SEO Checklist 2019: Get More Organic Traffic (Step-by-Step)

By | August 5, 2019


In this video, I’m going to show you a detailed
SEO checklist that’s helped us grow organic traffic to our blog from 50,000 monthly search visits
to over 230,000. Stay tuned. [music] What’s up SEOs? Sam Oh here with Ahrefs, the SEO tool that
helps you grow your search traffic, research your competitors and dominate your niche. As I’m sure you know, there are numerous
categories in SEO. From keyword research to on-page SEO, technical
SEO, link building, and more. So rather than trying to tackle all of them
at once, this SEO checklist is going to help you stay organized, optimized, and sane. With that said, let’s jump into the first
category of our SEO checklist and that’s the basic setup. The first thing you should do is create a sitemap. Sitemaps tell search engines where to find
important content on your site, so they can easily crawl and index your pages. Here’s what the sitemap for our blog looks like, which was created automatically with
the Yoast SEO plugin. Now, if you don’t use WordPress, or prefer
not to use Yoast, there are tons of free sitemap generators you can find from all over the web. The next thing to check for is a robots.txt file. A robots.txt file is important because it
gives instructions to search engines on where they can and cannot go on your site. For example, you may not want them to crawl
certain pages or directories like a cart for an ecommerce store, or RSS feeds. So you’d add that to your robots.txt file. If you’re unsure if you have a robots.txt file,
just go to your domain.com/robots.txt. If you see a plain text file like this, then
you’re good to go. If you see anything else, then Google, “robots.txt
generator,” and create one. The last couple of things you should do is
setup Google Analytics and Google Search Console. Google Analytics can give you insightful data
on how your visitors interact with your website. For example, analyzing bounce rates and time on page can give you an idea of user experience
and engagement. Google Search Console on the other hand is
a must-have tool for all webmasters. You can track your performance in search and
see the keywords that you’re ranking for. So take a screenshot of the basics and let’s
move on to the next subsection on our checklist, which is keyword research. While there are a lot of ways to approach
keyword research, there are certain fundamentals that I think every page should follow. The first being to find a primary keyword
target for your page. Every blog post we create has one main primary target. Just look at any of our titles, and you can
tell right away which keywords we’re targeting. Long‐Tail Keywords: The ‘Secret’ to Getting Tons of Search Traffic YouTube SEO: How to Rank Your Videos
From Start to Finish To find the “right” primary keyword, you’ll
need a keyword research tool. For example, by searching for “SEO tips” in
Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer, you’ll see things like Keyword difficulty score,
Search volume, as well as various SEO metrics on the top 10 ranking pages for the keyword. Now, the second thing you’ll want to do is
assess search intent. Search intent basically means the reason behind
the searcher’s query. And Google is really good at helping you do this. Just search for the primary keyword phrase
you want to rank for. Then look at the top ranking results. To assess search intent, you’ll want to look
at the types of pages that are ranking and the format they’re using. As you can see here, the types of pages that
are ranking for the keyword, “SEO checklist,” are blog posts. As for format, they mostly seem like a hybrid
between list posts and tutorials, which you can infer by the titles. Now, if you were to create a product page selling
an SEO checklist, then you probably won’t rank because you won’t be matching search intent. Once you have search intent down, you’ll want
to look at related queries to your topic. The first place you can look is Google’s autocomplete. Just type your primary keyword in Google’s search bar and take note of other relevant search queries. Two other places to look are in the “people
also ask” box in the search results as well as the related searches at the bottom of the page. In this case, queries and questions related
to the side effects of apple cider vinegar show up in both places, so this is definitely
something we would want to include in our post. To find even more related queries and questions
people are asking, you can check the Search suggestions and Questions report in Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer. Across these two reports, you’ll find over
28,000 keyword ideas along with keyword metrics like Keyword difficulty, search volume, and more. If you’ve done all of these checkpoints, then
you should have a strong idea of what your content should be about and the questions
you should address throughout your post. Next up is to find relevant keywords and subtopics
for your post. In our study of 3 million searches, we found
that on average, the top ranking page also ranks for nearly 1,000 other relevant keywords
in the top 10. One of the main ingredients to ranking high
for numerous keywords are links. But an equally important part is content. Fortunately, you can find subtopics to cover by
looking at the keywords that the top ranking pages are already ranking for, then make sure
you cover those points on your page. To do this, go to Ahrefs Keywords Explorer
and enter your primary keyword target. Now, scroll to the bottom of the page where
you’ll see the top 10 ranking pages. The main column you want to look at here is keywords. This one seems to be getting a lot of search
traffic, they rank for a ton of keywords, and the page is relevant to the one I’m creating. Let’s click on the number under the Organic
Keywords column to see which keywords they rank for. To keep things super-relevant, let’s set a
