People often ask me, when looking for someone to do SEO for their website, how to go about determining what to look for when trying to hire a web developer to perform SEO, on their website.
For starters, one needs to know that SEO is not a magical trick in which you make a few adjustments to your site, and wallah, everyone comes a running. This is, unfortunately, not the case, however, over time, if you perform SEO techniques on your site, as well as, in the short-term, engage direct marketing techniques, while ramping up your SEO plan, then at some point, both your external marketing efforts, as well as your internal SEO work, will pay off, over time.
With this being said, I was thinking about the best way to help my customers determine what is best for their SEO needs, and I cam across, what I would consider, the best SEO checklist I have ever seen, in 2018, which doesn’t mean their are not better ones out there, but if one would do a search, they would probably find this, like I did, on the first page of my search results on google, and although I went through about ten pages of results, this was both the best, and most generous, which is really what helping people to have a good experience when working with a web developer.
So, here it is, in my opinion, the best SEO checklist (for 2018), ever:
1. Have a Unique Domain Name To Create a Brand
It is advisable to have unique, undefined domain names for websites, as observed in case of big brands like Quicksprout and Backlinko.
2. Country TLD Extension
Country TLD extension (.in, co.uk), is useful if you want to rank higher in a specific country, as it helps you to boost your local search ranking, but it limits the global ranking of your site. You can read more about it here.
3. Stick To Either www or non-www Domain
It is important to be consistent on search engines. Thus, it is essential that you pick www or non www version and 301 redirect the other one. Further details and code can be found here.
4. Use Semantic Markup To Improve Ranking
Semantic markup helps you to tell search engine robots what your content is all about, thereby making it easier for them to index it, which results in improved search engine ranking. However, it does not necessarily have to be fancy. Read more about Semantic Markup here.
5. Submit a XML Sitemap To Speed Up Indexing
A sitemap not only speeds up search engine indexing, but it also informs Google quickly about any changes on your site. Thus, it is important that you create a XML sitemap and submit its URL to your Google Search Console. You can create the sitemap with the help of Yoast SEO Plugin for WordPress.
6. Also Create an HTML Sitemap
While an XML Sitemap makes it easier for search engines to index your site, an HTML sitemap makes navigation of your site easier, thereby helping you to enhance the user experience, and improve your search engine optimization.
7. Use Optimized Robots.txt
Don’t want certain Pages Folders or Files to show up on Google?
Create a Robots.txt file in root, to prevent search engine robots from crawling and indexing specific areas of your website. You can even get a code for the same here. If you wish to read more about Robots.txt, head over to TorqueMag.
8. Make Your Website Responsive
Google loves Responsive websites! Mainly because responsive sites are compatible with desktops, mobiles & tabs. Thus, it is important that you switch over to responsive website, if you want to rank well on search engines and if you want to avoid Google’s Non-Responsive Website Penalty. To test how mobile-friendly your site is, you could use either of these tools – Google mobile-friendly test or TestmySite Tool
9. Use Heading Tags (H Tags) To Get More Traffic
Heading Tags or h tags, help search engine robots to establish the relevancy of your content by providing basic description of the content, thereby maximizing your content’s visibility on search engines. You can learn more about the importance of H1 tag.
10. Use Alt Tags Intelligently To Optimize Images
Search engine robots can’t see images, hence they can’t index them.
By adding an Alt tag, you help search engine robots to read the text which is associated with those images, thereby facilitating faster & accurate indexing, which in turn improves the accessibility of your site on search engines. Here’s some more information on using alt tags for image optimization.
11. Check For Broken Links
Broken links halt search engine robots from indexing your web pages. Hence, it is important that you fix this problem immediately, to avoid hurting your website’s rankings. You can check for broken links with the help of the Broken Link Checker Plugin for WordPress.
12. Use Quality Page Meta Title & Descriptions
A cleverly composed page meta title (Max 60 Chars) and description (Max 140 Chars) improves the quality and quantity of your search traffic and helps search engines & users, to know what your page content is about. Yoast SEO Plugin for WordPress is the best tool for this.
13. Add BreadCrumbs To Improve Navigation
Breadcrumbs make your site more accessible to search engine robots. Plus, they help users to navigate your site better, which results in reduced bounce rate, leading to better search engine rankings. In other words, Breadcrumbs facilitate a better presentation of your URLs. Here are some instructions on how you can enable Breadcrumbs using Yoast SEO plugin.
14. Place Your Site’s Content Above The Fold
Google has recently decided to make some changes in its algorithm, which will give more value and importance to content displayed above the fold. Since this is the first thing that grabs 80% of a user’s attention, it’s important that the above the fold portion of your site’s web page has relevant content rather than unnecessary ads.
15. Check For Duplicate Content
Google doesn’t like unoriginal content. Duplicate content makes search engines’ task of indexing web pages, checking for relevancy, assigning link metrics, difficult. Thus, it is important that you check for duplicate content and remove it, to avoid losing search engine visibility. Duplicate content should not be more than 10% on the site. To check your website for duplicate content use Siteliner.
