The Ultimate 64-Point SEO
Checklist for 2020

If you overwhelmed with all the different SEO tactics it takes to optimize your website, you’re going to love our complete SEO checklist.

It’s a simple and straightforward process that will help you complete all the critical elements as quickly as possible.

In fact, we used this very same checklist to increase our organic traffic by 302% in a year.

author image - SEO Checklist for 2020
by Amir Nada

How to use the checklist?

We run each client through the same checklist. Why? SEO matters.

This page includes:
  • Every item we check for our clients
  • Detailed explanation of why and how to check these items yourself
  • A downloadable PDF audit checklist

Note: The goal of this checklist is to learn how to optimize all relevant items and identify critical errors. Some items might require assistance hence working with an expert SEO consultant is advisable.

Get the Checklist (PDF)

Chapter 1: SEO SET UP

Set Up Google Tag Manager

What and Why?

Google Tag Managers allows you to deploy code onto your site which you require to set up other relevant tools on this checklist. It is super simply and doesn’t require any coding skills or input from developers

How?

  • Choose the type of code you want to add it includes some pre-built options such as Google Analytics
  • Add code details (for Google Analytics, simply add your tracking ID)
  • Choose where you want to deploy the code.

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Set Up Google Search Console

What and Why?

Google Search Console provides you with a ton of useful and free data about your websites technical set-up & performance, Google organic rankings, traffic and other super helpful insights.

Some key insights

  • What keywords and pages drive most clicks
  • Discover what keywords your website is ranking for
  • Submit your XML sitemap directly to Google for faster indexation

Google will also send you notification messages via your Search Console account

  • Website errors (mobile-friendliness, indexation, etc)
  • Manual penalties (spammy links, spam, etc)

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Set Up Google Analytics

What and Why?

Google Analytics is the most critical tool in understanding site user data.

You’ll be able to track critical SEO data points such as;

  • How much traffic are you getting from Google and other search engines
  • What pages drive the most organic search traffic
  • What’s the organic search bounce rate of specific pages
  • How many conversions are you getting from organic search traffic

You can also connect your Google Search Console to view relevant keyword data.
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Google My Business Account

What and Why?

Getting your Google My Business Account setup and verified is critical for ranking success in local search results. Without it your website will simply not rank.

Via Google reviews businesses have the opportunity to not only better understand previous customer experiences but also how to attract new ones.
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Chapter 2: KEYWORD RESEARCH

Google Search Intent

What and Why?

Keyword research is the first and most critical part of any SEO endeavour. You need to understand what your potential customers are searching for before you can develop pages and content which is relevant and engaging.

There are 3 stages of search intent:

  • Informational (i.e. Users are searching for general information)
  • Navigational (i.e. Users are searching for specific websites)
  • Transactional (i.e. Users are searching with intent to make a purchase)

Remark

  • For example, let’s say you run an SEO agency (like me) and find the keyword “SEO” is searched for 74,000 times per month in Hong Kong.

This seems like a great opportunity to attract people who are looking for an SEO agency.
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Fitting Keywords into Search Intent Funnel

What and Why?

While some keywords have more search volume, they are also more competitive which means it will be much harder (more expensive and time intensive). Long tail keywords with lower might also convert better.

It is important to create a healthy balance.

If you only focus on high volume keywords you might miss out on some search terms that are more likely to convert visitors into customers.

Remark

  • For example, let’s say you run an SEO agency (like me) and find the keyword “SEO” is searched for 74,000 times per month in Hong Kong.

This seems like a great opportunity to attract people who are looking for an SEO agency.
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Search Volumes

What and Why?

Search volumes provide insights on how many times a certain keyword is searched for each month via Google.

From the data examples in REMARK below, you could conclude that “seo” is 10 times more popular than “seo hong kong” .

How?

Use a keyword research tool such as keywordtool.io to find relevant keywords and size search volumes.

Remark
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Keyword Difficulty

What and Why?

Keywords with a higher difficulty score require more effort and time to rank – this means writing more engaging content than ranking competitors, building high authority external links and to optimise all the other SEO elements which are included in this checklist.

How?

You can check the difficulty of any keyword in SEMRush > Keyword Analytics > Keyword Difficulty

Remark
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Balancing Short Tail vs Long Tail Keywords

What and Why?

