52-point SEO checklist for 2019 and beyond

We have written many posts on search engine optimization (SEO). The present post gives a quick list of what to do and what not to do for getting into the top search pages on Google and other search engines.

Please remember that what worked a few years back might not work in 2019, and some positive actions of the past may be red-flagged by search engines. So, this list contains only such actions that the search engines find genuine and good today. At the same time, the underlying spirit remains the same: serve the visitor useful and sharable content and avoid bad (called 'black hat') SEO techniques.

SEO-friendly actions you should take

  1. Give your site/ blog a good title. Keep the title below 70 characters (if that is not possible, give the most relevant expression within this limit). 
  2. Give the blog a relevant, well-written description within 130 characters. It should contain the highlight of the blog. As search engines have started giving more importance to mobile phones, a bigger description might bleed away from the space available. [an article on putting blog description meta tag here]
  3. Give the site an independent domain name, not a sub-domain of a free domain (e.g. example.com vs. example.blogspot.com). 
  4. Make the domain name memorable, short, with an expression that defines your blog (keyword).
  5. Use 'rel=canonical' HTML attribute so that Google and other search engines know which of your websites (out of many that arise due to www or no-www prefix, etc) is to be considered for search.
  6. Regularly publish original content. 'Original' does not mean you need to make inventions in every post, but you must speak in a voice that is your own and not copied from others.
  7. Keep the quality of your posts' writing high. Have well-researched and detailed articles and without grammatical errors.
  8. Write for visitor, not for yourself or the search engine.
  9. Write long content, of over 1600 words, at least occasionally. The content of these long posts should be ever-green. Link these posts on other related posts.
  10. Give relevant sub-headings to different thoughts, especially in a long post.
  11. If you know how to do it and your blogging platform allows that, use H1, H2 HTML tags for heading and sub-headings. 
  12. Highlight sub-headings by way of bigger font and/or colored text so that they catch the attention of visitors.
  13. Put visual content to support text content: have images, info-graphics and/or videos.
  14. Give relevant description to individual pages/ posts.
  15. Don't ignore to put a relevant ALT tag on images.
  16. Put keywords in top and bottom parts of text content. But keep them in a way that the keywords look natural. Instead of the same keyword, use synonyms and different ways of saying the same thing.
  17. Use long-tail keywords (two-three word phrases) rather than one-word keywords.
  18. When giving links, use relevant anchor text (the hyperlinked text). It should look natural too.
  19. Give links to useful information on other pages/ posts on your website/ blog. However, do not over-do it.
  20. Bring your content to the notice of authoritative bloggers on your subject. You can send them email to seek their opinion, or regularly comment on their blogs.
  21. Also give links to authoritative sites when these add value to your own site.
  22. Check broken and dead links and remove them once in a while. [an article on broken links here]
  23. The site should have trust signals for search engines: Google has stated that it improves trust in websites that have contact details, an 'about us' page and a customer service page (if relevant). 
  24. If you want to host the blog independently [e.g. not as a free blog on Blogger or Wordpress], choose the host wisely as host's quality impacts SEO a lot. [a post on choosing a webhost at this link]
  25. Make sure that your site is not too slow to open. That can happen if the server is slow, the site is heavy or poorly structured, or there is not enough internet bandwidth available to the site. Google has stated that since 2017, it has been taking site speed as a signal to rank pages.
  26. If your blog is hosted on a small server and the server is shared by many sites, make sure that the site is available all the time (over 99.5% uptime) and the site does not hang when there is heavy traffic.[That's why we said earlier that web host can impact SEO in a big way.]
  27. All sites are automatically indexed by major search engines. However, check on Google, Bing and Yahoo if almost all of your site's pages are indexed or not. If not, check for HTML/ crawling errors. You can check them on the Google Search Console.
  28. On the blog, have prominent links and buttons for social networking and bookmarking accounts of yours.
  29. Make sure that your site is mobile-friendly, because more and more searches are now carried through mobile phones.
  30. Put a sitemap on the website. It need not be a page visible to visitors.Blogger and Wordpress automatically do that.
  31. Guest blogging on other sites/ blogs is useful, but search engines do not like it when used for back-linking and on sites that are not in a related field or not trust-worthy.
  32. Have a subscription widget for email and RSS feed, so that people follow you and get updates on email or through RSS feed.
  33. Tell your friends, relatives and colleagues about your blog.
  34. After publishing a new post, send an email to people who might be interested in that content. But do not bombard them with too many emails in a month.
  35. Have your blog's URL and a short description on your visiting card, stationery and other items that you share. Business bloggers can put the URL on carry-bags, advertisements, products, back panels of vehicles, etc.
  36. Engage with others by leaving valuable comments on their blogs and social accounts.
  37. Be active on social media and its communities as sharing of content on social media gives a positive signal to search engines. Be on an industry forum or 1/ 2 groups on Facebook on your subject, participate in a Twitter chat. If your blog is on a subject that is visually appealing (photography, food, fashion, travel), cross-publish on Instagram and/ or Pinterest. Cross-publish your blog posts on Facebook page and  LinkedIn article. Tweet about your posts. 
Good Search Engine Optimization

Bad SEO actions or tricks that you should avoid

  1. Don't copy-paste others' content.
  2. Do not keep outdated or misleading information on webpages.
  3. Don't write for search engines, while ignoring the reader.
  4. Don't put exact keywords or one-word keywords too often, whether in titles or description or article.
  5. Don't put keywords and make them unreadable by hiding them through background coloring etc.
  6. Don't be part of link farms (where you link to others in return for others linking to you).
  7. Don't ask for back-links.
  8. Don't purchase back-links. Do not buy PBN.
  9. Avoid having links to spammy, bad sites. 
  10. Don't spend money on an SEO service without being sure of the quality and genuineness of offer.
  11. Don't fall for offers of thousands of followers etc in a few dollars.
  12. Don't waste time on submitting to directories, search engines or pinging, except for a few genuine directories or local/ trade directories.
  13. Don't make duplicate sites. 
  14. Don't make websites that have poor content but are there to drive traffic to one particular site.
  15. While being active on social media, remember that it sucks time and energy. Do not be on too many platforms. Also, do not post too much and too frequently or people will mark you as a spammer.