This 31-point SEO checklist gives you the strategies to help improve your search rankings.

SEO Fundamentals

These are your basics. If you haven’t set these up, don’t move onto the next section. Get all of this taken care of and then see the next section about keyword SEO.

1. Create a robots.txt file

The robot.txt file should be added to your website’s home directory. This file tells search engines where to find your Sitemap XML file.

2. Create and upload a sitemap

The sitemap.xml page is another vital component of your file directory. It’s a list of all the URLs on your website, and it’s a handy guidepost for search engine spiders to follow as they crawl your site. WordPress plugins like Yoast automatically creates this file for you, but if you’ve created a website using another platform or just from scratch, you can simply use an XML sitemap generator to create this critical file.

3. Google Search Console

Google Search Console helps you monitor your site’s performance, pages, and so many other things. Not only does Search Console track your performance, but it also gives you suggestions. Google Search Console is indispensable. Don’t go without it.

4. Google Analytics

Google Analytics enables you to track your visitors, discover their habits, and find out what might be wrong with certain parts of your content. The overall goal is the same: to evolve and improve.

5. Yoast Plugin

If you’re a WordPress user, Yoast will help you to optimize your search engine optimization.

Keyword SEO Checklist

Keywords are the words that describe your website and your content.

6. Find your keywords

Believe it or not, it’s not always easy to know how to describe your content down to a single keyword or even a string of words. Not only that, but what keywords you choose to optimize for the need to be strongly related to what people search for online, so you’ll need to find an SEO keyword tool that lets you know what people are searching for every month. When you find keywords that (1) appropriately describe your content, and (2) that people are searching for.

7. Optimize for long-tail variations

Seasoned searchers may choose a single keyword or two to search for, but people also use entire sentences in searches. For example, instead of searching for “teddy bears,” they may search for “teddy bears with pink bow ties.”

8. Google’s “also ask” box

When you type in a keyword into Google, you get a host of other queries that are common among Google users.

9. Keyword Difficulty

With so many websites online and so many users, it is going to be virtually impossible to rank highly on high difficulty specific keywords. For example, trying to grab the keyword “google” is very likely going to end in an avalanche of your content being buried underneath a good couple of million websites.

On-Page SEO Pointers

You have the most control over your content, and here is the place that your SEO efforts can pay off the most.

10. Title tag and description

The basics still count in SEO. Make sure that the title of your page is easy to read and comprehend. It needs to be catchy without being overbearing. Describe your page as concisely as possible without browbeating your readers with too many facts or keywords. When it makes sense to add keywords to the title, do it! If it doesn’t make a lot of sense or detracts from the uniqueness and appeal of the title, ditch those keywords and put them in the body of the page more often instead. A natural-sounding, engaging title is essential.

11. Shorter URLs

The names of your files are going to be important sometimes in how they’re ranked. Shorter URLs tend to look more legit and tidy, often leading a user to click on them over a longer URL that might seem more robotic or automated.

12. Link!

The link is one of the most critical elements of the Internet in general. Don’t go overboard, but make sure that your content is packed with highly relevant links to pages within your website and high ranking sites off your page.

13. Use H1 tags

Always use an H1 tag at least once on your page! When you put your keyword in this H1 tag, search engines most definitely appreciate that.

14. Make use of “alt” tags

Images have “alt” tag possibilities that most users never even use at all. When you’re creating content that has images, please make full use of your “alt” tags that describe that image.

15. Add long-tail keywords

When creating content, have a healthy list of long-tail keyword variations that you can intersperse on your page. Long-tail variations, though, are more specific and highly specialized.

16. Schema Markup

Schema markup is code (semantic vocabulary) that you place on your website to help the search engines return more informative results for users.

How About Content?

Your content is what you’re trying to get out there to the masses.You can structure your content in a way that’s pleasing to both readers and search engines. Believe it or not, you can have the best of both worlds. Here’s how.

17. Readability and pretty content

Make sure that you keep things tidy and readable by breaking things up via images, shorter paragraphs, lists, and anything else that prevents that wall of text from forming and becoming an eyesore on your page. You can also use readability checkers to make sure that you’ve kept an article readable for the masses.