Short-tail queries are keywords that:

  • Are more popular (higher search volume)
  • Are generally very competitive (higher difficulty score)
  • Are generic and broad (usually top of the search intent funnel)

Long-tail keywords are the opposite of short tail terms, they:

  • Less popular compared to short tail keywords (lower search volumes)
  • Are relatively easy to rank for (lower difficulty score)
  • Are very specific (usually mid to lower end of the search intent funnel)

If you rank for “seo”, this keyword will drive a lot of traffic to your site but might not attract the right audience as it has a variety of search intents.

On the other hand, if someone searches for the keyword “seo agency hong kong” the users search intent will be more relevant to your business.

How?

You can check the difficulty of any keyword in SEMRush > Keyword Analytics > Keyword Difficulty

Remark

CHAPTER 3: ON-PAGE SEO

URL

Include Targeted Keywords In URL

What and Why?

When you include your targeted keyword in the URL, you’re making it easier for Google to understand what your page is about.

If you are planning to create a page about “seo services”, a good example would be:

www.uptimiser.com.hk/seo-services

On the other hand if your URL looks something like this

www.uptimiser.com.hk/post/39283/

you make it impossible for Google to understand it’s relevance.

Should you have a live URL which looks something like the example above only change via a 301 redirect (you’ll find more details about redirects in the respective section of this checklist).

Keep URLs Short & Friendly

What and Why?

It can be tempting to stuff as many relevant keywords as possible into your URL but you should avoid this. Shorter URLs tend to rank higher than longer ones.

Good example: ​www.uptimiser.com.hk/seo-services

Bad Example: www.uptimiser.com.hk/seo-services-agency-hong-kong

URL Delimiter Check (Hyphens in URL)

What and Why?

The default URL structure should use hyphens (” – “)

For example:

Good: https://www.uptimiser.com.hk/seo-services-pricing/

Bad: https://www.uptimiser.com.hk/seo_services_pricing/

Worse: https://www.uptimiser.com.hk/seo,services,pricing/

Using _ or , as space in your URL structure makes it harder for Google to read the URL strings while using – ensures the text will be read correctly.

Title Tag

Add Targeted Keywords to Title Tag

What and Why?The title tag is the heading of listing results users will see when they search for something on Google.

main workspace seo checklist chap 3 1 1024x170 - SEO Checklist for 2020In general, try to add your targeted keywords closer to the beginning of the heading and keep the title tag under 52 characters.

Adding a Title to Your Page

What and Why?

Page titles are a critical organic search ranking factor, they tell Google about the context of your page.

HOW?

You can use a free crawling software like Screaming Frog to identify current titles and other crucial meta elements.

Remove Duplicate Titles

What and Why?

When at least 2 pages on your site have the same page title and/or content you run the risk of Google scanning them as similar or duplicate content. Each page on your site should have a unique title and content.

How?

Screaming Frog will also work for this.

Optimise Your Title for Higher CTR

What and Why?

If more users click on your listing result vs others, it gives Google a clear indication that your page might be more relevant to the users search intent.

The percentage of users who click on your page divided by everyone who sees it is called clickthrough rate (CTR) and is a key metrics you can track via your Google Search Console account.

In order to increase your CTR your title tag needs to be eye-catching and entice searchers to click on it.

How?

Some tactics include:

  • Write in the second person
  • Use ​words that will evoke emotions
  • Add visual features such as emojis or symbols
  • Use numbers, brackets and/or parentheses
  • Include the date (if it’s a blog post)

Meta Description

Add Keyword to your Meta Description

What and Why?

Meta descriptions are not considered a ranking signal by search engines however writing a captivating meta description copy can have a positive impact on your click-through rate.Plus, Google highlights searched keywords if they are included in the meta description. The copy shouldn’t be longer than 156 characters as longer text won’t be displayed by Google.

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Missing Meta Description

What and Why?

Should you not add a customized copy to your meta description, Google will simply take a text snippet from your page and use it for the listing snippet which is displayed in the SERP.

You don’t want to miss the opportunity to increase your listings click-through rate hence a compelling and customized copy is always a better way to go.

HOW?

Screaming Frog will also work for this.

Duplicate Meta Description

What and Why?

When two or more pages have the same copy in the meta description

Ideally every page should have its very unique meta description however if this isn’t possible try to create a compelling but generic brand message.

H1 Heading

Add Targeted Keywords to H1 Tag & Make Sure Only 1 H1 Tag

What and Why?Always try to include your targeted keyword in your H1 tag and make sure there is only one H1 tag added to the source code of your page. Other sub-headings should be either H2, H3 or H4 tags.

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Editorial Strength

Include Targeted Keyword in Body of Page

What and Why?

