Google search console backlinko

This is the most complete SEO checklist on the internet.

The best part?

Everything on this list is working GREAT right now.

So if you want higher Google rankings in 2021, youll love todays checklist.

Lets dive right in

  • SEO Basics Checklist
  • Keyword Research Checklist
  • On-Page SEO Checklist
  • Technical SEO Checklist
  • Content Checklist
  • Link Building Checklist
  • Bonus #1: Advanced SEO Tips and Tactics
  • Bonus #2: Case Studies and Examples
  • Conclusion

How To Use This SEO Checklist

Hey, Im Brian Dean.

Ive used this exact checklist to grow my organic traffic by 161.96% in 30 days:

Its also helped me rank for SUPER competitive keywords, like on page SEO.

And keyword research:

That said

You dont need to implement everything on this checklist.

Just do the best you can.

The more tips you put into practice, the more traffic youll get.

SEO Basics Checklist

First, lets tackle the SEO fundamentals. Heres where youll learn about the tools and plugins youll need to rank in search engines.

1. Setup The Google Search Console

The Google Search Console is a VERY powerful free SEO tool.

Search Console is designed to help you track your sites performance in Google search.

Thats why its packed with useful features, like:

  • See which keywords bring you the most traffic
  • Submit your sitemap
  • Fix website errors
  • See your page experience scores
  • Lots more

In short: if youre serious about SEO, setting up the Google Search Console is a key first step.

2. Install Bing Webmaster Tools

Next, setup Bing Webmaster Tools.

Is Bing as popular as Google? No. But Bing gets approximately 1 billion visitors per month. So its worth optimizing for.

Plus, Bing Webmaster Tools has some nifty features, like a built-in keyword research tool.

3. Setup Google Analytics

Google Analytics is the BEST way to see how people find (and use) your site.

Its many helpful features include:

  • See how much traffic you get from Google
  • Find the pages on your site that bring you the most traffic
  • See if your traffic is increasing (and by how much)
  • Identify other sites and search engines that send you traffic
  • Your average bounce rate, page views, and time on site

Pro Tip: Connect Google Analytics with the Google Search Console. When you do, youll see helpful SEO information from inside of your Google Analytics account.

Heres a resource that will walk you through the steps to set that up.

4. Install Yoast SEO (WordPress Users Only)

Yoast is the most popular SEO plugin on the planet.

And for good reason.

Yoast makes it super easy to optimize your WordPress site for search engines.

It also helps you with technical SEO stuff, like robots.txt and sitemaps. Recommended.

Keyword Research Checklist

Keyword Research is the foundation of SEO. And in this checklist Ill show you how to quickly find keywords that your customers search for.

1. Discover Long Tail Keywords With Google Suggest

This is one of the best ways to uncover long tail keywords.

Heres how it works:

First, type a keyword into Google.

But dont press enter or the Google Search button. Instead, check out the keywords that Google shows you:

(These are known as Google Suggest keywords.)

Because these keywords come straight from Google, you KNOW that people are searching for them.

This means that they make great keywords to optimize your site around.

Pro Tip: Check out Keywordtool.io. This tool scrapes Google Suggest keywords, which makes this process much easier to scale.

2. Find Solid Keywords In The Google Keyword Planner

The Google Keyword Planner is Googles official keyword research tool.

Its technically designed for Google Ads. That said, its still VERY useful for SEO keyword research.

After all, the data comes straight from Google. So you know that its super accurate.

Heres a guide on using The Google Keyword Planner for SEO.

3. Tap Into Online Communities

Reddit, Quora, forums and other online communities are excellent places to find keywords.

And I created a video that shows you how to find untapped keywords in these communities (step-by-step).

Here you go:

4. Identify Low Competition Keywords With KWFinder

KWFinder is a freemium keyword research tool.

What makes KWFinder unique is that it gives you TONS of data on each keyword.

As you can see, when you type a keyword into KWFinder, you get information on:

  • Search volume
  • Keyword difficulty
  • CPC
  • Trends
  • Estimated visits

That way, you can choose low-competition keywords that are easy to rank for.

5. Find Question Keywords With Answer The Public

Question Keywords are PERFECT for blog posts and articles.

(For example: How do you make cold brew coffee?)

And you can easily find them with Answer The Public.

This free tool shows you questions that people search for online.

That way, you can answer these questions with your content.

On-Page SEO Checklist

Now its time to optimize your content using a handful of tested on-page SEO techniques.

