Following this SEO checklist helped us reach 640,000 monthly blog searches.
eCommerce stores, local businesses, affiliate sites—anything.
- Basic SEO checklist
- Technical SEO checklist
- Keyword research checklist
- Content checklist
- On-page SEO checklist
- Link building checklist
How to use this SEO checklist
Most SEO checklists don’t explain that SEO is ongoing. Instead, they list random tasks and imply SEO is complete once they’re done.
We’ve tagged each item on our checklist:
Do it with every new page
You don’t need to complete this checklist today due to its structure. Do one-time tasks first, then periodic tasks, then ongoing tasks when publishing a new page.
SEO basics checklist
Let’s start with some SEO basics. These won’t improve rankings directly, but they’re important for Google.
1. Set up Google Search Console
Google Search Console tracks your site’s organic search performance.
Here are some uses:
Check keyword rankings
2. Set up Bing Webmaster Tools
Bing Webmaster Tools is Google Search Console’s equivalent.
3. Set up Ahrefs Webmaster Tools
Ahrefs Webmaster Tools (AWT) is a free tool that improves SEO and organic search traffic.
100+ SEO issues
Check your keyword rankings.
4. Set up Google Analytics
Google Analytics lets you see how many people visit your site, where they’re from, and how they interact with it.
5. Install an SEO plugin
WordPress SEO plugins help optimise sitemaps and meta tags.
(You only need one)
Rank Math Yoast
Using Shopify, you may not need an SEO plugin.
6. Create and submit a sitemap
Sitemaps help search engines find and index your site’s important content.
Our blog’s sitemap:
Sitemaps can be found at these URLs:
/sitemap.xml \s/sitemap index.xml \s/sitemap
7. Create a robots.txt file
Robots.txt tells search engines where to go on your site.
A robots.txt file is always a good idea, but it’s essential if you want to block search engines from crawling your site. ecommerce store owners may not want their cart page indexed.
Visit yourdomain.com/robots.txt to see if you have one. Plain text files are fine.
Reading: Robots.txt and SEO
Technical SEO checklist
Technical SEO issues keep websites from ranking as high as they should. Here are some technical best practises.
1. Plan your website structure (new sites only)
Your website must be easily navigable for visitors and search engines. So create a logical site structure.
Create a mind map.
2. Make sure your site is crawlable
Google can’t index uncrawlable content, so check Google Search Console’s Coverage report for robots.txt warnings or exclusions.
If you want Google to index blocked pages correctly, remove the rule from robots.txt.
3. Make sure your site is indexable
Indexing and crawling differ. Search engines can crawl but not index pages. Indexing isn’t possible if a page has a ‘noindex’ robots meta tag or x-robots-tag.
Coverage shows noindexed URLs.
This is also in Ahrefs’ Indexability report.
Remove ‘noindex’ tags from pages that should be indexed.
4. Make sure you’re using HTTPs
HTTPS is a ranking factor.
If you’re not using HTTPS, start.
HTTPS protects visitors’ data, regardless of rankings. This is especially important for contact forms. If you need passwords or payment info, it’s a must.
What does HTTPS mean?
Search bar padlock:
5. Make sure your website is accessible at one domain
Your website shouldn’t be accessible from multiple places. Crawling, indexing, and security problems can result.
Plug these four URLs into httpstatus.io to check for problems:
Hopefully, three of them will redirect to the fourth.
If not, set up a 301 redirect.
If you’re using HTTPS (you should be), make sure your accessible version is secure. Yourdomain.com or www.yourdomain.com.
6. Make sure your site loads fast
Obviously. Waiting for a search result to load is frustrating. Therefore, page speed affects bounce rate.
PageSpeed Insights and GTMetrix can measure your website’s speed.
These tools can only check a single page. Ahrefs’ Site Audit will crawl all your pages. Performance shows slow pages.
7. Make sure your site is mobile-friendly
Having a mobile-friendly website is more important than ever.
Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test can evaluate your site.
8. Install an image compression plugin
Image compression reduces file size and speeds up pages. Page speed affects Google rankings.
WordPress plugins exist for this. ShortPixel rocks. Free image compression for 100 per month.
If you’re using another website platform, use ShortPixel’s web app.
9. Fix broken pages
Broken links can affect user experience and website ‘authority’
Ahrefs Webmaster Tools finds broken links.
Site Audit crawls websites.
