If you are looking for an SEO checklist that will help you increase organic traffic and your rankings in Google, you have found it.
We’ve created a checklist you need to achieve your SEO goals in 2023, covering 41 of the best practices and tasks.
From the most basic in SEO to the most advanced on how to analyze your off-page signals, you can use this checklist as a reference.
How to Use This SEO Checklist
We have divided this checklist into sections that cover the main areas of SEO:
You need to focus on all these points to achieve a holistic SEO strategy.
Take a look at our checklist to make sure you’re following best practices in each area.
If you implement best practices and fix all bugs, you will have a better chance of SEO success.
Basic SEO Checklist
Are you still figuring out what exactly is SEO?
If you don’t have the basics covered, your site will have a hard time ranking competitively.
The following points are largely housekeeping, but they are part of the fundamentals of a good SEO strategy.
1. Set up Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools
Google Search Console is an essential tool that provides you with important information about the performance of your website.
It also offers a wealth of data that you can use to grow your site’s organic visibility and traffic.
You can learn more about why it’s so important to use this tool, how to set it up, and much more in this guide.
Bing Webmaster Tools is the equivalent platform, they simply provide data and insights for your search engine.
Both tools allow you to view the terms and keywords that users use to find your website in search results, upload sitemaps, identify crawl errors, and much more.
If you don’t already have these tools set up, do so now and thank us later.
2. Configure Google Analytics
Without the right data, you can’t make the right decisions.
Google Analytics is a free analytics tool that allows you to visualize data and insights into how many people visit your website, who they are, and how they engage with it.
This ultimate guide to Google Analytics will walk you through everything you need to know about the tool as a beginner, including how to set it up and the most useful reports.
One thing is for sure, and that is that you cannot implement a successful SEO strategy without this tool.
Also, you will need to connect Google Analytics and Google Search Console to import the data later.
3. Install and Configure an SEO Plugin (if you are using WordPress)
If you are using WordPress as your CMS (which is quite likely, since it supports 35% of the entire web ), you should install and configure an SEO plugin.
This will give you access to the features you need to optimize your site.
In our WordPress SEO checklist, we have plugin suggestions for you.
Which plugin to choose depends mostly on your personal preferences, but these are three good options.
If you are using a CMS other than WordPress, talk to your developer to see if you need to install a specific SEO plugin or module.
Plug-in SEO, for example, is one of the most popular SEO apps for Shopify.
4. Generate and Submit a Sitemap
The purpose of a sitemap is to help search engines decide which pages to index and which canonical version to choose.
It’s as simple as a list of URLs specifying the main content of your site to make sure it’s properly indexed and crawled.
In Google’s own words :
A sitemap tells the crawler which files you think are important on your site.
In addition, it provides valuable information about these files.
For example, for pages: when it was last updated, how often it changed, and any alternate language versions.
Google supports a number of different sitemap formats, but XML is the most widely used.
You will normally find the sitemap of your website at https://www.domain.com/sitemap.xml
If you’re using WordPress and one of the plugins mentioned above, you’ll find that generating a sitemap is standard functionality.
If not, you can create an XML sitemap with one of the many sitemap generation tools available.
Once you’ve generated your sitemap, make sure it’s been uploaded to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.
Be sure to reference your sitemap in your robots.txt file.
5. Create a Robots.Txt File
Simply put, your web robots.txt file tells search engine crawlers which pages and files they may or may not request from your site.
It’s typically used to prevent certain sections of your site from being crawled, and it’s not a way to de-index a page and stop showing it on Google.
You can find your site’s robot.txt file at https://www.domain.com/robots.txt
Check if you already have one.
If not, you need to create one, even if you don’t currently need one to prevent any page on your website from being crawled.
Some WordPress SEO plugins allow users to create and edit their robots.txt file, but if you are using a different CMS, you need to manually create the file using a text editor and upload it to your domain root.
You can learn more about how to use robots.txt files in this beginner’s guide.
6. Check Search Console for Manual Actions
On rare occasions, you may discover that your website has suffered a manual action that has negatively affected it.
This includes things like user-generated spam, structured data issues, unnatural links, poor content, hidden text, and even what is considered pure spam.
Many sites have never suffered and will not suffer a manual penalty in the future.
That being said, you can check it in the manual actions tab of Google Search Console.
You’ll be notified if your site receives a manual action, but if you’re working on a new project or working on a website, it’s always one of the first things to check.