position filter to only show keywords that rank in positions 1 through 5. Some interesting subtopics to cover here might
be the benefits of apple cider vinegar. We might want to talk about organic vs. non-organic products. And something even more fascinating to me is this
part on Bragg’s apple cider vinegar, which is a branded product. Then there’s an attribute here, “with mother,” which is a health term often used with
apple cider vinegar that I would have otherwise never thought of
on my own. Sprinkle some of these terms into your content,
use other parts as subtopics and do your best to cover the topic using data. The last thing on the keyword research and
analysis side is to assess your chances of ranking in Google. In order to understand your chances of ranking,
you need SEO metrics of the top-ranking pages. Otherwise, you’ll just be guessing. As a very general estimate, you can use the
Keyword difficulty scores in Keywords Explorer to get a very rough sense of that, but I wouldn’t
recommend relying on it alone. Instead, I suggest watching our full tutorial
on assessing ranking difficulty, which will show you how to estimate what it takes
to rank on Google for any keyword. So here’s what the final section of our keyword
research checklist should look like. Take a screenshot and let’s move on to the
next section which is all about on-page SEO. The first point here is to use short, yet descriptive URLs. We studied 2 million keywords and found that pages with shorter URLs rank better than those with longer URLs. Now, while there’s a clear correlation, it
doesn’t mean causation. A simple way to choose your URL is to set
it as your primary keyword target. For example, a blog post on 75 actionable
SEO tips, could be domain.com/seo-tips/. It’s short, and anyone can tell from the URL
what the topic is on. Next, ensure you have a compelling title tag
and meta description. Old SEO advice will tell you to include your
target keyword in your title and meta description. But our data shows that exact-match keywords
in the title and description do not correlate with ranking position. So should you use your keyword in your title
and description? The answer is it depends. The most important thing about the title is
that it entices a click. Afterall, clicks translate into traffic. But if you find that you’re stuffing the keyword
for the sake of inclusion, then I wouldn’t worry too much about it. The next thing you should do is add relevant
internal and external resources. In the same on-page SEO correlation study,
we found web pages that link out to high‐DR external resources rank higher than those that don’t. Second, you should add internal links from
relevant pages to your new post. A quick way to find these pages is to go to Google and search for something like site:yourdomain.com and then add a keyword related to your topic. You’ll then see all posts from your domain
that include your keyword. Just visit these pages, and add internal links
to relevant anchors texts. A nice little bonus tip would be to pair the
search results with Ahrefs’ SEO toolbar. Look at the URL rating to identify relevant
pages that will likely have the greatest impact on your new post. In general, the higher the number, the more “authoritative” the page. When you do this properly, you can pass link
equity to your new page and possibly increase the speed that Google discovers your page. And that about does it for the on-page SEO
checklist section. Here it is in all its glory, so take a screenshot
and let’s move on to the next section, which is all about content. Choosing a topic with high search traffic potential
and doing some basic on‐page SEO is important. But all of your efforts will be in vain if your
content isn’t up to par. Here are a few things you can add to your
to-do list when creating your content. The first thing is to write an engaging introduction. The purpose of the intro is to let your readers
know they’re in the right place and that your page will solve the reason for them being there. Fail to do so and your readers will be gone fast. Start with something that resonates with the
reader, build trust or credibility, and promise a solution to the user’s problem. Second, focus on readability. Let’s talk about readability in two categories. The first is visual comprehension. When a reader lands on your page the first thing
they’re going to process is how your page looks. And if they land on a big wall of text in 10pt font,
they’ll likely get overwhelmed and leave. Instead, break your content into pieces by
writing in short sentences and short paragraphs. Other visual assets you can add are images
to separate paragraphs. But don’t just throw in stock photos for the
sake of faking visual appeal. Put some effort into creating or finding images
that will enhance the reader’s experience. For example, on the Ahrefs blog, we often
use graphs, charts, or screenshots that help illustrate a point or lighten the read. These tips will help increase your chances
of turning visitors into readers. Now, the other category in readability is
reading comprehension. According to a study, 50% of the US population
reads below an 8th-grader level. Which means that if you’re writing at a higher
level, you’re alienating half the population as well as non-native speakers. There’s a free tool called Hemingway Editor. Just paste your content in there and it’ll
give you a readability score. If you’re the type to write academically and
struggle to lower your readability score, a great tip you can use is to write as you speak. The last part of the content checklist is to ensure your content solves the reason for the searcher’s query. Great content is content that solve a user’s problem. For example, if you have a post on productivity tips, try and go beyond things like “sleep less,” and “hustle.” Someone searching for productivity tips probably
wants practical and actionable information they can try right away. They want to know how they can measure whether