16. Keyword Placement Matters, Not Frequency
Industry experts feel that the frequency of keywords no longer influences ranking, but their placement does. Hence, it’s important to write content which has relevant and naturally placed keywords, regardless of their number.
17. Implement LSI keywords To Boost SEO Traffic
LSI keywords are the ones related to the keywords that are searched on Google. Implementing LSI keywords helps you to optimize your article’s keyword density and it helps Google to judge the relevancy of an article, thereby increasing your site’s chances of ranking higher in the search engine results. You may also use search engine optimization tools like Uber Suggest & LSI Graph to find LSI Keywords.
18. Keyword In H tags, Description & Title
For best SEO results and improved ranking, it is important that you place your page’s best keywords in H tags, description & title, to let search engines know what the page is all about. However, make sure you do not spam or over optimize these areas by stuffing keywords in them.
19. Internal Contextual Linking On Long Tail Keywords
Internal contextual linking helps you to establish SEO-friendly site architecture, which helps search engine robots to index web pages more efficiently. Also, it helps to promote older content & it improves your site’s ranking for specific keywords. So, whenever you produce a new blog post, scan through the older posts and other web pages, and contextually optimize the structure internally.
20. Optimize Your Images For Better Rankings
Optimizing images helps in reducing bounce rate, improves your site’s page speed & performance, and generates more traffic from image-based search engines such as Google Image Search & others. Plugins like TinyPNG plugin for WordPress, does a great job of optimizing images.
21. Use Short And Descriptive URL Permalink
Do not use the default settings. Create simple and SEO friendly permalinks. Make sure that the URL is short yet descriptive and contains the target keywords. Here’s an example of how you can shorten your URL.
22. Use Hyphens To Differentiate Words In URL
The structure of a URL matters. Thus, it is important that you keep your site’s URL as simple as possible and use hyphens to optimize your URLs.
23. Use Meta Keywords To Rank Well On All Search Engines
The common misconception is that meta keywords are no longer an important ranking factor. While this may be true for Google, it is not in the case of other search engines like Yahoo, Bing, etc. So, to rank well on all search engines, it is essential to use meta keywords.
24. Add Noodp (No Open Directory Project) & Noydir (No Yahoo Directory)
Included in Yoast WordPress Plugin, the Noodp & Noydir tags help you tell search engine robots, not to use information from these sources while displaying your site’s information on the search engine results.
25. Linking Out To Relevant & Authority Sites
Linking out to relevant & high authority sites helps you to boost your search engine ranking and improves your site’s visibility. But make sure you only include sites with high page and domain authorities. You can check their Domain & Page Authority using the Moz Open Site Explorer.
26. Link Out To Diverse Sources
By linking out to diverse sources you not only make your content appear more natural but also get more link juice from varied sources.
27. Keep Outbound Links To Minimum
The quality of the outbound links matters, not the quantity. Thus, avoid having too many outbound links, and only keep those which have high page and domain authorities.
28. Use Social Sharing Buttons
Effective use of social sharing buttons is important for on-page optimization. It gives the users, the flexibility to share your site’s content with just one click, which in turn drives in more traffic to your site. You can optimize them using the Add To Any Share Buttons WordPress plugin.
29. Redirect Attachment URLs To Parent Post
WordPress by default creates a single page for each attachment that you upload, which leads to indexing of duplicate pages.
Thus, to ensure that your web pages are appropriately indexed without duplication, it is important that you create a redirect of your attachment pages with the help of Yoast, which will direct search engine robots to the correct (parent) page. Yoast plugin also has an option to enable or disable this on your website.
30. Create Long & Statistics Based Content
Long content enriched with accurate statistical data converts better than short content. Moreover, it also helps you to get more outbound links and they do well on, thereby improving your search traffic. Create power pages with 2000+ words content, which is epic and useful for your niche industry.
31. Write Powerful & Captivating Headlines
Creating attention-grabbing headlines is where your focus should be, as it is the first impression of your article. When you write a headline, ask yourself, ‘Would this make me want to read on?’ Here is some useful information on writing powerful headlinesfrom industry expert, Neil Patel.
32. Write Benefit-Focused Content
An effective web copy is one that is benefit-focused. Does your article include something different, which as of yet is not shared by another writer? What benefit does your article offer to the reader? You can read more about some valuable SEO techniques and how to write benefit-focused content from Brian Dean.
33. Make Use Of Bullets & Numbers While Writing
Integrating numbers into your content’s headline makes it powerful and clickable. Whereas bullets help you to present multiple points in an easy to digest format and provide a visual break from the rest of your text.
34. Use Capital Letters To Highlight Keywords
Using capital letters for the first letter of each keyword is important. Since keywords are an important factor in SEO, highlighting them in the capital will help you to draw the readers’ attention to important information.
35. Proofread The Content Before You Go Live
Proofread to eliminate typos, spelling mistakes and check the grammar of the content, to ensure best quality content for viewers, and to improve search engine visibility.
36. Use Engaging Images & Videos
Show, don’t tell!
The best technique for viral marketing campaigns is to Create a Viral Infographic or ‘How To’ explainer videos for business or using relevant images as part of the content is the fastest way to attract a user’s attention and to speed up conversion. This article by Codefuel tells you how images and multimedia can improve user engagement.
