue immediately if SEO is important to you.
  • You are slowing down search engine crawlers and by doing so you are search engine optimizing with one hand tied behind your back!
14
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO

Check 14 : Is your website mobile friendly?

What

How does your website look on smartphones and tablets. Is it easy to see the content and easy to navigate to other pages?

Why
  • Google operates a policy called Mobile First Indexing. If your website doesn't look great on mobile devices then expect your rankings to suffer.
How
  • Test your website using the Chrome Mobile Devices Simulator (Here is the tutorial).
  • Test with various devices (smartphones and tablets) and see how your site looks.
  • If there are clearly issues most platforms (like Wordpress) offer 'Responsive' themes, themes that look good in all screen sizes. Change to one of these.
  • If your website is bespoke coded or based on a theme that has been heavily modified you will need to Get SEO help.
When
  • Right now and periodically, especially after you have had changes made to your website design or installed a new theme or skin on a platform like Wordpress.
Warnings
  • Many webmasters say "I've checked my Google Analytics, I get almost no traffic from mobile, I'm not prepared to invest in a responsive website."
  • Google will rank mobile friendly websites higher when content and quality are similar - regardless of where your customers come from - so this is not an optional piece of SEO!
15
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO

Check 15 : Install a favicon and Apple icon

What

These icons are used in Google's search results and when people save your website to their favorites or bookmarks on desktops and mobile devices.

Why
  • You just look more professional in the search results if you have a favicon and that inspires a higher click through rate.
  • A great favicon and apple icon are strong reminders to those who have bookmarked you that you exist! Don't lose this potential to get repeat traffic.
  • For looking great in bookmarks specifically consider this. Google knows:
    • When someone has carried out a search and clicked through to your website
    • If that same person comes back to Google and carried out the same search ... even if it is several days later.
    • So your overall aim is to make sure as many of your visitors as possible convert ... and never return to Google to search the same thing
    • A strong presence in the bookmarks/favorites of potential customers is one way of doing this.
How
  • There are lots of favicon and apple icon generators online which can take your logo and change it into the icons you need.
  • Most platforms (like Wordpress) have plugins or tutorials which explain how to add these icons to your website.
  • If you have a bespoke website you will need FTP access to your server to upload the icons and make changes in the code. If that's not what you do talk to your website developer or Get SEO help.
When
  • On all websites as soon as possible - it can take search engines a while to recognize your favicon so the sooner you have it done the sooner it will be showing in the search results.
16
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO

Check 16 : Install breadcrumbs with structured data markup

What

Breadcrumbs are those links you see near the top of websites like Amazon:

e.g. Home > House and Garden > Garden > Lawn Care

Structured data markup is code which is added to the breadcrumbs that makes it clear to search engine crawlers that these are breadcrumbs.

Why
  • Breadcrumbs help visitors navigate and promote the fact that you have comprehensive content in certain topic areas that might interest them and keep them on your website longer ... and the longer they stay, the more likely they are to convert!
  • Structured data markup helps search engine crawlers understand the structure of your site and see your silo structure (what topic/product areas you have on the website as a whole).
  • Google will rank a page higher if it sees it as part of a set of pages on the same theme/product range, that's why it many search engine optimizers recommend creating 'supporting articles' for core content pages. It creates a cluster and breadcrumbs with structured data markup help search engines see that structure.
How
  • Most themes and templates for platforms (like WordPress) have breadcrumbs but you might need a plugin.
  • There are usually plugins for most platforms which will add structured data markup to your breadcrumbs.
  • If your website is a bespoke creation or you have heavily modified the theme you may need to ask your developer to install breadcrumbs and markup or Get SEO help.
  • Once you have updated your website check everything is working with Google's Structured Data Markup Tool.
When
  • If you have a website with more than 50 or so pages of content
  • If you simply have a website about your business (Home, About, Contact, etc) avoid breadcrumbs as they have no user value and you do not have enough content for silos
17
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO

Check 17 : Add JSON-LD to your pages

What

This is a block of code that tells search engines specific things about your website in general (such as your address if you are a bricks and mortar business) or which social media accounts are associated with the site.

Why
  • This is a great way to make sure search engines like Google pick up everything they need to know about you first time rather than trying to figure it out from the content it finds on the page.
  • It can help you get ranked in the right place much faster.
  • You don't have to include your address in JSON-LD but if you have a local business your will find it is especially powerful for local searches because it tells Google exactly where you are located rather than leaving the crawler to guess based on the content of your page.
How
  • You can generate your JSON-LD block of code at Steal our JSON-LD
  • Many platforms (like Wordpress) have plugins which you can install that will allow you to inject your JSON-LD code into your website.
  • If your website is a bespoke creation or you have heavily modified the theme you may need to ask your developer to install JSON-LD or Get SEO help.
  • Once you have added your JSON-LD to your website check there are no errors using Google's Structured Data Testing Tool.
When
  • All websites as soon as possible
Warnings
  • JSON-LD is an evolving field. Check regularly to see what new information you can add. Your JSON-LD may stop working if you do not do so.
  • There are heavy penalties for abusing JSON-LD. If you attempt to put false information here you will probably lose your rankings completely.
18
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO
What

Check your logo size is no larger than it needs to be (in terms of dimensions) and is fully optimized so the image file size is minimal.

Why
  • Google likes pages which load fast and it makes all the difference to mobile users on slow connections.
  • If your logo is larger than it needs to be it will be slowing down your page loading time ... page, after page, after page!
How
  • Checking your logo image dimensions
    1. On a laptop or desktop open Firefox, left hand click on your logo and click 'View Image Info'
    2. In Dimensions if the 'scaled to' size is smaller than the dimensions shown to the left you should reduce the size of your logo. I'll explain how in a moment.
  • Even if there is no scaling you should optimize your logo image file size. The following steps will allow you to change both dimensions and file size:
    1. Get an image editing program like Photoshop (Photoshop only costs about $10 per month and is well worth it as you will need to optimize all of your images - Get it here).
    2. Open your logo image in Photoshop and follow this tutorial making sure the image size is no larger than you need it and the quality is as low as possible without affecting the visual quality of your logo.
    3. When saving your logo call it something slightly different to the file name of your original logo.
    4. Replace your old logo with your new smaller file - the exact process for this will depend on your platform (e.g Wordpress) and theme so Google these to find out how to do it on your website.
    5. If your website is a bespoke creation or you have heavily modified the theme you may need to ask your developer to reload your logo or Get SEO help.
When
  • Make sure you optimize your logo now and, if you get a new logo, that the image is has the smallest dimensions possible and the file size is minimized before loading it onto your site.
19
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO

Check 19 : Set up canonical urls

What

The same page can have multiple urls due to coding errors or bad linking. The most popular issue happens with the home page which could be:

  • mysite.com/ and
  • mysite.com/index.php and
  • mysite.com/index.html
Why
  • It just makes it harder for search engines to understand your website if multiple pages have the same url.
  • In extreme cases Google might penalize you if it things you are trying to dupe it into thinking your website is larger than it is.
How
  • Ideally you should first fix errors that cause duplicate urls (e.g. bad links on your own pages)
  • Next you need to add a canonical tag to your website code which states the url you want the search engine to remember. It looks like this:
    <link rel="canonical" href="https://howtoseo.link2light.com/how-to-seo-your-website-guide.php" />
  • To see if your website has a canonical tag:
    1. Open the source code of one of your pages (here's how to view your source code and activate a search box)
    2. In the search box type in 'canonical'
    3. If this brings up no results you are not using the canonical tag.
  • Most platforms (like Wordpress) have plugins which will allow you to add a Canonical tag. Many other platforms (like X-Cart) come with canonical tags built in.
  • If your website is a bespoke creation or you have heavily modified the theme you may need to ask your developer to create the code necessary to generate reliable canonical tags or Get SEO help.
When
  • As soon as! Confusing search engines with multiple urls for the same page is not SEO!
Examples
  • The url of this page is https://howtoseo.link2light.com/ultimate-seo-checklist.php
  • If you open https://howtoseo.link2light.com/ultimate-seo-checklist.php?status=test you would get ... this page ... again.
  • Why would such a url exist? Perhaps there is a bad link in another page left over from when a developer was working on it. Perhaps someone else on another website linked to it this way. Perhaps my XML sitemap (more about what that is later) has errors. All sorts of possible reasons and hence why a canonical tag is so important.
20
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO

Check 20 : Set up your main language

What

Right at the start of your source code should be a tag which defines the main language of the page. For an English language website it would look like one of these:

<html lang="en"> - html English language declaration

<html lang="en-US"> - html US English language declaration

<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" lang="en" xml:lang="en"> - xhtml English language declaration

Why
  • The language tag helps search engines orientate themselves and rank you correctly, expecially important if your content is thin on text (e.g. videos, images, etc.)
How
  • To see if your website has its language set:
    1. Open the source code of one of your pages (here's how to view your source code.)
    2. You should see the tag in the first few lines. If all you see is <html> your language is not set using the latest methods.
  • Most popular platforms (like Wordpress) should offer you a way to set your language to correct the html tag. Google your platform to find how you can change your settings.
  • If your website is a bespoke creation or you have heavily modified the theme you may need to ask your developer to edit your code or Get SEO help.
When
  • Its not an absolute must have if your website is in the English language as search engines are very good at spotting this language ... unless your page is text thin (e.g. it is mostly images/videos/etc).
  • If you can't edit this yourself and you are making a list of things for your developer to do add this to the list. It is a 1 minute job so why not.
  • I'd strongly recommend adding the language tag at all times for non-English language websites.
21
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO

Check 21 : Check visual accessibility

What

Is your content easy to access/read on mobile devices, especially the font size. Is there a strong enough contract between text colors and their backgrounds?

Why
  • Google will mark you down if it thinks your content is difficult to access/read and one of your competitors offers similar content with clearer presentation.
How
  • To check if you have accessibility issues:
    1. In Chrome open developer tools (Ctrl+Shift+J in windows, Ctrl+Option+J on a Mac)
    2. In the window that opens look for the menu at the top which starts 'Elements','Console',etc.
    3. The last option on this menu is Audits (you might need to click the double arrows >> to see it). Select this.
    4. Make sure Device is set to Mobile and the 'Accessibility checkbox is ticked.
    5. If there are contrast issues they will be flagged up here.
  • If you have contrast issues the WebAIM Contrast Tool should help you find new combinations without needing to change your colors too much.
  • Some platforms (like WordPress) allow you to adjust text and background colors within themes or directly in the css file.
  • If your website is a bespoke creation or you have heavily modified the theme you may need to ask your developer to edit your code or Get SEO help.
When
  • On all websites - check this now and after any website redesigns / theme changes
Warnings
  • If you are editing Wordpress css files make sure you are doing so in the child theme or your changes will be overwritten next time Wordpress updates.
  • If your website uses scss (instead of css) changes you make will be overwritten the next time the css file is recompiled so you will need to edit the pre-compiled code (this is usually a job for a developer).
  • In other words, if in double, Get SEO help.
22
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO

Check 22 : Install FontAwesome

What

Font Awesome is a special text font made up of icons. There is a free version and a paid version with access to more icons. For most small to medium sized websites the free version provides more than enough choice.

Why
  • If you use a lot of small icons then each one has to be requested from your server. Although their file sizes are usually tiny the request-wait-receive process slows down your page loading speed ... and search engines reward fast loading.
  • Images require ALT tags (because search engines want them) but these look ugly while very small images are loading ... or if they fail to load.
  • Font Awesome can be installed on your server or called remotely ... but it is just one call, not several
  • Font Awesome can really spice up your website in many other ways, making it visually more attractive which will help keep your visitors longer and so increasing the likelihood they will convert.
How
  • You can find the latest FontAwesome here along with documentation on how to install and use it.
  • Some platforms like Wordpress offer plugins for extra easy integration.
  • If your website is a bespoke creation or you have heavily modified the theme you may need to ask your developer to install FontAwesome or Get SEO help to do it.
When
  • For all websites in order to improve the content visually
  • To replace small icons and images which are image files
Examples
  • The bullet point next to this text is FontAwesome, nice isn't it? ... and you can make it any size or any color you like without affecting page loading speed.
23
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO

Check 23 : Respect Web Protocols

What

These are just those little things that visitors expect to find in certain places like the location of a search box and your contact details. These are not official protocols but they are user expectations that will improve user experience on your website.

Why
  • Yes, its great to be innovative but its more important to provide a great user experience. Placing certain key parts of a website in strange places is annoying and distracting.
  • Keep your visitors focused on what they came for rather than frustrating them or creating interference.
  • If visitors can find what they are looking for they are more likely to stay, if they get frustrated they are more likely to Pogo Stick (go back to Google and choose someone else) which could affect your rankings.
How
  • The search box should be at the top of the page, usually in the top right area but anywhere clear at the top is fine.
  • Your contact details should be at the bottom right of the page.
  • Language/currency/region change options should be at the top and bottom of each page.
  • Links to key areas of your website - e.g. 'help', 'about' should be at the bottom of the page in the footer area even if they appear elsewhere.
  • If you use 'infinite scroll' make sure there is a way users can get to the bottom footer area.
  • Your logo should also be a link to your home page.
When
  • All websites, always!
24
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO
What

Your footer area is what you find at the bottom of the page and should contain contact details (on the right) as well as links to key areas of your site, social media links and one Call To Action.

Why
  • If someone has got all the way to the bottom of your content they must like you! Make the most of it, keep them a little longer and perhaps even convert them!
How
  • Place your contact details bottom right (its where people expect to find them). This does not have to be your address but a telephone number of a clear link to a contact form is a must.
  • Include a Call to Action such as signing up for a newsletter.
  • Repeat your navigation menu or a summary of it - remind them you have a lot more content!
  • If you have social media profiles include them here, someone who has got all the way to the bottom of your content is much more likely to become a follower.
  • Include links to key content areas of your site that might not stand out in the navigation menu - e.g. a Knowledge Base, etc.
When
  • All website, always
Warnings
  • For websites which use 'infinite scroll' remember to provide a way for customers to get to the footer area. Visitors will look for it and become frustrated if you are stopping them from getting there!
25
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO

Check 25 : Remove popup windows

What

Those windows that suddenly popup with a special offer or asking you to give feedback about the website.

Why
  • When these were new they were quite effective but now everyone is using them there is a definite amount of 'banner blindness' creeping in - I ignore them completely.
  • They annoy visitors when incorrectly used. How can I give feedback about your website when I've just arrived?
  • They distract the visitor from what they were doing making them less likely to convert.
  • Fans of popups will tell you how well they work to do things like collect emails but they don't realize the negative effects on conversion rates caused by distracting visitors.
  • Google has said it will down rank pages which have popups that fire immediately in a way that obscures the main content of the page - so for popups that have to be (like 'Do you accept we use cookies') make them clear but not obtrusive.
  • Ask yourself "What is wrong with my main content" and fix that rather than creating a pop up window. Is your call to action clear? is your above the fold content attractive? Have you included clear links to related content?
How
  • There are numerous set ups that create popup windows, too many to list here. Ask your developer if you are not sure how to get rid of yours ... and make the web a better place, one less popup at a time.
  • Popups can still have a place if they are highly targeted to the page they pop up on. Vague things like 'Get an ebook free' cause more damage from conversions lost than any benefits they create.
When
  • All websites, always
26
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO

Check 26 : Cache your content

What

When an Internet user's browser (like Firefox) opens a web page it has to download the text content as well as images, styling, interactive features (javascript) and a whole lot more. You can tell browsers what to remember (what to cache) and for how long so they don't have to do this for every page as they move through your site or if the visitor comes back later.

