SEO Checklist (for Dummies)

SEO Checklist
I’ve mentioned before that I’m a fan of checklists and after seeing some of the comments or our recent site reviews I thought it would be a good idea to create an SEO checklist. If you have any suggestions on things that we should add to this list please let us know.

I like to break the process of SEO into 3 different parts:
On Page – This is what should be done on individual pages
On Site – These are things that can be done across your entire site to improve overall SEO
Off Page/Site – Influencing factors on other sites

On Page

Each title should be unique and contain the keywords that you would want to rank for.

Long tail phrases
Don’t just focus on very targeted keywords, including other generic content on the page (further info read about long tail searches).

If you want to rank for certain keywords you obviously need them in the main content on the page. I find it’s best to have the keywords in the first sentence and last paragraph of the page and also repeat where appropriate in the text. You need to make sure the page reads well and don’t paste keywords purely for SEO.

Useful Tags
Use tags to emphasise what the page is about, h1, h2 and strong are good way of highlighting key points to your readers and the search engines.

Meta Tags
Not as important in recent years but it’s still worth including a description and less importantly keywords in your pages header.

Alt Tags
All images should have an alt tag and title attribute for links and images, so you can give a text description (with good keywords in) to your links and images. Also, in firefox, the alt attribute of an image doesn’t show up as a tooltip when you hover over an image like it does in IE, but the title attribute does. [Thanks to Garry of ProBlogger Wannabe of adding to this tip]

Keyword Friendly URLs
Filenames are another good place for keywords e.g. example-keywords.html is better than p12345.html [Thanks to Mike for reminding us about this one]

On Site

Don’t index all pages
Most sites have pages that don’t need to be indexed (privacy statement, contact us etc.) so by excluding them from the search engines (noindex tag or prohibit in robots.txt) your other more valuable pages will get more link weight.

Having a sitemap is a good way to tell the engines about all your pages

Site Structure
Structure the site so that you share page rank on around the site. I find having a main page that feeds category pages which in turn feed individual pages works very well. Also if I want to push some individual pages I can link to them as favourite posts.

Lose Duplicate Pages
You don’t want to have the same content on multiple pages as this dilutes their ability to rank. If it makes sense for your site to have duplicate page let the engines know which ones not to index, thus giving as much weight as possible to those that are.

Link out to Other Sites
This may sound counter intuitive but linking out to other related quality pages can help your rankings (as well as that of the competition).

Older established sites often do better in the SERPs, which means even when you take a bit of time off you are working on SEO :). [Tip courtesy of Dave from American Homespun]

Absolute URLs
Use absolute url’s for internal links [Scott]

Consistent Internal URLs
Don’t link to your homepage as index.htm/php ;link to the url e.g. and not [Scott]

Rich Copyright Texts
In the copyright footer use keyword rich text rather than copyright [Scott and Ash]

Varied Internal Anchor Text
Using varied keyword anchor text for internal links is important and effective [Scott]

Off Page SEO

Off page SEO is all about getting links to your website, the more the better. I won’t go into various link building strategies here (possible future post) but if you want to rank you need links.

Varied Anchor Text
Try to get links with different anchor texts on different sites, the exact same link on different sites does not look natural.

Quality Content
Other sites are more likely to link naturally to quality content.

Use Webmaster Central
Sign up to webmaster central so that Google can notify you of any crawl errors or problems.

This is hopefully enough to get our SEO checklist started. I’ve likely missed a few obvious points so if you’d like to leave a comment with any valid points I will happily add them and credit you with the tip.

About Al Carlton

Al quit the 9 to 5 rat race in January of 2007, before then he was a software engineer and systems architect of financial system. Nowadays Al spends the days running his various businesses and experimenting with different ideas and opportunities.
Al can be found on twitter at AlCarlton.


  1. *applauds* Damn nice article, better yet change the title to “SEO Checklist (for Don)”, lmao. I just learn something new every time you and Scott publish a new article.Grats!

  2. Very nice. Time is another important factor that should be noted, since the list is for dummies like myself. It can be very easy to get discouraged, while you wait to see results. Although chasing long tail keywords can get results fairly quickly.

  3. what about the title attribute for links and images, so you can give a text description (with good keywords in) to your links and images.
    Also, in firefox, the alt attribute of an image doesn’t show up as a tooltip when you hover over an image like it does in IE, but the title attribute does.
    Also worth adding is not to use fancy javascript or flash navigation if SEO is important as it make links hard or impossible for spiders etc to follow to index your site.