Report Internal Pages
How to fix broken links:
10. Fix duplicate content issues
Exact or near-exact duplicate content appears in multiple places online. Faceted navigation causes this ecommerce SEO issue. This causes hundreds of duplicate content problems.
Ahrefs Webmaster Tools finds duplicate content free.
Site Audit crawls websites.
Duplicate content report
Keyword research checklist
SEO’s most important piece is keyword research. How can you optimise your content for search engines without knowing what keywords people use?
Use this checklist to get started.
1. Find a primary keyword to target
Each web page should target one keyword. You should do keyword research to find keywords to target, but you should also target the best keyword when you publish a new page.
Which keyword is best?
It’s the most popular search method.
Consider a post on protein powders. This can be found using:
Best protein powder
best protein shakes, supplements
Do you target any of these keywords?
Fortunately, there’s a simple solution. Look at the Parent Topic in Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer. This is a common search method.
2. Assess search intent
The searcher’s intent drives their query. If your page doesn’t comply, it won’t rank.
What is search intent?
Examine the types and formats of Google’s top keyword results.
The top results for “marketing skills” are all blog posts, based on their URLs and titles. Mostly listicles.
If you targeted this keyword with a course page, you probably wouldn’t rank.
3. Assess your chances of ranking in Google
Knowing the keyword’s difficulty helps you prioritise the opportunity and set realistic expectations.
Use Keywords Explorer’s Difficulty score for a rough estimate.
Don’t depend on it. Look for things like:
Top 10 mostly big brands
Top-ranking sites’ topical relevance
This tutorial explains.
4. Research what people want to know
Someone searches “SEO keywords.” Search intent shows that people want a definition, but what other questions do they have? What else should you include?
Google’s “People Also Ask” box provides clues.
Paste three top-ranking pages into Ahrefs’ Content Gap tool for ideas. This will show you a page’s keywords.
Then, look for keywords that might represent subtopics. In our case, it’s “keyword examples” and “SEO keyword usage.”
Choosing the right keyword is important, but it won’t matter if your content isn’t good. Improve your content with these tips.
1. Solve the reader’s problem
Understanding search intent is the first step in solving a reader’s problem because it tells you what they want.
Then comes research.
To create great content, consider the visitor’s problem.
Example: “productivity tips” Searchers want a listicle-style blog post, according to search intent. Top-ranking posts include advice like “take breaks” and “write things down.”
People searching for “productivity tips” likely want more actionable advice.
So you should go beyond “take breaks.”
2. Write a winning intro
If you can’t convince readers in a few seconds, they’ll hit the back button before you can say “dwell time.”
A compelling intro is your best defence.
Good intros do three things:
Build trust Promise a user-problem solution
Visitors won’t read your content if they don’t get past the intro. Then they won’t convert, share, or link to it.
Here’s how to write a good introduction.
3. Use headings to create hierarchy
H1 and H2 headings create hierarchy and logical sections. This simplifies skimming and reading.
This list has five sections.
SEO for on-page
Each subheading contains checklist items.
Imagine reading this page without subheadings.
Read about H1 tags. 2021 SEO Tips
4. Break things up with images
A wall of text is boring. It can make people bounce.
Images break up copy and aid visual comprehension.
Don’t include images just because.
We illustrate our points with graphs, charts, and screenshots.
5. Use short sentences and paragraphs
50% of Americans read below 8th-grade level.
Overcomplicating things will alienate half the population. Be concise.
Use straightforward language
Free browser-based tool Hemingway can help. It grades your copy and makes suggestions.
6. Add a table of contents
Table of contents links to page sections.
Our posts usually include them:
Tables of contents can be added to any page, but they’re best for long, difficult-to-navigate content. Our 2,000+ word posts make sense for our readers.
A table of contents can help you get sitelinks.
On-page SEO checklist
On-page SEO optimises a page’s content. This includes visible and source code optimizations.
How to do it?
1. Use a short, descriptive URL
Short, descriptive URLs help searchers in the SERPs.
These two pages discuss weight loss.
https://www.dietdoctor.com/how-to-lose-weight \s… The first URL doesn’t show it.
Set your primary keyword as the URL slug to create short, descriptive URLs. Most blog posts are formatted this way.
ahrefs.com/blog/on-page-seo/ \sahrefs.com/blog/link-building/ \sahrefs.com/blog/free-seo-tools/
Long URLs tend to be truncated in SERPs
2. Write a compelling title tag
Title tags appear in Google’s search results and tell searchers about a page.