Why
  • This makes your pages much faster to load for visitors that have been to one of your pages in the recent past creating a better user experience ... which leads to more conversions (visitors doing what you want them to like buying a product or signing up for something).
  • Search engine crawlers recognize when your website is suggesting browsers remember (aka cache) certain elements of the page and they know this provides a better user experience and they will reward you for it!
How
  • First decide what needs to be cached. Here are things worth considering:
    • css files - these dictate font colors, spacing, background colors, etc.
    • images
    • javascripts - these are bits of code that control interactive elements such as a predictive search box
  • Then decide how long each should be cached for. If you do not carry out any major changes on your site this can be far into the future. For example:
    • css files - 2 months
    • images - 1 month
    • javascripts - 3 months
  • Many platforms (like Wordpress) have plugins that allow you to set up caching or you may find detailed 'how to' tutorials if you Google your platform and 'caching'.
  • If your website is a bespoke creation you may need to ask your developer to set up caching or Get SEO help to do it.
When
  • Websites that have broadly stable content and where the content does not change too much.
  • Caching does not affect your new content and won't stop it showing, caching is about speeding up your current content.
27
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO

Check 27 : Submit XML sitemaps to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools

What

XML Sitemaps are special files you can register Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools which list all the pages of your site that you would like to have ranked in their search results.

Why
  • Search engine crawlers only put aside so much time to crawling any one particular website and for sites which are new or do not have much traffic it isn't long - this amount of resource is known as your crawl budget.
  • To make sure search engines spend their time wisely finding all your pages and not just the links they discover as they move around your site give them a list!
  • If you have a large site search engines might be slow in finding new content. XML sitemaps flag this fresh content to them straight away.
How
  • Most platforms like WordPress have plugins which you can install that will generate XML Sitemaps for you so no techie skills needed.
  • They will also tell you where the sitemap has been created so all you need to do is tell Google and Bing.
  • If your website is a bespoke creation you may need to ask your developer to create code that will generate a sitemap file for your content or Get SEO help to do it.
When
  • For websites with more than 20 pages of content, no need to do this if you have a simple business website with Home, Contact, About, etc.
  • As an emergency fix for websites whose navigation is created by javascript and so won't be crawled by Google very often. Its an emergency fix, permanent resolutions should be found for javascript generated material which is key to your content, navigation or other internal linking.
Warnings
  • If you need your developer to create code which will make sitemaps for your website expect them to be a bit grumpy and say things like "Google will just discover everything anyway". It's true but be firm, better if Google discovers everything tomorrow than in 2 or 3 months.
  • Uploading your sitemap XML file more often to Google will not make Google crawl your site more often (urban myth!).
  • Sitemaps are NOT a substitute to a sites crawl-ability. Your website's design and internal linking should make it possible for crawlers to 'slip through your site' as David Pagotto, Founder of SIXGUN, once said on Kate Toon's Recipe for SEO Success podcast.
28
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO

Check 28 : Consider a chat box ... carefully!

What

Chat boxes are those small windows (usually bottom right) of some websites where you can chat via typing to the person who owns the website or someone on their team (like a sales negotiator or support person).

Why
  • Chatting before buying gives many visitors confidence that you are genuine and confidence that they are purchasing the right product/service/course/etc.
  • Listening to pre-purchase questions from visitors will give you a host of ideas about what other content you could add to the website which might rank well organically.
  • Remember just because you think your product/service is obvious because you are familiar with it that does not mean your website visitors feel the same way!
How
  • Most chat service are run by external companies and will have a monthly charge attached to them but many are highly affordable even to small businesses.
  • Select a chat service which will not show on the website when there is no one there to reply to questions.
  • Many platforms like Wordpress have plugins which will allow you to add a chat service with no technical skills required.
  • If your website is a bespoke creation or a heavily modified theme you may need to ask your developer to add the code needed for the chat box to run Get SEO help to do it.
When
  • If you have a product or service that customers will have questions about
  • If you have a product or service with many variants or options
  • If you have suitably trained people that can answer questions who are available to man the chat box at least during business hours.
Warnings
  • DO NOT use a chatbox that shows when it is unmanned with some glum message like 'Customer Support: Offline'. Every negative emotion (like frustration) that visitors experience when visiting your website reduces the possibility of conversion.
  • DO NOT use a chatbox and man it with poorly trained staff. Yes, it just causes more frustration and visitors go elsewhere to buy.
  • NEVER simply try sending visitors on chat boxes to urls because "you've already answered that there". Its poor customer service, you wouldn't do it in real life ... even if you have answered the same question 1,0000 times!
On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO
29
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 29 : Target your content to benefit you

What

If you are about to create content ask yourself "How will this benefit me or my business?"

Why
  • I have clients who come to me with insanely popular content on their websites but it generates no backlinks or sales. Don't spend your time creating this.
  • What content can you create that will turn your visitors into customers without being a straight out sales pitch?
  • What content can you create that is related to your product or service and could be so good that people would create backlinks to it even if they did not buy? You can use the link juice from those backlinks to rank other pages on your site higher.
How
  • Plan your content carefully. Are you creating something that shows how your product/service can help? I'm not talking about outright sales patter but perhaps a case study of where using your product/service helped achieve something for you or one of your clients
  • Think wide - Husqvarna gave Robotic Lawn Mowers to a number of people in return for detailed reviews that they could post on their website.
  • Think issue solving - Say you sold bedlinen. You could create content around '12 ways to sleep sound on hot nights' which provides multiple pieces of advice including, but not limited to, your product. This makes for richer content that search engines are more likely to rank and people are more likely to link to.
  • Think 'How to' - even how to do something with a competitors product or service if you offer a product or service which is better or makes it easier ... you can make that point at the end of the content.
When
  • Do this planning before you start creating content to avoid huge time wasting activities.
  • There is no harm creating content you want to create from time to time so long as the bulk of your content is targeted at people who could become your customers or could create valuable backlinks to you.
30
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 30 : Choosing keywords

What

If you want to rank in the search engines and get visitors from organic search you need to know what you want to rank for. These are known as keywords even if they are phrases.

Why
  • Most webmasters make the mistake of either trying to rank for something too competitive and so never getting anywhere or ranking for phrases searched so rarely that they hardly generated any visitors at all.
  • You need to find keywords where you have the resource (time, budget, etc) to rank and which are popular enough to bring you a reasonable amount of traffic.
How
  • Follow these steps:
    1. Create your own list of keywords.
    2. Get more ideas from Google Keyword Planner and discard the highly competitive ones (Google Keyword Planner will flag them)
    3. Type phrases into Google and see if Google 'autocompletes' them (starts making suggestions before you click search). If it does then even if Google Keyword Planner says they are not searched ... they are!
    4. Carry out searches on Google and look for the 'related searches' and 'people also searched' boxes in the search results.
    5. Check any new keywords you have found in Google's Keyword Tool Planner again and flush out the highly competitive ones.

Note: there are many paid keyword tools out there. I rarely use them to start with even on medium sized websites because:

  • It is easier to rank fast for less popular keywords (known as gray tail keywords) but keyword research tools have less accuracy at this level, often claiming the keywords are never searched when reality ... is very different.
  • Google's suggestions and auto complete provide more than enough ideas to get a website established. Then when it is performing strongly I can consider more competitive options.
When
  • Before you start creating any content
  • On content you have
Examples
  • A client came to me to see if I could help improve their rankings
  • Their products were Original Equipment replacements and were all listed as 'X brand interchangeable product'.
  • We changed the wording to 'X brand replacement product' and they immediately started receiving traffic from search engines.
  • The issue was people did not search 'interchangeable', they searched 'replacement'.
  • This is an example of editing current content so it contains the right keywords.
31
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 31 : Niching your keywords

What

Look for opportunities to 'niche down' your keywords, going from broad subjects to highly targeted topic areas within those subjects.

Why
  • If the topic theme of your website is just generally in a crowded space with many competitors you might find it hard to choose keywords which are not highly competitive.
  • Looking for niches and sub niches will reveal areas where you could still rank with the keywords you want but used more specifically.
  • Niches and sub niches are also a great place to find inspiration for further and more focused content creation no matter what your topic area is.
How
  • Without a big SEO budget your unlikely to rank for "Best restaurants in New York 2019".
  • Niche it down - "Best Bistros in New York 2019"
  • Niche down again - "Best Thai Bistros in New York 2019"
  • Niche down again - "Best Thai Bistros in Manhattan 2019"
  • Niche down again - "Best Thai Bistros to lunch at in Manhattan 2019"
  • or - "Best Thai restaurants with nut free dishes in Manhattan 2019"
  • You get the picture - there is always a niche!

Check each niche down version appears in Google's autocomplete, suggested searches or 'people also search'.

This does not need to be exact matching, you're simply looking to get a gauge of, for example, "do people search for nut free Thai places to lunch in Manhattan?"

Examples
  • It is much easier to rank for 20 keywords which are searched 100 times a month (2,000 potential visitors) than one keyword which is searched 2,000 times per month.
32
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 32 : Research how your keywords are used

What

How do people use your keywords when searching and when are they using them because they are ready to convert?

Why
  • If you focus your content on being 'the solution' to something it is more likely to appeal when Internet users see it in the search results, improving your click through rate and ultimately your rankings.
How
  • Most searches on the Internet are questions - How, Which, When, What, Why. If your content is focused on answering these you will attract visitors to click through and visit your website.
  • You can find common questions:
    • In topic related forums - what questions do people ask that you could create content for?
    • On Q&A websites like reddit and answerthepubliccom (which also has a question generating tool on its front page)!
    • Set up Google Alerts to see what news stories get generated about your topic and how you might create content from these.
    • I ignore Yahoo questions because it is full of spammers building links by asking and answering their own questions.
    • I ignore Quora because people are paid to ask questions so many are just baiting people to respond (e.g. "Why are people in Florida so nasty?").
  • Creating 'How to do something on your competitors website' or 'with your competitors product' can be a great way to get your alternative in front of prospective clients - especially if your competitors have poor 'How to' support content!
  • Vague questions and queries come from Internet users who are not ready to convert. Ranking for 'laptops for sale' won't help much. Only once the person has chosen the laptop they want will they then search for that model and that is where you want to rank.
  • Create content which compares things (e.g. '[product X] vs [product Y]'), this is at a point close to when the user is ready to convert and making a final choice. Don't be afraid to compare your product or service realistically with competitors.
  • Creating content which targets Internet users when they are ready to buy is known as targeting the Buying Cycle - ranking only at the moment when users have decided what to buy, or are in the final steps of deciding what to buy.
When
  • Always! Carefully crafted content ranks fast and delivers visitors. One great piece of content can get people rolling into your website while 20 pieces of poor content go nowhere and produce nothing.
33
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 33 : Create the most awesome content

What

When you know the content you want to create dig around on Google and ask yourself "How can I create something substantially better than this?"

Why
  • Google is not going to rank thin content over full and comprehensive information so don't even start if you can't do better.
How
  • Your content does not need to be new, it can be repurposed (recreated using a different format - e.g. can you make a video or infographic to explain something that is complex in text form?).
  • Is the current content which ranks dull and lifeless (even if it is comprehensive), can you bring the content to life better?
  • I've see numerous cases where the better presented content has outranked the original because it has been moved into a format that is much easier to understand or digest!
  • Is the current content which ranks incomplete? I was surprised when I searched 'ultimate seo checklist that no one had actually made one. They had made content they called 'ultimate seo checklists' but they were way to short and missed way too many SEO steps to be truly 'ultimate'.
  • Research, research, research - if you are really going to create content that adds more value than what is already out there it might take time. Brian Dean of backlinko researched 188 SEO tools to make one almighty article. He called it an 'insane' amount of work but guess what - it ranked at the top of Google because no one had ever written in that detail and at that length.
When
  • For every piece of content. As I mentioned above you can spend the same time creating one awesome piece of content which really delivers as you can spend on 20 pieces which Google completely ignores. This is not a volume game, its a quality one where quality = useful.
34
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 34 : Add Stats to your content

What

Unique statistics and data from whatever field or industry you are in.

Why
  • The web is full of people waffling about stuff, unique statistics will set you apart from being just 'another one who thinks something or other about a something or other ...'.
  • They are also true link magnets because they are (or should be) so useful.
  • Creating your own stats can often throw up attention grabbing facts others just don't know - remarkable content gets remarks ... or in other backlinks, shares and mentions.
How
  • This doesn't always mean days creating and gathering surveys. Often the stats are out there waiting to be collected as High Income school found with their article about how RVs depreciate.
  • Comparing one set of stats with another set is also a great method - e.g. 'house prices in [place X] versus house prices in [place Y] over the last 20 years' when placed in related content combines stats with comparisons.
  • Alternatively do go out there and get stats - people love to say what they think. These are quick to generate if you have a social media following as they can be set up within certain platforms like Facebook. If your audience is small advertising to promote your survey is still a relatively low cost option on Social Media.
When
  • When ever you can. Stats change general content into remarkable content because it creates something factual that sparks people to react. You have proved a point and others will want to use it to back up their view or shout about how they disproved it.
Examples
  • Neil Patel (a leading figure in the SEO industry) once said "Content is no longer king" which, if true, would make a lot of this checklist redundant!
  • I wrote a blog post setting out why I thought he was wrong - Is Neil Patel right, content isn't king anymore?.
  • Neil got a backlink and some publicity!
35
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 35 : Visually optimize text content

What

I talked earlier about text and background color contrasts. These are Google ranking factors. But there are also other tweaks to consider which you can see in action on text heavy websites like news outlets.

Here are some visual aspects of text to check:

  • Chunking - make sure you use small paragraphs, see how the major news sites do it - they have spent a lot of money researching this.
  • Paragraph spacing (top and bottom margins) - create generous spacing between paragraphs making them easier to read.
  • Line heights - another one you can steal from news websites.
  • Fonts - Google fonts now make a wealth of fonts available to any webmaster for free.
  • Font header and paragraph combinations - there are plenty of articles on line where graphic designers and typographers share eye catching header and easy read paragraph text combinations which work and make your content stand out from other sites.
  • Block quotes - break up long text even if you don't have images
  • Image use - also breaks up longer text
Why
  • Visitors get put off by 'heavy' looking text content which can be difficult to read, especially on mobile devices.
  • Visitors backing out increases pogo sticking (jumping back to the search results) and dwell time (how much time they spend on your site before returning to Google or whichever search engine they came from.
How
  • These changes usually need you to edit your css file but its not as tricky as you think on platforms like WordPress. You'll find many tutorials online to help you out.
  • If your website is a bespoke creation or a heavily modified theme you may need to ask your developer to edit your css or Get SEO help to do it.
When
  • On all text unless you are writing for an audience that is used to dealing with dense text (e.g. academics).
Warnings
  • Beware of themes that allow you to change your css but end up creating 'inline' styling which slows down page loading ... and as I might have mentioned once or twice before ... page load speed is important to SEO.
  • To see if you are using inline styling:
    • Open your source code and open the search box (here's the tutorial)
    • Search for style=. You are looking for code like this:
      <div style="font-size: 18px; line-height: 1.4em">
  • If your search shows style= occurs hundreds of times on your page you have an issue, a handful of times is no cause for concern.
  • In Wordpress make sure you have created a child theme before editing css or all your changes will be overwritten with the next theme update.
36
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 36 : Optimize your content title

What

This is going to be the main title people see when they arrive on your page and it is also (often but not always) the blue text they see in the search results pages.

