If you want to increase your search traffic this year, pay attention.
Because this SEO checklist is going to show you 45 different ways that you can increase your search traffic:
Now people like to make SEO complicated, but it really only boils down to 3 layers-
So I am going to show you how to win at each of those areas this year…
What Will I Learn?
Think of your SEO as building a house.
You want to lay a good foundation and then you can begin adding more layers which eventually builds a solid house.
The SEO checklist below is designed in the same way. First by taking care of your technical foundation, then moving onto the content and link building layers.
Just follow the SEO checklist from the top and work your way down but remember, all of the best tips are in the video.
The very first thing you need to tackle is some of the SEO fundamentals.
This section covers some of the important tools and plugins you need. Don’t skip over this section because basic errors like these are the most common errors I see from clients.
Google Search Console is a very powerful SEO tool and 100% free (we all love free SEO tools right?)
Google Search Console tracks your website performance in the search results and gives you insight into how Google looks at your website.
You can use Google Search Console to:
And so much more. Google Search Console is a must-have tool for all website owners.
Bing Webmaster Tools is very similar to Google Search Console but specifically for the Bing search engine.
You need to set it up to increase your Bing SEO.
Is Bing as popular as Google?
No, not even close. But Bing gets about 1 billion monthly visitors and has a search engine market share of 7.89%.
It’s worth getting yourself set up on Bing Webmaster Tools properly and optimising your website for it.
Don’t forget to check/monitor your Bing rankings with Bing rank tracker tools.
If you’re not tracking your performance, how will you know if you are improving or not?
Google Analytics tells you all about one of the most important parts of your website:
You can learn so much about improving your SEO from how your audience engages with your website. Google Analytics allows you to measure:
Setting up Google Analytics won’t take you more than 10 minutes and it’s one of the best analytics tools available for anyone serious about their SEO.
Don’t trust Google? Check out my list of Google Analytics alternatives!
Does your website use WordPress?
Both have great features but Rank Math has overtaken Yoast in terms of what it offers.
The truth is that Rank Math:
Read my complete Rank Math review to see why I ditched Yoast.
Google is good, but they aren’t perfect.
You need to ensure that Google finds and indexes every single one of your pages to:
The best way to do that is to submit your XML sitemap to Google. An XML sitemap is a file that contains a complete list of all your website URLs on it.
Submitting your sitemap to Google is like handing them a complete map of your entire website. All of this is done through Google Search Console.
Note: Submitting your site to Google is free and easy, so don’t get caught in the trap of SEO submission software. They just are a waste of money.
Robots.txt files tell search engines which URLs you don’t want to be indexed.
There are some pages of your website that you don’t want others to find in search engines. These include:
A robots.txt file will help keep search engine robots out of the wrong pages and also ensure people only find the pages you want them to see at the right times.
The easiest way to generate a robots.txt file is to install Rank Math.
It will create one for free and you can customise it however you want.
Most people underestimate how important technical SEO is to your success and focus too much time and budget on link building.
But Google is all about delivering an excellent user experience and there’s some thing’s we must pay attention to.
So these next SEO checklist items ensure your website has all the right technical SEO optimisations you need.
The best way to learn about EAT signals is by watching the video below. It will skip to the exact section you need to watch:
Without strong EAT signals, it can be difficult to rank.
EAT stands for:
Put simply – EAT signals prove to Google that you are a real and trustworthy business that they can confidently send traffic to.
So, whatever your website is about, you must have high levels of EAT in your pages or they won’t rank. This is even more important for website owners with YMYL content.
Mobile-friendly websites are non-negotiable in SEO.
Google released their mobile-first indexing update for all sites back in 2019. If your website doesn’t have an optimised mobile version, it won’t rank.
Want to test if your website is mobile-friendly?
Use the free Google mobile friendly test tool:
It will quickly tell you if your website is optimised for mobile or not.
Does your website load fast?
Lots of people underestimate how much website speed can affect your SEO. It’s one of the first things we tackle with every new client and it almost always boosts organic traffic.
You should head over to Google Search Console and look at the Page Experience report:
Ideally, you want to be posting as close to 100% good URL’s on both the mobile and desktop reports.
If you’re struggling to speed up your website, use these 6x free ways to increase website speed and get your site loading like lightning.
Google can’t properly index your website if you have crawling errors. That’s why you need to identify and fix them as quickly as possible.
These tools will do in-depth audits and identify any current crawling errors you have.
They will even give you suggestions on how to fix the crawl errors making it as easy as possible to take care of them.
