The SEO Checklist to Get Your Business off the Ground

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Every website owner knows how important SEO is. Standing for Search Engine Optimization, SEO is the process of optimizing your website so that it appears in search results. The best website builders for SEO come with pre-built SEO tools to give you a headstart, but even then that doesn’t mean it’s easy.  

The hurdle that many website owners face when it comes to SEO is that like practically everything online, it’s a constantly evolving practice. Not only that but when you first get started, even the SEO basics can feel totally overwhelming. 

From backlinks to keywords, local listings to alt text, there’s a lot to get your head around. 

Worry not, however. Our team of internet experts has created the ultimate SEO checklist, featuring everything you should be doing right now for the best search results. 

Bookmark this page and keep coming back to tick more off the list and watch as your website shoots up the search results. 

On-Page SEO

On-page SEO refers to things you can do to the actual pages on your website and the content you display on them. 

1. Optimize your content and improve content quality

Make sure your content includes frequent mentions of your target keywords and ensure your content is of the highest quality possible. Be sure to proof all of your content for factual and grammatical errors. When writing content, think carefully about the type of content users are looking for and the intent behind their online journeys. 

Top tip! Check out our guide to the best website builders to determine which website builder is the right one for you.

2. Optimize your website’s title tags and meta descriptions

Title tags help to tell a search engine what the web page is about, while meta descriptions do the same for users. Make sure both are clear, concise, and accurate, and include your target keywords.  

3. Use header tags

A header tag (H1) signifies the main content of the web page. While these are important, since it helps to show crawlers what the page is about, ensuring you rank for relevant search terms, make sure to only include one per page. 

4. Use descriptive and relevant alt tags for images

It’s not just the written content on your web page you need to optimize for your target search terms. You need to optimize your images too. Use descriptive and relevant alt tags for images. Your alt tags should describe the image, useful for both Google’s bots and visually impaired users. 

5. Include internal links

Internal links are the perfect way of signposting users to more of your content… and they do the same for Google’s bots. When Google crawls your website to decide where to rank it, it will use internal links to navigate through your website. They’re also a great way of keeping users on your website for longer. 

6. Optimize for Google featured snippets

Google’s featured snippets showcase a featured web page and content in relation to a search term. If Google thinks a section of your content provides the best answer to a search query online, it will use it as a featured snippet. The higher your content already ranks, the more likely it is to be used as a featured snippet. To optimize for featured snippets, make sure a section of your content directly answers a question, aka the search query.

Featured snippet example
This is the featured snippet for the search term “how many websites are there in 2023”... featured snippets are usually used for questions.

7. Optimize for voice search

The way users search online is constantly changing and one of the most recent changes is the rise of voice search. Mobile devices now allow users to use their voice to search the web which means you need to optimize for voice searchers too. Not only can this help boost your presence in the SERPs, but optimizing for voice commerce can help boost profits too!

Two of the best ways to optimize for voice search are to target long-tail keywords and target more conversational terms that searchers are likely to use when voice searching. 

Top tip! Be sure to keep up to date with Google’s algorithm changes to ensure your SEO strategy meets the search engine’s latest focuses and requirements. In recent years many of Google’s algorithm updates have included a focus on voice search.

8. Use social sharing buttons

Users sharing your content on social media can be a great boost to your SEO. Make sure you add sharing buttons to your blog posts to encourage readers to share them online, helping to drive more traffic to your website and boost your SEO!

Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO refers to, believe it or not, the things you can do outside of your website (aka off the page) that can impact your SEO results. 

1. Build high-quality backlinks

Backlinks are SEO bread and butter but it’s important to focus on quality over quantity. Backlinks, links to your website from other websites, show Google that your content is being recommended by others and can help improve your domain authority. Build links from relevant websites that are of high quality and try to ensure backlinks use relevant anchor text too. Guest posts are a great way to build backlinks. 

2. Use social media

Social media can help your SEO in two ways. Firstly it helps to provide your website with social proof and more frequently now, Google is looking for proof that content is written by a human, not a robot. Secondly, you can use your social media to link to your website, helping to boost your backlink profile. (Links from social media aren’t as valuable to your SEO as ones from other websites but every little helps!) So, if you haven’t already set out a social media strategy, now’s the time!

3. Build citations

Citations are mentions of your business name and contact information within online directories. Building citations can provide a great boost to your SEO as you increase mentions of your brand name and often links to your website. Make sure you focus on building citations in relevant and industry-specific directories. 

