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This Year’s SEO Checklist for On-Page, Off-Page, & Technical SEO

Streamline your search engine optimization (SEO) optimizations this year with our free SEO checklist, which provides easy-to-follow steps for on-page, off-page, and technical SEO optimizations that can improve your site’s rankings and traffic from organic search.
Last Updated November 15, 2023

How to use this free SEO checklist

With this free SEO checklist, you’ll receive actionable advice on:

  • How to optimize your website’s SEO
  • How to prioritize SEO optimizations
  • How often to complete SEO optimizations

For ease, we’ve organized our checklist into four areas:

  1. On-page SEO: Learn how to research keywords, write title tags, and more.
  2. Off-page SEO: Learn how to attract backlinks and optimize directory listings.
  3. Technical SEO: Learn how to build a site architecture, improve page speed, and add HTTPS.
  4. SEO analytics: Learn how to track rankings and catch SEO errors.

Explore our checklist below!

On-page SEO

Learn how to optimize your on-site SEO with these on-page SEO checklist items:

1. Domain name

Importance: Medium

Frequency: As needed

Tools needed: Whois (or another domain lookup tool)

Background: Your domain name gives search engines and users insight into your website’s purpose. While it’s rare for businesses to change their domain name, everyone must choose a domain name to start search engine optimization — learn how with this SEO best practices checklist for domains.


Checklist

  • Focus your domain name research on trusted top-level domains (TLDs) like .com
  • Narrow your options to names like “keurig.com” vs. keyword-heavy names like “buycoffeeonline”
  • Research your potential domain name’s history with a domain lookup tool like Whois
  • [If needed] Migrate your existing site to a new domain name using Google’s documentation

2. URLs

Importance: Medium

Frequency: As needed

Tools needed: None

Background: Like your home address, a URL is unique — it’s a page’s online address and provides search engines and users with some context about your page, like its purpose. A URL consists of several parts: Protocol, domain name, top-level domain, subfolder, and slug. Optimize your URLs can help you avoid any URL problems that may hurt your rankings.


Checklist

  • Purchase a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate to use an HTTPS vs. HTTP protocol
  • Organize content with subfolders (example.com/recipes/) vs. subdomains (recipes.example.com)
  • Include the targeted keyword, like “key lime pie,” in the URL
  • Use hyphens to separate words, like “key-lime-pie” vs. “keylimepie” or “key_lime_pie”

3. Keyword research

Importance: High

Frequency: Ongoing

Tools needed: Google Search, SEO.com, Keywords Everywhere

Background: Keyword research helps you uncover relevant search queries to target in new or existing content. Both search engines and users use keywords to understand how relevant a page is to their search. Typically, you’ll consider a query’s relevancy, volume, and competitiveness in an SEO checklist.


Checklist

  • Brainstorm questions, problems, and pain points related to your site’s purpose
  • Use keyword research tools like SEO.com and Keywords Everywhere to get keyword metric data
  • Evaluate qualified keywords’ search intent to determine their relevancy to your site
  • Research three to five related keywords for each vetted keyword

4. Title tags

Importance: High

Frequency: As needed

Tools needed: Google Sheets, Google Preview Tool

Background: Title tags display alongside your URL search results, creating a powerful first impression with users. They also provide search engines with valuable information about your page and its purpose, so optimizing every URL’s title tag for SEO is critical.


Checklist

  • View the top-ranking search results for your target keyword
  • Look for trends, like the structure, word choice, and length, in the title tags
  • Brainstorm title tags that use your target keyword in Google Sheets
  • Limit title tags to 60 characters or less (count characters with a free Google Preview Tool)

5. Meta descriptions

Importance: Medium

Frequency: As needed

Tools needed: Google Sheets, Google Preview Tool

Background: Like title tags, meta descriptions display in search results. While frequently rewritten by search engines like Google, they still provide search engines context about your page by summarizing its purpose (and the search intent).


Checklist

  • View the top-ranking search results for your target keyword
  • Look for trends, like questions answered and calls-to-action (CTAs), in the meta descriptions
  • Draft meta descriptions that use your target keyword in Google Sheets
  • Limit meta descriptions to 150 characters or less (count characters with a Google Preview Tool)

6. Header tags

Importance: Medium

Frequency: As needed

Tools needed: Google Docs

Background: Header tags, like your H1, H2, H3, and so on, help search engines and users understand (and even navigate) your content. That’s why it’s critical to produce user-friendly header tags that use your target or related keywords — which you can do using this SEO best practices checklist.


