SEO: A complete (and personal) checklist to what are the basic SEO criteria for analyzing a web site today

If you want to know what I consider to the a complete checklist on the SEO criteria for analyzing a web site in 2014, you can read the following post.

I tried to cover all the major topics. Whenever necessary, I supplemented my criteria with external links.

I think the article covers pretty well most things a web site owner should take into account when analyzing SEO (internal structure, links, social media).

The article is highly personal – it depicts how I, Olivian Breda, see the subject of SEO.

It’s a long lecture ahead.

David Flores - 69/366: checklist, https://flic.kr/p/aSY7yx
David Flores – 69/366: checklist, https://flic.kr/p/aSY7yx

Initial note: I don’t want to make things complicated, but, somehow, I manage to do so a lot of times I write something.

You may find the following documents as alternative versions of my article (they all try to focus on saying “what matters on SEO” in a single document):

Also see:

You might also want to have a look at:

You can also read:

Another view on the subject:

A web site with lots of resources:

And a detailed analysis:

More information?

… and this to stop you from getting the wrong ideas on Search Engine Factors:

Note #1: Google keeps its algorithms hidden. As such, other people may have a totally opposed view to mine on some of the issues below. Take this article as *my* guide, using *my* experience and *my* knowledge. Your mileage may vary. Results are, by no means, guaranteed in any way.

Note #2: In the questions below, you should be focusing on answering “Yes” to every question. If you answer “No” or “Not all times”, you should generally be looking things up on how to fix the issue. I made the questions so that each “correct” answer should always be “Yes”.

Note #3: I ask the question at present time. Most question should also be answered in the past time. So, if in the past you tried to manipulate Google, to force things & push things, this is also a poor signal. So, while the vast importance of the questions are focusing on the present, not on the past, you should ask yourself if in the past you have done some of the things I describe in the questionnaire.

Note #4: I created the links on this blog post to be easily opened at once. You can use one of these extensions to open lots of tabs at the same time:

Note #5: I am not happy with how deep/shallow this article is. I tried to cover as much as possible. Thus, I missed a lot of details. I have an article on Image SEO, which is much deeper than this article (Cum faci SEO pentru imagini (ghid detaliat)?: Olivian Breda). Take the following advice, knowing it merely scratches the surface, most times.
There are lots of things which can be said about rel=”canonical”. Read the following text knowing this.
On another hand, if you want a global understanding on SEO, this should help clarify some things.

Note #6: I wrote this article with the typical web site owner / SEO in mind. If you have a web site, and you care for it, you generally do some things, and avoid others. While a lot of people try to manipulate links, very few people try to change IP addresses, or hack forums. There are various degrees of things which a person will do online. Below, you will find a selection of the most common things a web site owner / SEO might do. So, yes, it’s not OK to frequently change your web site IP address, but a lot of people aren’t even aware of such thing existing, and even if they do, they generally don’t go changing it every 3 months. So, if you think you have an uncommon pattern behavior, you should go ahead and research that behavior online. Go to Google.com and type “implications of frequent IP changes over Google rankings” and read some things on the specific behavior. I didn’t even try to create a complete article, because there are lots of things which are irrelevant to most users’ behaviors. Take the below things as “common” things which may happen. It’s not “everything”. Another example: domain name. I didn’t cover the subject almost at all. Why? Because generally people buy a domain from scratch, do so with the user in mind, and, also, most people reading this article, I think, already have a domain name. In either of these cases (buy a domain name with the user, not Google, in mind, or if you already have a domain name), you will likely not be interested of the factors determined by the domain name. I preferred to focus my attention on things which are more likely to have an impact (it’s more important, for me, to put the user upfront, to create a good business, to have a good connection with a catchy name, to get some links from friends, rather than suggesting you that you could have a 1% increase in rankings by picking a domain name which is so-and-so). Another factor: it matters that the page is updated. But if you update it just for Google, it’s pointless. Make the page relevant for users, whatever this implies, and this will likely lead to links and social shares, which are much more valuable than the fact that the page gets updated or not.

Note #7: I thought for some while before giving some grades of importance to each question. At the beginning, I thought I shouldn’t, or that I should use some tools to check things out. The thing is, this is my view on the ranking factors. It may not be the most accurate, you can find better alternatives out there, but it’s my view. So, with some skepiticism, take the grades I given as mine and mine only. You can do with that information whatever you please.

Note #8: There are a lot of links in this blog post from Moz.com, Searchengineland.com, and Matt Cutts’ (head of Google’s Webspam team) opinions on the matter. I tend to prefer these sources to others, but I’m sure there are other views.