Why
  • The obvious bit is that an attractive headline could get more people clicking through to you than your competitors and higher click through rates count..
  • The word order of your title has an impact on where you rank for your keywords.
How
  • You don't have much space to sell yourself in the search results - about 70 characters - so every letter has to count!
  • Decide whether you are asking the question or answering it - e.g. "How can I optimize images in Photoshop?" or "How to optimize images in Photoshop". You might want to experiment here over time to see which format appeals to your visitors more.
  • Reorder the words so your keywords are at the front - i.e. "Optimizing images in Photoshop: How can you do it?" or "Optimizing images in Photoshop: 3 easy methods".
  • Extend your title if you have room - e.g. "Optimizing images in Photoshop: 3 easy methods + free photo editing ebook". Your simply using all the space you have and providing more reasons for visitors to click through.
  • The extended text can often get your page ranking for something else (like 'free photoshop editing ebook').
When
  • There are things to be weighed up here. For example my keyword for this page is 'ultimate SEO checklist' and it is towards the end of the title. Why?
  • I'm banking on the start of the title being different from my competitors, causing my title to stand out and catch people's eyes in the search results .... we'll see how that works out ;)
  • In other words not every SEO rule is a hard and fast rule, compromises need to be made sometimes depending on goals
  • Remember you can always A/B test different titles - more on A/B testing later in this checklist!
37
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 37 : Optimize your url

What

The url for this page is https://howtoseo.link2light.com/ultimate-seo-checklist.php. The final part - ultimate-seo-checklist.php - should be a close or exact match of the content title.

Why
  • A key factor for Search engines is to see if 3 things match or are very similar - the url, the <title> tag and the <h1> tag. More on these tags shortly but for now make sure your url is a close match to the visible content title.
How
  • Getting great looking urls depends on your platform. In WordPress they are called permalinks and you can edit them when editing pages or posts. In XCart they are called Clean URLs and they are also easy to create and edit.
  • You may need to do a Google search and find out how to make sure you are using descriptive urls for your platform.
  • Strip out any stop words from your url such as 'it', 'and', 'the', etc.
  • Make sure you use hyphens between words - e.g. ultimate-seo-checklist.php not ultimateseochecklist.php - your url sometimes shows in the search results so let it do its own job of reinforcing the title while making it clear to search engines.
  • Make it evergreen, a url you won't need to change, by excluding dates - more on why to do this later in the content review section.
When
  • Descriptive urls are just so important to SEO. They should be in use across your site.
Examples
  • Note on this page I have not included 'Really, Totally' in my url. That's because I want to experiment with these lead up words but I need to keep the url stable over time or risk losing link juice (even with a 301 redirect).
  • Note also I haven't put the year in the url because this will always be my url for 'seo checklist'. Next year I'll update the content. If there are major changes I'll move this content to a new url called something like 'What was a SEO checklist in 2019 like?' and include a link there to the latest checklist.
  • ultimate-seo-checklist.php will always be my current content allowing one stable url to gain backlinks over time and ensure any users who bookmark it never end up looking at dated content which might harm my brand.
Warnings
  • If your content is established do not change any urls unless you know how to put 301 redirects in place.
38
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 38 : Make sure your visible title is in h1 tags

What

The main title of your content should, in the source code of your pages, be wrapped in h1 tags like this:

<h1>The Really, Totally Ultimate SEO Checklist</h1>

It might look a little different - perhaps like this

<h1 id="maintitle">The Really, Totally Ultimate SEO Checklist</h1>
Why
  • h1 tags tell the search engine what you want the main title of the content to be
  • If your page is bookmarked or shared on social media this might be the text that is used by default (depends on the browser and/or the social media platform).
  • A key factor for Search engines is to see if 3 things match or are very similar - url, <title> tag and <h1> tag. More on the title tag in the next check point.
How
  • Open your source code and the search box (here's the how-to)
  • Search <h1 and see how many times you find it. It should only occur once.
  • If there is no h1 tag you may need the help of a developer. If you are using a Wordpress theme or other Content Management System the correction is usually fast, simple and cheap. A few dollars via a contractor on Upwork will rectify the issue.
  • If you find multiple instances it could be because you are using the h1 tag in your content. This is all too easy in some platforms like WordPress where you can specify 'Heading 1' for parts of yor text. If this is the case you can correct this yourself.
  • If it isn't your content but the theme or website that is using the h1 tag multiple times you will need a developer to help you out.
When
  • You shouldn't need to check every page on your site. For errors caused by your theme or website a correction of one piece of code can correct hundreds or thousands of pages all at once.
39
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 39 : Check the contents of your <title> tag

What

The <title> tag is not visible on the page but you will see it in the browser tab. In your source code it will look like this:

<title>The Really, Totally Ultimate SEO Checklist</title>

Why
  • If your page is bookmarked or shared on social media this might be the text that is used by default (depends on the browser or the social media platform).
  • A key factor for Search engines is to see if 3 things match or are very similar - url, <title> tag and <h1> tag.
How
  • It's rare to find a website or platform that doesn't have <title> tags but I do come across them from time to time. To check if your website is using them:
    1. Open your source code and the search box (here's the how-to)
    2. Search <title to see the content of your title tags
    3. If there is no title tag you may need the help of a developer. If you are using a Wordpress theme or other Content Management System the correction is usually fast, simple and cheap. A few dollars via a contractor on Upwork will rectify the issue.
  • If the content of your title tags is very different from the h1 tags you need to resolve this.
  • In Wordpress its often because webmasters have used a plugin like SEO by Yoast which allows you to define the title tag content and then followed some bad advice like "make the content of the title tag different so you will rank for more things".
Examples
  • For this page:
    • url - ultimate-seo-checklist.php
    • <h1> - The Really, Totally Ultimate SEO Checklist for 2019
    • <title> - The Really Totally Ultimate SEO Checklist for 2019 • How to SEO
  • Note these are not exactly the same but they are similar enough to reinforce each other. Search engines like Google now clearly see what I claim the page is about ... next they will examine the content to see if I am genuine and truthful ... or spamming!
Warnings
  • Google might not use your title tag (in its search results) for certain search terms because it thinks some other content on your page will make a better summary. This is gold dust! Google is saying "for this search term I don't have good content but you'll do" ... so make that targeted content!
  • If Google does not use your title tag (in its search results) for the search term you are targeting it is saying your title tag is not an accurate title for your page's content. Its proposed alternative title works better. Give it some thought, maybe Google is right!
40
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 40 : Optimize your meta description

What

This is not visible in your page content but is used by Google and other search engines in ways which make it vital to SEO. In your source code it will look something like this:

<meta description="The ultimate SEO checklist with over 100 actionable SEO techniques anyone can apply, 41 site wide SEO checks, 47 checks to SEO your content and 11 advanced search engine optimization tips" />

Why

"Ignore the meta description tag because search engines ignore it" is probably the worst SEO advice floating around the web. Yes search engines ignore the meta description as a signal when deciding what the page is about but they use it in other ways.

  • Your meta description is often the black text which displays below your page title in the search results of services like Google.
  • Your meta description is often used when your page is shared on social media so it is a great chance to sell your content - especially when it is not you doing the sharing so you can't manually add the description in!
How
  • First check your website has a meta description (it does not, for example, come as standard with Wordpress - you will need a plugin). To check:
    1. Open your source code and the search box (here's the how-to)
    2. Search <meta desc
    3. If your meta description tag exists you should be taken straight there so you can see the contents in the quotes.
  • Because of where your meta description shows (in the search results and in social media shares) it needs to be a punchy, attractive summary of your content scrunched down into around 200 characters. Apart from your page title this is the only chance you have to sell yourself to potential visitors looking through Google's search results!
  • My general advice is that it should be the same as the first 200 characters of your page content which should also be a punchy, attractive summary of your content that will make your visitors want to stay longer and view more (like subheadings under newspaper headlines).
  • Make sure your core keyword is included in your meta description close to the start. Internet users who see your page in Google's search results will feel more confident that you have the content they want if they see the keyword phrase more than once in your listing.
Examples
  • Bad example:
    <meta description="SEO checklist, ultimate SEO checklist, complete SEO checklist, complete SEO list, SEO Tasks, SEO techniques, on-page SEO checklist, off-page SEO checklist" />
  • Good example:
    <meta description="The ultimate SEO checklist with over 100 actionable SEO techniques anyone can apply, 41 site wide SEO checks, 47 checks to SEO your content and 11 advanced search engine optimization tips" />
Warnings
  • Google might not use your meta description (in its search results) for certain search terms because it thinks some other content on your page will make a better summary. This is gold dust! Google is saying "for this search term I don't have good content but you're close" ... so make that missing content!
  • If Google does not use your meta description (in its search results) for the search term you are targeting it is saying your meta description is not an accurate summary of your page and it thinks its alternative content works better. Give it some thought, maybe Google is right!
41
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 41 : Get rid of your keyword tag

What

Your keyword tag is not visible on your page but can be found in the source code. It looks like this:

<meta keywords="SEO list, SEO checklist, ultimate SEO list, complete SEO list, ultimate SEO checklist" />

If your website has it ... get rid of it!

Why
  • All major search engines including Google completely ignore this tag. It was part of the Internet from yesteryear
  • Competitors will find it useful as a way to understand which keywords you are trying to rank for - why hand them this information?
How
  • First find out if it exists in your source code (many modern platforms or off the shelf websites won't have it):
    1. Open your source code and the search box (here's the how-to)
    2. Search <meta keywords
    3. If your meta keyword tag exists you should be taken straight there so you can see the contents in the quotes.
  • If you see a meta keyword tag but there is nothing in the quotes you don't need to take any action.
  • If there are keywords and you are using a platform like Wordpress there are usually ways to remove the keywords from within the admin area. Just Google "How to change meta keywords in Wordpress" or whatever your platform is
  • If your website is a bespoke creation or a heavily modified theme you may need to ask your developer to remove your keyword tag or Get SEO help to do it.
When
  • Check this for all pages on your website
42
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 42 : Include your keyword in your opening paragraph

What

The first visible text on the page after your h1 tagged title

Why
  • If your h1 tag, your title tag and your url all claim your content is about a certain keyword phrase (like 'ultimate SEO checklist') then your opening paragraph should contain that phrase by default.
  • A search engine crawler will find it very strange if its not there - the initial text should support your title tag, url and h1 tag ... not contradict them!
How
  • As I mentioned earlier your meta description should be a short, punchy but attractive summary of your page's content that will make people want to click through from Google's search results if they see it.
  • Your opening paragraph should be a short, punchy but attractive summary of your page's content that will make people want to stay longer and read more when they see it. Think of it as the subheadline under the main headline in a newspaper or magazine.
  • That means if you have sorted your meta description you also have your opening paragraph (or vice versa) and your core keyword should play a dominant role in this.
When
  • Include this approach in non text content as well (videos and podcasts) as Google is getting better and better at transcripting these ... and of course because your opening lines in other media should be a short, punchy but attractive summary of your content that will make people want to stay longer and listen/watch more.
Warnings
  • Later in this checklist I'll talk about semantically related words and synonyms - Google understands these so you don't have to use your core keyword literally, you could use words or phrases which mean the same thing (e.g. Joinery = carpentry = woodwork).
43
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 43 : Use synonyms of the keywords you are targeting in your content

What

Synonyms are words or phrases which mean the same, or nearly the same, as other words or phrases. Google and other search engines have databases of these.

Why
  • Synonyms are a signal to search engines that your content is rich and well produced giving them confidence that you will provide users with a great experience.
  • Search engines like users to have a great experience so they'll take it as one reason to rank you higher.
How
  • Get inspiration with a Thesaurus and edit your content as needed to spice it up.
When
  • This applies to all content in all formats - written, audio, video, etc.
  • Google is getting better and better and understanding non-written content so make yours stand out both now and for the future as this technology develops.
44
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO
What

Semantically related words are words that are associated with your core keyword. My core keyword for this page is "Ultimate SEO Checklist". A related word would be "Search Engines". It would be strange for content about search engine optimization not to include the words "search engines".

Why
  • Google knows what words are related to which topic areas and its understanding of this grows constantly.
  • Semantically related words give Google confidence that:
    • Your content is what you claim it is about (via your title, url, h1 tag, opening paragraph, etc.)
    • The more Semantically related words your content uses the stronger the signal that your content is in depth, not shallow and thin.
  • The more confident Google (and other search engines) are that you have the most comprehensive content, the higher you will rank, often outranking those with stronger backlinks.
How
  • This is where skilled writers who are native speakers in which ever language your content contains come into their own and why great content costs while $100 articles read like verbal vomit!
  • If you don't have 'the gift of the gab' your content will struggle to rank, there is no quick fix.
  • How wide a vocabulary you need to use is defined by whoever is currently ranking. If their content is thin and/or basic you have a real opportunity to take their place!
When
  • Using Semantically Related words applies to all content in all formats - written, audio, video, etc.
  • Google is getting better and better and understanding non-written content so make yours stand out both now and for the future as this technology develops
45
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 45 : Understand Entity Salience and apply it

What

An entity is a 'thing' and salience is how 'dominant' it is on a page. I have mentioned a Thesaurus on this page, that would be an entity. But in the overall context of this page I don't talk about it much or topics related to Thesauruses so its salience is low.

I do however talk about 'SEO' here and there but more importantly I talk about entities related to SEO - search engines, javascript, content, indexing, etc., etc.

You want the entity you are writing about to be so dominant that Google is in no doubt your page is relevant to searches about that entity. Entities can be things, people, organizations, subjects, places, books, etc, etc, etc.

The entity for this page is 'SEO Checklist' - that is a thing. 'Ultimate SEO Checklist' is not a thing, it is a description of a type of 'SEO checklist'.

Why
  • Increasingly search engine optimizers are starting to talk about Google as an 'entity' search engine rather than a 'keyword' or 'keyword phrase search engine'.
  • Google (and other major search engines) are becoming smarter all the time to the point that they can even recognize entities which are not expressly mentioned in the content.
How
  • Look at the top ranking pages right now (your competition) and identify what entities they mention and talk about which support their main entity.
  • Gather all the relevant supporting entities mentioned in the top 20 ranking pages for the keyword phrase you are targeting and make sure you use them in your content.
  • That might take some hours of research on your part ... but no one said top rankings were easy ;)
  • If you can identify other supporting entities not mentioned by your competitors include those to.
  • Supporting entities aren't just lists. They should be included within the context of your content.
When
  • This applies to all content in all formats - written, audio, video, etc.
  • Google is getting better and better and understanding non-written content so make yours stand out both now and for the future as this technology develops
Examples
  • How would Google the crawler bot know if I am talking about Google the search engine or Google the organization on this page? Because if I was talking about Google the organization there should be entities on the page like:
    • Google's address
    • Alphabet - Google's parent company
    • Key personal at Google such as the CEO
    • Other things Google does like driverless cars and satellite mapping
    • etc.
  • OK, yes I've mentioned them now but not with any contextual text around them whereas I have created a lot of contextual text around SEO entities such as keywords, title tags, JSON-LD, etc.
Warnings
  • This is not quite so critical in news stories where Google can see that a certain topic is trending. In this area (and this area only) fresh content has a very big sway on rankings even if it is relatively thin content.
  • But such content won't be ever-green, it will quickly disappear into the mists of time, while deep content can be referenced (i.e. get new backlinks) for years to come.
46
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 46 : Remove waffle to improve entity salience

What

Sentences that contain no meaning and have usually just been added to pad an article out for the purposes of making it look longer.