Found some errors?
Take the time to fix any errors that you find and investigate what’s causing the issue. Depending on how big your website is, this could take some time but it’s worth the effort.
Just because Google can crawl your website doesn’t mean they can index it.
Indexing errors occur when Google can’t add parts of your website to their database. But if key parts of your website aren’t indexed, they can’t rank in the SERPs.
The most common indexing issues are:
Google Search Console makes it super easy to identify any crawl errors that Googlebot has noticed when crawling your website.
Login to Google Search Console and click on the Coverage report:
Here you will see a list of any crawl warnings or errors on your website or you can use the SEMRush trial to run an audit on your site.
Spend time working through any errors you find. Indexing is one of the most overlooked and straightforward reasons your website doesn’t rank in the SERPs.
HTTPS is a known lightweight ranking factor.
It has been a ranking factor since 2014. There is no excuse for not having a secure website today. It affects-
The point is that Google views HTTPS as an expected part of your website.
So you need to make sure that you have an SSL certificate and your website is secured. You can see if your website is HTTPS secure by looking at your home page in a browser.
But not every website host offers the same quality of security for your website. There are a lot of factors that can affect the quality of an SSL certificate.
Use the SSL Labs test to see what grade your SSL certificate gets.
It will analyse a number of factors to determine how well your website is protected. You’ll get a letter grade rating from A+ to F.
Duplicate content is content that appears on different websites, or multiple pages on a single website.
This often occurs when content, landing pages or product pages are duplicated and quite often you’ll find entire staging sites creating duplicate content problems.
The problem is that Google will only ever rank one of those pages containing the duplicate content. And it’s impossible to predict which one.
You need to get on top of any duplicate content errors so the right page ranks in Google.
Found duplicate content?
Implement canonicalisation to avoid search engine confusion over duplicate content. This ensures that the correct page ranks and Google ignores the others.
You might want to consider using the noindex tag if a page you’re not intending to rank is contributing to duplicate content problems.
Adding “rel=canonical” tags to your page is a great way to prevent duplicate content.
They also show search engines you’re aware of the duplicate content, which will help you avoid the negative side-effects of having duplicate content.
You can experience duplicate issues on lots of your website pages. The most common one will be your home page.
For example, your home page URL could be:
That’s 4x different potential variations of your home page. How will Google know which one to index and rank in the search results?
Broken links can really impact your SEO negatively.
Because it creates a bad user experience for your visitors. Lots of broken links can also indicate that you don’t take care of your website.
That’s a reputation you don’t want.
Structured data is markup that helps search engines understand your website content better and display it in the search engines.
For example, every time you see the review stars in SERPs, that’s because that website has structured data.
The most common type of structured data is schema markup. You can use that to feature-rich results in the SERPs for your:
Use Schema Markup Validation to see if you already have structured data on your website.
You can also use my free FAQ schema generator to display frequently asked questions in the search results.
Make sure you are taking advantage of all of the available structured data opportunities you have using the most common options I listed above.
Orphaned pages are pages on your website that aren’t linked to from any other page or section of your website.
This means that users can’t access them and Google may not find them.
This will identify any orphaned pages that don’t have links pointing at them.
Once you have identified the pages that have been orphaned, you need to link to them from other relevant pages on your website. That’s it, all done!
Stuck in the Google sandbox period? Read my guide to learn how to get out of Google sandbox as quickly as possible.
Good keyword research is the foundation of your SEO. Get it right and your sales can explode. But get it wrong…
And you will be struggling to rank.
Use these SEO checks to create a keyword strategy and find quality keywords that your target customers are searching for.
Most people just jump into keyword research without ever giving any thought to strategy.
You don’t just want to find good keywords and start writing content to target them. You need to be intelligent about the keywords you choose for your campaign.
The easiest way to put a solid keyword strategy together is by using my free Intelligent Keyword Research Template.
This tool helps you put together complete keyword strategies in minutes, rather than days.
Here’s how it works:
You simply add your competitors to the spreadsheet. In less than 5 minutes, it will spit out a personalised keyword strategy based on your competitors. That’s it!
This is the easiest way to put together a sustainable keyword strategy to generate consistent traffic over time.
You don’t need to pay for quality keyword research tools.
There are tons of free keyword research tools available, you just need to know which ones to use and which ones to avoid.
One of the best places to get more long-tail target keywords is from Google suggest.
Google Suggest (also called Google autocomplete) is the suggestion you see when typing in the Google search box.
But manually searching every keyword in Google takes a lot of time.