Keyword research

See, for a start, some theoretical aspects:

Checklist:

Links

Some articles about links (yes, I have linked to them, that’s right) – note, some of these resources might be outdated, as Google constantly improves his algorithms over the years:

Checklist:

  • (6/10) Links – Are the links as diverse as possible, in a natural way? (diverse sources, diverse anchor text, diverse intent of the link; this doesn’t mean that if you have links from diverse spammy sources, you are OK; diverse AND natural is the key here, both factors at the same time) Tools to check your links: Google Webmaster Tools (see the “Links” section, after you connect your web site to GWT), Majestic SEO : Backlink Checker & Site Explorer (you should connect your web site to the links checker, and it will show all of your links, as seen by the tool), Open Site Explorer, Ahrefs Site Explorer & Backlink Checker, and others, which you can find in the “SEO Tools” secti
    [two_third]on.
  • (4/10) Links – Are the links mostly within content (best), as opposed to being in sidebar (a bit worse) / footer (far worse)? (they can also be in the header, but this rarely ever happens; I think header = “a bit worse”, because the links in header tend to also be sidewide)
  • (5/10) Links – Are the links mostly on a single page (great), rather than sitewide (far less than great)?
  • (8/10) Links – Are the links mostly on web pages which have some connection to your web site (good), and on domains which are connected to your business (even better)? (so, if there’s a general blog, writing about everything, and you receive an article from a page related to your business domain, that’s fine; what’s even better is if the whole domain is related to your business; it’s not so good when neither the page, nor the whole web site is related to your business niche in any way at all)
  • (6/10) Links – Does the link velocity suggest that you have acquired links with the same momentum? (i.e., have you avoided getting links too fast?)
  • (10/10) Links – Does your link profile look natural or it looks like you have tried to manipulate the link acquisition? (for example, a high percentage of links from poor quality web directories, commenting on blogs just to get a link, creating new web sites just to link to your web site, creating article and posting them on lots of web sites, just for a link, posting on forums just for links, or a big number of un-natural links at once)
  • (7/10) Links – If you do have some links from poor quality web directories / low quality blog comments / site networks / article spinning / forum posting, have you disavowed them? Disavow backlinks – Google Webmasters Tools
  • (5/10) Links – Are most of your links not-reciprocal? (you should avoid linking back to the same web sites that link to you; it’s OK for a small percentage of your total number of links, it’s not OK if a large number of links on your web site follow this pattern)
  • (8/10) Links – Are most of your links from reputable web sources? (by looking at a list of your links, would you trust those links?)

Social media & trust

Some links covering the subjects:

Checklist:

  • (9/10) Social media – Are you generally present on the social networks on which most of your customers are also present? (If your customers use Facebook a lot, do you have a Facebook fan page? If your customers are a small community, do you have a Facebook group for them? If your clients spend some time online on LinkedIn, do you have a LinkedIn company page, or a group, depending on the social connections between your type of customers? If your clients are on Twitter, are you on Twitter also? If your customers love to watch videos with your products, are you on YouTube?)
  • (6/10) Social media – Do you make it easy for your clients to share your content online? (having social sharing buttons, like “like this article on Facebook” / “share this article on Facebook” / “Tweet this!”, etc.)
  • (4/10) Social media – Are you aware that, although the community using Google Plus has some typical characteristics (mostly male, a lot of Internet marketers and tech people), Google is much more likely to use data from this network, since all the data is in their control? (it’s easy for them to know the exact origin of the account who just gave you a +1, unlike Facebook, a network on which they know much fewer things about the users)
  • (5/10) Social media – Have you avoided spam on social media? (for example creating accounts just to get some links, and then abandoning those accounts; or creating a profile, putting some links to your web site, then abandoning the account; or mass spamming lots of profiles / pages / groups with links to your web site; or buying fake accounts, and then getting likes / shares from them, only to increase your social media visibility)
  • (10/10) Trust – If you have a look, using a popularly used tool, on your link profile, would you consider that your links generally come from web sites for which you would vouch for, which inspire trust, credibility & authority?
  • (10/10) Trust – Generally, you prefer to have a web site which is more relevant to the user, and Google’s importance, in your eyes, is lower than this?

Metas (meta title, meta description, meta keywords)

Some articles about meta titles, descriptions, keywords:

Checklist:

  • (9/10) Meta titles + descriptions – For the 30 most important pages on your web site, have you tried to make them very relevant, and well made?
  • (5/10) Meta titles + descriptions – Have you avoided long texts written in CAPS?
  • (6/10) Meta titles + descriptions – Have you avoided special characters (©, ș, ü, ™, even quotes “””), which may not be displayed properly in the SERPs (Search engine results pages)?
  • (8/10) Meta titles – have you avoided having duplicate meta titles? (either identical or very similar ones) You can check the meta titles quickly using Screaming Frog.
  • (5/10) Meta titles – Do you have proper usage of brandname, either as: “[pagename]: BrandName.com”, or as “[pagename]: Brand Name”. You can use other separatator than “:”, but this is a short one (unlike ” | ” or ” – “, it only requires two characters)? Do you do so? (exception to the rule is when the [pagename] is longer than 55 characters (minus the length of “: BrandName.com”, in that case you shouldn’t add the brandname, as it will likely be cut by the search engines)
  • (6/10) Meta titles – Are most of your meta titles less than 55 characters in length, or, at most, 64 characters, but first checked with this tool? Moz.com: New Title Tag Guidelines & Preview Tool – Moz
  • (5/10) Meta titles – Are they descriptive? Is it clear by just looking at the meta title what’s the page about?
  • (6/10) Meta titles – Have you put the most important keywords at the beginning of the meta title?
  • (8/10) Meta descriptions – Are the meta description compelling, created similarly to an AdWords ad, giving reasons to click on the link, establishing some trust & urgency? You can check the meta descriptions quickly using Screaming Frog.
  • (9/10) Meta descriptions – Despite the above question, are your meta descriptions not extremely pushy regarding sales?
  • (5/10) Meta descriptions – Are your meta descriptions less than 155 characters long?
  • (5/10) Meta descriptions – Are your meta descriptions at least 100 (my recommendation is 110) characters long?
  • (4/10) Meta descriptions – Do you include in the meta description the title of the page and the brandname?
  • (6/10) Meta descriptions – If generated automatically, do the meta descriptions make sense?
  • (7/10) Meta descriptions – Have you avoided duplicate meta descriptions? (having a lot of pages with identical or very similar texts)
  • (8/10) Meta descriptions – When generated automatically, do they avoid including things which are changing (for example, variable price, or stock)? (it’s not OK to say the price of an item is 10 USD in the meta description, and, after the click, to claim the price is 12 USD)
  • (6/10) Meta descriptions – When generated automatically, have you included relevant information in the meta description (if the price changes rarely, you can include the price; if the color of the item is very relevant it, you may consider including it; if you know that the dimensions of the product matter, include them; if you sell books, the book author and the publishing house may be relevant)
  • (4/10) Meta titles + descriptions – Do you use tools such as Screaming Frog to periodically check your meta descriptions & meta titles? Or, at least, do you check the meta titles & meta description errors provided by Google’s Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools?
  • (4/10) Meta keywords <meta name=”keywords” content=”keyword 1, keyphrase 2, term 3″> – Have you removed them all completely? You can check the meta keywords quickly using Screaming Frog.

Note: I am aware that the name “meta titles” is not appropriate, since “title” is not a meta. Still, it’s commonly used, so I use this name, also. It’s easier to convey a (wrong) message, this way.

Note: See information on meta name=”robots” on “Some individual settings” category.

Hn tags

About Hn tags:

Checklist:

  • (6/10) Hn tags – Have you avoided using h1, h2, h3 tags on things which are irrelevant to the original structure of h1-h2-h3 tags were intended to be used? (correct: h1 for the title of the current page / article / category; h2 for subtitles of very long article or for product titles listed in a product category; h3 for sub-sub-titles; incorrect: h1 used for logo, or multiple h1s; multiple h2s and h3s, unrelated to the original intent of the tag) You can check the hn quickly using Screaming Frog.
  • (8/10) Hn tags – Have you avoided writing very small text, with poor color contrast, and applying h1 or h2 tag on it, with the sole purpose of manipulating Google? (it just doesn’t work, and it only has poor consequences)
  • (7/10) Hn tags – Have you avoided putting lots and lots of keywords in h1 / h2 tags?
  • (6/10) Hn tags – Have you used h1/h2/h3 tag mostly for its intended purpose – the title of the current page / the subtitles / the sub-titles/sub-chapters? (and not for putting lots of texts in there, just because the tag has some importance, with the intent of manipulating the search engine results)
  • (4/10) Hn tags – In the situation when the homepage has no clear title, and no good use of h2 tags, have you avoided, as you should have, using and h1 and h2 on the homepage?
  • (4/10) Hn tags – Are you aware that the impact of hn tags is minimal, and you should not allocate lots of resources to it? (it’s fine to automatically have the page title use h1 tag; it’s illogical to manually edit h1 tags for hundreds of pages, you should be focusing on other things)
  • (4/10) Hn tags – Are you aware that if you use no hn tags, and the title of your page is written with a large font, generally Google would know that this is the h1 of the page?
  • (5/10) Hn tags – Have you avoided using hn tags for anything than titles, as text (page titles, product titles, sub-titles, sub-sub-titles, etc.)? (for example, have you avoided adding any images – logos or buttons, or scripts or anything else in there?)
  • (6/10) Hn tags – Have you generally tried to have h1 tags as similar to the meta titles as possible? (this is to provide a similarity between what a user sees when he/she searches on Google – meta title -, and when it lands on your web site – the h1 tag)

Images

Some information on optimizing images:

Checklist:

  • (6/10) Images – Do you use images for your articles, as a general principle, since they tend to increase conversions and, to some degree, they are correlated to higher rankings?
  • (8/10) Images – Do you generally use your own images, or images for which you have copyright, or are copyright-free? (for example, an image which is so used on the Internet, that your usage would not decrease the benefits of the original source)
  • (5/10) Images – Are your images large enough that they are easily seen on the screen?
  • (6/10) Images – Do you mostly use PNG, GIF or JPG as file formats? (you may use SVG or WebP, but they are not so common; you should generally avoid filetypes such as BMP / TIFF / other formats)
  • (8/10) Images – Do you generally both resize and compress images prior to putting them online? (you should make your resolution as small as it needs to be, and you should also pick some image formats which allow for compression) You can check the file sizes for images quickly using Screaming Frog.
  • (5/10) ALT for images – Does it exist, do you have it implemented?
  • (4/10) ALT for images – Is it, generally, smaller than 140 characters long?
  • (7/10) ALT for images – Is it, generally a description of the image/page, as opposed to being a list of keywords, used for spammy purposes?
  • (4/10) ALT for images – Is it relevant? It’s one thing to have an ALT text as “J83448KL” and another thing to have “Happy puppy playing” as an ALT text. The latter is much more descriptive.
  • (4/10) ALT for images – Is it generated automatically in the right way? For categories – an easy way to do so is just to take the title of the product the image is about, or to take the meta title of the destination page of the link on the image. For product pages – an easy way to do so is to just take the meta title of the current page and put it as ALT text for all of the images in the current page.
  • (4/10) ALT for images – If you write the text manually, do you focus on making the text as relevant to the user as possible? (as opposed to making it SEO-“friendly”)

Crawling

Some theory on the subject:

Checklist:

  • (9/10) Crawling – Does the web site use JavaScript for the menus? While Google can crawl JavaScript, the value of the links created using JavaScript is generally lower than the value of a standard link.
  • (9/10) Crawling – Does the web site use Flash for menus? This should be avoided, especially (but not only) if your web site doesn’t offer any alternative way of navigation (so, only a menu in Flash, no secondary menu in the footer of the web site, and no HTML sitemap).
  • (10/10) Crawling – Can the majority of your web site content be visited without having to login / fill-in a form? (if you have a web site with a dictionary, you should have a way to visit all your definitions, without filling in a word by hand, a thing which search engines generally don’t do; if you have a social network, you should consider having at least some public profiles with public content, to give the search engines something they can crawl)
  • (5/10) Crawling – Have you implemented breadcrumbs, for a web site with at least 30 pages and 3 levels of navigation (home – subpage – sub-subpage)? For a small web site, or for a web site with only one level of navigation – Home – End page -, it is generally not necessary to have breadcrumbs implemented.
  • (3/10) Crawling – If you have implemented breadcrumbs, are they Google-friendly? (See: Rich snippets – Breadcrumbs)

Content (including duplicate content)

Some information:

Checklist:

  • (8/10) Content – Do you post some new content on your web site periodically? (for example, not changing anything on a web site for two years might mean it’s outdated; you should come with new things, periodically)
  • (10/10) Content – Is the content you post with high enough quality that the users coming from Google searches and landing on the page do not return back to Google, unsatisfied with what they found? (your web site should be both relevant and pleasing to the end user)
  • (10/10) Content – Is the content you post with high enough quality that it gets links from other web sites?
  • (10/10) Content – Is the content you post with high enough quality that it gets shares/likes/pins/tweets/+1s/etc. on social networks?
  • (6/10) Content – If you own an online store, does your product page have enough original quality content, so that the visitors are impressed (in a positive way)?
  • (5/10) Duplicate content – If you own an online store, does the typical product page on your web site have (at least) some unique content, which makes it different than the same product page on your competitors’ web sites? (the duplicate content generally comes from the fact that producers give to product distributors some content and photos, and each of those distributors uses the same description/photos as the others)
  • (6/10) Duplicate content – If you own an online store, do you avoid syndicating your product description / photos to other web sites, considering the fact that if you do so, you will be competing with others on your own products? (it’s a tricky one, and the easiest solution – writing a different description & giving different photos to other web sites – is not simple at all)
  • (8/10) Content – Do you focus on having not only text on your pages, but other media formats also – videos, photos, PowerPoint presentations (embedded with services such as SlideShare), audio (podcasts)?
  • (9/10) Content – Are your texts / photos / videos compelling? Do they serve their purpose, whatever that would be? (for example, do the product description convert visitors into buyers? Or your blog posts make people subscribe? Or your articles make people want to share them on social networks?)
  • (7/10) Content – Is (at least some of) your content viral? (Moz.com: Why Content Goes Viral: the Theory and Proof – Moz / Moz.com: Is Your Content Credible Enough to Share? – Moz / Moz.com: What Kind of Content Gets Links in 2012? – Moz)
  • (5/10) Content – Is most of your content easy to understand, and his little to no spelling errors? Does it use proper grammar?
  • (9/10) Duplicate content – Does the web site redirect from the non-www. to the www. version (or viceversa)?
  • (5/10) Duplicate content – Does the index.php/.html/.htm/.asp/.aspx/.jsp redirect to homepage (no /index) or, at least, gives a 404 error, or at least, you have rel=”canonical” leading to the homepage?