When adding targeted keywords to the body of your page try to include it at least 3 times and include it once close to the top of the page. Also make sure to add a minimum of 500 words per page.

Remark
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Use Synonyms

What and Why?

Using synonyms and different variations of your targeted keyword is highly encouraged by Google which means you can use a more natural language when crafted page content and still stay relevant for the targeted keywords you are trying to rank for.

Use Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)

What and Why?

E.g. of LSI Keywords:

“Hong Kong” – Victoria Peak, Victoria Harbour, Lantau Island

If you want Google to understand the context of your page it is always helpful to include keywords that are thematically related to your primary targeted keyword.

How?

LSI Graph is a free tool which provides semantic keywords for any query.

Remark
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Optimized Readability

What and Why?

Google has made user site behaviour one of its main ranking signals hence managing to keep visitors engaged on your site via optimal readability (making them read your content, click through to different pages and complete forms) should be one of your main goals.

How?

Some best practices to optimize readability of your content include:

  • Writing short paragraphs instead of long content sections
  • Adding headings and subheadings
  • Using bullet points and different font colours
  • Including rich media such as graphics, images, videos
  • Linking to other relevant resources
Word Count & Text Ratio

What and Why?

Web pages are usually written in HTML code (text) and a page text to HTML ratio measures the amount of text compared to the HTML code needed to display it. A healthy text to HTML ratio is anywhere between 20 to 70 percent.

How?

You can use Screaming Frog to identify text to HTML ratio of your pages.

Editorial Strength

Image ALT Tag

What and why?

The ALT tag as well as file name helps Google to identify the content of your image. Be descriptive when you name your ALT tag.

How?

You can use Screaming Frog to identify all the existing and missing ALT tags on your site.

Remark
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Image Location

What and Why?

Google provides the option to search for images via “Image Search” and you want to make sure the hosted image location leads to the correct page.

How?

To check image location, simply hover over the image and the respective URL will appear in the lower left hand side of your screen. You can use Screaming Frog to check images on different pages on your website.

Image Sizes

What and Why?

The size of your images (measured in kilobyte) can dramatically affect your page loading time which could lead to a bad user experience as slow load times will lead to an increased number of bounces off your page.

How?

You can check the size of individual images by right clicking on an image and viewing its properties. To bulk check images, use Screaming Frog “Images” tab and filter by “Over 100kb”.

To decrease large image files simply use an image size compressing software before uploading to site.

CHAPTER 4: Technical SEO

Fix Crawl Errors

What & why?

Crawl errors are those preventing Google from viewing your content.

Crawl errors are reading issues preventing Google bots to view your content.

How?

You can find them via your Google Search Console under “Coverage”.

Review all the craw errors in the tab and monitor to check for new issues which might come up over time.

Remark
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Fix Broken Links

What & why?

A website with a lot of broken links has probably not been updated for a while and might provide a bad user experience.

How?

Use Screaming Frog to identify broken links and update hyperlink.

Switch to HTTPS

What & why?

In an effort to make the web “safer” for users, Google has made a push for more websites to use HTTPS.

To make the web a safer space Google has made a push for websites to implement HTTPS for an encrypted and more secure web. Adding additional security to your site will not only increase security but also help with search engine rankings.

Fix Duplicate Content

What & why?

Duplicate content issues occur when two or more URLs are identical or very similar. This can dramatically decrease the authority and rankings for all effected URLs.

How?

Check for duplicate content on your website via Siteliner.com

The most common ways to fix duplicate content issues include:

  • Adding canonical tags to respective pages
  • Redirecting duplicate pages using 301
  • Updating or removing duplicate content
Fix Bad Redirects

Common issue #1​: 302s that should be 301s
What & why?

The most common type of redirects are:

301 redirects – the page has permanently moved to respective URL

302 redirects – the page has temporary moved to respective URL

To avoid any indexation issues, ranking and traffic losses you need to make sure to redirect old to respective new URLs. Without the correct redirect in place you will also loss the authority of the respective page.

How?

Replace 302 redirects with 301 redirects for the pages you want to move permanently (which is more common) instead of temporarily.

Common issue #2​: redirect chains
What & why?

With each redirect some page authority of the old URL is lost.

Here is an example of how too many redirect chains could affect a decrease in page authority

“Page A” redirects to “Page B”

“Page B” redirects to “Page C”

Instead of redirecting “Page A” to “Page B” it’s better to just redirect it to “Page C”

How?

Use Screaming Frog’s redirect chain report to find these.

Mobile Friendliness

What & why?