That’s why I use Soovle.
Soovle is a free tool that scrapes the Google Suggest keywords and provides you with information much faster. This makes the process easier and more scalable.
Take the keywords from your intelligent keyword sheet and paste them into Soovle.
Within minutes you will have hundreds more long-tail keywords to target!
Google Keyword Planner is the official keyword research tool from Google.
It is technically made for Google ads, but it’s one of the most powerful keyword research tools for SEO if you know how to take advantage of it properly.
Best of all, it’s completely free!
Who wouldn’t want to use a tool that contains data from Google themselves? It should be the most accurate data you can get on keywords.
Follow my Google keyword planner tutorial to learn how to use it properly and uncover more high-quality keywords for your campaign.
One of the most powerful ways to do keyword research is to uncover question keywords that your target audience is searching for.
How do you do that?
AnswerThePublic is a keyword scraper that allows you to type in a target keyword and get a complete list of questions people are asking.
Not only does this provide you with more target keywords but you know what you need to answer in your content to help your audience. This is a must to rank high in the SERPs and convert site visitors into customers.
Want to take AnswerThePublic to the next level?
Combine it with Keywords Everywhere to see the exact search volume for each question inside the tool.
This makes it easy to choose keyword questions that will drive search traffic to your site.
The last step for keyword research is to tap into online forums and communities.
Here you can listen to what your target audience is talking about and find a gold mine of target keywords. These are keywords that even advanced keyword research tools would never show you.
The two most popular forums to look at first are:
Type your target keyword into the search bar and start looking through discussions.
Look for words or phrases that people use frequently. You can also identify topics that people are trying to learn more about.
The easiest way to do that is by using Google.
Simply Google: Your Target Keyword + “forum”.
This should bring up a couple of niche forums for you to jump on.
Now just look through the topics on these forums and start identifying keywords you can create content about.
Here’s the deal:
If you want to rank big on Google you need to create great content. So I have provided a list of things to make your content stand out and rank higher.
Have a page that ranks on page 1 or 2 of Google? Then you’re in the position to steal a featured snippet. And pulling it off isn’t as hard as you think.
Here’s how it works:
Look at the current featured snippet for your target keyword in the Google search results.
Take note of whether it is a:
Also, take note of what website Google is pulling the featured snippet from and spend time analysing that page.
Pay attention to the words being used and where they appear on the page and in the featured snippet:
You can see from the example above that it’s actually a table in the article that’s being displayed as bullet points in the featured snippet.
Now go back to your piece of content and replicate what your competitor has done.
Once you have implemented the changes in your content, submit the URL to Google.
Watch this short video clip to learn more about stealing featured snippets
Here’s the truth:
Your audience gets bored quickly. If you don’t keep them engaged, they won’t stick around to read your content.
What’s the best way to keep your audience’s attention?
Use good questions to hook them. This SEO copywriting secret changed the way I approach writing content forever.
You see humans are hard-wired to find the answers to the questions they’ve just been asked. They have a need to close the information loop.
We just don’t like being left open-ended.
That’s what makes questions so powerful. When you ask a question, your audience can’t help but read the next section so that they have the answer.
Ensure you ask questions in your content regularly. This will hook your readers all the way to the end. Learn more SEO copywriting techniques here.
Heading tags help create a structure within your content so it can easily be understood.
This is important for your readers and your SEO.
Think of it like this:
Your subheadings should always sell the next section of your content. Your job is to make your audience excited about the next thing they will read.
You should watch this video to learn more about how to do this along with some other sneaky hacks!
Big chunks of text are off-putting.
People are in a hurry and don’t want to read huge blocks of text. They want to skim through your content and find the information they are looking for as quickly as possible.
The best way to overcome this is by using punchy sentences that can be consumed quickly. Your paragraphs should never be more than 2-3 sentences.
Ensure you have plenty of “white space” on the page.
This makes it super easy to read and your visitors will enjoy your content even more.
A table of contents provides links to different sections on the content, highlighting the headings. I use them in all of my posts.
A clickable table of contents will help your audience quickly find what they’re looking for. It’s a simple value add that will make your content more engaging.
A table of contents can help you win site links in the SERPs.
This gives you:
You simply add a shortcode to each piece of content and it automatically creates a table of content for you.
You will have noticed that my posts include a lot of multimedia.
Images and videos help break up the text and make your content more appealing.
Visuals can help your audience to learn quickly whilst also keeping them engaged:
It’s easier for your audience to understand what you’re talking about and helps keep them engaged.