URLs

Some information on URLs:

Checklist:

  • (8/10) URLs – Do you avoid using URLs with filtering & sorting, and, at the same time, don’t have rel=”canonical” or noindex implemented, a situation which might lead to duplicate content? (so, you either avoid URLs like this: site.com/video-camera-product-category?filter=sony&sort=price, or you add rel=”canonical” or noindex for those type of pages) You can check the URLs quickly using Screaming Frog.
  • (7/10) URLs – Are your URLs short? (generally, as short as possible, you should focus on having shorter URLs, for usability purposes, which are related to sharing/linking to your web site; I suggest to be less than 200 characters, but you should focus on less than 80 characters, generally)
  • (5/10) URLs – Do you use hyphen (-) as a keyword separator in URLs, generally? (less recommended alternatives are the underscore _, space %20; not recommended separators include “.” or no separator at all; good example: site.com/my-page; not-so-good: site.com/my_page or site.com/my%20page; not good at all: site.com/my.page or syte.com/mypage)
  • (9/10) URLs – Do you avoid any word separator in the main domain name? (mywebsite.com is good, while my-web-site.com, not so good)
  • (3/10) URLs – Although the importance of this criteria is extremely small, do you avoid having .html or .htm, or .asp, or .php, or other suffix at the end of the URLs of a page? (not-so-good: site.com/my-page.html; good: site.com/my-page/)
  • (8/10) URLs – Do you use small letters in URLs and redirect the URLs in capitals to the small letter equivalent? (site.com/MY-URL should redirect to site.com/my-url, and all URLs should be written with small letters: site.com/my-url)
  • (4/10) URLs – Are you aware that you should have a good reason for changing the URL structure, when you do so it would be best to use 301 redirects, and the changes to the URL structure should be rare? For example, if your URL structure is site.com?article=1, you should avoid changing things to site.com/the-title-goes-here, because the redirect has more drawbacks than advangages.

Some individual settings

First, let’s read some things:

Checklist:

  • (7/10) Rel=”canonical” – Have you implemented rel=”canonical” for most of the pages which might have more than a single URL? You can check the presence of rel=canonical quickly using Screaming Frog. See: Use canonical URLs – Webmaster Tools Help
  • (4/10) Rel=”next” and Rel=”prev” – If you have a web site which has a listing with more than one page (for example, a category page of products with two or more pages of products; or a listing of all your articles, with more than a single page of listings), do you use rel=”next” and rel=”prev” in your code? (details – Official Google Webmaster Central Blog: Pagination with rel=“next” and rel=“prev”)
  • (7/10) <link rel=”alternate” href=”http://example.com/en-ie” hreflang=”en-ie” /> – If you have a web site in more than a language, either on the same domain (mysite.com and mysite.com/french), or on different domains (myenglishsite.com and myfrenchsite.com), and you have pages which are closely related one to another (the content is either very similar or 100% translated from one page to another), do you use hreflang specification? (details – Use hreflang for language and regional URLs)
  • (5/10) Rel=”nofollow” – Do you avoid using rel=nofollow on your links pointing outwards, except for links you don’t have the resources/inclination to check each time, like links inserted in the comments area of your own blog? (details on why you should generally avoid putting nofollow on your outward links – Moz.com: Google Says: Yes, You Can Still Sculpt PageRank. No You Can’t Do It With Nofollow – Moz)
  • (7/10) Structured data / schema.org – Do you use structured data, based on the specific type of web site / content you have? (you should also just Google “schema.org for e-commerce” or “for blogs” or “for presentation web sites” for “review web sites” and so on, depending on what your web site is about and read more on this; it’s a complex aspect)
  • (8/10) <meta name=”robots” content=”noindex, nofollow”> – If you use meta name=”robots”, do you allow indexing and following of the most important pages on your web site? (the homepage, the category page, the products page and the static pages for an online store; the homepage, the categories, the articles for a blog; the homepage, the pages for a presentation web sites; you should know better what are the most important pages on your web site; for each of them, generally, you should either not have the tag at all, or, if you do have it, you should make sure it doesn’t have “noindex” or “nofollow” within that page). Tip: you can use Screaming Frog to quickly scan a web site for this tag.
  • (9/10) Facebook Open Graph – If your content gets some traffic from Facebook, do you use Facebook Open Graph data? (out of which, most important are og:image, og:title, og:description) Details – The Open Graph protocol; you can use this tool to check how does the Open Graph data looks for a certain URL – Debugger
  • (6/10) Twitter Cards – If your content gets some traffic from Twitter, do you use Twitter Cards data? Details – Social Media Meta Tags: How to Use Open Graph and Cards; verification tool: Sign in with your Twitter account | Twitter Developers
  • (5/10) Structured data for Google Plus – If your content gets some traffic from Google Plus, do you use structured data? Details: Snippet – Google+ Platform — Google Developers and Moz.com: Must-Have Social Meta Tags for Twitter, Google+, Facebook and More – Moz; verification tool: Google Structured Data Testing Tool
  • (6/10) Author data for Google Plus – <a href=”[profile_url]?rel=author”>Google</a> OR <a href=”https://plus.google.com/109412257237874861202?rel=author”>Google</a> – If your publish content similar to a blog / news agency / article company, and you get some traffic from Google Plus, do you use structured data? Details: Push rel=”author” through your head • Yoast; verification tool: Google Structured Data Testing Tool
  • (4/10) Pinterest Rich Pins – If your content gets some traffic from Pinterest, do you use Pinterest Rich Pins data? Details: Moz.com: Must-Have Social Meta Tags for Twitter, Google+, Facebook and More – Moz; verification tool: Pinterest