1. Include Your Keyword In Your URL

Your URL helps Google understand what your page is all about. Plus, a keyword-rich URL can improve your organic CTR.

Thats why you want to include your keyword in your URL.

For example, my target keyword for this page is SEO checklist.

So I made the URL: backlinko.com/seo-checklist.

Simple.

2. Use Short URLs

Keep your URLs as short as possible.

Why?

A recent analysis of 11.8 million Google search results found that short URLs rank best in Google.

3. Front-Load Your Keyword In Your Title Tag

Its no secret that you should use your keyword in your title tag.

But not as many people know that WHERE you put your keyword matters.

Specifically, you want to put your keyword in the front of your title tag whenever possible.

For example, my main keyword for this post is copywriting:

As you can see, my title tag starts off with that keyword:

4. Embed Title Tag Modifiers

Title Tag Modifiers are words and phrases to add to your title tag.

When you do, your page can rank for lots of different long-tail keywords.

Heres a video that walks you through this process:

5. Use Your Keyword Once In The First 150 Words

Google puts more weight on the first 100-150 words of your page.

So make sure to use your keyword once here.

For example, for my SEO tools post, you can see that I use the term SEO Tools right off the bat:

6. Use Your Keyword in H1, H2 or H3 Tags

Make sure to include your keyword in H1, H2 or H3 tags.

For example:

You might have noticed that I included the term SEO Checklist in the first subheader on this page:

Well, that subheader is wrapped in an H2 tag. And including SEO Checklist in an H2 can help me rank higher for that keyword.

That said:

This tip wont make a big dent in your Google rankings.

But when it comes to search engine optimization, every little bit helps.

7. Optimize Images

The images you use say a lot about your content.

Unfortunately, Google still cant see images as a human can.

So to help them understand your images, you want to optimize your image alt tags and filenames.

(As a bonus: optimized images also help you rank in image search.)

Heres how:

First, when you save the image, use a filename that briefly describes what that image is.

For example, lets say you just took a picture of a spinach omelette with your iPhone.

Well, youd want to name that image something like:

spinach_omelette.png

Then, when you add the image to your page, give it a descriptive alt tag:

Thats all there is to it.

8. Use Synonyms and LSI Keywords

Back in the day, it made sense to keyword stuff your page.

Not anymore.

Today, Google is smart.

So instead of using the same keyword 1000 times, use synonyms and LSI keywords.

For example, lets say you want to rank for how to start a blog.

Well, youd want to mention that exact keyword a few times on your page and synonyms like:

  • How to launch a blog
  • Starting a blog
  • How to create a blog
  • How to setup a blog on WordPress

You get the idea

Next, add some LSI keywords.

LSI Keywords are terms that go along with your main keyword.

You can find a bunch of these using LSIGraph.com.

Then, just add a few of these LSI keywords to your page. And youre set.

9. Use External Links

Make sure to link out to 5-8 authority sites in your article.

For example, in this list of SEO techniques, I link to trusted websites like Wikipedia and Google.com.

And those links show Google that my content is well-referenced and trustworthy.

10. Use Internal Links

This is super simple:

Whenever you publish a new piece of content, link to 2-5 other pages on your site.

Pro Tip: Use keyword-rich anchor text in your internal links.

For example, note how I use the anchor text on-page SEO, in this internal link:

This tells search engines that the page Im linking to is about: on-page SEO.

Technical SEO Checklist

Technical SEO can make or break your rankings. Fortunately, fixing technical SEO problems isnt that hard especially if you follow the items on this checklist.

1. Identify Crawl Errors

A Crawl Error means that Google has trouble viewing a page on your site.

And if they cant view your page, its not gonna rank for anything.

You can easily find Crawl Errors in the Google Search Consoles Coverage report:

If you notice Google is having trouble accessing one of your important web pages (for example, robots.txt is blocking search engine spiders), youll want to get that fixed ASAP.

2. Find Out How Google Views Your Page

Sometimes users can see everything on your page

but Google cant.

Again:

If Google cant fully access your page, it wont rank.

Thats why I recommend using the Google Search Consoles Inspect URL feature.

Just enter a page from your site at the top of the GSC.

When you do, youll see your page from Googles point of view:

Very helpful.

3. Make Sure Your Site is Mobile-Friendly

Google recently launched a new Mobile-First Index.

Which means:

If your site isnt mobile optimized, its not going to rank very well.

Fortunately, you can easily see your sites mobile friendliness with Googles Mobile-Friendly Test.

