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An SEO Infrastructure Checklist For New & Existing Websites

If you were to ask Google…

“Hey Google, what’s an easy to follow SEO Checklist for 2017?”

You’d undoubtedly get their canned response.  It’s the same one they’ve used for a while now.  It goes just like this – “Quality Content, Links, Rank Brain.”  Not quite the step by step guide you’d hope for as a business owner or webmaster, right?

In truth, there is so much more involved in getting a website to rank in 2017.  Below we’ll examine some of the most important things you can do to get your site (or your client’s sites) to the top of Google.

Keyword Research And Competitive Analysis

Without this, you’re flying blind…

Find Keywords Worth Ranking For:

Keywords aren’t all created equal. Depending on your market you could be targeting phrases that have 30 searches per month but are worth $30 per click (if you were to pay for traffic through Adwords).  Be mindful of the competition as well as the commercial value.  Use tools like Google Keyword PlannerioWordStream, or SERPs Keyword Tool to come up with a large list of phrases to begin your process.

  1. Focus on valuable keywords that have a “buyers” mindset.
  2. Choose keywords that have lower difficulty to start.
  3. Start with 1 keyword per page.
  4. The next step will help in your keyword decision-making process.

Ethically Steal Data To Understand What Needs To Be Done To Compete:

You have a fantastic opportunity to ethically steal your competitor’s organic search strategies.  It’s simply a matter of using spy tools like SpyFuCognitive SEO, or SEMRushAhrefs, to see the top performing pages of your competitors.

  1. You can use this data to start reverse engineering what makes those pages rank well. What keywords are they using?  How are they linking between their own pages?  What links are pointing to their pages?  How many links are they building? How quickly are they building them?  All of this info will give you a roadmap of what needs to be done to compete with confidence.
  1. Setup Your Site For Growth – By using a “silo architecture” you’ll be able to add content to your site slowly over time while maintaining fantastic SEO value. By doing this all of your content rests in a relevant, easy to understand format.  Both your visitors and Google’s search engine spiders will appreciate this.  This architecture can be accomplished with any CMS or custom platform.

Initial Setup Steps – You’ve got to get these done with any site, new or old.

  1. Setup Google Analytics – you may need to create a new Gmail address to associate with a new GA account. If you already have a GA account add your new site.
  2. Add Your Site to Google Search Console – This is going to be essential in the long run and it will take time for Google to collect data. The sooner you do this the sooner you’ll have usable data.
  3. Add Your Site to Bing Webmaster Tools – It never hurts to have more data. Bing’s webmaster tools can offer some interesting insight at times. This may also be beneficial if you’re specifically targeting the U.S.
  4. Are You Using WordPress? If so, install Yoast SEO and Google Analytics by Yoast.  These 2 plugins are going to allow you to finely tune your on-page SEO making everything else you do to promote more effective.
  5. Use Keywords Near The Beginning of Your Page Titles – The closer the keyword is to the start of the title the more weight it carries in Google’s eyes. Keep titles 70-71 characters long.  If the title is longer Google may cut off the end with ellipses.  Use this title to entice people to click on your listing.  It’s essentially an organic advertisement!  Check your click through rates in Google Search Console and improve your titles over time.
  6. Add Unique Meta Descriptions To Every Page You Create – This can be challenging for enterprise sites with 100K pages. However most sites should be able to handle this.  By using your keyword near the beginning and a bit of copywriting you’ll end up with a search listing people want to click on.  That’s incredibly valuable.  This is the second part of your organic ad.  160 characters has been the standard length without an ellipsis cutoff.  However, Google is currently testing longer descriptions.
  7. Aim to Produce Content of 1-2k Words Per Page – Do this for any page you want ranked in Google. A study done by com found that pages with word counts in the 1300 range ranked well vs less.
  8. Use H1 Tags For Page Titles – This signifies to Google that the words in this tag are important. Make sure you optimize this with your most significant keywords for that page.
  9. Use H2 and H3 Tags Within The Body Content – This not only helps to break up the content in a pleasing way to the eye it’s also a chance to optimize for secondary keywords. Again, these tags signify important words on the page to Google.
  10. Add Images & Alt Tags To Every Page – Make sure your alt tag uses a keyword you want that page optimized for.
  11. Add Internal Links – You should link 1-3 times to other pages on your site where it makes sense. If you only have 100 words on the page 3 internal links would be overkill. Doing this will increase the “crawl-ability” of your site for the search engine spiders (meaning you’ll have more pages indexed faster).
  12. Add External Authority Links – Adding a link out from your page to an authority on the topic of that page’s content sounds counterintuitive. There’s no need to put them front and center to drive traffic away from your site. Have these links open in a new window. This is a quality signal to Google that works incredibly well.  It should be done on every page.
  13. Check Your Site Speed – There are several free site speed checking tools out there. Tools like Google’s own Test My Site will analyze both your mobile, and desktop site load times. You’ll also find a very handy technical analysis of what to fix to increase your speed. You should aim for less than a 2 second load time.
  14. Create an XML Sitemap – This can be done with a plugin like Yoast or others on WordPress. There are also free online resources for sites not based on WordPress. When this is complete be sure to link to it in the footer of your site and submit it to Google in Search Console.
  15. Create a Robots.txt File – This is a great opportunity to either allow or disallow search engine spiders from seeing specific sections of your site. Don’t want Google to index a PDF you give away for an email opt-in? You can do that here.  Don’t want Google to index pages that may cause duplicate content issues for you? Yep, that’s an option here too.