Checklist

  • Follow a logical hierarchy, like H1, H2, H3, and H4
  • Write a single H1 tag to summarize your content (use your target keyword, too)
  • Draft H2 tags that speak to a user’s search intent while using your keywords
  • Use H3 and H4 tags to make your content easier to skim

7. Content

Importance: High

Frequency: Ongoing

Tools needed: Google Docs, Grammarly

Background: Content, ranging from blog posts to infographics, is one of the most essential SEO optimizations you’ll find in SEO courses. With original, helpful, and SEO-friendly content, businesses can attract reputable backlinks, improve organic search rankings, and more. High-value content that ranks well is a prime example of SEO success.


Checklist

  • Research the search intent for your target keyword
  • Outline your content based on the researched search intent
  • Use heading tags (see the previous checklist item) to organize your content
  • Draft your content, incorporating your target and related keywords throughout
  • Proofread your content with a free tool like Grammarly

8. Keyword insertion

Importance: High

Frequency: As needed

Tools needed: Google Docs, Keyword Density Checker

Background: Keyword insertion is critical for demonstrating relevancy to search engines and users. That’s why keywords appear in title tags, meta descriptions, header tags, and content — but without affecting readability. Learn how to optimize yours with this SEO basics checklist.


Checklist

  • Use your target keyword in your title tag and meta description
  • Place your target keyword in H1 and other relevant header tags
  • Incorporate your target keyword into the first 100 words
  • Proofread your content for keyword stuffing
  • Use your target keyword three to five times in your content
  • Check your content with a free Keyword Density Checker for fast insights

9. Internal links

Importance: Medium

Frequency: As needed

Tools needed: None

Background: Like roads in a city, internal links provide a path for web crawlers and users to traverse your site. Internal links serve as road signs, too, with their anchor text offering users and web crawlers some information about your page.


Checklist

  • Place your most important and relevant URLs in your navigation and/or footer
  • Describe your internal links with descriptive anchor text, like “key lime pie recipe”
  • Give your URLs three to five internal backlinks, each
  • Optimize for first link priority by placing links to high-value pages closer to the top of your page

10. Images

Importance: Low

Frequency: As needed

Tools needed: Squoosh

Background: Images, which can range from screenshots to stock photos to custom graphics, improve the user experience (UX) by explaining concepts, creating backlink opportunities, and improving content readability. Use this SEO checklist for your website to learn how to use them!


Checklist

  • Use an optimal image format like WebP, PNG, or JPEG
  • Give images descriptive filenames, like “key-lime-pie-mix”
  • Compress images with a free tool like Squoosh
  • Write descriptive anchor text like “mixing bowl with key lime pie mix”

11. UX

Importance: High

Frequency: Ongoing

Tools needed: Microsoft Clarity, Google Mobile-Friendly Test, Chrome DevTools

Background: User experience, better known as UX, emphasizes delivering a user-first experience across devices, from desktops and laptops to tablets and smartphones. With the help of web designers and web developers, webmasters can create an optimal UX.


Checklist

Off-page SEO

Learn how to optimize your off-site SEO with this off-page SEO checklist:

12. Backlinks

Importance: High

Frequency: Ongoing

Tools needed: Ahrefs, Semrush

Background: Backlinks from other websites are a powerful trust signal to search engines. As one of the most important ranking factors, developing a strategy for attracting reputable and authoritative backlinks from sites in your industry is critical. Learn how to get started with this SEO basics checklist.


Checklist

  • Produce original, high-quality content, like research-based blog posts
  • Focus on quality backlinks vs. any-quality backlinks in manual outreach
  • Create passive link-building opportunities with calculators, quizzes, and other tools
  • Use link building tools like Ahrefs or Semrush to find broken backlink opportunities

13. Online directory listings

Importance: Medium

Frequency: Ongoing

Tools needed: Google Business Profile, Bing Places

Background: Online directory listings like Google Business Profile, Bing Places, Yelp, and more provide search engines and users valuable information about your company, from its location and hours to its phone number and website.


