Comprehensive SEO checklist for every specialist
Do you have what it takes to be an SEO specialist?— Lord Vincent Van Mendoza (@digitallourd) June 22, 2021
The Ultimate SEO must-have for every SEO specialist
Understanding basic SEO concepts and key terms
As an SEO specialist, you need to know the common jargon used in the industry. As you delve into the complexity of doing Search Engine Optimization, these key terms will help you all along.
SEO – Search Engine Optimization is the process of maximizing the visibility of websites in search engines.
White-hat SEO – White-hat SEO refers to all the optimization techniques which abide by any search engine guidelines.
Black-hat SEO – Black-hat SEO consists of techniques, which are disapproved of by search engines and should not be tolerated.
Grey-hat SEO – Grey-hat SEO tactics are often used by SEO agencies due to pressure to see quick results from a client and fall in between white and black hat SEO in terms of approach.
Negative SEO – According to SEMRush, negative SEO is any malicious practice aimed at sabotaging search rankings of a competitor’s website.
On-page SEO – Moz (n.d.) defines on-page SEO as the practice of optimizing individual web pages in order to rank higher and earn more relevant traffic in search engines.
Off-page SEO – Off-page SEO refers to everything made outside of your site to fare better and feature higher up in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
Local SEO – Yoast defines local SEO as the practice of optimizing your website for a specific local area. If you have a local business, like a shop, restaurant, or agency, you want your website to pop up in local searches.
Technical SEO – Technical SEO refers to improving the technical aspects of a website in order to increase the ranking of its pages in the search engines.
Adding and Verifying your Website with Search Engine Webmaster Tools
Most SEO specialists only know about Google Search Console. That may be good. However, the bigger your scope of presence, the higher is your chance of getting discovered. These are the Webmaster Tools you need:
Google Search Console
Google Search Console is a web service by Google which allows webmasters to check indexing status and optimize visibility of their websites.
Bing Webmaster Tools
Bing Webmaster Tools is a free service as part of Microsoft’s Bing search engine which allows webmasters to add their websites to the Bing index crawler, see their site’s performance in Bing and a lot more.
Yandex Webmaster Tools
Yandex webmaster tools is a free web service provided by Yandex for webmasters to monitor their site’s performance in the Yandex search engine. You can use it to upload a sitemap, see how much traffic you are getting, get a list of indexed pages, see crawling or indexing errors, site speed problems, etc.
A permalink is the URL of a webpage. It is called permalink because it is not expected to change throughout the lifetime of the page.
For SEO purposes, you need to check and make sure that ALL your website pages have SEO friendly URLs.
When we say SEO friendly URLs, they must have the following characteristics:
- They are short and descriptive.
- They include keywords.
- They use hyphens (-) to separate the words.
Installing SSL and Making Sure that your Website is in HTTPS
Having an SSL installed on your website is one of the factors for you to rank well on search engine result pages.
An SSL ensures that any information shared between your website and server is secured.
If you haven’t migrated your website to HTTPS yet, then this is a top priority item in your to-do list. Depending on your hosting service, you may get this for free. Still, if you’re starting out, I suggest using Cloudflare.
Checking and Optimizing your robots.txt File
Robots.txt is a file that resides in the root folder of your site and gives instructions to search engines as to which pages of your site they can crawl and index. You can check if your robots.txt file is up and running by logging on to:
Have a look at mine as an example:
Optimizing your XML sitemap and Submitting to Search engines
An XML sitemap is a file that lists all the pages of your site that search engines need to know about.
You need to check that your XML sitemap is properly optimized and valid. You need to submit your sitemap to Google, Bing, Yandex, Baidu, and other webmasters.
Here’s mine as an example:
Checking your Comment Settings and Making Sure that all Comment Links are ‘nofollow’
Another check to make is to ensure that any links within your comments section have the nofollow attribute attached.
Comments are good for SEO and should be enabled on your blog but to avoid getting a Google penalty for ‘unnatural links’, all outgoing links need to be nofollow.
A nofollow link instructs search engines not to pass any PageRank (or link juice) to the target website.
Adding Structured Data Markup Data to your Homepage
Schemas and structured data are nowadays very important for SEO. They can help you enhance your website’s appearance in Google search results as they are also good for local SEO and for Voice SEO.
Your homepage is one of the most important pages of your site for many reasons and when it comes to SEO, it should be treated like the rest of the pages. Make your homepage as the comfort zone for your SEO.