Why
  • Google understands Entity Salience (see above) which means it also understands groups of words that contain no entity - e.g. "Its not very pleasant so you probably wouldn't want that to happen to you. The best thing to do is avoid it happening altogether and avoid any stress" - 28 words which mean nothing.
  • Content containing no entities is easy for Google to spot and shows Google your content may be long but contains little of value.
  • Low value content creates bad user experiences and Google doesn't want its users to have bad user experiences so it ranks that content down if it can.
  • Visitors who feel it is taking a long time to get value from your content will abandon it leading to high levels of Pogo Sticking and low dwell time.
  • Waffle dilutes entity salience making your content less relevant to the very keywords you are trying to rank for.
How
  • Go through your content sentence by sentence and for each one ask "Does this sentence add value?"
  • Balance this with readability. You don't have to cull every sentence which contains no fact or entity but cut any padding.
When
  • This applies to all content in all formats - written, audio, video, etc.
  • Google is getting better and better at understanding non-written content so make yours stand out both now and for the future as this technology develops
47
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 47 : Remove Ambiguity

What

Sentences which can have two meanings (and so make up a large part of British humor!). "Thank you to the person who found our lost rabbit. My daughter is overjoyed. She is now back in her hutch with fresh lettuce". Who is in the hutch? The rabbit or the daughter?.

Why
  • While it is quite funny to hear text like the one above and imagine switching things around in our minds we know full well what was meant. Search engines don't.
  • In fact search engines tend to use distances between words to understand relations so in the above example they would understand the daughter was back in the hutch with some fresh lettuce!
How
  • Read through your content a day or two after you have produced it, look for these ambiguities and correct them so search engines won't make mistakes in understanding your content.
48
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 48 : Structure your text content with subheadings

What

Use descriptive sub headers correctly tagged (h2, h3, h4, etc.)

Why
  • Helping search engine crawlers understand the sections and sub sections of your text content helps them rank you in the right place.
  • The h1 tag is for your page/content title. h2 tags are subheaders of h1, h3 tags are subheaders of h2 etc.
  • Its very common for text created via platforms like Wordpress to have badly ordered h tags or for h tags to be missing which just isn't search engine friendly!
How
  • Most Content Management Systems (like Wordpress) will add these tags for you when you mark text as 'Heading 2', 'Heading 3' etc in their text editors.
  • If you have text that visually looks like sub headings but you are not sure if it is 'h tagged' correctly:
    1. Open your source code and the search box (here's the how-to)
    2. Search <h2 and then <h3
    3. If you have h3s but no h2s you have bad ordering. If you have h2s after h3s you have bad ordering.
    4. If you have no 'h tags' for your subheadings you are not helping search engines!
  • If your Content Management System does not help you add correctly 'h tagged' subheadings or your text is bespoke created then you may need the help of a developer to resolve the issue.
When
  • For text content, essential where this is over 300 words long as Google will actively look for headers to understand sections fo long content.
49
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 49 : Add basic HTML markup for text content

What

HTML markup is not visible on a webpage but search engines can see it in the source code. It tells them what various elements of text are such as paragraphs (<p> [Paragraph text] </p>) and lists (<ul>, <li>, etc)

Why
  • Search engines are pretty good at understanding content but there is just no reason to make their lives more difficult, especially if your competitors are being crystal clear.
  • Lists of links can look like spammy content if they are not defined in the source code as lists.
How
  • Most Content Management Systems (like Wordpress) will add these tags for you when you use their text editors. You select 'bulleted list', they generate the html markup underneath.
  • To check your markup is correct:
  • Open your source code and the search box (here's the how-to)
  • Search <p - does the <p> appear at the start of each paragraph and the </p> tag when a paragraph ends?
  • If you know you are using bulleted or numbered lists Search <ul - Each bullet or numbered point should be wrapped in <li> and </li>
  • The whole list of points should be wrapped in <ul> and </ul> (for bullet points) or <ol> and </ol> (for numbered bullet points).
  • If you see a clear lack of HTML markup you will probably need to ask your developer to resolve the issue or Get SEO help.
When
  • For all text content
Warnings
  • This is a basic HTML markup check. If you find your content is poorly marked up at this level it is probably poorly marked up at a wider level. Get SEO help!
50
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO
What

Other website you link to should be reputable, not those with thin or spammy content.

Why
  • If your content really is good quality then it wouldn't include links to spammy or poorly written sites. That's just such an easy one for Google and other search engines to spot.
  • Google likes websites that are part of the web. That means referencing other content through links rather than 'link hoarding'.
How
  • When you are creating links from your content to other websites ask yourself:
    • "Is this a link to really useful content that will add value for my visitors?"
    • "Is this the best content I could link to about this topic or is there better content out there?"
When
  • For all text content
51
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 51 : Add Call to Actions (CTA)

What

Every page on your website should have a purpose for you. You've made the content now what do you want your visitors to do? Buy something, sign up to something, click on something, etc. Makes sure there is a clear 'Call to Action' (CTA) for that activity.

A Call to Action might be a prominent link (e.g. 'Get in Touch'), a button (e.g. 'Buy Now'), a clickable graphic (e.g. 'Start your free trial'), a video, etc.

Why
  • It amazes me how many webmasters I meet complain their site does not convert visitors into customers very well but when I look at their content it is not at all obvious how to become a customer or client.
  • Webmasters are often too close to their own websites, everything looks obvious to them but to a new visitor nothing is clear.
  • Internet users visit thousands of websites, you really need to spell out what you want them to do!
How
  • If your page has multiple CTAs make sure one of them is visible on the page at all times.
  • There is nothing wrong with multiple Call to Actions if they are complementary - e.g. "Buy Now" and "Try for Free".
  • If your calls to action are not 3rd party adverts then carry out A/B Testing on the CTAs to see what affects their conversion rate (e.g. color, size, wording, etc.)
  • For pages displaying a product for sale make sure the 'Buy Now' button is visible when the page loads (above the fold) so visitors have no doubt that this is a product page.
When
  • On all websites which have an actionable purpose (I understand some don't have such a purpose such as personal blogs where people just want to express themselves)
Examples
  • On this page the red tab on the right hand side reading 'Get help ranking' scrolls with the page. I've tried different color combinations, texts and sizes. The current combination seems to convert best for this site at this moment in time.
Warnings
  • Just because a particular Call to Action presented in a particular way (colors, size, etc.) works well for one website does not mean it will work on another. You will need to figure out what converts best through trial, error and testing.
52
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 52 : Get sticky

What

A sticky website is one that makes users want to 'stick around'

Why
  • How long visitors stay on your website after clicking through from the search results (known as Dwell Time) is an important ranking factor (from my experience). Dwell Time tells Google if your page meets the needs of Internet users who carry out certain searches.
  • The longer a visitor remains on your website the more chance there is they will convert (buy something, sign up to something, fill in an inquiry form, etc.).
  • If a visitor arrives on a page and things "Oh, I've seen this before" you need to give them another reason to stay - i.e. "Yes, but have you also seen this?"
How
  • Make sure your opening paragraph is attractive, engaging and will make the visitor curious to find out more.
  • Make your Call to Action(s) (CTA) clear and dominant
  • Include 'See also' type links/suggestions to related content after the first paragraph (in both text, video and audio) and at the end of your content.
  • Point out something of value that users will find at the end of the content so they will read/watch/listen to it all - e.g. "At the end I'll give you two extra tricks that I use every day to make this work even better".
When
  • These techniques are valid for all types of content although you may not be able to use them every time (a call to action in a Podcast can't be there all the time but you can insert it periodically).
Warnings
  • A page full of endless popups does not make people want to stick around. It may delay them leaving by a few seconds but it certainly won't encourage them to return. It might even cause them to leave early because your page is too distracting.
53
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 53 : Encourage interaction

What

Getting the visitor to do something physical when they arrive on your page like scroll, click, drag, etc.

Why
  • People are far more likely to remember you if they had to do something physical to get at your content.
  • It helps improve your Dwell Time because users have to physically do something before getting what they want.
How
  • We're talking here about interacting with the page in some way by scrolling or clicking or commenting or liking or taking part in a survey, etc.
When
  • On text and image content
Examples
  • Make your main image on landing pages 75% of the page height so the start of your text content is clearly visible but visitors will need to scroll to see the key information.
  • Use 'Click and reveal' to show half covered content or expand small images (say of graphs).
  • Use Image comparison plugins like these when possible.
  • If you have text content include short videos as well.
54
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 54 : Optimize image files

What

Make sure your image dimensions are no larger than they need to be and that their file sizes (in kb) are as small as they can be without losing quality.

Why
  • Yes, its that page loading speed thing again. Images are the biggest drag on page loading times for many sites and loading speed can often be cut by more than 50% if images are optimized.
How
  • To check your image sizes:
    1. In Firefox left hand click on an image and select 'View Image Info'
    2. In the window that opens look at the 'Dimensions' which will tell you both the basic dimensions of the image and if it has been scaled down or up.
    3. If your image has been scaled down there is an opportunity to reduce the file size by reducing the image dimensions. More on how in a moment.
    4. In the same window look for 'Size'. Even for large images this should be lower than 100kb unless it is some mega infographic!
  • To reduce image sizes:
    1. Get Photoshop in the cloud (its $10 per month and it won't take you more than a day to correct all your images so well worth the investment)
    2. Follow this tutorial to open an image, edit it to the correct dimensions and save it as a smaller file size.
    3. Upload the new image to your website - e.g. in Wordpress this would be adding the new image to the media library and then replace the image in the articles that use it.
When
  • With all content that uses images
Warnings
  • Give your new image name a different file name than the one it replaces so search engine crawlers pick it up faster.
  • Optimized images with the same name as unoptimized images can confuse platforms like Wordpress.
  • Before you start make sure you are looking at your website in a large screen (at least 1920 pixels wide) to make sure you know the largest dimensions an image needs to be.
  • Some webmasters optimize images that still look great on small laptops or notebooks but start to look blurry on larger screens. This poor quality is a reflection on you and/or your brand. Make sure you know the largest size an image will be (on really big screens) before you optimize.
55
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 55 : Compress images

What

Images often contain a huge amount of data and profiling not required for the Internet like the geolocation, the camera used to take the photo, etc.

Why
  • All that extra data inside the image is great for photo editing but irrelevant on the web. Take it out and its yet another way to make the file size smaller which means .... you guessed it, faster page loading speeds!
How
When
  • With all content that uses images
Examples
  • Give your new image name a different file name than the one it replaces so search engine crawlers pick it up faster.
  • Optimized images with the same name as unoptimized images can confuse platforms like Wordpress.
56
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 56 : Optimize image alt tags

What

An alt tag contains a text description of an image and you decide this text. In your source code it would look something like this:

<img scr="kittens-hugging" alt="Cute kittens cuddling on a crate" />
Why
  • Visitors do not see image alt tags unless the image fails to load but search engines use them as guide (along with a number of other factors)
  • Using relevant images with good alt tags reinforces to search engines what your content is about.
  • Poorly used alt tags may cause search engine crawlers to believe you are trying to hoodwink them which may lead to your page being excluded completely from search results.
How
  • To see the alt tag contents of any image:
    1. In Firefox left hand click on an image and select 'View Image Info'
    2. In the window that opens look at the 'Associated Text' which will tell you the contents of the alt tag.
  • Editing image tags depends on the platform your website uses. In Wordpress alt tags can be edited in the Media library. For other platforms try Googling how to edit alt tag content.
  • Make sure to include within your alt tag:
    • Your main keyword phrase or synonym if the image is relevant (e.g. for "kitten" a synonym might be "kitty") and/or
    • A keyword phrase which supports your main keyword phrase - (e.g. "Bing logo" describing Bing's logo would support an article talking about "search engine optimization for bing"). Using keywords which support your main keyword is known as Entity Salience work.
When
  • On all images. Even if you have a small image such as a red 'X' representing a way to close a window include an alt tag of "X" ... but better still replace these small images with Font Awesome (see earlier in the checklist)
57
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 57 : Caption your main images

What

A caption is the text usually displayed directly below images which explains the content of the image - e.g. "Film stars gathering for this years Oscars" below a picture of some people in posh frocks.

Why
  • It helps readers by providing extra information which may not be immediately obvious from the image, improving user experience and increasing Dwell Time.
  • When Google is deciding what an image is about it will consider the alt tag (see above) but also the content of surrounding visible text.
How
  • Most platforms (like Wordpress) include a way to add captions to images.
  • Realistically in almost all cases your caption should be the same as your Alt tag or an extended version of your Alt tag - why would you want to tell your visitors one thing and search engine crawlers something different? Google might see you as a spammer!
  • Make sure to include within your caption:
    • Your main keyword phrase or synonym if the image is relevant (e.g. for "kitten" a synonym might be "kitty") and/or
    • A keyword phrase which supports your main keyword phrase - (e.g. "Film stars gathering for this years Oscars" would support an article talking about "Celebrity Awards"). Using keywords which support your main keyword is known as Entity Salience work.
When
  • On all images which form a core part of your content.
Examples
  • Use a bit of common sense with captions. If the immediate text before an image of a graph says "Just look at this Google Analytics graph which shows how traffic doubled by 100% in 12 months" then there is no need to use a caption - Google picks up from all surrounding text!
58
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 58 : Consider adding more images!

What

Do this with care. Would it benefit visitors if you had more images either to break up heavy text content or better describe what you are presenting (like a product).

Why
  • A picture speaks a thousand words and can be digested by a visitor much faster than a thousand words!
  • Images that describe complex topics (infographics) often attract more backlinks than the original text.
  • When used with care images can make the overall content easier to digest by breaking up large texts.
  • Visitors have more confidence in products when there is more than one image
How
  • For each image ask yourself "Does this add value". A product placed beside an apple, for example, adds value because it helps visitors visualize the size of the product. An image of what it is your content will help the visitor achieve (the baked cake, the perfect lawn, etc.) is added value.
  • For products the magic figure seems to be between 3 and 5 images. Less and visitors have less confidence, more and it starts to cause confusion and distraction.
Warnings
  • Do this Carefully! Remember every additional image slows your page loading so it is a balance between a better user experience when they are on the page and a worse user experience because they have to wait longer for the page to load.
59
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 59 : Add schema markup to your content

What

Schema is a joint project created by all the major search engines so it works on more than just Google.

Schema are small bits if code which tell search engines specific things like "This is a recipe and this is the star rating for the recipe" or "This is the name of the product and this is the price of the product".