Checklist

  • Claim your Google Business Profile and Bing Places listing
  • Join industry-specific directory sites, like the American Dental Association (ADA) for dentists
  • Maintain name, address, and phone number accuracy across your directory listings
  • Update listings regularly, like for promotions, temporary hours, or in-person events
  • Respond to reviews, questions, and other feedback on directory sites

14. Online reviews and ratings

Importance: Medium

Frequency: Ongoing

Tools needed: None

Background: Like external backlinks, online reviews and ratings endorse your business and its products or services. Through awareness campaigns, you can earn verified reviews on your website, social media profiles, and online directory listings. Learn how to get started with the SEO checklist below!


Checklist

  • Promote review outlets (like Google Business Profile) offline, like with business cards
  • Monitor reviews regularly, like daily or weekly
  • Respond to reviews with an emphasis on acknowledging the user’s experience

15. Social signals

Importance: Low

Frequency: As needed

Tools needed: Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram,  , and any other relevant networks

Background: Social media networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and X work similarly to online directory listings by providing search engines context about your brand, reputation, and trustworthiness. They also give users a place to learn more about your business — and interact with it.


Checklist

  • Create social media profiles on reputable networks like Facebook and LinkedIn
  • Optimize social media profiles with your name, address, phone number, and site
  • Post regularly with content curated for each network and its target audience
  • Engage with users by asking questions and responding to comments and messages
  • Partner with reputable micro-influencers to cross-promote your business

16. Brand signals

Importance: Medium

Frequency: Ongoing

Tools needed: Google Alerts, PR Newswire, Quora

Background: Online mentions of your brand, products, or services (whether linked or unlinked) help search engines understand your organization’s reputation, authority, popularity, and trustworthiness in the offline and online world. Learn how to get started with this SEO basics checklist!


Checklist

  • Track online mentions with Google Alerts
  • Publish and distribute press releases with a tool like PR Newswire
  • Host offline or online events to build your brand’s reputation
  • Join online forums like Quora and offer helpful, user-focused advice on threads
  • Partner with other brands to host giveaways, social media takeovers, and events

Technical SEO

Learn how to optimize your site’s technical elements with these SEO checklist items:

17. Website architecture

Importance: High

Frequency: As needed

Tools needed: Screaming Frog

Background: Website architecture is like a home’s floor plan. For search engines and users, you want to create a logical map, like how homes place the bedroom near a bathroom, so it’s easier to navigate your site and understand the relations between different subfolders and their individual pages.


Checklist

  • Establish subfolders for your site’s core topic hubs, like products, blog, or recipes
  • Use hyphens to separate words in URLs, like “free-recipes” vs. “freerecipes”
  • Create internal links between URLs to help users and crawlers discover content
  • Audit your existing site architecture as needed with a free tool like Screaming Frog

18. Robots.txt

Importance: High

Frequency: As needed

Tools needed: Notepad++ (or another text editor), Google Search Console, Robots.txt tester

Background: Web crawlers (also known as spiders) use your site’s robots.txt file to understand where they can (and can’t) crawl when it comes to your website. An optimized robots.txt file ensures your site’s content for organic search gets crawled.


Checklist

  • Use a free text editor like Notepad++ to create a robots.txt file
  • Follow Google’s guidelines for generating robots.txt crawling rules
  • Upload the robots.txt file to your root domain, like https://www.example.com/robots.txt
  • Use a free robots.txt tester tool like Google’s or Bing’s to validate site crawling rules
  • Monitor robots.txt issues with Google Search Console’s Page Indexing report
  • Monitor robots.txt issues with Bing Webmaster Tools’ crawl error alerts
  • Include a hyperlink to your XML sitemap
  • [If needed] Specify user agents like Googlebot in your robots.txt file

19. XML sitemap

Importance: High

Frequency: As needed

Tools needed: Google Search Console, Bing Webmaster Tools, Yoast SEO (optional), Screaming Frog (optional)

Background: Your XML sitemap provides search engines with a map of your website, which spiders can use to discover your latest content. You can create and upload up to 500 sitemaps (each can store 50,000 URLs) manually or automatically. Learn how to get started with this website SEO checklist!


Checklist

  • Review Google’s best practices for XML sitemaps
  • Upload new sitemaps to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools
  • Generate or update XML sitemap(s) with new content automatically with Yoast SEO or manually with Screaming Frog
  • Organize URLs in XML sitemaps by crawling priority
  • Divide URLs into multiple sitemaps if needed, like sitemap_index.xml and page-sitemap1.xml
  • Monitor XML sitemap errors in Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools

20. Site security

Importance: High

Frequency: Ongoing

Tools needed: Google Search Console

Background: In search engine optimization, site security revolves around HTTPS, which requires purchasing and renewing an SSL certificate. Websites can further enhance their security and data protection with site security updates, trusted plugins, and more.