Title tags should include keywords.
If it doesn’t make sense, don’t sweat it. It’s more important to write clickable copy.
Post or page titles usually work.
3. Write a compelling meta description
Google shows meta descriptions 1 in 3 times.
Here are our best meta description tips.
Search intent matters
Keywords (where it makes sense)
4. Link to relevant resources
Internal links help website visitors navigate.
Linking to other sites helps your users. Links help users learn more, check your sources, and understand how your content answers their questions.
5. Optimize your images
You should have installed an image compression plugin if you followed the checklist. Page-by-page image optimizations include:
Describe images. Use IMG 875939.png instead of Screenshot-2021-06-01. Try black-puppy.png or eiffel-tower.jpg.
Add alt-text. Alt text replaces a failed image. It helps screen-reader users. Here’s more.
6. Add schema markup for rich snippets
Schema markup improves search engine indexing. It can also affect your SERP ranking.
This schema-marked page ranks for “pizza dough recipe”:
Schema markup can boost website traffic and click-through rates.
Implementation isn’t difficult. Use Google’s markup helper or this Schema generator.
How to Get Rich Snippets
7. Add internal links
Google understands your page through internal links. They aid search engines and website visitors.
We’ve discussed linking to internal and external resources in your content. When publishing new content, add internal links to relevant pages.
Find relevant internal link opportunities:
Ahrefs Webmaster Tools is free.
Site Audit crawls websites.
Link Opportunities report
Set your new page’s “Target page” filter.
When appropriate, link to those pages.
Link building checklist
Link building is crucial for SEO, especially for competitive keywords. In this section, we’ll discuss link-building strategies.
SIDENOTE. Some of these tactics build backlinks to your entire website, while others focus on individual pages.
1. Replicate your competitors’ links
If a page links to multiple competitors but not you, it may be worth pursuing.
Find these websites:
Content Explorer: (“competitor 1” AND “competitor 2”)-“your brand”
Click “One page per domain”
This will search over 7 billion pages for your competitors but not you.
Then look for link-building opportunities.
If you were doing this for ConvertKit, this list of 79 marketing tools might work.
2. Reclaim lost links
In the last 7 days, the Ahrefs Blog’s Lost Links report shows hundreds of lost links.
Reasons vary. Sometimes it’s permanent. Sometimes they’re recoverable.
How to Reclaim Lost Backlinks
3. Pursue unlinked mentions
Brands are sometimes mentioned without links. Unlinked mentions.
Despite mentioning Ahrefs, they don’t link to us.
Wouldn’t it be cool to link unlinked brand mentions?
It’s possible. Just ask the authors to “clickable text.” Because they know your brand, they’ll likely make the change gladly.
How do you find unlinked brand mentions?
The guide explains everything.
Read: How to Link Brand Mentions
4. Publish guest posts
Guest blogging involves publishing an article on a related website.
Here’s an Ahrefs blog post by Ryan Stewart:
Most people link guest authors’ bios to their website.
Search for sites that have written about relevant topics to find guest blogging opportunities. Why? Because these sites may want a similar guest post.
Find these sites:
Content Explorer from Ahrefs
Topic (e.g., “keyword research”)
Select “In title”
Here are the top 100 websites with organic traffic from your topic.
5. Pitch resource pages
Resource pages link to topic-related resources.
Google operators like:
Here’s a digital marketing resource page:
6. Find people linking to inferior content
If you’ve created the best content on a topic, there should be many others that aren’t as good.
These posts’ linkers are link prospects.
Here’s a post with an incorrect definition of long-tail keywords (it’s not about length):
Site Explorer shows the post has over 1,000 links.
So we could contact them, explain the issue, and suggest they link to our post about long-tail keywords instead.
How do you find similar backlinked posts?
Topic search (e.g., long tail keywords)
Select “In title”
Filter referring domain-heavy pages (linking websites)
Then you must convince people to link to your page instead of theirs.
7. Tell more people about your content
Unknown content can’t be linked to. You should promote your content to the right people.
Two things distinguish them:
Your content interests them
Them linking to you
Learn how to contact the right people using this advice.
SEO is an ongoing process, so one checklist can’t cover everything. If you tackle the above checklist items, you’ll rank higher. You’ll be ahead of the competition. So what?
Check out our free SEO training course for more on this checklist.