But that’s not all…
Search engines love multimedia. Images and other forms of multimedia can help your content rank higher.
Ensure that each piece of content you create includes:
And any other form of visual content that adds value. This will increase your engagement and search engine rankings at the same time.
Want more rich snippets?
Ensure that you implement schema markup on each of your website pages.
It can help improve your visibility online and even help your content rank higher because search engines understand it better.
They will both automatically add the appropriate schema markup to your pages for free.
Don’t forget to test the quality of your schema markup with a schema tester.
You already know that long-form content ranks better. The average blog post that ranks on the first page of Google is 1,447 words long.
The ideal length of content changes from niche to niche and even depends on the topic you cover.
So how long should each piece of content be?
To answer that question, I use Surfer SEO.
Surfer SEO will analyse the top 20-pages ranking in the search results and give you a range of how long your blog should be. It takes all the guesswork out of content writing and optimisation.
It will even tell what keywords and phrases to include in your content to rank higher.
Check out my Surfer SEO review to see exactly how I take advantage of this powerful SEO tool to win the 1st position in the Google SERPs.
It’s important that you keep your content fresh and up to date because if a post becomes too old, you will notice that it will start to drop in rankings.
You must regularly update old content, so it continues to rank high.
Set a reminder for every 6-12 months to review old content.
Then check each of your posts and see where you can add more content. Sometimes it will involve rewriting entire articles.
And that’s ok. It’s just part of the process, especially in a fast-changing industry.
Updating old content ensures that your content is:
Watch this video to learn the easiest ways to update your content and score some quick SEO wins at the same time.
Never underestimate the power of on-page SEO.
It can sometimes be the difference you need to rank in the top 3 so below I am going to cover the most important on-page SEO optimisation you need to address.
So you might want to check out the full on-page SEO checklist as well.
Think of your meta description as an advertisement for your page.
You need to take advantage of every one of those 160 characters to win the click.
So writing compelling meta descriptions is a great way to improve your organic search click-thru rates and get more traffic.
Your meta-description should:
Meta descriptions are a factor that Google pays attention to. Ensure that yours are optimised for search engines and humans.
Add your target keyword as close to the front of your page title and title tag as possible.
Your URL should also be your primary keyword.
This makes it super easy for Google to understand what your content is about and categorise it properly.
Your URLs should all be short.
Research has shown that pages with short URLs rank best in Google. Ideally, your URLs should only be your primary keyword.
Most SEOs agree that your URL should be no longer than 73 characters.
But please be aware if you updated existing URL’s you are risking any existing search traffic to that page, even if you setup a proper 301 redirect.
Check out my advice to create the best permalink structure for your site.
Internal link building is more important than most give it credit for.
Google has said that the number of internal links pointing to any page is a signal about the importance of that page. They also use:
…to better understand what a page is about.
Put simply: Internal link building matters…A lot.
If you have never paid attention to internal link building – now is the time.
Your blog posts should include at least 2 external links to other relevant resources.
Because it proves to Google that your content is:
Linking to other high authority websites that Google already trusts improves your website’s credibility.
More credibility = more trust with Google. And this can lead to higher rankings overall.
Everyone knows that image SEO is important.
But people don’t realise just how big of a difference it can make. Ensure that your images:
Most people’s images will have a default name like – IMG0435430.jpg. They then leave the alt text blank. This doesn’t really help Google.
The name of your images should be descriptive and each word should be separated by hyphens. They should look something like this: link-building-win-rates.jpg.
Your alt-text should also describe the image and be similar (if not the same) to the image name.
Then Google can easily understand what the image is about and therefore categorise it faster.
Next you need to focus on keeping your images lightweight. To help with image compression I use Shortpixel.
It’s a lightweight plugin that automatically compresses your images as you upload them.
This will keep your page load speeds running efficiently and Google happy.
If you want to drive more organic traffic you need to focus on off-page SEO and link building
While off-page SEO is often thought of as just link building, there is a lot more to it than that. Use this off-page SEO checklist to:
Blacklisted backlinks are sites that are:
Bad and spammy backlinks can negatively affect your SEO and in the worst cases, lead to harsh Google penalties.
Take it from me… Google penalty recovery is hard work. That’s why you need to ONLY build high-quality links.
The good news? You can easily check each of your backlinks to see if any of them are blacklisted for free by using the LinksThatRank backlink blacklist tool.
Simply copy and paste your backlinks and the tool will let you know if any of them have been blacklisted. You’ll also get a reason and screenshot as to why the link has been blacklisted.