7. Make Sure that Google can Currently Index Your Website
It is not as infrequent as you might think that a website is not indexed in Google.
In fact, you’d be surprised how often a sudden deindexation of a site occurs accidentally caused by developers forgetting to remove the noindex tags when migrating from development to final.
You can use the Site Audit tool to ensure that your website can be crawled and indexed.
Set up a Site Audit for your project.
Once you have performed the audit, you can go to the Traceability report to get more data.
Double-checking that the pages on your site are indexed can save you a lot of trouble later.
Not sure if your site is indexed in Google?
Let Jason Barnard guide you through the steps and successfully index your website.
Checklist for Keyword Research
Without a solid keyword research process, you’re not going to rank for the right terms and your traffic isn’t going to convert at the rate it could.
Here’s a checklist of the essential keyword research tasks you need to tackle to see results from your SEO efforts.
8. Identify Your Competitors
One of the fastest ways to start keyword research is to look for terms that work for your competitors (i.e., competitor keywords ).
In our opinion, time is never wasted doing competitor analysis.
Analyze your own domain (and that of your key competitors) with Semrush’s Domain Overview tool.
It will help you quickly identify those competitors who are competing for the same space as you and compare your visibility.
9. Find the Most Profitable Keywords
The most profitable keywords are those that will generate more leads, sales, and conversions.
You will also find them defined as target terms or keywords for pillar pages.
These are typically high-volume, high-competition keywords that really sum up what you offer, both at the topic and category levels.
For example, the term “Hotels” is considered a root keyword.
You can use the Keyword Overview tool to conduct keyword research on your products or services and identify your root terms.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive guide to learning how to unify a content strategy based on priority terms, check out this comprehensive guide.
10. Find Variations of The Long-Tail Keywords
A keyword strategy without long tail terms is not really a strategy.
In fact, long-tail keywords typically have less volume than root terms and a higher conversion rate.
You need to make sure that your SEO strategy includes long-tail variations as well as root terms.
It can be helpful to find which terms to focus on and then select long-tail variations that get more variations.
You can use the Keyword research tool to find long-tail keywords.
Simply enter your main keywords, choose the country, and the tool will return a list of terms.
Additionally, you can modify the keyword match by broad, phrase, exact, or related match.
11. Create a Keyword Map
Once you have identified your target keywords, you need to place them on your web pages as well as identify any gaps.
This keyword mapping guide defines it like this:
In its simplest form, keyword mapping is a framework for the keywords you’ve chosen to target that reflects the structure of your site. Generated through research, the ultimate goals of mapping are to help you figure out where to optimize, what content to create, and where you can add new pages to drive more traffic.—Andrea Lehr
It is important that you make sure that you are targeting the right pages with the right keywords.
The guide can help you get it right the first time and use it to fuel your strategy.
12. Analyze the Intentionality of the Ranked Pages
You need to make sure that your page content matches search engine intent.
Therefore, you need to spend time analyzing the page ranking for the target terms and making sure your content fits.
Let’s say you’re looking to rank for a term nationwide.
You’ll get keywords with high volume and realistic difficulty, but if the search results return local results, you’re not going to rank high.
If you don’t understand the intent of the content Google is ranking for, you won’t be able to make sure it fits.
Find out more in this guide on how to identify search intent.
You can also use this scheme as a starting point to classify searches by type of intent:
You can also use Keyword Research tools to identify keyword intent.
The options will help you determine the user’s position in the consumer journey.
Keywords are labeled as Navigational, Informational, Commercial, or Transactional.
13. Identify Questions that are Being Asked
Knowing the questions your audience is asking can help you better answer them through the content on your site.
You can find a list of questions related to any keyword in the Keyword Magic Tool.
Enter a keyword and filter the results by “questions”.
It’s a good starting point that can provide a lot of inspiration, especially if you start with specific keywords.
Additionally, you can use a tool like AlsoAsked.com that searches “Other People Also Searched” results to find more ideas and questions to include in your content.
14. Understand the Difficulty of Ranking for Your Target Keywords
A new website has to fight to rank for competitive keywords until it gains authority.
For that reason, you need to understand how difficult it is to rank for your target keywords, and thus set your priorities.
It can help you manage your expectations (and those of your clients) when you start your SEO strategy.
For example, a new dealer website will not be able to rank for the term “toyota camry.”
Instead, it’s better to target specific long-tail keywords, like “toyota camry for sale in san diego.”
Head over to the Keyword Overview tool and enter your target keywords.
There you will see the Keyword Difficulty.