Why
  • When search engines like Google crawl a page they take their best guess at what content is what but that doesn't mean they always get it right. If you have a product, for example, and you list the RRP, your price and 'savings' that's three different currency values. It's not always clear to a crawler which is which.
  • Schema takes the guess work out of the crawl for search engines making it easier for them to rank you faster in the right search results.
  • For pages with little text (say mainly audio, video or images) Schema can make it clearer what your content is about.
How
  • There are Schema plugins for platforms like Wordpress but be aware many of these are dated and others don't use schema to the full.
  • You'll need someone with a fair amount of experience to know if you are missing any Schema opportunities.
  • Once you have added Schema make sure it is working properly by using the Google Data Testing Tool.
When
  • Schema is a constantly expanding library which already includes most content types found on the web so its 99% certain at least some parts of your content can be marked up.
Warnings
  • Schema is evolving with new opportunities to extend markup coming out all the time. This is an area where you should check up your content and the available Schema every 6 months or so.
  • There are heavy penalties for abusing Schema to claim your content is about something when it is actually about something else. You could be banned by certain search engines if you do this (just because you use Schema don't think they will ignore the rest of your content)!
60
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 60 : Check languages are markup up correctly

What

In an earlier check I showed you how to verify your website was declaring its core language but if parts of your text content include other languages these should be specified.

Why
  • Search engines are pretty good at picking up the main language in use on a web page but what happens when there is a block of content in a different language (such as a direct quote) or the language flips back and forward (as it often does on sites that teach languages)?
  • Helping search engines understand second and third languages makes their job easier in indexing your content correctly.
How
  • You can add language declarations yourself in most platforms like Wordpress by using the 'Text' tab at the top right of the text input area for the page or blog. Here are some examples:
    • In Spanish hello is <span lang="es">Hola</span>

      - declaring specific words within text are Spanish
    • Learn Spanish at <a lang="es" hreflang="es" href="espanol.es">Hola</a>

      - declaring words in a link as Spanish and the destination url as being Spanish language content
When
  • Whenever you use a language which is different to the one specified at a site level (see the earlier check on defining language at a website level).
61
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO
What

Once you have created new content go through your entire website and consider where you should be adding links.

Why
  • Internal links help search engine crawlers discover your new content faster.
  • Internal links (especially when within text content) provide context about your new content - what other topic areas is it related to?
  • The more internal links a page on your website has the greater search engine crawlers feel you believe its importance to be. Link to it from every single page (say as in a 'Recent Posts' list in a sidebar) and that is a signal that you see the page as being of greater importance than other content.
  • Properly linked internal content helps search engines see your Silo Structuring (understanding when you have multiple pages devoted to a specific topic area).
How
  • Just work through your old content and see if there pages where your visitors would benefit from seeing a link to the new page/content.
  • 'Latest Posts' (Blogs), 'New Arrivals' (Products) and similar widgets in sidebars all help generate large numbers of links to new content quickly making it faster for search engine crawlers to discover it and understand its importance (in your opinion).
When
  • All new content on a website.
Examples
  • A page about SEO which links to another page on the same website about image optimization makes the page about SEO richer. This means the ranking signals for both pages becomes stronger.
  • The above link would also be the start of a 'cluster' - pages about SEO or SEO related material. The more related material you add the greater the cluster and the stronger each page becomes - the whole is greater than the sum of its parts!
62
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO
What

What content have you already created that you should link to from your new content?

Why
  • When Google or other search engines see clusters of related content each individual piece becomes stronger (a practice known as Silo Structuring) - the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.
  • Search engines prefer to rank pages on websites that have related content which is easy to find because it provides a better user experience and that's all search engines want because happy Internet users make happy search engine customers who won't wander off and use someone else.
  • Users are more likely to stay longer and go deeper into your website if you make it easier for them to do so and promote related content in a prominent way, another method to increase Dwell Time and reduce Pogo Sticking.
How
  • Review your current content for related topics that will make your new content richer.
  • Link to these:
    • Within the text - e.g. "I wrote about upcoming Spring fashions in January so now its Easter lets see what made it from catwalk to shop."
    • As 'See Also' - often seen on news websites after the first one or two paragraphs as 2-3 links to related content.
    • As 'You might also like' - usually at the end of your content, if visitors have got this far they are engaged ... don't lose them!
    • As 'Customers also bought' - on eCommerce websites
    • As 'Similar products' - on eCommerce websites to promote alternatives or budget/premium versions
When
  • On all content where you can create relevant links which will help your visitors.
63
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 63 : Check spelling and grammar

What

A spell and grammar check of your content but don't be too rigid!

Why
  • There is no evidence that Google down ranks pages with the odd misspelling or poor sentence structure. The issue is that Google may not understand your content correctly and that will affect your rankings.
  • If you have very poor grammar it will make it difficult for visitors to read your content and may send them reaching for the back button reducing your Dwell Time and increasing your pogo sticking.
How
  • Running text contents through a spell checker is a five minute job.
  • In some platforms like Wordpress (and in some browsers like Firefox) you can even activate these to run in real time as you type.
  • Grammarly is a highly praised grammar checker for browsers. I don't use it but many find Grammarly useful.
  • Be careful with grammar - sometimes the 'official' way of saying things isn't the easiest to read or doesn't fit the writing style you have which appeals to your audience so you might want to let some errors slip through!
When
  • On all text content (including video and audio transcripts)
64
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 64 : Use keyword rich anchor text

What

Text which is also a link to another webpage (internal or external) is known as 'anchor text'.

When you create links in your text content (either to other pages on your site or to other websites) use text which makes it clear what a user will see if they follow that link.

Why
  • If you have a link that reads 'Latest Football Match Tickets' and this leads to a page which has football match tickets thats a stronger ranking signal for the page with the football match tickets.
  • Its also simply a better user experience.
How
  • Check none of your internal links in the content are things like 'click here' or 'here' or 'this one', etc. Think how to rework sentences so the link says far more about the destination.
  • I have done this a couple of times on this page but only to third party websites where it doesn't matter (the external site still gets the link juice) and it works better for the flow of the text.
When
  • All links in text content.
Examples
  • Bad: For our latest football match tickets click here.
  • Good: See our latest football match tickets.
65
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 65 : Decide whether to hide or show user generated content

What

I'm referring mainly here to comments on blogs or articles where the content can be vague like "I've been using this technique myself for years and it really does help get results. I'd definitely recommend this to anyone just starting out. You're so right to spell this out, very valuable." - i.e. text that actually doesn't say anything!

Why
  • If most of your user comments are vague or repetitive they will dilute your Entity Salience (diluting your content so it is less clear what the page content is actually about because most of the comments do not contain keywords which support the topic of the page).
How
  • Using a 3rd party plugins like Disqus means your comments are pulled from somewhere else after your page has loaded and are never seen by the search engines.
  • There are also numerous technical ways to hide user generated content but you will need the assistance of a developer to implement them.
Warnings
  • Give this some thought! Pages with technical or academic content often generate keyword rich comments. In this case you will want to make sure this user generated content is fully visible to the search engines! It all depends on your audience.
  • Forums are obviously almost 100% user content so in these cases you will definitely want it to be visible!
66
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 66 : Check what Google sees

What

In Google Search Console there is a URL Inspection Tool where Google will fetch a page on your website and show it as the Google crawler sees it.

Why
  • Your content may look great on your laptop or smartphone but that might not be how Google sees it and Google is making the decision about where you should rank.
How
  • Open Google Search Console and select 'URL Inspection' from the left hand menu.
  • If it all looks good Google will also tell you if the page is in its index. If it isn't you can specifically request a crawl and for Google to consider including your content in its search results.
67
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 67 : Create supporting content

What

If you don't have other content where you can add relevant links to your new content ... create that content.

These are separate pages on your site that help create a cluster of pages on a particular theme.

Why
  • Google will give greater weight to a page about a subject when it comes from a website that has a number of pages about that subject (or related to that subject).
How
  • Creating this related content and then interlinking the pages (known as Silo Structuring) makes clusters clear to Google.
  • Not every piece of supporting content needs to be 'blow away awesome' content. Many of the links here are to my SEO Glossary which are much shorter text articles but they still create clusters.
Examples
  • This page is a master SEO checklist. I might also create an 'Ultimate Youtube SEO checklist' and an 'Ultimate Wordpress SEO checklist'.
  • In both I would promote this 'Ultimate SEO checklist. The Youtube and Wordpress checklists would be shorter but it would reinforce a 'SEO checklist' topic cluster.
Warnings
  • All your supporting content should be put through this checklist as well. Thin, low quality content doesn't support anything!
68
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 68 : Check what happens when your content is shared on social media

What

Try sharing your content on Social Media and see what title, summary and image is picked up when you simply copy and paste the URL.

Why
  • SEO is about driving traffic to your website and social media can do this as well bringing in visitors who might carry out SEO specific actions (like creating a link to your content from their website).
  • Platforms like Facebook make their best guess on titles, summaries and images but they don't always get it right and can make your content look less attractive.
How
  • Exact methods differ depending on the social media platform.
  • Facebook and Twitter methods can be found here and there are various plugins available for platforms like Wordpress which will allow you to implement this without any technical skills.
  • A full list of methods for most social media platforms can be found here.
When
  • On all shareable content
69
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 69 : Check what happens when your page is bookmarked

What

Look at the text and graphics that get used in various browsers when your page gets bookmarked or added to favorites in various browsers - desktop and mobile.

Why
  • Getting visitors to come back to your content if they bookmark it is key to a better conversion rate.
  • These are hard won visitors from your SEO work so don't let them slip away.
  • Different browsers will add you to bookmarks in different ways so make sure you'll be eye catching!
How
  • Most desktop browsers will use the content of your <title> tag (see earlier checkpoint) as the text and something called a favicon as the image
  • Some browsers (like the iphone Safari and some Android versions) look for a larger image.
  • Make sure you have a favicon.ico image (here is a favicon generator) and an apple icon (here's the tutorial for iphones).
  • Install the main browsers (Opera, Firefox, IE, Safari and Chrome) on your desktop and smartphone and check what happens when you bookmark your page.
  • There are various plugins for platforms like Wordpress that will allow you to add favicons and other icons without needing technical knowledge.
When
  • For all pages, regardless of the content type - text, audio, video, etc.
70
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 70 : Provide Page pagination for search engines

What

Page pagination is when a page has:

  • 'Previous' and 'Next' links or
  • A review which is split over several pages (e.g. the first page of a car review is about engine performance, the second about passenger comfort, etc.)
  • a list of, say, 100 products or articles but you only show 10 per page with visitors being able to move straight to page 2,3,4,5, etc. via links at the top or bottom of the list.
Why
  • It may be really obvious to visitors where they should go next because of the graphics and styling you used but search engines won't see this.
  • If you have content that can be spread over several pages (because it really is comprehensive) you instantly create a cluster. e.g. a review of the Nissan Leaf where various aspects are covered on different pages would create a cluster of pages about 'Nissan Leaf Review'.
  • Clusters, when created properly, give search engines greater confidence that you have comprehensive content on a topic (the total is greater than the sum of its parts).
  • But clusters are only clusters in a search engines eyes if they are linked together correctly.
How
  • The clearest way to flag pagination to search engines is with the rel=next/prev tag (note Google has publicly said it does not use these because it is 'smart enough' but some other search engines and browsers do).
  • Platforms such as Wordpress have plugins that will generate these tags in the code (as they are invisible to humans).
Warnings
  • Advice on how to handle pagination for Google is not totally clear. They say put all the content on one page if you can so it is worth adding a 'View all on one page' link for users and bots but only do this if such a page would load fast.
  • Make sure the 'Next' and 'Previous' links on a page use text, not graphics as an added way to make their role clear to search engine crawlers.
71
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 71 : Make your content easy to share on social media

What

Visitors who enjoy or appreciate your content might forget to share it ... unless you remind them.

Why
  • SEO is about driving traffic to your website and social media can do this as well bringing in visitors who might carry out SEO specific actions (like creating a link to your content from their website).
How
  • Include 'one click' sharing icons with your content. These can either scroll with your content or appear at the top and bottom.
  • Most platforms like Wordpress have plugins you can install to make this possible without you needing technical knowledge.
72
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 72 : Weigh up Infinite Scroll and Lazy Loading

What

I talked earlier about Javascript in general hiding content from search engines and making it slow to get your content indexed but two javascript features leave webmasters with a difficult headache:

  • Infinite scroll - your page loads the content as the user scrolls down. For really long content like some Facebook pages you never stand a chance of getting to the bottom!
  • Lazy load - images lower down your page are loaded as a visitor scrolls towards them.
Why
  • Obviously loading less initially makes your pages load faster - thats a ranking factor - but Google doesn't do scrolling so it may never discover key parts of your content.
How
  • There are plugins for platforms like Wordpress which will allow you to install both Lazy Load and Infinite Scroll.
  • I'm not a fan of Infinite Load, I've found it frustrates visitors who prefer pagination so I rarely, rarely use it.
  • Lazy Load has its place if you really do have a lot of images to load but don't start using it just because its there.
  • What you win with faster page loading speeds you might lose because Google only ever sees a fraction of your content. This needs careful thought and should be avoided if your content changes regularly.
73
Level: On-Page SEO | Page Content SEO

Check 73 : Consider allowing users to leave reviews or ratings and add structured data markup to these

What

These could be star ratings for a product (you decide if any visitor or only verified customers can review), a "Was this helpful - Yes/No" option or "Rate this content" link that can only be clicked once per visitor.

Why
  • Ratings give people confidence even when those ratings come from people who aren't verified customers - just look at Yelp! who built a business on it (strange world eh?).
  • Ratings can be flagged to search engines with Structured Data Markup (small bits of code) so the ratings show in search results pages which often increases click through rates.
How
  • Platforms like Wordpress have various plugins for adding product or content reviews in a variety of ways.
  • Most off the shelf shopping sites (like XCart) will have the option of adding reviews built in or available as a plugin.
  • For either of the above make sure you choose a plugin that includes structured data markup.
  • Once installed test that your reviews or ratings are being seen correctly by using the Google Structured Data Testing Tool.
When
  • Various research suggests people do not trust products or content that has straight 5 star reviews so gaming the system by posting 5 stars all the way may work against you.
  • The "I trust these reviews and I want to buy" level seems to come when the review average is 4 to 4.5 (out of 5) so it is actually important to get, and keep, the odd negative review - it makes your content look more genuine.
Off-Page SEO | Website Wide
74
Level: Off-Page SEO | Website Wide

Check 74 : Claim/Add and Optimize directory listings

What

You might be surprised to find your business is already listed in numerous portals or directories but the listings are basic and incomplete.

Even if you are not there track down all the directories your competitors are listing on (when these directories actually rank for something) or directories that rank for keywords you are targeting and get listed, most are free.