When it comes to structured data for the homepage, you need to ensure that you define the following schemas:
Organization (if you are an online business)
Local Business (if you have a physical presence i.e. a shop)
Person (if you are running a personal blog).
Enabling Breadcrumb Menus on all your Posts and/or Pages
A breadcrumb menu is a small menu usually located at the top of a page, used as a navigational aid. It shows the path to go from the current page back to the homepage.
If you did notice, I also have a breadcrumb in this blog, specifically. You can take a look back at the top.
Breadcrumb menus are good for the user experience and thus they are also good for SEO. Google loves breadcrumbs and they recommend using them on your site.
Checking that all your Pages Define a Canonical URL
According to reliablesoft.net, a canonical URL is added in the HEAD section of a page and tells search engines which is the preferred URL for the particular page. A canonical URL can point to itself (self-referencing) or to a different URL.
Canonical Tags are most commonly used to:
- Help webmasters solve duplicate content issues
- Help search engines index the most appropriate page (in case pages have similar/identical content)
- Help webmasters specify their preferred domain
- It’s a way to consolidate incoming links to a specific page
- It’s a way to protect your PageRank from websites that copy your content
- It’s a way to avoid duplicate content issues when syndicating content
- It’s a way to specify which page to index in cases where you have accelerated mobile pages (AMP) enabled on your site
Checking and Improving the Loading Speed of your Website
As part of a technical SEO review, you need to check and improve your website loading speed as much as possible.
Loading speed is a ranking factor and a very important user experience factor. It’s anyone’s experience to feel so frustrated if a website takes so much time to load. One way of doing this is by using Lazy Loading for images and videos.
Optimizing your Website’s Logo and Favicon
Optimizing means making sure that your logo is an image and not text .
According to Woorank, there are at least 2 benefits of using a logo/favicon:
Increased Usability Of Site: Usability of a site correlates to higher search engine ranking. So, if having a favicon next to your website title on browser tabs, on bookmarks, on history archives and so on, helps a user save time, identify and browse your website without difficulties, they may have a rather minuscule but noteworthy role in SEO.
Bookmarks: With a favicon you seem to have a higher advantage over websites that do not when it comes to saving and keeping a website bookmark on the browser. Search engines such as Google has the Chrome browser for users through which they also deduct certain search ranking signals for sites bookmarked on the web. If there is no favicon to your site, you may lose out on the chance of being on a bookmarked list of a Chrome browser and hence indirectly lose out on a small but significant search ranking signal.
Optimizing your Page Titles
Page title optimization is the most important SEO factor. In your title, you should include your target keywords as this helps both search engines and users get an idea of what the page content is all about.
Besides using keywords in the title, you should also follow these best practices:
- Each and every page of your website should have a unique title tag
- A page title should accurately describe the page content
- Titles should be brief and informative (typically less than 60 characters)
Optimizing your Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions are primarily shown in the search results and it’s a great opportunity to showcase what it’s about in a nutshell to the end-users. Here’s a sampler from my own website.
Sitelinks are links shown below the description of your snippet in Google Search Results that point to other pages on your website. Sitelinks are automated by the Google algorithms and are only shown when they are useful to the user.
Take a look at this example from the best school in Davao.
Checking and Optimizing the H1 Tag for All Pages
The H1 tag is the first important element shown on a page and it usually has the same value as the page title.
Be careful though. There should only be one H1 tag for every page or post that you make. This should contain the gist of your content. This helps web crawlers understand the main context of your page.
Adding a Google Map to the Contact Information Page
On the contact us page make sure that you embed a Google map and have text content that shows your business name, address, and telephone.
Registering your Website with Relevant Directories
Submitting your business page to various directories is actually a plus factor on getting more backlinks. These are some of the directories my friend, Ms. Ross Bato, a wedding planner in Davao, has submitted her business to.
Considering implementing Accelerated Mobile Pages
Accelerated Mobile Pages is a term used to describe a new way of building mobile-friendly pages that load faster compared to traditional mobile pages. Google, specifically, loves pages in AMP. In my blog on PICASSO Framework in Content Marketing, you can see that it is in AMP.
Having an SEO checklist in mind means having to-do list in working on your web visibility and online presence.
If you manage to make your website compliant with all the above-listed items, then you can really feel confident that your website is in good SEO standing. This should translate to higher rankings and more traffic.