4. Monitor your backlink profile

It’s not only important to build your backlink profile, you also need to monitor it too. You need to make sure that no untrustworthy or spam websites have started linking to yours. If they have, there’s a strong chance Google will take a negative view of your website. You can use Google Search Console to keep track of the websites linking to yours and you can also disavow any suspicious links. 

Top tip! Never get tempted to pay for backlinks. We know building them can be hard but buying links is a black hat SEO tactic, something that may cause Google to penalize or even de-index your website, meaning it no longer appears in any search results.

5. Participate in online communities

Participating in online communities is a great way to promote your website and drive traffic to it. More than that, however, they can provide you with some major intel that you can use within your SEO strategy. Look for keywords and questions that users are posting – if they’re posting them here then chances are they’re searching them on Google too. You can then create content that directly targets these questions and keywords. 

6. Use influencer marketing

Did you know you can utilize influencer marketing as part of your SEO strategy? There are two ways you can use influencers for your SEO. Firstly you can encourage them to share specific pieces of your content on their own channels, or you can encourage them to include links to your website within their own content such as in product reviews. Remember though, never pay or backlinks! 

7. Create shareable content

One of the best ways you can naturally boost your backlink profile is by creating shareable content. Compelling, engaging content that’s totally unique is exactly the kind of content that people will share online and each time they do, you’ll add another backlink to your profile. 

8. Use broken link building

Broken link building is a great way to build links to your website. Broken links are links that no longer work, or which direct to an inactive or deleted webpage. Take a look at some of the websites you would ideally like to build a backlink from and see if they have any relevant broken links. If so, contact them to see if they would be willing to update the link to point to your website. You can also take a look at your competitor’s backlink profile and see if any of the websites linking to them would be willing to swap the link to direct to your website instead!

Top tip! You also need to make sure that there are no broken links on your own website. Monitor all of your internal and external links regularly and update any that point to inactive or deleted websites.

9. Monitor your online reputation

All business owners know how important it is to have a good online reputation and keeping a close eye on what people are saying about you online is also important for your SEO. One of the most important things to monitor is your Google Reviews. If Google sees that you’re amassing negative reviews, it won’t rank you for your target keywords. Google wants to rank the best websites on the internet and negative reviews will hamper your chances of getting the top spots. Not all reviews can be positive, but make sure to respond to negative reviews to leave a positive impression!

Top tip! Remember the best way to build a great online reputation and attract positive Google Reviews is by offering a fantastic service that users and customers enjoy!

Find Out More

Learn How To Respond To Google Reviews in our handy guide!

Technical SEO

Next up on our SEO checklist, it’s time to look at technical SEO. Technical SEO refers to the actions you take to the backend of your website that help to improve user experience and make it easier for Google’s bots to crawl and index your website. 

1. Use descriptive, keyword-rich URLs

Making sure your URLs are SEO friendly makes it easier for search engines to crawl your website and better understand what the content on your website is about. URLs should be descriptive and ideally include a mention of your keywords, but shouldn’t be too long and complicated. Take a look at the below examples of an SEO-friendly URL compared to a URL you want to avoid:

SEO-friendly URL:

Poor URL: 

2. Optimize your website’s page speed

Google is all about user experience. It will rank the websites that offer users the best experience. One of the most important parts of user experience is your page load speed. Users don’t want to wait around for slow website load times. You can speed up your website by reducing the size of your images and not overloading your website with too much code. 

3. Use HTTPS

HTTPS has been one of Google’s ranking factors for years. Using HTTPS means your website is safe and secure. The fact is, Google will never rank a website that poses a security risk to users. You can easily tick this box by getting an SSL certificate for your site (often for free with the right builder!) Check out our guide on why your site needs HTTPS for more information. 

HTTPS example
HTTPS shows both users and Google that your website is safe and secure.

4. Implement structured data markup

A structured data markup, otherwise known as schema, helps to tell Google more about your website and the content on it. Structured data presents key information about your content and allows Google to provide that to users. The more specific information you provide to Google, the more chance there is for your website to rank. 

5. Optimize your website’s robots.txt file

Sometimes you may have pages or areas of your website that you don’t want Google to crawl. If that’s the case, you need a robots.txt file. For example, you may not want Google to crawl and rank the cart page on your ecommerce site. To check if you already have a robots.txt file, enter … if you see a plain text file you’re sorted. If not, you’ll need to generate one. 

6. Use a sitemap

What is a sitemap? Well, sitemaps are exactly what they sound like, maps for your website. A sitemap effectively lists every page on your website that you want Google to find and index. You can then submit your sitemap to your Google Search Console to make sure you’re giving all of your content the best possible chance of being found by Google’s bots. Learn how to create a sitemap in our full guide!