Why
  • Although the search engines usually ignore links from directories as a ranking factor they do recognize brand mentions and the more brand mentions you have around the Internet the more confidence they have that you are genuine and worth taking note of.
  • Directories are often great traffic generators - they rank top for search terms you'll never be able to compete on but listing with them means you take advantage of their high rankings (this is known as Barnacle SEO).
How
  • Directories have different methods for you to submit your information, the most important advice is to make sure you have provided as much information as they allow - images, opening hours, etc.
  • Directories have their own search engines (which means you can SEO for them - e.g. optimize your Yellow Pages listing so it shows near the top of the directory when someone searches "24 hour plumber") so make sure text descriptions are keyword rich and you add hashtags and keywords if the directory uses them.
  • Avoid directories that allow anyone to list, they will be full of spam and junk. If they rank now its only because the grim Google reaper hasn't caught up with them yet!
When
  • Its obvious for bricks and mortar businesses and there are plenty of directories like Yellow Pages, Yelp, Foursquare, Google My Business, Yahoo Aabaco, Bing Places, etc. which cater to this market.
  • Bricks and Mortar or not - also consider associations you belong to like a local Chamber of Commerce or a body that offers specific levels of service - many travel agents belong, for example, to ABTA. Do these associations have membership lists and if so are they linking to you?
Warnings
  • Directories often come with a way for users to leave reviews or ask questions. Keep on top of this by setting up notifications of new user activity or you will look like an unresponsive business and that will undermine customer confidence no matter where you rank.
  • Answer negative reviews with courtesy and offers to 'make things right' - don't get into a spat!
  • People expect you will have some negative reviews - you can't please everyone.
  • Make sure customers know they can review you and where they can review you - most people only need a gentle nudge and they will say something positive!
  • Do not publicly offer any kind of reward for people to leave reviews, this usually breaks the terms of the directory and you could be delisted or have all your reviews wiped!
75
Level: Off-Page SEO | Website Wide

Check 75 : Create Portal listings (if you are a Service Provider)

What

Portals work better for service related business or freelancers which can collaborate with clients worldwide.

Why
  • You don't have to bid for work or be active on the portal. This is again about achieving brand mentions outside of your website ... and who knows a great client might discover you there.
  • Multiple portal lists are part of owning the top 10 search results when people search your brand. It also gives them confidence that you are an established service provider because they can find you in places which aren't your website!
How
  • Choose portals which are relevant to your business because this gives you brand mentions (and possibly backlinks) that come from pages which have a similar topic theme to yours and makes that backlink count for more.
  • List on portals that show in Google's top ten for keywords relevant to what you do and you would like to rank for but aren't likely to achieve given the competition. This is known as Barnacle SEO.
  • Registration processes vary but most are free.
  • Work to keep branding consistent across the portals - the same logo, profile pictures and descriptions.
  • Complete each profile to the full. Half hearted profiles undermine confidence rather than building it.
  • Keep listings up to date with your latest portfolio just as you would update your website.
Examples
  • Behance - popular portal with designers, especially graphic designers.
  • Upwork - for almost any kind of freelance work you might think of.
  • Freelancer - an Upwork alternative.
76
Level: Off-Page SEO | Website Wide

Check 76 : If you have images leverage Pinterest

What

Pinterest is an online service where you can create 'boards' of photos from any website

Why
  • As an established site new 'boards' on Pinterest can rank at the top of Google within hours or days.
  • If you create a board with images from your content or website these images can drive traffic from Pinterest to your content.
How
  • Register with Pinterestand follow their online tutorials to create boards of images pinned from your website or content.
  • Think wide - images can include cartoons and infographics.
When
  • When you have really good images
  • I'm not kidding, boring pictures make for boring boards which won't rank for long and won't inspire Internet users to click through to your site.
  • If you don't have amazing images to share then skip Pinterest!
Examples
  • Lets say you sold outdoor climbing gear.
  • Get your customers to send you photos of them using the gear in extreme conditions (you could create a prize draw to motivate them).
  • Create a Pinterest board of the images.
  • These images can also be used on your other social media platforms so there is strong overlap here, you're not doing something 'just for Pinterest'.

If necessary you could niche this further by only targeting customers who bought 'North Face' branded products and create a 'North Face' niche board on Pinterest.

77
Level: Off-Page SEO | Website Wide

Check 77 : Get your product(s) or service(s) reviewed on trusted sites

What

These could be bloggers, Instagrammers or associations like Which? in the UK. Getting them to talk about your product or service in some way can bring in large numbers of visitors.

Why
  • Bloggers and associations will give you a backlink.
  • you won't get a particular ranking signal even if you are all over Instagram or YouTube but some of the visitors they drive in could end up creating backlinks from their websites.
How
  • Choose people or organizations that will realistically be interested in reviewing what you offer. I wouldn't expect Disney to be interested in trialling and reviewing my SEO services!
  • Create a plan - one review, no matter how wildly popular, isn't going to make a huge impact compared to dozens of reviews which make your product or service seem to be 'everywhere' and in use.
  • Agree specifically with the reviewer what you are going to get - the length of the review, how many times they will tag/mention your product in Instagram or on a YouTube video and over what period of time, etc.
Examples
  • When Husqvarna launched a new robotic lawn mower they loaned models out to a number of people in return for reviews on their own websites and/or on platforms like Amazon.
  • These reviews were broadly positive and the odd small grumble made them look all the more genuine.
  • Huqvarna ended up with dozens of backlinks from respectable websites on pages where the content was highly relevant to their product ... because it was their product!
78
Level: Off-Page SEO | Website Wide

Check 78 : Get interviewed

What

Whether its your local paper or a podcast - see if you can be the subject of an interview.

Why
  • Text interviews often lead to great backlinks from long established websites
  • Podcasts last for years and are found and picked up all the time - hearing you explain something can build immediate trust with a potential customer.
How
  • Ideally you'll want to be interviewed about something in your field - "Tim, tell us how to do SEO!" - but don't pick and choose if you are just starting out.
  • Gauge your level before contacting the press/podcaster. Google probably doesn't want to know what I think about things, other SEO podcasters might.
  • Help a Reporter Out (HARO) can work very well for this but it depends on the niche - certain areas have become so overrun with webmasters trying to help reporters out that the reporters don't have time to sort through all the rubbish.
Examples
  • One of my clients got an offer to be interviewed by a major national newspaper in an article about sexism in venture capital.
  • It was nothing to do with her product but she took the interview and got a backlink to her website.
  • The backlink was weak on one hand (it was not about the same subject area as her website) but strong on another (it was a national newspaper).
  • She noticed an improvement in rankings within weeks
Warnings
  • When it comes to podcasters everyone wants to be one these days so make sure you can listen to at least a couple of previous episodes before you commit to see if they are professionally produced and engaging - especially if they are new and haven't yet gained an established audience.
Off-Page SEO | Content Specific
79
Level: Off-Page SEO | Content Specific

Check 79 : Post your new content on your Social Media profiles

What

Social Media includes Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

Why
  • This is where you have (or will have) a following that will create a ready surge in traffic for new content and increase your chance of early wins like backlinks.
  • Even if you don't have a following or that following is tiny ... everyone started this way ... so take care of those who do follow you. Early followers are often your most loyal in the long term.
  • If you have no followers realize that few will want to follow an empty social media profile so create a buzzing place people will want to be part of.
How
  • Every social media platform has its own processes for creating profiles and posting content but they also all have tutorials to get started.
  • Many people, including big names, contract out their social media presence once they get rolling as it takes time to reply/acknowledge comments and reactions.
When
  • If you are time short consider only having Facebook and Twitter (and Instagram if you have great images to share).
  • Spreading yourself too thin just creates multiple profiles ... all of which are unappealing due to your rare updates ... and that will reflect badly on your brand.
  • In other words only use social media if you can leverage social media, not because everyone says you should use social media.
Warnings
  • Social Media can be a brutal place where people will attack you and your content with little reason. Its not for the thin skinned but it can also be a place where you receive plenty of support and TLC. Just be prepared for both.
80
Level: Off-Page SEO | Content Specific

Check 80 : Post your new content on Facebook Groups, LinkedIn Groups and discussion boards like Reddit and Disqus

What

Social Media groups can be found on platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn. For most you will need to apply to join before you can post.

Why
  • Search engines will ignore the link as a ranking factor but will recognize a brand mention, especially on boards which appear to be well moderated (in other words really spammy links are deleted and those who posted them are blocked).
  • Links from good groups and discussion boards can drive well targeted traffic to your content fast and some of these people could carry out concrete SEO actions like building links from their websites.
How
  • Don't join and then march straight in and post a link to your content (unless it is truly, absolutely, amazingly awesome) - you'll probably just get banned for spammy behavior.
  • Become an active member of groups or boards first - helpful comments (they don't need to be positive, just constructive) on other people's topics or shares will help you establish a reputation as a contributor and make it easier to share your own content later.
When
  • If you have created content for someone (and that should be the only reason you do it) there will be a group or discussion board out there for it.
Warnings
  • If your content is thin, shallow or of little value expect to be showered with negative comments or even banned from some groups and discussion boards.
  • Discussion boards are NOT forums. Sharing links on respected forums, if you don't have an established profile on that forum, will probably get you banned in under 30 seconds!
81
Level: Off-Page SEO | Content Specific

Check 81 : Use Question and Answer sites

What

There are stacks of Q&A websites out there where you can be helpful answering questions and create links to your content for those who want further information.

Why
  • Search engines don't use the links as a ranking factor but it is yet another place you can get a brand mention
  • Some Q&A websites rank highly for certain search terms. If you find them ranking high for a keyword you are after this is a chance to be a link on a page in the top 10 even if you aren't in the top 10 (this is known as Barnacle SEO which generates traffic for your content straight away).
How
  • Only do this for Q&A websites which rank for keywords you are after.
  • Don't just post a link (this will probably end up with your content being reported as spammy and removed) - answer the question fully and then offer the url as a place where you provide proof or further information.
  • Many Q&A websites are so full of spam and rubbish they rank no where and will achieve nothing - avoid these.
Examples
  • Quota has a lot of rubbish on it but for some search terms it really ranks highly
  • Quora has an 'answer box' for many questions which tries to summarize all the answers
  • These answer boxes are great places to drop a link in and it will be accepted if your content really is relevant to the question.
  • If you sell outdoor climbing gear in the US and someone asks "Where can I buy climbing gear in the US?" its totally legitimate to drop your link into the answer box for your website.
Warnings
  • Once you are registered with many Q&A websites they'll start sending you endless messages asking "Can you answer this?". Don't get sucked in - most of them are spam questions - sometimes even created by people the website pays to ask questions (Quora is one of these).
  • Concentrate only on questions from the Q&A site which rank well in the search engines for specific keyword phrases.
82
Level: Off-Page SEO | Content Specific

Check 82 : Mention people in content and let them know

What

Google likes to see outbound links, it shows you see your content as 'part of the web'. When you create these reach out to the people you link to and let them know.

Why
  • We all have egos and people like to show their popularity by saying, "Look I've just been mentioned over there". They might do this on their own blog, on social media, during a podcast, etc. etc.
  • That's a great way of getting your content in front of a lot of people fast because your hacking into the other persons following and theoretically your content should be relevant to them because of your link.
How
  • Choose people at a similar level to you - if you reach out to the top people in your industry when you are a small fish their answer is going to be "What's in it for me to be mentioning that you mentioned me? I get mentioned in way more popular places than yours".
  • When you reach out to them be specific - use their names and show exactly where you mentioned them and for what reason you mentioned them - don't expect them to wade through all your content to find the where's and how's - you wouldn't if you got 20 such emails a day.
  • You don't need to limit this to emails, try contacting people via their social media files or using their '@' on Twitter.
When
  • Whenever the opportunity arises because many people don't pick up that they have new links so you need to flag it to them.
83
Level: Off-Page SEO | Content Specific

Check 83 : Notify niche round up websites of new content

What

Most niches will have one or more bloggers that does a 'round up' post of what's new in their niche. If their niche is your niche let them know about your new content.

Why
  • Seriously many niche round up editors struggle to find new content each week and they welcome suggestions!
  • Its an instant backlink for your content from a respectable and well moderated website
  • Its another all important brand mention
How
  • Finding 'round up' sites can take a bit of time, especially in small niches. Try searching '[niche name] round up' or similar
  • Take the time to find the name of the person who writes the round ups so you can be more personal when you contact them.
  • Don't just send them a link, add some explanation that will motivate them to go look at your content.
When
  • This works for all content - text, video, audio, etc. - I've always found there is a niche 'round up' site for almost everything.
84
Level: Off-Page SEO | Content Specific

Check 84 : Guest post ... if you are just starting out

What

Offer to write great content for other respectable bloggers/article sites.

Why
  • Guest posting gets your name or brand in front of a wider audience immediately and often on a website that is established and will rank your content fast.
  • You'll usually get a backlink and of course a brand mention
How
  • It takes a bit of research to find good content websites in your niche that will accept guest posting.
  • Try searching "[niche name] write for us" which can throw up contact pages for those who accept guest posting BUT check their content is high quality before adding your name to their pages!
When
  • When you are just starting a website and need to get traction from visitors and backlinks.
  • As soon as you have traction focus all your quality content on your own site to ensure you get the backlinks coming straight to you and that it is your site that is ranking, not the one you guest blog on.
  • You may want to create a 'transition' period for the above. For example:
    • You start by writing two articles a month that are published on other blogs/article sites and one post for your own site.
    • When you see that you are starting to get traffic from Google change the mix to two articles on your own site and one guest post.
    • When you are confident your new content will rank quickly ease guest posting back to zero or nearly zero.
Examples
  • One of my clients belonged to a local Chamber of Commerce.
  • Their online magazine was always on the hunt for content and regularly accepted good articles from members.
  • The Chamber of Commerce website was well established and only published seriously good content.
  • Getting an article in their online magazine put my client's brand on the map and got a seriously good backlink.
Warnings
  • Don't post on Private Blog Networks (used by services like FatJoe and GotchaSEO). These pretend networks have seriously thin content and when they're spotted by search engines the penalties dealt out can be far and wide.
  • You simply don't want your brand name associated with thin content websites like PBNs anyway - it makes your name look spammy and cheap.
  • See my blog post on Private Blog Networks to find out more.
  • Never think you are 'too good' to guest post. The odd guest post now and then is all part of showing your name or brand is part of the community.
85
Level: Off-Page SEO | Content Specific

Check 85 : Reach out to influencers

What

Influencers are popular bloggers or people with social media profiles that have large followings.

Why
  • Popular people have influence! If they say something is good then a whole lot of people who follow them are going to believe it!
How
  • Influencers usually cost - whether its an upfront fee or free product.
  • Choose the right influencers. I don't think Kim Kardashian is going to be that interested in my work so she's just not going to mention me ... even if I ask :(
  • You don't need to bow down to influencers but you do need to put yourself in their shoes. Why would a strong influencer spend time reviewing your $10 product just because you gave it to them for free?
  • Agree with an influencer what they are going to do for what - e.g for $x and a free product they will feature you three times on Instagram in a one month period and tag it every time as well as using your '@' in the text and including your hashtag.
  • Create an Influencer plan - one influencer probably won't have much affect. Get ten related influencers on board so followers start to see your product/service 'everywhere' - its a critical mass thing and why so many people who just dabble their toes in this channel feel disappointed by the results.
When
  • This is research heavy. Finding affordable influencers who have followers that could be your customers/followers isn't easy.
  • Search their profiles for similar products they have promoted and see how popular these posts were.
Examples
  • One of my clients had a very photogenic product that proved popular on Instagram.
  • She struck up a rapport with an influencer without even knowing the other person was an influencer.
  • When the influencer wrote a heart felt post about my client it tripled by client's Instagram following.
  • This is rare, most influencers write because they have been paid to do so and you can see it in the conviction of their words so expect mixed results.
Warnings
  • Influencer marketing is not something you can dabble in. You need a sustained and wide approach so users of certain platforms (say, for example, Instagram) see your brand/product 'everywhere'.
  • Simply 'trying one influencer' is likely to leave you disappointed unless you strike lucky.
86
Level: Off-Page SEO | Content Specific

Check 86 : Blog / article commenting

What

Add helpful comments to blogs and finish by including a link to your content to either show 'proof' of your comments or as a place to find extra information.