Malware & SPAM

Note: See the links section, and then look at the social media section in this article for more details on SEO SPAM.

Some details:

Checklist:

  • (7/10) Malware / SPAM – Has your site been under an attack, which made your web site distribute malware, viruses or display content & ads which are considered inappropriate for a few days? (if so, you risk being considered by Google as a source of SPAM, or a web site which doesn’t enforce enough security measures)
  • (9/10) Malware / SPAM – If I google viagra OR casino OR porn OR ringtones OR gambling site:yoursite.com, will I discover lots of pages which contain keywords which are generally not seen very well in the eyes of Google?
  • (9/10) SPAM – Did you avoid having a lot of ads on your web site, most of them above the fold (so, when a visitor opens an article on your web site, it will need to scroll to read the article, as the top area is filled with ads)?
  • (9/10) SPAM – Have you avoided keyword stuffing, or over-optimizing keyword density? (keyword stuffing = listing lots of keywords, one after the other, on lots of pages and meta tags on your web site; optimizing for keyword density means that a large percentage of the content of a given page is over-optimized, filled with keywords put in there just to rank better)
  • (9/10) SPAM – Have you avoided creating content which is only visible for Google? (there are ways to detect if a visitor on your web site is a human being or a web bot; thus, in theory, you could provide the bot a different version of the web page than you provide to a human being, but this is not recommended)
  • (10/10) SPAM – Did you avoid to write texts specifically for the search engines, and either make it with a low contrast (small text, light gray text on white background, or very dark text on very dark background), or hide it completely (writing white text on white background; or putting text in a box, and setting that box to display in such a place that it will never be shown on a monitor) for the user? (so, you should write texts for the users, with the intent of them seeing that text)
  • (10/10) SPAM – Do you avoid creating low quality content, specifically targeting keywords and positions, and not caring about your users?

Server issues

Some theoretical aspects:

Checklist:

  • (9/10) Site speed – Does the web site load fast? (<0,5 s for first response; GTmetrix | Website Speed and Performance Optimization and WebPagetest – Website Performance and Optimization Test
  • (8/10) Site speed – Do you use a caching system for your web site?
  • (7/10) Responsive web site – Is your web site responsive (best) or, at least, has a version dedicated for mobile usage (less recommended, but, still, a top option)? (for details on this – Responsive Web Design: What It Is and How To Use It | Smashing Magazine)
  • (8/10) Compatibility – Does the web site display correctly on multiple browsers and devices?
  • (6/10) Header response codes – Does the 404 page return 404 error code? You can check this with: View HTTP Request and Response Header
  • 5 Header response codes – Do most pages on your web site return 200 error code? You can check this with: View HTTP Request and Response Header, but it’s more quickly with Screaming Frog.
  • 7 Header response codes – If you have a permanent redirect (for example, if you change the URL of an article from site.com/url-1 to site.com/url-2, and the change is constant, you will, most likely, not change your mind in the near future), do you do this with 301 (as opposed to 302, or other types of redirect)? You can check this with: View HTTP Request and Response Header
  • 9 Header response codes – Do you have a 301 redirect in place from www.site.com to site.com or viceversa? (notice the lack of “www.” on the second link) You can check this with: View HTTP Request and Response Header
  • 7 Header response codes – Do you have a 301 redirect in place from the URL written in big letters to the URL in small letters, like from site.com/PAGE to site.com/page? You can check this with: View HTTP Request and Response Header
  • 5 Header response codes – Do you have a 301 redirect or a 404 error code in place from site.com/index.php (or /index.html or .htm or .asp or .jsp or other .index.something) to site.com, or, at least, have a rel=”canonical” pointing to the homepage? You can check this with: View HTTP Request and Response Header This is the full list of links you should be checking: 1, 2, 3, 4,5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14.
  • 5 Header response codes – If you use this extension: Live HTTP Headers, available, as far as I know, only on Mozilla Firefox, and you let it monitor the visits, while you navigate through at least 10 pages of your web site, and then you take the final output, put in Notepad, and search for response codes other than 2xx or 3xx (I recommend you look for “HTTP/1.1 4” and “HTTP/1.1 5” – these will show you all the errors), do you find a lot of bugs? (so, after installing the extension, open the monitor window, navigate through the web site, copy the log to notepad, and search “HTTP/1.1 4” and, after this for “HTTP/1.1 5”; press “F3” if you find more than a single result, and solve the issues you find)
  • (6/10) Country specific top level domain name (TLD) – Does the top level domain name (.TLD, it refers to the latter part of the URL, like .com, .info, .co.uk, .biz, .fr) reflect the language and country origin of the visitors of the web site? (so, if your web site is addressing the French market, you should, most likely, have a .fr domain; if you aim for the UK market, go for a .co.uk; if you want the US, or an International audience, go for .com; and so on)
  • (8/10) Server uptime – Do you have rare or no server downtimes? (so, can users, with a very high probability, access your web site at any time of the day/night?) There are online tools to monitor your uptime.
  • 8 Server hosted in the country of visitors – Does the server location (USA, UK, France, Germany, Romania) reflect the country of the vast majority of your users? (if most of your visitors are from France, is your server hosted in France, also?)
  • (6/10) XENU verifications – If you run Find broken links on your site with Xenu’s Link Sleuth (TM), you find little or no important errors on your web site? Tip: correct the errors which are of high importance, or repeat themselves on lots of pages. Download the software: Find broken links on your site with Xenu’s Link Sleuth (TM)
  • (5/10) Sitemap.xml (or .gz, or .xml.gz, or a file with a different name and whatever extension) – Do you have such a file? Tip: for a web site which doesn’t change its structure, you can use a tool such as Create your Google Sitemap Online – XML Sitemaps Generator, and run it once every 6 months; if your platform allows it, you can put a plugin (Google “yourCMS sitemap.xml generator”) – Example for WordPress – WordPress › Google XML Sitemaps « WordPress Plugins (although I like the sitemap generator included in WordPress › WordPress SEO by Yoast « WordPress Plugins better).
  • (3/10) Robots.txt – Do you have this file, and, in it, a link to your sitemap.xml file? (details – The Web Robots Pages)
  • (7/10) Robots.txt – If you have the file, have avoided any “Disallow: “, which shouldn’t be there? (for example, have you avoided disallowing access to your images, a potential source for traffic from Google Image search; I sometimes see this error: when a web site is created, there is a “robots.txt” file which completely blocks access to the web site, so that no traffic can come from Google while the site is in construction; the trouble is, some developers forget to remove the file after the work is done, and, voilà!, you have a web site which can’t be accessed!)

Local

Resources on the subject:

Checklist:

  • (6/10) Local – Do you have your address (complete with business name, address, country, postal code, phone numbers) listed in the footer of your web site, and also on the contact page? (more on this – Moz.com: Top 20 Local Search Ranking Factors: An Illustrated Guide – Moz)
  • (6/10) Local – Do you have at least some pages in which the business location is present? (for example, the title for Contact page might be “Contact us – [businessname] – [town, country]”)
  • (3/10) Local – Do people leave testimonials on various places around web about you?
  • (4/10) Local – Is your Google Business page closely connected to your web site? Most important – category of the business, verified ownership, existence of Local Area Code (details about this process – Moz.com: Top 20 Local Search Ranking Factors: An Illustrated Guide – Moz)

An external view on the web site

Checklist:

  • (9/10) Rankings – If I google some terms referring to your domain, by using Google in a country most of your visitors come from, do you have listings on the first page? If not, you might want to do things to improve your SEO presence, including having a keyword strategy & solutions to improve keyword rankings (the most efficient tend to be new links)
  • (7/10) Google Webmaster Tools & Bing Webmasters – have you verified your web site in these two? (it should help you diagnose problems, and they generally even send you emails when something very wrong is happening, like a hacked web site)
  • (7/10) Google Webmaster Tools – Does your web site have structured data implemented? Tip – especially for some specific types of web sites (e-commerce, blogs), you should implement these.
  • (5/10) Google Webmaster Tools – Do you have few to no errors on the page with “HTML improvements”? Tip – strive for zero or close to zero.
  • (9/10) Google Webmaster Tools – Do you have a significant number of links pointing to you (“Links to your web site”)? Tip – try to get more links to your web site.
  • (9/10) Google Webmaster Tools – On the page referring to “Manual actions” does it say there have not been taken any manual actions? Tip – it’s a very bad sign if anything else is displayed, and you should correct a possible manual action taken as quick as possible.
  • (8/10) Google Webmaster Tools – Comparing the number of pages you know of on your web site with the number of pages indexed shown on “Index Status” page, do you see that Google has indexed a number either close to your number or higher? (if Google “sees” less pages than you know it should, you should find a solution, like getting more links and checking if there are things which block the Google bots on their way through your web site)
  • (5/10) Google Webmaster Tools – On “Crawl errors”, if you find any errors – do you see any pattern by which you could quickly solve lots of problems you see in there? (so, for example, if you have a lot of errors with the same pattern, by solving that pattern, you make lots of errors disappear – say, if you have site.com/article1/comments – and this gives an error, you can remove the link to /comments on all of your articles by tweaking the page template, and this will make the number of errors much smaller; generally, I don’t go one-by-one with each link)
  • (3/10) Google Webmaster Tools – Have you added your sitemap on “Sitemaps” section, or, at least, have you added it correctly in robots.txt file for your web site?
  • (8/10) Google Webmaster Tools – Are there any Security issues on your web site? (this would be bad)
  • (3/10) Bing Webmasters – Have you added your sitemap on “Sitemaps” section, or, at least, have you added it correctly in robots.txt file for your web site?
  • (6/10) Bing Webmasters – Have you solved most issues on “SEO reports”?
  • (5/10) Bing Webmasters – Do the “Crawl information” show that your web site has what you perceive as a natural number of pages indexed? (if it’s more than this, it’s fine; if Bing “sees” less pages than you think it should, it’s not so fine)
  • (7/10) Bing Webmasters – Are there any problems on “Malware” section?
  • (6/10) Google Analytics (or some other analytics software) – Do you have some traffic to your web site? If not, this might indicate some problems with your web marketing tactics & strategy.
  • (9/10) Google Analytics (or some other analytics software) – Do you have some balanced distributed sources of traffic (so, not only traffic from Facebook, or SEO, or AdWords, or banners, or newsletters, or direct traffic, but a balanced proportion of these)?
  • (7/10) Google Analytics (or some other analytics software) – Do people stay at least for a few seconds on your web site? (it is a negative signal if most people exit your page immediately after landing on it)
  • (9/10) GT Metrix – By running a test on a few of your pages, including the homepage, could you correct some errors displayed by the software? See: GTmetrix | Website Speed and Performance Optimization
  • (10/10) Site speed – Have you used the services of a company dedicated only to improving the site speed, specifically for your web site platform? If not, you should consider doing so, site speed improvements can have a big impact on conversions and ranking on Google.
  • (7/10) WebPageTest – By running a test on a few of your pages, including the homepage, could you correct some errors? See: WebPagetest – Website Performance and Optimization Test

Tips for doing SEO

See:

Checklist:

  • (6/10) Information architecture – Are there less than 4 clicks required to reach any page on your web site?
  • (9/10) Information architecture – Is the information architecture of the web site clear?
  • (4/10) Information architecture – Are you aware what 404 pages your visitors most land on? (for example, if someone puts a link to a page on your web site, and they type it wrongly, you could see that you have, let’s say, 5 visitors, daily, which reach that link; if you have this information, you can ask the person to correct the link, and you could also implement a redirect from that URL to the correct one)
  • (6/10) Accessibility – Are the menu of the web site and other navigational options accessible to users?
  • (8/10) Design – Is the design of the web page with high enough quality?
  • (6/10) Usability – Do you have a 404 page with, as a minimum, the logo, a menu, links to some pages on your web site, a search box and a clear (not technical) message written in the language of your visitors (if your visitors are from Romania, the page should be in Romanian)?
  • (9/10) Usability – Do you have an internal box for searching on most pages of your web site?
  • (7/10) Video optimization – Do you optimize your videos for SEO (including your videos embedded from YouTube)? (note – you can get good rankings with properly promoted videos)

SEO Tools (just theory, there are no universal rules or checklists):

Statistics and KPIs (only theory, nothing is mandatory in here, you need to choose what fits your needs best)

CMS (Content Management Systems) – only theory, some of the things below are generally useful things to have, but you know your real needs better (you can work on a web site in Notepad, or you can have a CMS with a SEO plugin; whatever suits you, it’s fine)

With whom should you work?

I am a Digital Marketing Manager for The KPI Institute. My expertise is in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) / UX (user experience) / WordPress. Co-founder of lumeaseoppc.ro (series of events on SEO & PPC) and cetd.ro (Book on branding for MDs). On a personal level, I like self-development - events, sports, healthy living, volunteering, reading, watching movies, listening to music.

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