Technical SEO checklist: a webmaster’s guide to on-page optimisation
Presenting a guide to carrying out all the on-page checks that webmasters and SEOs need to carry out to ensure a website is optimised for search.
This checklist will bring together a lot of already published content from the site in one place, and there will be links to more detailed guides throughout.
It’s also worth reading our guides on How to test a website before launch and SEO essentials for optimising your site for further information.
Sign up to Google Search Console
Search Console is where you can monitor your site’s performance, identify issues and monitor backlinks. This is also where Google will communicate with you should anything go wrong.
Here are the key things you should set-up and regularly check in Search Console:
- Set your preferred domain: whether your site shows up in search results with the www prefix or without it.
- HTML improvements: this is where Search Console will recommend any improvements to your meta descriptions and title tags, as well as informing you of any non-indexable content.
- Links to your site: here you can see the domains that link to your site and its content the most, as well as your most linked webpages.
- Manual actions: Google will inform you if it has administered a manual action to your site or specific webpage.
- International targeting: make sure you’re targeting your preferred audience based on language and country.
- Index status: this lets you know how many pages of your website are currently included in Google’s index. You can quickly see any worrying trends, as well as any pages that have been blocked by robots or removed.
- Crawl errors: this report shows all the errors that Google has found when crawling your site over the last 90 days.
- robots.txt editor: this is where you can edit your robots.txt and check for errors. The bottom of the page reveals your errors and warnings.
Sign up to Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a free service that tracks and reports website traffic. Providing insight into the demographics of site visitors, the performance of a specific campaign, and how long people are staying on your site.
Make sure Google Analytics or the analytics package you’re using, is set up and ready to go from day one so you can measure and analyse traffic to your site.
Use Google’s own site speed test tool to check how quickly your website loads and implement any changes it recommends.
Is your website and its content equally optimised for any given screen size or device? Bear in mind that Google has stated that responsive design is its preferred method of mobile optimisation. Look through our thorough mobile-friendly checklist to help fix any problems.
- Title tags should be 50-60 characters long, including spaces.
- Your most important keywords need to be first in your title tag, with your least important words coming last.
- If your company name is not part of the important keyword phrases, put it at the end of the title tag.
- Do not duplicate title tags, they must be written differently for every page.
- Don’t mass replicate your title tags it will negatively affect your search visibility.
- Title tags must accurately describe the content on the page.
- Do not ‘keyword stuff’ title tags.
- Make your headline (<h1> tag) different from the title tag.
- Make sure your most important keywords for the webpage show up in the meta description.
- Write legible, readable copy.
- A meta description should be no longer than 135 – 160 characters long. Any longer and search engines will chop the end off, so make sure any important keywords are nearer the front.
- Do not duplicate meta descriptions.
The headlines for your articles should be under 55 characters to ensure their complete visibility in SERPs. Make sure they’re snappy, attractive and as descriptive as possible.
H1 – H6 tags
Make sure your headlines are tagged as H1, and any subheadings in your articles are tagged as H2, H3 etc. Makes sure they’re used in a descending, logical order.
Make sure your images are all optimised for the web. Ensuring they’re not too large – and site-speed draining. As well as being properly labelled with titles and alt-text.
XML Sitemaps/HTML Sitemap
Make sure your website has an accurate site map in both XML and HTML format, to ensure thorough and complete indexing by Google.
Accelerated Mobile Pages
If you’re using Google’s AMP project to provide mobile searchers with faster loading web pages, you need to make sure these are rendering properly. You can check for this in the Search Console AMP tool.
Social media integration
Do the social media icons on the site go to the correct pages? Do you have the right buttons and social plugins installed for what you are trying to accomplish and what you want the user to be able to do? (For example, does it ‘share a post’ rather than ‘Like’ your page on Facebook.)
If your site is ecommerce, or you’re using encrypted pages to protect visitor privacy on a form or elsewhere, you’ll need to check your certificate.
If you have duplicate content on your own site, set up a 301 redirect so Google only indexes your preferred page.
Ensure that Google is only indexing your preferred domain, i.e. either with the www prefix or without it: http://www.example.com or http://example.com. Google may treat the www and non-www versions of your domain as separate sites with separate pages, thus harming your visibility.
If your republishing another site’s content (with permission of course) ensure there’s a rel=canonical tag on each page linking to the original source.
Double check your site is eligible for Google News, if not, try resubmitting once you’ve carried out Google’s suggestions.
Add rel=“nofollow” to any links that you don’t want search engine crawlers to follow. For instance, sponsored content or commercially led articles with links out to vendors or service providers.
Check structured data
The Structured Data section in Search Console contains information about all the structured data elements Google has located on your site, whether from Schema markup or other microformats. Check for any errors. If you click on the individual ‘Data Types’ it will show you exactly which URLs contain that particular markup and when it was detected.
Error response codes
Response codes, such as 400, 403, 404, 500 and 503, should all be investigated thoroughly. If you see multiple 404 results from internal site links, fix the offending links immediately.
Makes sure 301s being used for all redirects, and avoid any 302 or 307 redirects.
Are you using internal linking in the most effective way? You should have a few relevant internal links per article (depending on length and type of content). Make sure the anchor text is descriptive of the linked page.