Why
  • Links from most comments sections are completely ignored by search engines as a ranking factor but ....
  • Comments with links on the right blogs or articles can bring in seriously good traffic because:
    • If the site with the comments are well moderated people trust the comments
    • If you choose the right articles you will be getting links from content which ranks for keywords you'd like to rank for (but don't have the authority to get there yet) - this is known as Barnacle SEO.
How
  • Find articles and blog posts that rank for keywords you would like to rank for.
  • Post useful comments that add value to the conversation before dropping a link - simply adding links could get you banned as a spammer even if your content is valuable.
  • The link you add should backup what you have said or be a place where readers can get extra information.
When
  • If you have created seriously good content then it is going to be useful to people when you point it out.
  • Getting banned is only the treatment of people who drop in links to rubbish so if your content really is awesome, don't be shy!
Examples
  • I sell an ebook online. In a related article on a major national newspaper someone answered a discussion point and linked to a page on my website as 'proof'.
  • Visitors who come to my ebook website via this link are 3 times more likely to buy the book than visitors who come via organic search.
Warnings
  • To make blog or article commenting count make sure you add a reason people would want to follow your link and the only way to do this is to give genuinely useful advice.
87
Level: Off-Page SEO | Content Specific

Check 87 : Participate in forums

What

Become an active member of a forum in your niche

Why
  • People trust respected members of forums - they have earned a reputation.
  • While you have to work hard to convert a visitor from organic search visitors from forum are often 90% convinced they want what you have to offer even before they arrive on your website.
How
  • Just be helpful and don't be afraid to share your knowledge.
  • Don't post things like "I've written about this here" and drop a link in. Build the trust with good advice first even if it is advice you have handed out 100 times before.
88
Level: Off-Page SEO | Content Specific
What

This well used link building technique is punted by some as a great way to achieve top rankings. Its basically identifying your competitors backlinks and then trying to replicate or even steal them.

Why
  • One of the most logical ways to outrank your competition is simply to get the same links as they have... plus one.
How
  • Use tools like Moz Open Site Explorer, A Hrefs, Majestic, SEO PowerSuite, etc. to identify the backlinks your competitors have.
  • Note multiple tools are needed because none will contain a definitive list of backlinks to your competitors.
  • Find the contact details of the websites with these backlinks and reach out to the webmasters suggesting either:
    • It would be better for the webmaster to link to your content instead of your competitors because your content is better and it will therefore be a better user experience for their visitors ... or
    • It would benefit the webmaster's visitors if the webmaster included a link to you as well.
  • Some other links you identify may be directory listings which you can replicate or from reviewers who you might want to persuade to review your content as well.
When
  • There are a number of Search Engine Optimizers who have used the Skyscraper technique with good effect but I rarely use it.
  • My approach is to start with niche content that will rank without backlinks and use these to attract backlinks.
  • Later, when I have backlinks, then start creating content in more competitive areas.
89
Level: Off-Page SEO | Content Specific
What

Searching for broken links on websites that could create backlinks to you (they have created a link in the past to a website that no longer exists and your content could now be the substitute).

Why
  • You help another webmaster fix broken links on their site and in return you get a backlink ... and backlinks remain a powerful signal to search engines when it comes to ranking
How
  • The tool of choice here is Screaming Frog - you may need the premium version but its not a massive investment considering the backlinks you might gain.
  • The hard slog here is finding websites where you would benefit if they linked to you (respected, similar topic theme, etc).
  • For each one set Screaming Frog off on its search.
  • Many Screaming Frog crawls will result in no backlink opportunities for your website so you need plenty of sites to crawl.
  • When you identify an opportunity:
    • Find out the webmasters name if possible so you can be very personalized in your approach.
    • Let the webmaster know the page in their site which you are talking about and which link is broken.
    • Explain why a backlink to your content would benefit them and their visitors as the replacement for the broken link.
When
  • Personally I preference this link building technique first (although I rarely do link building - I usually create niche content which ranks without links but attracts backlinks which provides link juice I can use for more competitive content).
  • Still the Broken Link technique is great because you help other webmasters make their sites better and you make the Internet a better place in general through less broken links ... so everyone wins!
On-Page SEO | Website SEO Audit
90
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO Audit

Check 90 : Check for Google Crawler Blocked Content

What

Is there any content on your website that you are accidentally blocking Google crawlers from accessing?

Why
  • Its surprisingly common for webmasters to be blocking search engines and not know that they are doing it!
  • A common reason is that developers building websites place bits of code on the pages which tell search engines to ignore the content and then forget to remove these code snippets when the site is launched ... leaving you wondering why Google is ignoring you!
  • Regular checks for accidentally blocked content is just common sense maintenance.
How
  • In Google Search Console choose 'Coverage' and then 'Excluded'
  • This will show you all the reasons Google is ignoring certain pages on your website, you're looking for 'blocked content' pages
  • Ways to unblock content will vary as the block might be in the page code or in the robots.txt file. Search console will identify where and point you to tutorials on how to resolve the issue.
91
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO Audit

Check 91 : Check for Google Crawler Error messages

What

Google will log (in Google Search Console) if it has had any issues crawling all or parts of your website. This is not blocked content but it is content Google can't crawl for some other technical reason.

Why
  • Key parts of your content might not even be in the search results because of technical issues with your site making all the time you spent creating that content a complete waste
How
  • In Google Search Console choose 'Coverage' and then 'Errors'
  • This will show you all the technical errors Google has found with pages on your website, especially pages which do not exist but have internal links pointing to them. These could be because
    • You removed the page but did not update the internal links to it throughout the website
    • A link you created had a typo in it so the link does not work
  • Whatever the reason internal links move link juice around your website and broken links waste this opportunity.
When
  • How often will depend on how rapidly your website grows and/or changes. A current affairs website might check for crawl errors every few days while a medium sized Ecommerce site might do this audit once a quarter.
92
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO Audit
What

Use Screaming Frog to see where you have broken links on your website

Why
  • Yes, Google Search Console will pick up, eventually, broken links but it would be better to get ahead of the Google crawler and fix these up before Googlebot comes to visit.
  • Google doesn't like to rank content which has broken links if it has alternative content available from one of your competitors (broken links = poor user experience = not what Google wants).
  • Using Googlebot to flag issues with your website is a waste of your Crawl Budget (How much time Google devotes to crawling your website ... its not infinite!).
How
  • There is a free version of Screaming Frog that will crawl up to 500 pages of your website for broken links and a paid version for more substantial websites
  • Download Screaming Frog here and follow the instructions to carry out your crawl.
When
  • How often will depend on how rapidly your website grows and/or changes. A current affairs website might check for broken links every few days while a medium sized Ecommerce site might do this audit once a quarter.
93
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO Audit

Check 93 : Duplicated titles and meta descriptions

What

The contents of your <title> tag and meta description is not visible on your pages but they are used by search engines in a variety of ways. Some platforms (like Wordpress or XCart) can allow multiple pages to have the same <title> tags and meta descriptions without you realizing it.

Why
  • Having multiple pages with the same title and meta description is confusing for search engines at best and suggest spamming at worst.
How
  • Google Search Console will flag up if you have multiple pages with the same <title> tags and/or meta descriptions
  • Open Google Search Console and click 'Coverage'. Scroll down to see if any of your pages are listed as having duplicate <title> tags and/or meta descriptions
When
  • How often will depend on how rapidly your website grows and/or changes. A current affairs website might check for duplications every few days while a medium sized Ecommerce site might do this audit once a quarter.
  • Although you should do this audit regularly if you often find duplication issues look for how these come about and fix the source (for example do you need a plugin that will allow you to add meta descriptions when you add content) rather than waiting for Google Search Console to flag each one up later.
94
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO Audit

Check 94 : Keyword Cannibalization

What

When two or more pages on your website are trying to rank for the same keyword phrase and you find the wrong one ranking!

Why
  • You might have spent a long time carefully designing a product page for "Red Widgets" so it will convert visitors into red widget customers.
  • When you search Google for "Red Widgets" you find your page with the entire list of "Widgets" is what your rank for in the search results, wasting all the work you have done on the "Red Widget" product page.
  • Many webmasters know they are ranking for a particular search term (via Google Search Console) but they are actually unaware which page is ranking - they assume it is the page they want to rank and then wonder why it isn't converting.
How
  • In Google Search Console find the keyword (Query) you are ranking for, click on it and then select the 'Page' tab to see the url of the page that is actually ranking. Check its the page you want to be ranking!
  • Keyword cannibalization is very common on Ecommerce sites where category pages (like "Widgets") are linked to on every single page via a navigation menu. Multiple internal links suggests to Google you think the category page is much more important than the product page and so it ranks that 'because it contains the words 'Red Widgets'.
  • Remove categories that only have a few products/articles in them to ensure the actual product/article page is the one Google lists. Most websites have far too many category pages compared to the amount of content they hold.
  • Using Tags in WordPress can also cause the same issue and make the 'Tagged' listings rank higher than the individual product page. I find in most cases getting rid of tagging dramatically improves indexing in Google .... how many human visitors use these pages on your site or find them valuable?
When
  • A quarterly check should be fine, even for websites that produce a lot of new content on a regular basis. The first audit usually throws up a large number of issues but if you or your team become aware of it you will not repeat the same error so often going forward anyway.
Warnings
  • Do not remove tag or category pages unless you know how to do 301 redirects (which tell search engines where your content has moved to) or you could lose your rankings for certain keywords altogether.
95
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO Audit

Check 95 : Merge content

What

Check for smaller articles and content that could be merged into a longer and more comprehensive piece.

Why
  • Google says that Internet users prefer 'long content'. Comprehensive content in one place rather than spread over several pages. And if that's what people like, that's what Google likes.
  • A large piece of content can rank for multiple keywords just as well (if not better) than smaller pieces of content trying to rank for one or two keywords each.
How
  • Review your content from time to time and consider which pieces could be merged.
  • For a better user experience include quick links at the top of text content (as I've done at the top of this page) which Google might also show in the search results.
  • For video and audio include a text summary of what content is included and where by showing timestamps.
When
  • A quarterly review is usually find for checking mergeable content.
Warnings
  • On your website make sure you create 301 redirects to tell search engines where the content has moved to and as a way to forward users who might have bookmarked a page OR
  • Keep the original content pages but add a link at the top saying something like "There is an updated version of this! See my latest article about [content title which is also a link].
  • If you merge the content of two videos/audios together don't delete the originals, just add to the original video/audio a link to the 'Updated content' either as a link on the video or in the video description. You can also add something like 'Check description for updated content' in the title
96
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO Audit
What

Go through your content looking for opportunities to add internal links to other pages on your website.

Why
  • Internal linking helps Google understand where you have clusters of content on a certain topic by showing which pages are related to which more strongly than others.
  • When Google understands a cluster it gives greater ranking strength to each individual page because Google feels users will have a better experience on a website with related content than on one which has an article on a topic which doesn't fit in with the site's general subject area.
  • Its easy to forget internal link opportunities if you don't revisit your older content regularly.
  • Making sure content with similar themes is clustered is known as Silo Structuring.
How
When
  • This will depend on how much content you add to your site over time. For most medium sized blogs or article sites a quarterly review will be sufficient.
97
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO Audit
What

Link juice pools are pages on your site that have got good backlinks from other websites. Those backlinks are delivering link juice (an important ranking factor) to those pages. How you spread it around your content is up to you!

Why
  • By pushing link juice in certain directions, say to new content you have just published, you can give it a massive boost in the rankings.
How
  • Google Search Console will tell you which pages on your site have backlinks from other websites but it won't tell you how much link juice they are passing.
  • Its quite common to have large numbers of links from really spammy sites so before you can know which pages on your site have good link juice coming in you need to know which websites count.
  • If you have hundreds of links you may need a paid service (see below) to sort out the quality ones. Otherwise visit the websites that have links to yours and apply some common sense - if it looks like a really good quality site it has the potential to pass link juice.
  • Google Search Console won't tell you about every backlink your site has (it may not have discovered them all) - if you want to be really comprehensive (or if you have hundreds of links you need to sort) use tools like Moz, AHrefs, Marjestic or SEO Powersuite. These are all chargeable and none are likely to hold the full list so you have to pull from multiple sources.
  • The paid tools will give you an idea of how much link juice is being passed by backlinks (by telling you what authority the linking website has) but these are calculations made by the people who wrote the software, not Google so treat them as very general guides.
  • For each link on what looks to be a quality website you need to check if the link is marked 'no follow' - here's how to check if a link is 'no follow' - if it is then that link is passing no juice so you can discount it from your link juice pool draining!
Examples
  • Let's say your article "Best Thai Bistros in Downtown Manhattan" has got a lot of good quality 'do follow' backlinks ... so lots of link juice!
  • You've just written a brand new article "Best Vietnamese Bistros in Downtown Manhattan".
  • You add a link near the top of your Thai article promoting your Vietnamese article (e.g. "Don't forget to see my other article Best Vietnamese Bistros in Downtown Manhattan"
  • This is an in context link to a similar subject close to the top of the content which means it will carry a lot of link juice from your Thai page to your Vietnamese page ... and link juice means better rankings!
98
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO Audit

Check 98 : Extend your content via Google Search Console data

What

Google Search Console will tell you what search terms individual pages rank for. Pages which rank well for 'Keyword X' but weakly for 'Keyword Y' tell you to extend the content of the page to be more comprehensive about 'Keyword Y'.

Why
  • Google is literally telling you it doesn't have much content to rank about 'Keyword Y' so it is ranking you (even if it is weakly)
  • If you can provide better and more comprehensive content about 'Keyword Y' in your current content ... or as a new piece of content ... you are very likely to rank.
How
  • In Google Searcj Console look for queries where you have a large number of impressions (which means it is being searched often) but few or no click throughs.
  • Look at your 'average position' for that query to see if you are somewhere in the top 50.
  • Extend your current content with more useful information about 'Keyword Y' or, if you have enough material, consider creating content to specifically target 'keyword Y'
When
  • This should be ongoing work but definitely look at new content 6-8 weeks after you have posted it for clues as to how you can improve and extend it.
Warnings
  • The normal keyword research rules apply. Even if you are already in the top 50 could you reasonably expect to topple any of the pages in the top 10? Can you definitely create content which is substantially better than what is already on offer in order to get on the first page of the search results.
99
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO Audit

Check 99 : Use your robots.txt file to manage your crawl budget

What

Google will only allocated a certain amount of time and resource to crawling your website. If you're website is busy it will come by often and crawl a large number of pages. If you don't have that many visitors yet it will come by now and then and crawl a limited amount of your content.

Crawl budget means how much time and resource Google will devote to your site.