Just pop in a page from your site and get a clear yes or no answer.

Pretty cool.

4. Fix Broken Links

Broken links can REALLY hurt your SEO.

So you definitely want to find broken links and fix them.

The easiest way to do that? DrLinkCheck.com.

Its a free tool that scans your site for broken links:

5. Secure Your Site With HTTPS

HTTPS is a confirmed Google ranking signal.

So if you havent already, its time to move your site to HTTPS.

(Or if you just launched a new site, set it up with HTTPS on day 1.)

Heres a guide to help you migrate your site to HTTPS without hurting your SEO.

6. Check Your Sites Loading Speed

Does your site load insanely fast?

If not, your site isnt going to rank as well.

Thats why you want to head over to PageSpeed Insights.

This free tool lets you know how quickly your site loads for desktop and mobile users:

It even lets you know what you can do to speed things up.

Content Checklist

Theres no denying it: if you want to rank in Google, you need to publish great content. Thats why content is now a BIG part of any modern-day SEO strategy. And in this section Ill show you the exact steps to creating the type of content that ranks in 2021 (and beyond).

1. Create Amazing Content Using The Skyscraper Technique

The Skyscraper Technique is a powerful formula for publishing amazing content.

In fact, I used this technique to double my search engine traffic:

Heres the 3-step process:

  1. First, identify a piece of popular content in your industry
  2. Next, create something even better
  3. Finally, promote that content

Obviously, I dont have room to go into more detail on these steps here.

So if you want to learn more about The Skyscraper Technique, here are two helpful resources:

My All-Time Favorite White Hat SEO Technique (59% More Organic Traffic)

How I Increased My Search Traffic by 110% in 14 Days

2. Chunk Your Content to Maximize Readability

No one likes reading giant walls of text:

Thats why I ALWAYS break my content into easy-to-read chunks, like this:

These chunks keep my bounce rate low, which is a key Google ranking factor.

(More on that later.)

3. Cover Your Pages Topic In-Depth

When we analyzed over a 11M Google Search Results, one thing stood out:

Content that ranks best in Google tends to cover an entire topic in-depth.

For example, a while ago I published this guide on my site.

I could have published a generic piece of content like: 5 Tips for Video SEO.

Instead, I created a guide that covered EVERYTHING about that topic.

And thats the main reason that it ranks in the top 3 in Google for my primary keyword:

4. Use Schema Markup

Schema markup helps search engines understand your content better.

That said, implementing Schema can be tricky.

Thats why I recommend Googles Structured Data Testing tool.

It makes using Schema MUCH easier than trying to do it manually.

5. Focus on Content Formats That Are Working Right Now

The team at BuzzSumo recently reviewed 100 million articles.

So, what did they find?

First, the bad news:

The majority of content gets zero backlinks.

Ouch.

Now, some good news:

They discovered that certain content formats perform better than others.

Specifically, the big winners are sites that have built a strong reputation for original, authoritative content.

What do they mean by original, authoritative content?

  • Content written by experts
  • Original research (like surveys and industry studies)
  • Content that isnt just regurgitated information
  • Case studies and real life examples
  • Evergreen content that provides value for YEARS

For example, some time ago Ive put together this giant list of SEO tools:

I personally tested and reviewed over 170 tools. It was an insane amount of work.

But it was totally worth it.

Why?

To date, this post has generated over 10 thousand backlinks.

6. Use Multimedia

You might notice that this post contains LOTS of images.

I do this for two main reasons:

First, it just makes for better content.

Second, images and other forms of multimedia help content rank better.

So I recommend using these forms of multimedia in your content:

  • Images
  • Charts
  • Infographics
  • Visual Content
  • Videos
  • Interactive polls and quizzes

With that, its time to cover a SUPER important part of SEO: link building.

When it comes to SEO, link building is KEY. In fact, Google has confirmed that backlinks are one of their top 3 ranking signals. Unfortunately, building links isnt easy (thats why most other SEO checklists skip this step). But if you want to rank in Google, links are a must. And in this section Ill show you how to do it.

1. Build Powerful Backlinks With Guest Posting

Guest posting can be a super effective link building strategy.

That said:

Theres a right and wrong way to guest post.

Right way: Publish your guest post on respected sites in your industry.

Wrong way: Publish guest posts on any website that has a write for us page.

In fact, I only guest post on sites that will send me targeted traffic.