That is, how hard it will be for a new website to position itself on the first page.
Technical SEO Checklist
Technical SEO helps you build a strong foundation and ensure that your site can be crawled and indexed.
These are the most common areas to pay attention to.
15. Make Sure You are Using HTTPS
We are in 2023 and HTTPS has been a ranking factor since 2014.
There’s no excuse not to use HTTPS encryption on your site and if you’re still using an HTTP version, it’s time to migrate.
You can easily confirm if your site has an HTTPS version by taking a look at the URL bar of your browser.
If you see a lock, you are using HTTPS. If not, you’re not using it.
If you want a detailed report on the possible errors, go to the report dedicated to HTTPS of the Site Audit tool.
16. Check for Duplicate Versions of Your Site in the Google Index
It is very important that you only allow Google to index one version of your site.
There are many different versions of your site and they should point to only one version.
Whether you choose a non-www or a www version is up to you, but the most common is https://www.domain.com.
All other versions should have a 301 redirect to the parent, and you can check this by entering each variant in your browser bar.
If you have redirected correctly, no problem, but if you find that you can access different versions, please implement them as soon as possible.
17. Find and Fix Crawl Errors
You can quickly identify any crawl errors through the Google Search Console.
Head over to the Coverage report and you’ll see both the errors and the excluded pages, as well as the ones with warnings and the ones that are valid.
Take your time to resolve any errors you find and explore the cause of the excluded URLs in more detail (in many cases, there is a reason you need to resolve them; from 404 errors to incorrectly canonicalized pages).
18. Improve the Speed of Your Site
Slow sites translate to a poor user experience.
In fact, Google confirmed in 2021 that user experience was going to be an even more important positioning factor.
You need to make sure that your site loads quickly.
Nobody wants a website that loads slowly.
You can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to gather information about your page performance and Core Web Vitals.
Scroll down to see the overall Performance score and a list of suggestions for improvement.
You can also use Site Audit to see the status of your Core Web Vitals, as well as recommendations for improvement.
Check out this guide on PageSpeed Insights for more information.
19. Fix Broken Internal and External Links
Broken links are another sign of a poor user experience.
No one wants to click on a link and find that it doesn’t take them to the page they were expecting.
You can find a list of broken internal and external links in the Site Audit report, and you can troubleshoot and identify problems both by updating the target URL and removing the link.
20. Find and Fix HTTP Links in HTTPS Pages
Most sites migrated from HTTP to HTTPS quite some time ago, but it’s still common to find that internal links point to HTTP pages, not the current version.
Even when there is a redirect to direct users to the new page, they are unnecessary and you should try to update them as soon as possible.
Take a look at the HTTPS Implementation report in Site Audit to discover any errors.
If there are only a small number of bad links, update them manually in your CMS.
However, if they are present throughout the site (which they often are), you should either update the page templates or run a search and replace them in the database.
Talk to your developer if you have questions.
21. Make Sure Your Website is Mobile-Friendly
Compatibility with mobile devices is a key factor in the positioning of Google.
Since mid-2019, Google has officially switched to mobile-first indexing for all sites.
If you’re not offering a mobile-optimized experience, your organic visibility will suffer.
You can check the compatibility of your site with mobile devices with the Google compatibility testing tool.
22. Use an SEO-Friendly URL Structure
An SEO-friendly URL structure makes it easier for search engines to crawl your pages and understand what they are about.
Your page URLs should be simple and descriptive.
This is what an SEO-friendly URL looks like:
Unlike a query string which is non-descriptive:
Use hyphens in your URLs to separate words; don’t use underscores.
Keep your URLs as short as possible ( a Backlinko study showed that shorter URLs tend to rank higher).
23. Add Structured Data
As Google continues to build a more semantic web, structured data markup is becoming increasingly important.
If you’re not already using structured data, you need to implement it.
In fact, the Schema.org vocabulary includes formats for structured data for people, places, organizations, local businesses, reviews, and much more.
Structured data helps your organic listings stand out in search results and in the example below, you can see that both review stars and price improve results.
Check out our Ahrefs guide to structured data for beginners.
You will be able to learn more about how you can take advantage of this strategy to succeed.
You can also head over to Google’s structured data testing tool to see if your website is using it.
24. Check the Page Depth of Your Site
Ideally, the pages of your site should not be deeper than 3 clicks.
If so, it is a sign that you need to rethink the structure of your site to make its structure simpler.