  4. Thanks guys I’ve added your tips to the original post, any more?

  5. I really like your strategy of sharing the Link Love, Al. Actually, I’ve read about it in the early posts here on Self Made Minds, and that’s what caught my attention on this blog.

    As for this SEO list, it’s a good reminder for the not so dummy too 😉

  6. If it is an SEO checklist for dummies then a few things that I often find and change if I buy a site would be
    —-On Site:
    (1)Use absolute url’s for internal links,
    –(2) Don’t link to your homepage as index.htm/php ;link to the url
    –(3) In the copyright footer use keyword rich text rather than copyright,
    –(4) Using varied keyword anchor text for internal links is important and effective.

    —-Off Page SEO: (1) Sign up to webmaster central so that Google can notify you of any crawl errors or problems.

    • Nice I’ll add those, in hindsight I should of worked more on the title.

    • About number 3, in the last link in the footer i usually copyright my domain and i use an anchor text that reflects the most important string i want to rank for.

      I believe this combines both the aspects, but i never really understood if this tiny trick does have any influence on your SERPs. Cause after all, this text is way at the end of your page’s source, and from my knowledge, the relevance decreases as the text is way further in the source? So, why should you have rich keywords text in your footer after all? 🙂

  7. I’ll echo Scott’s suggestion above (–(3) In the copyright footer use keyword rich text rather than copyright,)

    But also say that the ‘Copyright’ link should (and it usually does) appear as the last link on the page and in the code.

    I wrote a very quick post about this awhile ago.

  8. Can I just say that I’ve been looking for such a consiece post like this forever. And here it is

    great work and thanks a lot for that.

    Its only these simple things that count

    great work again

  9. “Don’t index all pages
    Most sites have pages that don’t need to be indexed (privacy statement, contact us etc.) so by excluding them from the search engines (noindex tag or prohibit in robots.txt) your other more valuable pages will get more link weight.”

    Would this have the same effect as using nofollow on the links to unimportant pages? i’ve been reading a lot about that lately but i just can’t get myself to nofollow links to my own pages. i don’t even use nofollow on blog comments on my personal blog and made it a dofollow blog because of my dislike of the nofollow tag. if using the noindex tag or robots exclusion achieves the same results than i can see using it in this way.

    • Preventing the pages being indexed is more reliable than just using the nofollow attribute and is my preferred approach. I do know what you mean about feeling funny doing nofollow to your own pages so an exclusion (robots.txt or noindex meta tag) is the ideal solution IMO.

    • A no follow tag would allegedly tell the spider not to follow that link, there could still be links either inbound or onsite you miss that link to those pages so it would not have the same effect. Using robots.txt or meta tags to no index is much more effective as no matter the inbound links you specifically state which folders or pages to not index. These can also be checked and confirmed through webmaster central.

      • If I were to use the meta tag to noindex a page would it be advisable to include “noidex,follow”? Would I be right in thinking this would allow link juice to flow into and around the page but not allocate it to the page itself as it’s not going to be included in the noindex?

  10. Nice to see the list expanding and changing as people chime in! On the sitemap issue, i always use both HTML and XML sitemaps.

  11. Another thing to keep in mind is to link internally to the homepage from every article with the anchor text of the keyword of that article.

    This can help your homepage rank for a variety of keywords.

  12. Thanks for preparing that its a great check list covering everything 🙂

  13. Love the “don’t index all pages” tip. Seriously, that’s one I never recommend to people, but it makes complete sense.

    I wonder, would de-indexing pages that are already indexed have the same effect?

  14. Excellent article.

    Being a complete newbie at SEO this is very helpful.

  15. Wow! What a great checklist. I’m bookmarking your site and going to send people your way. You broke everything down in a simple, easy to understand format. Bravo!

    Mike’s last blog post..How To Sell To The Rich Part 2

  16. Great advice! I would just like to add that I have had most success when I include the h1 tag as the title of the page. Often times, web designers will make the logo or site name an h1 tag, the h1 tag stays the same from page to page. However, if you use the h1 tag as the title of your content, and let it be the first header on the page, it will yield the best results. You can keep your header looking the same with a p tag and css.

  17. Very nice list. You could easily write a whole post on each of those, but people are always asking for a brief run down of whats important. Great job summing it all up.

    SEO Zombie’s last blog post..Why Do You Blog?

  18. Great post I never thought about not indexing all the pages but it makes sense. Most of the policy pages are very generic and don’t provide useful content to the search engines.