As most people are accessing the web via their mobile phones, having a responsive web design that fits different screen sizes and devices is no longer an option.

Google has even forced website owners to do so by deploying there mobile-first index, which means moving forward the mobile version of your site will be crawled and index (instead of desktop).

How?

Use Google’s Mobile Friendly Test tool to check if your website is mobile friendly.

Remark
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A.M.P

What & why?

Accelerated Mobile Pages or A.M.P is an open source framework designed to increase user experience by speeding up page loading time for mobile users.

How?

​Use Google’s AMP Test tool to check if your website has the A.M.P framework implemented.

Remark
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Site’s Speed

What & why?

Google prefers websites with super-fast page loading times, as they provide a better user experience. A slow loading page will not only impact your search engine rankings but also increase visitor bounce rates which will eventually result in a drop in search engine rankings.

How?

​ou can use the following tools to test your page loading time:

  • Google PageSpeed Insights
  • Gift of Speed
  • GTMetrix
  • Pingdom (most accurate results)
XML Sitemap

What & why?

An XML sitemap is basically a catalogue of all the webpages within your website. It helps Google to better understand the structure of your site and all the pages you want to be indexed.

How?

You can submit your XML sitemap via your Google Search Console account.

Robots.txt

What & why?

By adding Robots.txt files to your website you can control what pages Google can crawl and index. You might want to block certain pages, for example checkout pages. The code can be specified for different search engines and crawlers.

Bread Crumbs

What & why?

Breadcrumbs are a visible navigation links which help users to navigate through pages on your website. They enforce a clear page hierarchy and help with better search engine indexation.

Most commonly breadcrumbs are used to navigate around eCommerce platforms with a high category or product page depth.

Remark
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Site Depth Check

What & why?

This refers to the depth of your pages which means the number of clicks from your starting category URL to the very last.

You want keep your folder structure within 3 clicks from your home page as important pages should be easily accessible.

How?

You can check the depth of your URL’s via Screaming Frog

Remark
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Domain Age

What & why?

Domain age refers to the length of time that a website has been registered and active.

In general you could say the longer a website has been live and updated the higher the authority which conveys trust to website visitors and Google.

How?

You can check your domains age via Webconfs free domain age tool

https://www.webconfs.com/web-tools/domain-age-tool/

Domain & Page Authority

What & why?

Doman & Page Authority is a search engine value score that indicates the authority and relevance to rank in Google SEPRs. They score ranges from 1 to 100, with higher scores usually corresponding to a greater ability to rank.

It needs to be stated that domain and page authority is not a ranking factor and even websites with a lower score can achieve first page rankings but it serves as a good prediction for webmasters on how well a site or page is optimised.

How?

You can check your domain & page authority via the following free authority checker tool

https://smallseotools.com/domain-authority- checker/

Open Graph Snippet

What & why?

Allows you to control the image, description and title that Facebook pulls through to the status display when you automate a post or someone shares the link to your page.

Open Graph Snippet gives you the opportunity to control images, descriptions and titles that Facebook pulls through to the status display when you automate a post or some one shares a link to your page

How?

Check the source code and type in the meta tags manually

Remark
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IP Clean

What & why?

An Internet Protocol or IP address serves two main functions:

  • Host or network interface identification
  • Location addressing

If you are sharing a virtual IP with other sites you are at risk of being surrounded by spammy sites (bad neighbour’s)

How?

You can check if your IP address is clean via the following free tool

https://ipremoval.sms.symantec.com/

Remark
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Malware/Hacked

What & why?

Hacked websites could be blacklisted by Google. Site owner is going to lose website visitors, and in result business will lose its credibility.

Hacker attacks are an unpleasant but very common experience for website owners. If not handled swiftly it could even get your website removed from Google which will most likely result in loss of website visitors, credibility and sales.

How?

You can use one of the following free tools to check your website for malware:

https://www.siteguarding.com/
http://isithacked.com/
Remark
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Structured Data Markup (Schema)

What & why?

Structured data is a snippet of code (HTML) located in the

tag, it instructs Google what your page is about without having to read complex code.

It is particularly popular for news articles, product reviews and recipes and can greatly increase click through rates.

How?

You can create schema code by using our free markup generator tool.

Simply add your website’s URL into Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool

Meta ‘hreflang’

What & why?

If you have pages in different local languages, you want to make sure the correct page is served based on the users language query and location.

For example the German version of your page if marked with the correct meta (hreflang=de) will be served to IP addresses in German speaking countries.