Why
  • If the crawl budget Google is allocating to your site is low you want to make sure Google crawls your core content (also called Cornerstone Content) first.
How
  • You can use a robots.txt file to tell search engine robots which pages, parts of pages or directories they should ignore.
  • Most platforms (like Wordpress) have plugins which you can install to help you do this.
When
  • You can ignore this if you have a simple 5 page style business website (Home, About, Contact, etc.) as Google can crawl these quickly.
  • Robot.txt filtering is really for large websites where Google might struggle to crawl all your pages before your running out of Crawl Budget.
Examples
  • You might tell crawlers to ignore your checkout pages (on Ecommerce sites), terms and conditions, privacy statement, etc. as well as certain images or supplementary files on your server.
  • Google will understand that these pages exist but not spend time crawling them and instead use your crawl budget to look at other content.
100
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO Audit

Check 100 : URL management of content updates

What

Reviewing your content regularly to find dated material will throw up plenty of new content opportunities but should you update what you have or delete the old and create something new? Managing content updates the right way will save your rankings while getting it wrong can have devastating consequences.

Why
  • If your content is dated then, even if it is ranking well, users will recognize it as irrelevant to their needs and Pogo Stick back to the search results.
  • Over time Google will recognize this and start to move your content down the rankings.
How
  • This has to be done very carefully!
  • When you first make content make sure the url is not date specific. Let's take an article called 'Best Thai Bistros in Downtown Manhattan (2019)'
    • Wrong: - /best-thai-bistros-downtown-manhattan-2019/
    • Right: - /best-thai-bistros-downtown-manhattan/
  • When it comes to 2020 and you see that you have a substantial update to apply move the old content to the url /best-thai-bistros-downtown-manhattan-2019/ and add text at the top like "This article was my best pick of Thai Bistros in 2019, see my latest list of recommended Thai Bistros" with the link pointing to /best-thai-bistros-downtown-manhattan/.
  • Place your new content at the url /best-thai-bistros-downtown-manhattan/
  • This way your latest content (which is the one most likely to gather backlinks and rank highest) will always be at the same url but you still get to keep the older content rather than just deleting it.
  • Over time the older content pages will build up (2019, 2020, 2021) and provide more in context internal links to your latest content which you want to rank for the search term "best thai bistros downtown manhattan".
Warnings
  • This approach is only for when you have substantial updates. Small changes should just be added with a note like 'Update - Feb 2020'.
  • If your updates are small but you create entire new content then the new and the old are going to be near duplicates ... and Google hates webmasters who publish near duplicate content because it sees this as a spammy way to try and look like a site with a lot of content ... be warned!
101
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO Audit

Check 101 : Remove or repair dead weight pages

What

Over time you will notice (via Google Analytics) that there are pages on your site that never get any visitors because no one is looking for that content or because it just doesn't rank high enough. You need to be proactive with this content.

Why
  • Search engines will only assign a limited Crawl Budget to your website (the amount of time and resource they put aside to crawling your content).
  • You don't want them wasting their time crawling content which never gets any visitors when they could be crawling your new or updated pages that rank or could rank instead.
How
  • Identify pages which receive few or no visitors in Google Analytics
  • Look these pages up in Google Search Console and see if they rank for anything (even if they rank very badly). If they are getting impressions that means they are appearing somewhere in the SERPs so there is demand for their content.
  • Consider if you can improve or extend the content in order to gain better rankings.
  • Consider removing pages which never get visitors (either from visitors already on your site or from search engines) in order to free up more crawl budget.
  • If you don't want to remove the content for whatever reason consider blocking it from search engines via your robots.txt file so crawlers are funneled to the content you do want them to discover or update. When you have a better crawl budget you can always remove the restrictions from the robots.txt file.
When
  • Doing a dead weight audit twice a year is fine for most websites but if it is obvious Google has assigned a small crawl budget to your site (Google Search Console shows how often Google bot visits and how much it crawls) your might want to do this as proactive work more often.
Warnings
  • Apply some common sense here. My SEO Glossary includes pages for SEO terms that no one ever looks at! However its important to show Google and visitors that this is a comprehensive glossary so I still keep pages which explain SEO terms even if few or no people go to them.
  • This website is also busy enough that it gets a generous crawl budget which means new content is ranked quickly despite the small number of dead weight pages.
102
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO Audit
What

Look at key pages on your website and see where users go. Look for links which are never followed.

Why
  • A link on a page that visitors never click on is wasted space.
  • Replacing it with a link which may be more relevant to your visitors means a better user experience which can help reduce Pogo Sticking and increase Dwell Time.
How
  • Google Analytics In-Page Analytics report can show you a copy of your page and tell you what percentage of visitors to any individual page click on which links.
When
  • Make sure your page has had a decent number of visitors (at least 100) before doing this. A lower number of visitors does not provide enough data to draw conclusions.
103
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO Audit

Check 103 : HTML and CSS3 code validation

What

Find errors in the source code of your website that may be causing it to load badly (or not load at all) in certain browsers or on certain devices.

Why
  • Your website might look fine on your smartphone and laptop, it might even look fine to Google, but that doesn't mean it will display well for everyone.
  • If Google sees poor user behavior (pogo sticking, low dwell time, etc) coming from users of specific devices or browsers it might reduce your rankings on those devices or browsers. That's a pointless waste of your efforts and the content you have produced which would rank higher if the code was error free.
How
  • Having W3C compliant HTML and CSS means you know your code meets all the requirements of all modern browsers and devices.
  • Start by putting the url of your home page through the following validators:
  • Repeat this for key pages on your website - e.g. a product page, a blog post page, a category page, etc.
  • You may need a developer or to Get SEO help if your pages throw up large numbers of errors.
  • You might also want to use Google Analytics to see if users of certain devices or browsers have very high bounce rates compared to other traffic. This is a clear indicator that your content is not loading correctly for them.
When
  • When your website is new or after any major design changes.
Warnings
  • Validators usually show up some errors, they may even be caused by third party code like a Facebook 'like' button.
  • Your aim is only to eliminated or reduce errors caused by the code of your site.
104
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO Audit

Check 104 : Check for Sitemap XML errors

What

Much earlier in this checklist I recommended larger sites (more than 50 pages) upload a Sitemap.xml file to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. Now its time to check in and make sure the file doesn't have any issues.

Why
  • If your sitemap.xml file has not been created correctly it could be listing pages which redirect to other pages (and a sitemap.xml is just for your live content) or it could be listing pages where the source code is blocking the Google crawler.
  • The most common mistake I see is that a website is https:// but the sitemap lists http:// pages.
  • If your sitemap.xml includes defunct or out of date urls you are wasting your crawl budget (how much time search engines put aside to crawl your site).
How
  • Open Google Search Console and click on 'Sitemaps' in the left hand menu.
  • Google Search Console will report any issues it has with your sitemap.xml and links to tutorials which can help you resolve them.
When
  • Your sitemap should be regenerated every time you add new content (i.e. a new page to your site)
  • Sitemap checkups are usually fine every quarter but it all depends how fast your website changes and grows. For a rapid growth website weekly checks might be better to ensure Google is not facing any issues accessing the new pages which are coming onto your website every week.
105
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO Audit

Check 105 : A/B Testing

What

A/B Testing is all about experimenting with design changes to see if certain things work better than others for your visitors. For example, are your visitors more or less likely to click a 'Buy Now' button if it is red instead of green?

Why
  • Ranking in the search results is one thing but if your visitors are not converting (or if more of them could be converting) you are wasting the rankings you have.
  • Getting visitors to convert (buy a product, sign up for a newsletter, etc.) is known as Conversion Optimization. A B Testing is part of this.
  • The more visitors who convert, the less Pogo Stick and the longer your average Dwell Time - signals to search engines that your content meets the needs of certain search terms and so should rank ... and perhaps rank even higher that it is now!
How
  • For A/B testing make small changes each time so you can be sure which edits work and which ones don't.
  • Some platforms (like Google Optimize) allow you to make changes to parts of your website without needing any coding knowledge so don't think A/B testing is just for the techies.
  • Use platforms like Google Optimize also tell you when enough data has been gathered for you to compare versions of your website properly - this can take several weeks depending on how many visitors your website gets.
  • Try things one at a time, like:
    • Font colors and button colors - e.g. do your visitors prefer green or red buttons?
    • Font types - e.g. does Arial work better than Times New Roman?
    • Button wording - e.g. does 'Get in Touch' work better that 'Contact Us'?
Warnings
  • A/B test advice from other people about 'What worked on their website' before implementing it. Every website turns on its merits and your visitors may react very badly to a change which had amazingly positive results for someone else.
  • Don't argue with the data! If A/B testing shows your visitors react better to gray buttons then even if you don't like gray buttons ... accept it. You didn't make this website for you!
106
Level: On-Page SEO | Website SEO Audit

Check 106 : Identify pages with high drop off rates

What

Pages with high drop off rates are where a very large percentage of visitors to that page never go deeper into your website. They may go back to the search results if they came from a search engine (Pogo sticking) or simply go elsewhere.

Why
  • Pages with high drop off rates show you that the content is attracting visitors but not doing a good job of meeting their needs.
  • Such pages are wide open to being moved down the rankings by better content ... from one of your competitors.
How
  • Google Analytics User Behavior Flow report will tell you which pages on your website have high drop off rates so you know where to focus your efforts.
  • Use A/B Testing (via a Platform like Google Optimize) to try out design changes which may improve drop off rates.
  • Consider what content could be improved or what links could be added (such as related content) that would draw visitors further into your website.
When
  • These checks should be ongoing so that even when you are not creating new content you are improving your current pages
On-Page SEO | Content SEO Audit
107
Level: On-Page SEO | Content SEO Audit

Check 107 : Repurpose your text/infographic/audio content as a YouTube video

What

Can you create a video version of your text/infographic/audio content?

Why
  • YouTube is the world's second largest search engine. For certain searches some people use YouTube instead of Google's traditional search engine.
  • If your material is only in text format you could be missing out on a substantial slice of people looking for your content!
  • Video involving you or a senior member of your team can help build relationships and trust with current and future customers.
How
  • Consider what videos are showing in the search results of YouTube at the moment for the keywords your current content ranks for in Google's text search and ask "Could I do better?"
  • 'Better' does not mean 'better produced'. Research shows people will accept lower quality (in terms of production) if the video gets straight to the point and contains valuable information.
  • This means the 'point a smartphone camera and start talking' type content can often outrank professionally produced films that are too bogged down in waffle.
  • Videos that are watched to the end and inspire people to like/dislike/subscribe/comment rank better and faster so:
    • Say immediately what the film is about (so viewers remain confident they are in the right place) -e.g. "I'm going to show you how to prune grapevines".
    • Tell viewers what they will know by the end of the video (creates more confidence - e.g. "By the end of this film you'll know how and when to cut back your vines to maximize grape growth.")
    • Tell them how you know it will work - e.g. "I've been growing grapes for 20 years and tried numerous methods, this is the one that works all the time, every time".
    • Avoid long stories about why you made the video - people aren't interested (yet). You can add a short "A lot of people have asked me .... " but no more. People want the answer, not the backstory to the video.
    • Include a reason for them to stay until the end - e.g. "At the end I'll also show you a couple of extra tips I've learned that will also help you prepare your vines for winter."
    • Then move immediately to the content - a short 15-20 second intro is OK but long "This is who I am or this is who we are" type ramblings cause people to abandon videos.
    • Encourage viewer to comment during and at the end of the video - e.g. "Tell me in the comments whether you have red or white grapes" and "If you have a question about grapevines please put it in the comments so I know what other videos to make".
    • Encourage viewers to like/subscribe if they think they're learning something and finding the content useful. My favorite comes from Kate Toon's podcasts - "If you like, subscribe or comment that will really help others who need this info find it more easily" (i.e. because she'll rank better!!).
  • Many smartphones have got a wide variety of video editing apps, some free and some paid
  • For laptops and desktops VideoPad offers free video editing software which can give your films a 'pro' sparkle even if the film itself is fairly basic.
  • Make sure to transcribe your video content and add it below the video when you embed it on your own website (it makes loads of great content for Google's text search) and you can upload it to YouTube to ensure your subtitles display correctly).
  • Sunny Luzzards YouTube video about how to make videos that will rank on YouTube is definitely worth a watch before you start.
When
  • While Google's standard search has become an increasingly crowded space there are huge gaps in YouTube's content for genuinely useful information in many fields so take advantage of this opportunity.
  • Remember YouTube doesn't always need to involve film, you can just post audio content with a static picture.
Warnings
  • Video production can take a lot of time (and sometimes a lot of expense) so remember to ask yourself - how will this content benefit me?
  • Does it hold the potential to generate a lot of good quality backlinks. Is it something that will help turn your visitors into customers or clients? Does it help establish me as an expert in my field?
108
Level: On-Page SEO | Content SEO Audit

Check 108 : Repurpose your video/audio/text content as an Infographic

What

Infographics are sets of graphical representations (graphs, pie charts, flow diagrams, etc.) of content.

Why
  • Its much easier for users to digest compared to long texts and some prefer it to videos because they can move through at their own speed.
  • Google image search is a search engine in itself where some people specifically search infographics on certain topics.
  • While infographics are a crowded field in some topics (like SEO!) they are poorly produced or sparse in other fields so you may find an opportunity to reach a wider audience here.
  • Great infographics can become amazing backlink magnets if they are truly useful.
How
  • Its all about trying to visualize your content in graphic form or think about useful stats which relate to your content and which you could display in graphic form.
  • There are plenty of Infographic generators available online, many with very low entry prices.
When
  • You should consider this for all video, audio and text content.
  • You may need to carry out extra research to get the kind of figures and statistics that make for a head turning infographic but that will also make your original content much higher quality so you win on both sides.
109
Level: On-Page SEO | Content SEO Audit

Check 109 : Serialize your material into a Podcast

What

Podcasts are like daily, weekly or monthly radio shows that then stay on the web for on demand listening.

Why
  • Podcasts are yet another area where your potential clients might be.
  • People tend to give podcasts more time and patience than text (because they are driving or listening on the train or doing some other activity that makes it difficult to stop listening to you!
  • That said if any of your podcasts deliver no value it can be enough to kill off a large section of your audience.
How
  • Almost anyone can record a podcast with a Smartphone or laptop but make sure the sound quality if good enough - if listeners can't hear you clearly they'll switch you off!
  • Internet users won't be bothered about content that isn't highly polished if you are delivering value so concentrate all your efforts there.
  • I use Videopad to cut, edit and splice audio. This way it can be saved as a video for YouTube and converted to an audio file for Podcast platforms at the same time.
Warnings
  • Record at least half a dozen podcasts before starting to publish them on streams like Podbean (which will also create a Podcast stream for platforms like iTunes)
  • Single one off Podcasts don't reflect well on brands so be ready to roll out a number of episodes from day one.

Whooooooo!!!!! You've reached the end! Not really. If you're seeing this message it means I'm still building this page but Google has started ranking it already. That's what happens with great content ... rises to the top before you can stop it!

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I'm Tim Hill, a Search Engine Optimization and Online Marketing specialist. I created this site to help others understand that SEO is not a mysterious black art!.

If your a newbie try the Getting Started in SEO page, otherwise feel free to dig around and learn more.

Find me on Facebook or get in touch if you need help.

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