It’s as simple as knowing that the deeper a page is placed, the less likely it is for users or search engines to find it.
You’ll find pages that need more than 3 clicks to reach clearly highlighted in the problems section of your Site Audit report.
25. Check Temporary 302 Redirects
302 redirects indicate that a redirect is temporary, while 301s indicate that the move is permanent.
It’s quite common to find 302s instead of 301s, and while Google has confirmed that 302s pass PageRank, the fact remains that if you don’t expect to remove a 302 redirect in the future, you need to upgrade to a 301.
You’ll find any 302 redirects clearly highlighted in the Site Audit report as pages that have temporary redirects.
26. Find and Fix Redirect Chains and Loops
Your site should not send users or search engines through multiple redirects (a redirect chain), nor should the redirects create a loop.
Simply, the redirects should go from page A to page B.
The site audit report will highlight any issues with redirect chains and redirect loops.
To solve this you have to update all the redirects in a chain to point to the end goal or by removing and updating the one causing the loop.
SEO On-Page and Content Checklist
Without great content and a great page experience, you will have a hard time ranking your site and increasing your organic traffic.
It applies to both web pages and blog posts.
With so much competition, blogs have to make sure they are taking every step possible to outperform others for important search terms.
To read more on this topic, you can check out our blog SEO guide.
Make sure your site meets the following points and focus on creating great content for users, not search engines.
27. Find and Fix Duplicate, Missing, and Truncated Tags
Optimizing title tags is an SEO staple.
In fact, they are often the first thing any SEO will look at to help the page rank.
As you know, title tags tell search engines what a page is about and determine whether users click on the results.
Avoid duplicate title tags.
You shouldn’t have duplicate content on your site, and your title tags should be specific enough to tell users which page they’re going to click on.
Also avoid overly long title tags, as they will be cut off in the SERPs (you will see an ellipsis after the tag).
Normally, titles with more than 70 characters will be cut off.
You also need to make sure that the title tags are not missing (when the title tag is blank).
All of these flagged issues can be found in your Site Audit report and can be fixed by updating and improving your page title tags.
28. Find and Fix Duplicate and Missing Meta Descriptions
Although meta descriptions have not been a direct ranking factor for many years, they appear under title tags in search results.
Simply put, it’s your meta description that encourages a user to click your result over someone else’s and can positively or negatively affect your organic CTR.
If you don’t have a meta description, Google will display some of the content on your page, which may include navigation text and other elements and be unappealing.
If you have duplicates, there’s a good chance there isn’t a unique description that encourages clicks.
Keep in mind that Google rewrites meta descriptions 70% of the time to fit the intent of the users.
However, you should always write one that encourages users to keep reading.
29. Find and Fix Multiple H1 Tags
The H1 tag of a page is the main heading of your content, and there should only be one per page.
The site audit report will flag pages that have more than one H1 tag, and you should take the time to sort it out to make sure there is only one on each page.
The most common reason for multiple H1 tags is that your site’s logo is inside one, as well as the main header of the page.
Primarily, H1 tags should include the main target keyword of a page, so make sure you tag the correct content.
30. Improve Title Tags, Meta, and Page Content
If you’re not properly optimizing your page titles and meta tags, you’re missing the opportunity to rank for not only your main keywords but variations as well.
Go to the performance report in Google Search Console and identify the keywords on each page that have a significant number of impressions, but few clicks and a low average position.
This usually means that your page is considered relevant to queries and ranks at least somewhere, but you haven’t optimized the page by including these variations in your content or tags.
Simply adding them within the keywords is not enough.
You must include them as additional H2s or subsections.
Get down to work, optimize your page with this in mind and you will see an increase in clicks and positioning.
31. Conduct a Content Audit and Refine it
Carrying out a content audit is a good way to find out how your pieces are performing.
Basically, you want to get rid of content that doesn’t rank, doesn’t add value, or shouldn’t be on your site.
We cannot stress enough that the time spent conducting a content audit and removing poor, duplicate, or low-quality content is critical.
If some content does not add value to your site, it should go.
It’s that simple.
Kevin Indig’s guide on how to use Semrush to improve SEO is a good starting point and will give you some very relevant information.
You can also use our Content Audit tool to find out which pages to rewrite, delete or update based on their performance.
32. Make Sure Images Contain Alt Tags
Always pay attention to image optimization.
From properly naming images with descriptive nomenclature to optimizing for size and quality, this is an area of SEO that is often neglected.
At the very least, you should ensure that the main images on each page of your site use alt tags to adequately describe their content.