their productivity levels are increasing. If your content solves their original problem and answers the questions that might come to mind as they’re reading, then you probably have some decent content. And if it doesn’t, you might need to re-hit
the drawing board. So here’s what the final content checklist looks like. Take a screenshot and let’s move on to the
next section which is all about link building. When it comes to white-hat link building,
you’ll have to pony up and do some email outreach. Now, outreach isn’t about begging for links. In the words of the late Eric Ward: “Links aren’t things. A link represents something somebody finds valuable. A link represents something someone wants to share. A link represents the human manifestation of a desire
to let someone else know about something useful.” And there are a few strategies you can use to promote your valuable, shareworthy, and useful content. Now, I’ll be focusing mostly on the prospecting
part because we have a ton of step-by-step link building tutorials that I’ll leave links to
in the description. The first thing you can do is look at who’s linking to
the top-ranking pages for your target keyword. These will likely be the most relevant link
prospects seeing as they’ve already linked to a competing article on the same topic. The easiest way to find these people is to go to Ahrefs Keywords Explorer and enter your primary keyword. Next, scroll to the bottom of the page where you’ll see the top 10 ranking pages along with their SEO metrics. The parts we want to pay attention to are
the backlinks and referring domains columns. If there are a decent number of referring domains, meaning, unique websites linking to the page, then click on the number in the backlinks column
to find out who’s linking to them. You can now skim through the Backlinks report
and look for relevant prospects. After you’ve depleted your list, expand
your list of prospects using Content Explorer. Content Explorer has a database of over a billion
pages along with their social and SEO metrics. You can start by entering your primary keyword. And I’ll also set the search type to a title search since a lot of people include their primary keyword in the title. Next, I’ll set a Referring domains filter to only show pages that have at least 20 links from unique websites. Now, skim through the pages and if anything
pops out to you, click on the referring domains number to see if the websites linking to the
page are worth investigating further. If they are, then you can click on the caret
here, open the backlinks report, and add relevant prospects to your outreach list. The final link building tactic that works well
is guest posting. I’m not going to expand on this here, but
check out our video on scaling guest posting which will give you the full details on doing
it successfully. Now, these three techniques are great to use
for new and existing content. But there are a couple of other link building
strategies that work more effectively if you do the prospecting beforehand. And these are the Skyscraper Technique and
Broken Link Building. Prospecting before you create content guarantees
you’ll have a list of people to promote your new piece to. Again, I’ll leave links to full tutorials
on these two strategies. Here’s your final link building checklist
you should go through. Take a screenshot and let’s move on to technical SEO. At this point, you should have a solid SEO checklist you can rinse and repeat for each new page you create. But as you create more pages, there’ll likely
be technical SEO issues that go unnoticed. So I want to focus more on the domain level
here to find and fix these issues. You can find these issues by running a crawl with
a tool like Ahrefs’ Site Audit. The tool will then crawl your pages and search
for over 100 predefined technical SEO issues. After the crawl has completed, you’ll see
a list of issues we found on your site. Now, Site Audit is great for finding the issues on autopilot, but you’re still going to have to fix them. Let’s go through a few important ones you should fix. First is page speed. Slow-loading pages are annoying for the user experience. And as a result, Google has said that page speed
is a ranking factor. You can use tools like Pingdom, GtMetrix or Google Pagespeed Insights, to measure the speed
of a single page. So let’s go back to Site Audit, and click
on the slow-loading pages issue. Next, I’ll copy one of the URLs from our
list and put it into Pagespeed insights. And as you scroll through the list, you’ll
get suggestions on what to fix, and the time savings you can get by fixing it. Next, we want to make sure that your website
is mobile friendly. Google has a “mobile-friendly test” tool you can use. Just enter the URL you want to investigate and
they’ll tell you whether your page is mobile friendly. Next, you’ll want to ensure that you don’t
have any external or internal broken links. If someone clicks on a link and ends up on
a broken page, then that’s bad user experience. On top of that, you’ll want to fix these because
linking to broken pages is a waste of “link equity.” If you’re linking to any broken pages, then you’ll be
able to find that in Ahrefs’ Site Audit tool under “page has links to broken page.” Just click on the number of affected URLs,
and you’ll see a list of pages that are linking to broken pages, as well as the broken pages
that are being linked to. Since every site will have different technical
SEO issues, I recommend using a tool to help you identify these issues and then tackle
them one by one. Now, take a screenshot of the final technical
SEO checklist, and if you enjoyed this video, then make sure to like, share, and subscribe
for more actionable SEO and marketing tutorials. And if there’s anything that I’ve missed that’s
an absolute must-do on your SEO checklist, then let me know in the comments. So keep grinding away, start adding some satisfying
checkmarks to your checklist and I’ll see you in the next tutorial.