For example, I published this guest post on the Buffer blog:

Not only did I get a great backlink from my guest post, but decent amount of traffic too:

2. Reverse Your Competitors Backlinks

Why reinvent the wheel when you can copy your competitors link sources?

To do this, youll need a link analysis tool.

I personally use Ahrefs.

But if youre on a budget, you can use a freemium tool like Link Explorer (from Moz).

No matter what tool you choose, the process is exactly the same:

  1. Grab your competitors URL.
  2. Pop it into the tool
  3. Finally, get as many of their links as you can

For example, heres a link report from Ahrefs of my site:

Now:

Some of these links will be nearly impossible to replicate.

(For example, links from sites I have relationships with.)

But many are pretty easy to copy.

(Like links from guest posts and interviews.)

3. Build Contextual Backlinks With Link Roundups

This strategy works GREAT.

That said, it comes with a catch.

I reveal that catch (and how this technique works) right here:

4. Become a Podcast Guest

This is similar to guest posting.

But instead of contributing an article, you go on a podcast as a guest.

For example, I went on this podcast a few years ago:

As you can see, I got a sweet backlink (and a handful of targeted visitors).

5. Mention Influencers In Your Blog Posts

This process couldnt be simpler:

First, mention influential bloggers in your content.

Then, let them know you mentioned them.

(Seriously, thats it.)

For example, when I published my list of SEO tools, I let the founder of each tool know that I featured them:

And, as you can see, they happily shared my content on social media.

Bonus #1: Advanced SEO Tips and Tactics

Now that youve got the basics down, let me walk you through a handful of advanced SEO tips and techniques.

1. Optimize Your Site for Click-Through-Rate

Theres no doubt about it:

The more people click on your result, the higher youll rank.

CTR is a user experience signal that Google is paying more and more attention to.

I reveal EXACTLY how to boost click-through-rate (CTR) in this video:

2. Limit Website Downtime

If your site goes down, users get mad.

As it turns out, Google gets mad too.

In fact, they state that unplanned site outages can negatively affect a sites reputation.

Fortunately, you can easily track site downtime with a tool like Pingdom.

Pingdom pings your site hundreds of times per day.

If its down, youll get a notification so you can fix the problem ASAP.

3. Delete Dead Weight Pages

Google recently said that a huge site with tons of pages can be bad for SEO.

To quote the Google rep (Gary Illyes):

Narrow it down as much as you can. Dont create low quality and no value add pages. Its just not worth it because one thing is that we dont necessarily want to index those pages. We think that its a waste of resources. The other thing is that you just wont get quality traffic. If you dont get quality traffic then why are you burning resources on it?

This is why I make sure that every page on my site is AWESOME.

In fact, Backlinko generates over 500k unique visitors per month

despite having only 196 posts:

How is this possible?

Its because I focus on 100% quality.

Despite the fact that this quality over quantity approach clearly works, I see A LOT of sites struggle with Dead Weight pages.

Dead Weight pages like:

  • WordPress category and tag pages
  • Outdated blog posts
  • Duplicate content
  • Low-quality blog posts
  • Ecommerce product pages with zero sales
  • Archive pages
  • Thin content/boilerplate content
  • Old services pages

And as you just saw, Google said that these Dead Weight pages can hurt your SEO efforts. So I recommend deleting them.

4. Improve Your Sites Dwell Time

Dwell Time is another key Google ranking factor.

Google wants to see that people stay on your site.

If people quickly bounce from your page and visit another search result, it tells Google:

People hate this page!.

But when people get what they want from your page, theyll stick around. And Google will take notice:

So:

How can you keep people on your site longer?

Here are a few simple tips that work really well:

5. Update and Relaunch Outdated Content

Do you have old articles on your blog collecting dust?

If so, check this out:

I recently updated and relaunched this post from my blog:

I improved the formatting, added more meaty content, included new screenshots and more.

(Basically, I made the page better.)

Then, I relaunched it like it was a new post.

And that simple 1-2 punch increased search engine traffic to that page by 1,102.43%:

Nice!

Bonus #2: Case Studies and Examples

Now its time to show you the strategies from this checklist in action.

Specifically, Im going to show you how Sean at Proven.com used a handful of the items on this checklist to increase his organic traffic by 88%.

1. How Sean Improved His On-Page Optimization

Seans site had A TON of pages.

So it didnt make sense to spend hours on each one.

Thats why Sean focused on optimizing his 10 most important pages.