18. Say hello in a way that builds trust

Online, you often have only one chance to make an impression on a reader before they say, “Forget this,” and bolt for the next piece of content. Online readers these days have no patience or time to waste. They want it, and they want it now, so if you want to make sure you’re the one who gives them that content, you have to get it right in the first paragraph and image. Proper introductions are few and far between, so you want to read as much as possible about how to craft an introduction that your readers will respond to and be happy with. One such strategy is to offer them a solution to their problem. What did they come to your page for? Make sure you trustingly promise that answer down the road.

19. Keep it simple

A great plugin called Hemingway helps you determine the reading level of your written piece. In other words, what reading level will your audience need to be to understand what your content is saying? Half of the people in the U.S. at least are reading below an 8th-grade reading level, so if you write a college piece, you’ve already alienated at least half of your readers. Make sure that you always check to see if your piece is readable by people who are 8th grade or lower in reading level. The key to this is to keep paragraphs and sentences short.

20. Own the content

When writing content, you need to assume a position of authority, but you also need to come across as trustworthy and genuine. To do that, it’s best to have people write about subjects that they have experience with. When you talk, you want your readers to get a sense of trust in your position. When you know your subject matter well, your readers will trust you more.

Technical SEO Strategy

Great content is great, but if your website is not built to be technically sound, the whole house of cards comes down. Here are the things you need to focus on to build a website that’s accessible to your readers.

21. No crawl errors

Your goal should always be zero crawl errors. You don’t want links that lead readers to a “page not found” error message. You want them to go to content regularly. There are many tools out there that will crawl your website and let you know where the dead links are. Fix those!

22. Maximize content for fast loading times

Remember how we said that online and mobile readers are completely inpatient these days? Well, they always have been. A slow website is almost a death blow to any type of chance you have at online prosperity. Increase your site’s load times, and you’ll inevitably see many more happy readers over time. A quick site audit will often reveal if your website is loading too slow.

23. Bad website code

The world of web design is a fickle, often infuriating place. Coding your website just right sometimes isn’t even within your control, as many people use content managers these days. Hiring someone to fix bad code is well worth it!

24. Mobile-friendliness

If you don’t have a mobile-friendly site in today’s world, you’re missing out on the chance to reach millions of people daily. Mobile users make up the majority of readers these days, not homebound desktop users.

25. HTTPs Matter

Even Google has let it be known that secure websites matter to them. That HTTP may be cutting you off from higher search engine rankings. Not only does an HTTPs site increase your chances of higher rankings, but it will also keep your visitor’s information safe!

26. Canonicalizing content

Duplicate content is among the webmaster’s most frequent headaches. Due to the often different versions of the same webpage, you simply can’t go back through all of that and create entirely different content for each different version of the site. That’s why canonicalizing your only hope. It’s what makes sure search engines know what page they should rank and that the other pages are merely different versions of the same page.

Miscellaneous Tips

We’re almost there! Here are just a few last tips for dwelling on before wading out into the war and trying to create a correct SEO strategy. Keep these few precious things in mind.

27. Update frequently

Don’t leave your website dead in the water. Make sure that you’re continually adding new content to show search engines that you’re active and to reach out to your readers.

28. Create social media hubs

You want to have a social media presence on each of the big social media websites. Update those pages frequently, too, and if readers respond to you, make an excellent first, second, and third impression!

29. Write for people, not bots

While you want to have an SEO strategy in place, your actual content is the one place where you’re speaking first and last to your readers. It’s them who will buy something from you or come back to read more. Write for people, not spiders.

30. Try press releases

When you put out an essential piece of content that you’re particularly proud of, make sure to put out a press release! It’s a great, natural way to let others know about your content without using any underhanded SEO strategies. It also gives you backlinks to your website and spreads your content around the web in a natural way.

31. Optimize for many search engines

Don’t just focus on Google or Yahoo or Bing. Focus on all of them and then some. Even focus on some of the directories out there or the lesser-known search engines. Traffic is traffic. If people search on a search engine, work a little bit to optimize for those sources, too.

You can’t possibly follow all of these in one day, so take some time to review these strategies and realize that search engine optimization is a lifelong process. As long as your content is alive, you’re going to have opportunities to optimize it for search and people. Take a deep breath, commit, and pick out just one to get started.