I highly suggest you watch this video to understand this section better.
But if you’re not sure which pages you should build links to, I’m going to simplify it for you.
Look at the keywords you are currently ranking on the first 3 pages of Google for:
Now pick the keywords that are most commercially relevant to you. These are the keywords that will bring direct sales and leads to your business.
The key to success is focussing on the keywords that will bring the most value. You should end up with a small list of keywords that have a higher potential to bring leads and sales.
The pages that rank for these keywords is where you should be focusing your link building.
The best way to figure out how many links you need to rank is with this video.
Now that you have your target pages to build links to, the next step is to work out how many backlinks you need to build to rank in the top 3.
Here’s the truth:
Link building is time-consuming and costly. You don’t want to build any more links than you have to. So pay attention to these next steps.
Why? Because I believe it’s the best tool overall.
Search for your target keyword and see if you can find similar authority sites to your website that are currently ranking in the top 10.
This is a good sign.
Now take a look at the top 3 ranking websites and analyse the backlink profiles of their individual pages. Your goal is to figure out what links are powering the top 3 search results.
Remember – filter the reports so you are only looking at dofollow links. Notice how many dofollow links each top 3 page has and what authority the links are.
Once you have done this for each top 3 ranking page, you will have a good idea of your backlink gap. Sometimes it will be hundreds of links, but usually it’s just a handful of links.
You can now work out how much it’s going to cost you and whether it’s worth attacking that keyword or not.
You really should watch this video to learn how to do this the right way.
Event link building is a powerful way to build great links and gain off-link exposure at the same time.
You can often build these links for relatively low prices while gaining high levels of exposure for your business.
Here’s how it works:
You want to find relevant events (physical or online) that you can sponsor.
After sponsoring the event you will get listed on the “sponsors page” and receive a backlink back to your website. Depending on your industry or niche, will depend on the types of events you should sponsor.
Want high-authority homepage backlinks?
Testimonial link building is an effective strategy that I have been using for years.
Just tell the tools, products and services that you use how much you love them, and you’ll likely get them featured on their website.
They will then provide a link back to your website underneath your positive comment just like this DR61 link I got from the Surfer team:
Read for the best part?
You probably already have everything you need to get started. There is a simple 5 step process to build testimonial links:
That really is all there is to it! And you can do this for almost any niche or industry.
To get a more in-depth guide on each step, check out my complete testimonial link building tutorial post.
This next link building strategy isn’t just for links. It will increase your:
…while building high-quality links for free!
What am I talking about? Podcast jacking. Podcast Jacking is when you find relevant podcasts and pitch to them.
Your goal is to:
The best part? All of it can be automated.
Here’s how the process works:
Where does the link building come in?
Most people will publish podcasts on their website and link to the guest’s website. This can net you some really high-quality and authoritative links.
The part that will take the longest with this process is putting together a list of podcasts on which you want to be interviewed.
The best way to do it is to search for a well-known competitor and find podcasts they have been interviewed on.
If your competitor has been interviewed, there is a big chance the podcast will also interview you.
Check out my complete podcast jacking guide to learn how I land interviews on high authority podcasts on autopilot.
Here’s how it works:
Lots of startups are looking for funding and donations for their new business. When you donate to the business, they’ll feature you as a supporter on their site and give you a link.
A donation can be from $1 up to thousands of dollars, it’s up to you. This is a great way to get links back to your website for a relatively low cost.
Check out my full crowdfunding link building tutorial to learn more.
One of the most natural and arguably best ways to build links is publishing guest posts.
Let me be clear:
Guest posts are still not classified as a “white hat” link building SEO strategy. All link building is against Google’s guidelines.
But guest post based link building is about as natural as it gets.
This process behind guest posting is simple:
The key to finding success with this SEO strategy is building relationships with high domain authority websites. You don’t just want to be guest posting on every website that has a “write for us” page.
Find high authority websites that are respected in your industry. Focus on building relationships and adding value to their readers.
This is how you will be successful with guest posting long-term.
If you need help with guest posting, check out one of these recommended guest posting services.
Want to save this SEO checklist for later?
SEO isn’t a race. It’s all about consistently doing the right things again and again.
Good SEO takes time. Don’t think you have to get everything done in one day.
Download the SEO checklist here so you always have a copy of it with you. Whenever you have a moment to work on your SEO, you can whip it out and get to work quickly!
And, if you want to go further, you can also read my full link building checklist that explains all the link building process, step by step.