Checklist

  • Purchase an SSL certificate
  • Migrate from HTTP to HTTPS using Google’s website migration documentation
  • Renew SSL certificate
  • Monitor Google Search Console’s HTTPS report for errors
  • Complete regular website security audits
  • [If applicable] Implement content management system (CMS) updates regularly
  • [If applicable] Use reputable, up-to-date CMS plugins

17. Page speed

Importance: Medium

Frequency: Ongoing

Tools needed: PageSpeed Insights, Google Search Console

Background: Page speed is an important SEO checklist item because it’s a Google ranking factor. Page speed, also known as Core Web Vitals, describes how fast your URL loads, how soon it becomes interactive, and how much your URL’s layout shifts while loading based on Google Chrome data.


Checklist

22. Page experience

Importance: Medium

Frequency: Ongoing

Tools needed: Google Search Console, PageSpeed Insights, Mobile-Friendly Test tool

Background: In Google’s search engine algorithm, page experience encompasses page speed, site security, usability, accessibility, and user experience. Google evaluates page experience on a page- and site-level.


Checklist

23. Schema markup

Importance: Medium

Frequency: As needed

Tools needed: Structured Data Markup Helper, Rich Results Test Tool, Google Search Console

Background: Schema markup, also known as structured data, provides search engines additional context about your URL, like a product’s name, price, quantity, and more. In some cases, schema markup will also change your search result listing, like by featuring gold stars, dropdown menus, and more.


Checklist

SEO analytics

Learn how to optimize your SEO analytics with this free SEO checklist:

24. SEO Checker

Importance:  High
Frequency:  Ongoing
Tools needed: SEO Checker

Background: Our free SEO Checker tool gives you a complete audit of your site’s current search engine optimization (SEO) performance and a custom report with all the details Inside your SEO Checker report, you’ll discover the SEO health of your site, your SEO issues and how to fix them, and where to learn more about SEO issues specific to your site.


Checklist

  • Enter your website address on SEO Checker
  • Receive your custom report in 60 seconds
  • Fix prioritized SEO issues to improve search engine optimization

25. Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools

Importance: High

Frequency: Ongoing

Tools needed: Google Search Console, Bing Webmaster Tools

Background: Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools are two of the most popular SEO analytics tools and provide webmasters with critical resources for monitoring, evaluating, and troubleshooting crawling and indexing issues, as well as tracking organic search rankings, impressions, and clicks, which is why they are both considered to be some of the best rank tracking tools and SEO platforms around. These tools can help you easily track your SEO performance and prove the value of SEO to leadership.


Checklist

26. Google Analytics 4

Importance: High

Frequency: Ongoing

Tools needed: Google Analytics 4, Google Search Console (optional)

Background: Google Analytics 4 is a free analytics platform that provides actionable data about your website’s performance, like its organic traffic, bounce rate, conversion rate, and more. It also integrates with other platforms, like Google Search Console and Google Ads.


Checklist

  • Set up with GA4’s installation guide
  • Create custom conversion events, like a purchase or download
  • Evaluate organic traffic, like its growth, top pages, and user behavior regularly
  • Build custom audiences to track user behavior based on source, location, and more
  • Monitor overall traffic, conversion rates, and user behavior for anomalies and conversion killers

27. Screaming Frog

Importance: Medium

Frequency: Ongoing

Tools needed: Screaming Frog

Background: With a free SEO tool like Screaming Frog, you can crawl, analyze, and troubleshoot up to 500 URLs. That’s why Screaming Frog is one of our favorite SEO audit tools. Download it for your desktop, and you can get actionable, prioritized action items for your site.


Checklist

  • Schedule a recurring monthly crawl
  • Review the recurring crawl for SEO issues like broken links, canonicalized URLs, and more
  • Fix prioritized SEO issues to improve search engine optimization

Supercharge your SEO toolkit

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Finish your website’s SEO checklist with SEO.com

Congrats, you’ve explored this search engine optimization checklist! If you’re looking for professional help in completing your website’s SEO checklist, consider the award-winning team at SEO.com, which has helped businesses across the globe drive more rankings, traffic, and revenue from organic search!

Contact us online today to learn more!

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