Fixing Technical Errors – Now it’s time to do a little house cleaning (if it’s necessary)

  1. Clean Up Your Meta Data – This is where Google Search Console will have come in handy. They will pull in data from your site and show you exactly which pages don’t have meta titles or descriptions. If they are too long or short you’ll know.  It’s incredibly helpful as it shows you the exact URL where the meta needs adjusting.  When you have any errors in this area you must go through and fix them all.  It’s your job to bring each column with a number of errors down to absolute 0.
  2. Fix 404 / 500 Errors – You’ll be able to find this info in Search Console as well. It’s just another bit of housekeeping that will help you stay ahead of the competition in the long run.
  3. Find Broken Links – There’s a fantastic tool called ScreamingFrog it will crawl all of the pages on your site seeking out broken links, errors and more. It’s essential for uncovering aspects of your site you may have never realized were there.

Start Promoting

  1. Use Your Competitors As a Link Building Roadmap – Remember when we talked about ethically stealing keywords? Well you can absolutely ethically find out where all of your competitors are getting their links from.  Use tools like ahrefs, CognitiveSEO, and Majestic.
  2. Use Selective Outreach – By creating compelling content you’ll have much better success “shoulder tapping” other site owners into linking back to you.
  3. Build Links – Guest posting is one of the most powerful forms of link building you can do to increase your website rankings today.
    1. Another great way to build links is to create highly compelling content. Huge lists, Infographics, Unique videos, well thought-out curated content can all be content that others will link to.  Sometimes your content will build links for you!
  4. Claim Your Brand – There are so many different services out there that allow you to claim your brand name for your account. Make sure you do this before someone else does.  The big sites are obviously the social media platforms.  Make sure you’ve claimed these as soon as possible.
    1. Facebook
    2. Twitter
    3. Instagram
    4. LinkedIn
    5. Youtube
    6. Yelp
    7. Pinterest
  5. Create a Content Posting Schedule – Whether you’re adding content to a blog or just articles to your silo’d website you absolutely must add new content. It doesn’t have to be every day.  But in today’s hyper-competitive environment it doesn’t make sense to post once a month anymore.  Besides you now have all of these new outlets to post your content on social media.
  6. Engage With Your Followers – Whether that’s commenting on blog posts relevant to your site or your own posts for that matter – comment. Engage with the people in your market wherever they are.


There’s your comprehensive, easy to follow SEO Checklist for 2017.  It’s a lot of work there’s no doubt about it.  But when you do these things you set yourself up for success your competitors rarely match. This is especially true when it comes to on-page SEO tactics.

SEO is a gradual and continual process of improvement.  By adding content following proven tactics you’ll see your traffic and conversions climb over time.  This also gives you a chance to improve existing content (adding content, fixing meta issues, improve CTR’s, and more).  Every day is another opportunity to improve your site’s position.  Do those things well and every link you acquire will have more power. Your pages will be indexed faster and you’ll rank much quicker than your competition.  Here’s to better rankings in 2017!

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