Alt tags are not only useful for search engines to identify images, but for those who are visually impaired.
33. Improve Internal Interlacing
Internal links are possibly one of the most overlooked link-building tactics in SEO.
Spending time improving your site’s internal linking strategy almost always pays off pretty quickly.
Some marketers get very quick results by adding an internal link or two from highly authoritative pages elsewhere on their site.
You can read this guide to carry out a successful internal linking strategy.
And thus begin to identify pages that you should link to from other pages or that have authority and could be distributed elsewhere on your site.
You’ll also find a list of pages that only have an internal link pointing to them in the site audit report.
34. Find and Fix Keyword Cannibalization Issues
Keyword cannibalization is one of the most misunderstood SEO concepts.
Despite what many people think, it is a problem that has to do with the intent of a page, not simply with the keywords used in the content and title tags.
Imagine that you have two pages ranking for the term “SEO checklist”, one outdated and one new with useful content.
If Google prefers the old one, it will not position the new one.
In this case, it would be a good idea to combine both so as not to split the traffic.
If your site is cannibalized, you will have a hard time ranking for competitive terms, as search engines will have a hard time figuring out which page to display.
To find out if your site has cannibalization errors, set up a Position Tracking campaign and check the Cannibalization tab.
This cannibalization guide walks you through the most common ways to find and fix these problems.
35. Find and Fix Orphaned Pages on the Site
Pages on your site should always be linked from at least one other page.
After all, if Google can’t crawl a page through other links on your site, you’re probably missing out on authority and missing out on ranking opportunities.
If you have pages in your sitemap that are not accessible via at least one link from another page, you will find them marked as ” orphan pages in the sitemap ” in your Site Audit report.
Get to work and link to these pages from at least one other relevant page.
36. Is the Content of Your Site up to Date?
Content ages naturally and becomes out of date.
But updating old content is one of the easiest tasks you can implement to see great results.
Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media states that:
Updating old articles is one of the most effective SEO strategies we have found.
If your page content contains out-of-date information or could simply be updated with a fresh perspective, that’s time well spent.
After all, out-of-date content doesn’t offer the best user experience, so why should Google rank it?
Off-Page SEO Checklist
If you want to succeed in SEO, you cannot ignore off-page SEO.
Although it is often considered to only cover backlink generation, there is much more to it than that, keep reading.
37. Analyze the Link Profile of Your Competitors
If you don’t know the link profile of your competition, how can you plan a strategy to overcome them?
While it’s also important to spend time analyzing your competition’s content, you should also invest resources in digging deeper into their link profiles.
You can analyze any URL with the Backlink Analysis tool, as well as the link profile of your competitors, to identify the links that point to their websites.
38. Perform a Link Intersection Analysis
Are you missing links that your competitors are benefiting from?
Frequently conducting a link intersection analysis will help you new opportunities.
With the Backlink Analysis tool, you can enter up to five different domains to get insights into which domains are linking to your competitors.
If there’s, say, a resource page that links to every player in your industry except you, a great place to start would be to contact them and ask to be added.
39. Turn Unlinked Mentions into Links
If you have a public relations team that is getting press coverage, there’s a good chance you’ll find articles that mention your business, but don’t link to you.
These are known as unlinked brand mentions.
The Brand Monitoring tool can help you quickly identify unlinked brand mentions.
This is a great guide that discusses how to approach requesting a website to add a link.
40. Find New Backlink Generation Opportunities
There are always new ways to generate backlinks that you can explore and implement, but finding them often takes time.
You should always try to build great links to your site, but using the right tools can make finding links much easier.
The Link Building Tool, for example, is a simple and direct source of new opportunities that you can reach.
In just a few minutes, you will get a large number of new potential links and you will be able to establish a solid strategy to make big profits on the competition.
41. Adjust and Optimize Google My Business
Off-page factors go far beyond links, despite being a key positioning factor.
If you’re running a local business, make sure you’re included in Google Business Profile (GBP); otherwise, you will be delivering visits to your competition.
There is no denying that it takes time to optimize your GBP token.
But if you’re serving customers at your location or they’re visiting, there’s no reason you can’t benefit from the time you’ve invested.
This is all! A 41-step SEO checklist for both beginners learning SEO and advanced specialists.
SEO success cannot be achieved by just following a checklist.
However, to outperform your competition you must follow these steps and improve your SEO.
Can you think of more steps to add to the list?
Let us know in the comment box.
Thanks for Reading.