Some of Seans most important pages were blog posts, like this:

Others were service pages, like his homepage:

But in general, Sean used the on-page SEO tips from this checklist on all 10 pages.

Seans content was already well optimized. So it only needed to make a few tweaks.

For example, lets see how Sean improved his post on questions to ask references.

First, Sean to add his target keyword (questions to ask references) in the first 100 words of his article:

He also sprinkled LSI keywords (like business references) into his content:

Now that Seans content was keyword-optimized, it was time to boost his click-though-rate.

2. How Sean (Quickly) Improved His CTR By 64.1%

Sean had a post on his blog called: 100+ Best Job Boards to Find Niche Talent.

Heres what the pages organic result looked like:

Not bad but could be better.

Heres exactly what Sean did to improve this listings CTR:

First, he looked at Adwords ads for keywords, like job boards:

And he noticed that most listed a specific number of job boards in their ads:

(Sean also noticed that NONE of them used the term, niche talent.)

So Sean changed his title tag to:

100+ Job Boards For Job Seekers and Recruiters

And his meta description tag to:

Find the best job boards on the web all in one place. See our list of 100+ boards right here.

Heres what his Google result looked after the change:

And that pages CTR was 4.88%

64.1% higher than before.

Pretty cool, huh?

3. How Sean Got Users to Spend More Time On His Site

If people stick to your site like superglue, Google will give you a rankings boost.

Heres how Sean got people to spend more time on his site:

First, Sean pushed his content above the fold.

How?

Well, Provens blog posts used to have a big gap between the sites navigation and the post title:

The top of your page is million-dollar real estate.

Thats why you want to avoid unnecessary space that pushes your content below the fold.

So he reduced that space by 50%.

Provens blog also had breadcrumbs navigation.

Breadcrumbs navigation is OK for an eCommerce site. But its not necessary for a blog.

So Sean got rid of it.

Provens blog posts also had massive images at the top of each post.

These definitely looked cool

but they pushed Seans excellent content below the fold.

So Sean made his post images significantly smaller:

Next, Sean made his blog post introductions sticky.

Your blog post introductions are HUGE.

Because the truth is this:

If you lose someone in your intro, youve lost them for good.

But if you hook someone with a compelling introduction

theyre MUCH more likely to stick around.

For example, Seans changed his introduction from this:

To this:

What did he change exactly?

First, Sean cut out sentences that stated the obvious.

He also formatted the content so that there were only 1-2 sentences per paragraph (this improves your contents readability).

These design and introduction improvements boosted Provens Avg. Time On Page by 12.2%:

4. What Happened When Proven Deleted 10k Dead Weight Pages

Proven had A LOT of dead weight pages on their site.

In fact, they had 48,300 pages indexed in Google:

Because Proven.com is an online job board, they had a lot of old job listings hanging around:

Not to mention profile pages for companies that hadnt posted a job in months:

Also, Provens search result pages were getting indexed

which was creating tons of duplicate content.

So Sean quickly deleted or redirected Proven.coms Dead Weight pages.

In total, Sean deleted or redirected over 10,000 pages.

And this is one of the main reasons that their search traffic improved so quickly.

Conclusion

As you saw, this SEO checklist really works.

But before you get started on the checklist, Id like to hear from you.

What did you think of todays post?

Or maybe you have a question about something you read.

Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Mike Graciasays:

Great post Brian, really nice, concise workflow youve developed, very useful for sure. Its always so much more efficient to work from a flow like this, than just thrash around randomly fixing things without a plan, so kudos to you for publishing this post, I bet itll help lots of folks take action & get things done

I think itd be super-cool to mix-in a responsive check too, something I do as part of my own little workflow when on-boarding new SEO clients, is not only check the Google mobile friendly test, but also check their current mobile user engagement metrics in GA benchmarked against their desktop visits. Its not uncommon to find issues on various pages for mobile visitors in this way, which I think is important these days. I think its important to re-check the pages after making improvements to the desktop view too, as if a site uses media queries, its possible to inadvertently cause ooops! moments on smaller resolution devices!

Id be interested to hear your thoughts on the above Brian

BTW, regarding the example in your post, interesting to see they use a subdomain for their blog, rather than a subfolder! Id have thought thered be a lot more value flowing back to the homepage from the great shares & links etc that their Skyscraper posts generate if the blog were in a subdomain?

I guess maybe its a scary prospect for large domains to make such a chance though Still, perhaps worth considering? Whats your take on this Brian?

Once again great post, hugely useful!

Mike.

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