  19. Wow such great SEO tips all together at one place is amazing:)

    Tyrone’s last blog post..Theme Edits For Our Users

  20. hey, love the blog – i will try and keep up with it!! please keep more coming :)I wish I could start a blog but I don’t have much time :(Thanks, nick

  21. Was expecting a basic list but this is really quite thorough. The kind of stuff you want to review on each and every site you launch.

    Michael Dorausch’s last blog post..Autism Awareness Event October 3rd in Orange County

  22. Excellent check list!!

    Well written and all bang on the money.

    This is gold dust for people starting out in the SEO industry.

  23. i was searching about this since last 30 minutes on google really helpful post .. thanks for sharing.

  24. thank you for this, didn’t know internal linking would be helpful. i also noticed some awkward tips like linking to the competition? does that really work? anyway just asking.

  25. Not a bad little list. There’s not much that I would add to it, when it comes to novices. Thanks!

  26. Lists will get the job done! This one is nice for two reasons. 1 it is very complete for those of us who knows what it all means. 2 if you don’t know what it means then now you have a source to start your research from. SEO RULES

    Dave@Internet Marketing Techniques’s last blog post..Size and Age-Affecting Websites Daily

  27. Just a follow up, I found Terms and Conditions, privacy policy are placed highly on my Google rankings even though have no links pointing to them.

    Then I read about how Google Adwords expects these types of pages on a person’s site, so I’m thinking doFollow is recommended in this case.

    Mobiles’s last blog post..Motorola Renew

  28. Great list.what about getting links from varied ip addresses ?

    arshad’s last blog post..Starting a blog , getting traffic to blog and earning money online through blogging – mystery unleashed

  29. I have found that not only are my terms and conditions pages ranking higher than my homepage, but so is my “About us” page. I can’t figure out why, any help out there?

  30.’s because of Google…they look for these types of pages for Adwords ratings so naturally like to promote these pages. If you had a privacy policy then that would be ranked high too…

  31. tis true terms & contact us have a significant effect on how G views you

  32. Very concise and to the point. There are so many different things to remember when doing SEO that it can be quite easy to forget something along the way.

    keywords in your blog’s last blog post..Class And ID In CSS – What’s The Difference?

  33. Just stumbled on this site and must say it is quite informative. Certainly agree about doing a little Keyword research and inputting into the content of your blog / site.

    – Jack

  34. Garry K. says:

    Very nice article..I am quite handy with the SEO term and more often varies the website with the keywords..recently and from past year i am using SERP analytics keyword tool- and am not promoting anything..just to know more from you do you use this tool or there must be something more in this tool that is more helpful..

    Thanks anyways!

    ‘white horse likes red apples’


  35. 1. Picking the right keywords/phrases to optimize for Performing minor “on page” changes to help search engines navigate and rank the site 2. Performing link building activities to generate one way backlinks using the keywords/phrases as the anchor text when appropriate 3. Picking keywords and phrases. The most important decision for the search engine optimization process is the selection of the “right” keywords and phrases to optimize for.

  36. excellent article. Finally someone has summed seo into a clear and concise article. Great for beginners

  37. You mentioned internal linking briefly, but I’d add that its growing more and more important. Having some nice content on your site that gains in links, and then does proper linking back throughout your site is a great way to tell the search engines what all your pages are about, not to mention boost those pages’ individual rankings.

  38. I’m also a fan of lists, as I find they focus your efforts as well as being a good reference to review things further down the line.

  39. Very very useful. This would help any one and every one while posting their material on blogs or those designing websites. Even i shall follow it!

  40. Great list that covers I think pretty much the basics. I assume that when you were talking about “links” in your off page SEO you were referring to also Social Media Optimization? That was I think probably the only thing missing from this list. Great compilation though again.

  41. Hey Al,

    I love your blog Tagline – “Earning by Learning”. I believe that there’s no earning without learning. I have written 8 First Step SEO Ranking Factors for Bloggers. Let me know whether you like it or not.


  42. I would rather categorize it into 2 sets

    Onsite- The SEO done on the site

    1- Meta Tags
    2- Content with a good ratio of keywords (3-5%)
    3- Navigation and code without clutter, try to avoid Javascript or Dhtml when showing the content
    4-Optimize Images, 401 pages and Urls
    5- Sitemap

    – Frequent Site Map submission to G and Y to ensure the site is crawled well
    – Submission to good directories and related directories
    – Article Submissions
    – Press releases
    – Knol and social media
    – Social bookmarking

  43. i didn’t even know that was possible! haha. But, yes, plugins save me all the time. I’m glad to know I can use them other places.

Leave a Reply to Al Cancel reply