7. Ensure that your website is mobile-friendly

Ensuring that your website is mobile-friendly is an absolutely crucial part of SEO. In fact, Google has confirmed that they will now crawl and index the mobile version of your website first, so yours needs to be up to scratch. Things you can do to make your website mobile-friendly include having a responsive layout, avoiding pop-ups, and ensuring a fast load time. 

Local SEO

Optimizing your website for local SEO is important if you want to promote your business locally and target local searchers, especially if you have a brick-and-mortar store or offer in-person services. Local SEO is the process of optimizing your website for location-specific keywords. 

1. Business listing, eg Google My Business

One of the first things you should do when it comes to your local SEO strategy is to set up your business listing on Google. Within your listing, you can add key information such as your contact details, opening hours, and location. These listings will give you more chances of appearing in results for searchers who are looking for results in your local area. 

2. Build local citations

We’ve already mentioned how beneficial building citations can be and building local ones are a great way to boost your local SEO. List your business on local directories to help show Google where you’re located and the local searches that are relevant to you. 

3. Get online reviews

Google uses three broad ranking factors when it comes to local results: 

Relevance, Distance, and Prominence. 

The first two are self-explanatory, how relevant the website is to the search query and how far it is from the area requested, but prominence is where Google Reviews come in. The more positive Google Reviews you have, the more likely Google is to rank you. In fact, it may even rank you higher than a business that is closer to the specific search location if your Google Reviews are better – you can find out more about reviews vs SEO and how reviews can affect your rankings in our full guide. 

4. Target local keywords

This is the big one when it comes to local SEO: targeting local keywords. In order to target local searchers you need to ensure your content is optimized with local keywords such as “pet store Orlando” or “best pet supplies in Orlando”. 

5. Optimize your website for mobile devices

Optimizing your website for mobile devices is a crucial part of being online but it’s particularly important for your local SEO. Most local searchers will be doing so on a mobile device, especially if they’re on the go and searching for businesses close by, so if you want to target them and drive them to your website, you need to be sure it’s responsive and mobile-friendly. 

6. Use location-specific landing pages

Location-specific landing pages give information about a specific location of your business. For example, if you have three different bricks and mortar stores, you may want to add three individual location-specific landing pages, one for each. Within the landing page, you should provide content about the specific location, helping to show Google that this page should rank for local search terms. 

7. Use Google Maps

Google Maps aren’t just handy for helping you get from A to B, they can also provide a great boost to your local SEO strategy. You can embed a Google Map onto a landing page in order to provide users with your exact location as well as geo-tagging your images. Both are good ways of climbing local search rankings.

8. Offer promotions and discounts

Offering promotions and discounts can boost your local SEO too. How? By providing users with an incentive to shop with you, you’ll have more chance of converting them into customers (customers who may also be inclined to leave a positive Google review). The longer a user stays on your website, the more signals you’re sending to Google that you’re a great website to rank. 

SEO Checklist: Summary

Every website owner should have a basic SEO checklist that they follow to ensure their SEO strategies are covering all bases in order to get the best results. 

SEO is an ongoing process, it’s not something you can do once and never again, and it’s always changing too. Algorithm updates mean there is always something new to consider. 

While it may be almost impossible to list every single thing that can impact your Google rankings, if you make your way through this SEO checklist you’ll be giving yourself the best possible chance of ranking for your chosen search terms. 

For even more SEO tips and tricks check out our SEO basics guide. 

Frequently Asked Questions

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and is the process of optimizing your website so that Google’s bots can crawl and index your website in order to rank it in search results. 

White hat SEO refers to SEO tactics that Google approves of, such as mobile optimization and keyword research, while black hat SEO are tactics that the search engine doesn’t allow such as paying for backlinks. If Google suspects you are using black hat techniques you may be suspended or even removed from search results completely. 

SEO is an ongoing process, you need to be constantly reviewing each of the items in this list and ensuring everything is up to date. Just because you secure a good ranking position one day, doesn’t mean you’ll still be there the next. Google is constantly crawling the internet for more websites and content so you need to be keeping up with the latest algorithms and updates. 

Written by:
Black and white headshot of Lucy Nixon smiling at the camera
I’ve been a content writer for Website Builder Expert since 2021. Through almost a decade in the digital marketing industry, I’ve built up knowledge on everything from growing ecommerce businesses to building websites. I love breaking down tricky topics into digestible and engaging content for readers. Breaking down the jargon and uncovering the best platforms, tools, and strategies, I’m a meticulous researcher who’s committed to providing our readers with tips and advice that’s tried and tested.

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