How?

Right click + “View Page Source”.

Search the HTML code of your page and check for hreflang markups ( )

Canonical Tags

What & why?

By using canonical tags indexation problems are prevented which can be caused by identical or duplicated content appearing on multiple URLs. It’s the correct way in telling Google that a specific URL represents the original content.

How?

Check Screaming Frog: Check Canonical Link Element column to determine whether the addresses have canonical links

CHAPTER 5: Link Building

Build Internal Links

What and Why?

For example, your recent blog post will get more page authority and link value if you link to them from your homepage and other relevant category pages. This will also help with proper indexation as web pages which are easy to navigate for both users and search engine spiders can be found by Google.

How?

To check your internal links just visit your Google Search Console account, select search traffic and internal links.

Build Outbound Links/External Links

What and Why?

Linking to other authoritative websites might increase your sites authority but most certainly improve credibility and help Google to further understand the content of your site.

However you shouldn’t hope for backlink in return.

How?

Check for external links using Screaming Frog > Tool > External Tab

Build Inbound Links/Backlinks

What and Why?

A backlink to a specific web page is a link from another website to that web resource.

Backlinks are a critical ranking signal and help Google to better understand the popularity and relevance of your web property.

Ways to Build Inbound Links/Backlinks

Unlinked Mentions

Once your web pages start ranking for relevant keywords, you’ll find users to include mentions to your business without links. Reach out to these website owners and ask them to include a backlink together with their mention.

Fix Broken URLs

A URL might be broken for one of the following reasons:

  • The website or the content on the page was removed
  • The content was moved to a new page
  • There is a technical issue

Your options could include:

  • Redirect the broke URL to a working page
  • Republish the missing content
  • Fix technical issue

You can check for broken links using SEMRush

Reverse Engineer Your Competitors’ Links

Use a backlink tool such as Majestic SEO or SEMRush to check your competitors link profiles.

When reviewing relevant competitor links consider the following:

  • Did they post as a guest? Check if you can do the same
  • Did they add the link themselves? Add a link to your website as well
  • Did your competitor get interviewed by the site? Try to get interviewed yourself
  • Is your competitors post outdated? Pitch your content as more relevant
Guest Post on Relevant Sites

The most common link building practice is to write a guest post on a relevant website and add links back to your site. This is considered the safest and most natural way.

Use Resource Page Link Building

Another very popular practice is to add links to curated lists and directories that link to helpful, relevant content, resources and/or tools. These links are usually of lower quality and don’t provide as much link equity.

You can use Googles search bar to find relevant resources (example below):

  • “[keyword]” inurl:resources e.g. “seo agency” inurl:resources
  • “[keyword]” intitle:“resources” e.g. “seo agecy” intitle:resources
Provide Testimonials

Another way to grab a link is to find websites that include testimonials on their sites, you can write a review for them to publish but you may not always get a link back in return.

Find Broken Links

Broken links are links which are no longer redirected to respective page. Best to reach out to webmasters and ask to republish the link.

A tool like SEMRush will help you find all the lost links via their filter functionality. There is also an email outreach interface allowing you to find contact details in no time.

Linkable Assets

In order for link building activities to be successful you need to create a value and relevance. The best way to do so is by creating amazing linkable assets such as tools, calculators, guides and infographics.

Remark
main workspace seo checklist chap 5 1 1024x589 - SEO Checklist for 2020This graph about “SEO ranking factors in 2020” is immensely popular among industry professionals, by inserting the graph on other web properties including a link to the original image location on our website, it not only steadily increases the number of links (link equity) to our site but also drives qualified traffic to our site.

Publish Press Release

Online press releases are a popular way to increase number of backlinks from relevant resources and increase online exposure for your business. For maximum reach you need to create news worthy content so best to publish some relevant story around new services, products or promotions you might offer.

Check Logo Link

What & why?

By adding a hyperlink to the main logo on your site (usually at top left hand side) you make it easier for users to navigate back to the homepage (simply click back).

No Follow Links

What & why?

Having external no follow links which point at your website is critical to create a diverse and healthy overall link profile. To follow Google’s best practice guidelines 15 to 30 percent of your total links should be made up of no follow links.

How?

Check your websites backlink profile via SEMRush or Open Site Explorer

Anchor Texts

What & why?

The anchor text is the clickable text of the hyperlink.

It is recommended to diversify your anchor text in different categories such as domain name, brand name, exact match and partial match keywords. Below you’ll find the ideal ratio for anchor text distribution.

Remark
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