37. Frequently Update Content/Blogs
Updating your site’s content and blogs frequently help you to gain more visibility on the search engine, which leads to increase in traffic and conversion.
38. Make Use Of Local Citations
The citation is an online reference to your business’s name, address & phone number on other web pages. Using local the citation helps you to improve your local ranking and creates more brand awareness.
39. Use Rel Canonical Tag To Improve Ranking
Rel canonical tag helps you to eliminate duplicate URLs, thus facilitating faster and effective indexing, which results in improved Page Ranking. You can use Yoast plugin to enable or disable this for your website.
40. Use GTMetrix & Pingdom To Optimize Website Speed
A slow website will get you nowhere!
To retain your viewers, get more traffic and improve your site’s search engine ranking, it is important that you optimize your website’s speed. You can easily check your website’s speed performance using search engine optimization tools like GTMetrix and Pingdom or Dotcom Monitor
41. Reduce PopUps or Distracting Ads
Irrelevant pop-up ads are not only annoying, but they can also lead to increase in bounce rate, resulting in traffic loss and low ranking in SERPs.
42. Optimize Your Contact Us Page
Customize your Contact Form. Make it as attractive & user-friendly as possible
to grow your customer base. For this, it is important for you to take some time and learn about the art of optimizing your contact page.
43. Use SSL Certificate To Boost Ranking
Google rewards sites that use SSL Certificate by boosting their rank on search engine. Moreover, since you are providing a secure service, it helps to improve customer trust. You can find some of the cheapest SSL options, starting from $4.99/year.
44. Install CDN To Enhance Page Load Time
Content delivery network (CDN) not only improves your site’s page speed, but also helps you to enhance your user’s experience, by reducing the response time, thereby improving your site’s ranking. Our personal recommendation would be Max CDN or CloudFare. If you are using Total Cache Plugin for WordPress, it has an option to setup CDN.
45. Optimize Your Site With WP SEO Plugin
46. Audit Your Site To Improve It’s Performance
47. Use 301 Redirects Effectively
301 Redirect helps you to preserve the SEO value of a web page, by transferring page rank, domain authority, etc, to a new page, thereby preserving your ranking in SERPs. Use the User Redirection plugin for WordPress to manage your 301 redirects.
48. Optimize Social Share Image Settings With Yoast SEO
Improve your site’s organic search ranking by optimizing your social share images with Yoast SEO. Here is a detailed guide on how to set-up Yoast SEO Plugin to optimize social sharing images.
49. Social Signals Impact Search Engine Rankings
According to Neil Patel, social signals impact search engine rankings. Therefore, it is advisable to be active on social sites as search engines use data from these sites to rank your website.
50. Create Search Engine & User-Friendly Pages
51. No-index or Remove Thin Pages
Thin or low-quality pages add little or no value to your site. By implementing a no-index tag on these pages, you tell search engine robots not to index them. In other words, to maintain a standard for your website, it is best to get rid of low quality, thin content.
52. Publish The Usual Static Pages
By publishing the usually static Privacy, Contact Us, About Us pages, you can improve your site’s visibility and rank higher in search engine result pages.
53. Do A Cross Browser Testing To Check Cross-Browser Compatibility
Test your website’s browser compatibility, to avoid losing search traffic. Use BrowserStack to check your website’s cross-browser compatibility.
54. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
Accelerated Mobile Pages is an open-source coding project that helps to improve the loading speed of web pages on mobile. By using AMP for your content, you are able to enhance mobile browsing experience for users. Plus, since Google prefers AMP pages, implementing it can help improve your site’s ranking in mobile search results.
55. Start Blog Title With Keyword
One of the sure-fire ways to get a click on your article is to start your blog title with a keyword. A well-crafted blog title that includes a keyword will not only pique a user’s interest but it will also earn you the desired & relevant traffic.
56. Add Modifiers to Title
More often than not, users tend to include modifiers such as ‘2018’, ‘best’, ‘review’, ‘top’, ‘guide’, when searching for a product or a service online. Thus, by adding modifiers to your title, you are ensuring that your site shows up in SERPs for these searches. Additionally, it improves users experience as it gives the user a quick information regarding what a particular web page is about.
Take a look at this modifier list to boost your SEO.
57. W3C Validator
A W3C validated markup code makes your site more search-engine friendly. This markup validates that you are using clean HTML codes on your site, and helps improve ranking as well as facilitate smoother indexing. To validate your website test it on W3C Markup Validator.
58. Keyword at the Beginning of URL
Adding your target keyword to a URL helps to improve your site’s click-through-rate. It also helps to describe what a particular URL is about, which makes it easier for search engines as well as users to identify a web page just by examining its URL.
60. Create Silos For Your Website
In simple term, ‘Silo’ is a technique of grouping related web pages on your website together in an organized manner. By siloing your website, either through links or by creating groups for the content, you are making search engines task of indexing your website easy. Additionally, it helps distribute link juice across various web pages, resulting in improve ranking on SERPs.