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Also known as search engine optimization, SEO isn’t just a technique that businesses use to get noticed online – it may be the single most important step you can take to establish your digital identity. With the overwhelming majority of all online experiences beginning at an organic link on a search engine, incorporating an SEO checklist like this will help you be thorough in making sure your site performs as effectively as possible.

What is SEO?

Search engine optimization is the common practice to account for the level of traffic your website could receive through sites like Google and Bing. The term describes the variety of different techniques: from keyword placement and volume to social media and link building, and many more. All these techniques work together to increase your website’s visibility as much as possible. It’s not just about getting you to the top of the list in a search on Google–it’s about making sure that you stay there. It’s also the perfect way for small or medium-sized businesses to compete with their larger competitors who they may not be able to outspend, but they can absolutely outperform.

Before you make any type of significant moves online – be it launching a brand new website, giving your existing presence a cosmetic makeover or attempting to reposition yourself in the market at large – there are a few key factors you’ll want to address in terms of SEO essentials to help you get off on the right foot. 

The Essential SEO Checklist

Keyword Research

If the vast majority of all online interactions with a business begin with a search engine results page (SERP), your SEO strategy must start with researching all the keywords and phrases that people are using to find products and services like yours in the first place. If you can optimize your website for the relevant popular keywords, then your ranking on sites like Google will increase and you’ll start bringing in more leads as a result.

  • Learn how to quickly identify the value of each keyword. Don’t just optimize for popular keywords and learn how to optimize for those that are popular and relevant to your business.
  • Perform searches using some of the keywords found in your research yourself. Do businesses just like yours come up in the results?
  • Include variations of keywords as often as possible. Optimize for the original keyword itself, but remember that everyone is different and while one person may search for “stereo equipment,” another might try to accomplish the same thing with “stereo system.” Make sure you’re optimizing for both audiences.
  • Use a keyword tool like Moz Keyword Explorer or Google AdWords Keyword Planner Tool to get a sense for just how popular your keywords really are. Use this data as a basis for what you choose to optimize for moving forward.

On-Page Optimization Tactics

On-page optimization is the SEO essentials best practice of making sure your domain ranks well with Google, as well as the individual pages within your domain, too. This helps to prop up your entire domain, but it also helps specific pages rank higher and earn traffic that is significantly more qualified and relevant.

  • As part of your SEO checklist, make sure that all your pages are optimized for mobile devices. As the vast majority of all searches being performed are on devices like smartphones, Google in particular places a high priority on mobile compatibility when determining page ranking. This means that you need to place a high priority on it, too.
  • Make sure your pages are being updated on a regular basis. In the eyes of a search engine, this helps to denote authority. If your website has a blog, post to it often, with many sources citing four times per month being a great foundation for regular content. Any site update or refresh helps in terms of on-site SEO.
  • Fill your pages with local information and make sure that information is accurate. After a series of recent algorithm changes, Google has also started to give priority to geographical information when determining rankings. This means that you could give yourself a very easy boost just by making sure your address, business hours, and other contact information are included and accurate.
  • An SEO essential practice is to write unique title tags for every page. Writing a unique, descriptive, relevant, and keyword-targeted title tag for every page in your domain can help significantly boost your rank, no question.
  • In addition to your title tags, you also need unique meta descriptions for every page. While these have more of an indirect impact on your SEO, it can still help separate each page and help them stand apart in the eyes of a search engine crawler, increasing your visibility as a result.

Link Building

Link building is the art of getting someone else to link back to your site from their own. If you write a blog post so outstanding that another website refers and links to it for their visitors to potentially click on, that’s something Google uses to determine both authority and quality, and–ultimately–your page rank.

  • Not all links are created equally. Don’t pay for low quality links just to increase your volume. Not only do spammy links hurt your ranking, but they can also result in a penalty from Google if you’re discovered.
  • When possible, author guest posts on the blogs of related websites. If you write a piece for someone else, a quality link will usually be included in your byline.
  • While often overlooked in an SEO checklist, inviting others to guest post on your site can also be great for link building. Invite an industry expert to talk about a hot new topic that will pique the interest of your audience. Then, when they link to that piece from their own site, you get a link as a result.
  • Remove any broken links you find. You can rely on a tool specifically to help you find all the backlinks on a page, or–if you have a relatively small site–you can audit it yourself. If the backlinks point to a page that no longer exists (usually because you changed the URL after it was created), fix it as soon as possible.


Once you’ve begun making major moves in terms of your SEO essentials, it’s important to start tracking your efforts so that you can see what is working and–more importantly–what isn’t. Take a look at the analytical data of your site through the funnel of what you’re actually trying to accomplish. Are you ranking higher in your targeted keywords? What impacts are your efforts having on traffic? How close are you to your goal? What is your ROI? All this is important to know and regularly monitor. You can do this with tools like:

Above all else, perhaps the most important thing to understand is that having an SEO checklist is not a “magic, silver bullet.” It’s every bit as much an art as it is a science. You can invest huge sums of money in a sleek, sophisticated website and still not produce as many new clients as you need because your existing SEO practices are the weakest link. Whether you’re trying to drive leads and clients, want to increase and strengthen your online presence or just want to make sure you’re more visible than your competitors – implementing and properly executing an SEO checklist can do all this and more. 

Executing your efforts properly is exactly what this ultimate SEO checklist was designed to help you do. Remember–it’s not about being able to spend more money than your competitors. In terms of online visibility and the extent of your reach across the Internet, it all comes down to spending every dollar in a smarter way than your larger counterparts. By focusing your attention on the right details of your SEO efforts, you’re looking at a sure-fire way to do all this and more. If you’d like to trust a team of SEO essentials experts, contact RefractROI to learn more today.

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