52 thoughts on “SEO Checklist 2019: Get More Organic Traffic (Step-by-Step)

  1. Rahul Chavan Post author

    Hi sir love from India plz tech blogging atoz..plz sir big fan ahirf group love you sir….

    Reply
  2. Naren singh Post author

    As Google said this that robots.txt will not work anymore from 31st of this month… Can you pleaseconfirm this

    Reply
  3. hellocourage Post author

    Nice tips. But the new video transition is kind of annoying especially on a mobile phone. Makes people dizzy…

    Reply
  4. Chiku Post author

    sir i need your help i m from india love your work want ahrefs affiliate program please start your affiliate program my clients were overexcited for your software but i can't able to earn single peeny from refreing your software

    Reply
  5. mr dashora Post author

    Thank you so much sir.. I m from india… It's new to me

    Reply
  6. Lohith Sp Post author

    Hey Sam! Loved your video as always. I have a question though. Will sub folder level URL will be better or a naked URL for a website with 5 categories. Thanks

    Reply
  7. sachin patil Post author

    Really amazing video. Thanks a lot for sharing

    Reply
  8. Bostjan Tanko Post author

    Awesome tutorial Sam! And great check list anyone can use. We have been using this similar check list in our SEO Agency – Everything is right on point.
    There is only one thing: Google will stop supporting noindex directive in robots.txt – Effective September 1! See here: https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2019/07/a-note-on-unsupported-rules-in-robotstxt.html
    Hope this helps!

    Reply
  9. Mohan Krishna Post author

    Such a nice and valuable information…

    Reply
  10. Ihsan Santoso Post author

    Very helpful for newbie seo goers like me
    Thanks sam!

    Reply
  11. Kandaman Post author

    Excellent Video and Excellent Tips!!!
    Well Done!

    Reply
  12. Skyler Reeves Post author

    Great video Sam. The only thing I would add is perhaps a bit of info in the "on page seo" section about schema and how it can be used to enhance your results in the SERPs.

    Reply
  13. James Scott Post author

    Excellent job Sam and ahrefs team 👍 super useful. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  14. Bryan Bloom Post author

    Almost didn't watch this thinking it was too beginner. Then I watched and watched again and took notes and added to our processes. Go Sam!

    Reply
  15. Yunus Shaikh Post author

    I'm very greatful for your knowledge and video which you giving us for free,
    But I have one suggestion I'm from India and I found for local search ahref doesn't have much data,

    For that reason I have to rely on Google or other tools.
    &
    Thanks again for your video

    Reply
  16. Kagura TheWindSorcerer Post author

    This video comes at the right time! More than just a checklist, it also serves as a very systematic workflow to implement. Can't thank you enough, Sam! You really are a true master of SEO! You make boring, complicated-looking SEO so fun to handle! Looking forward to your next videos!

    Reply
  17. Josh Chaney Post author

    Let me see if i have this correct. backlinks are like telling google that you are friends with the cool kids and rank me higher?

    Reply
  18. Lalit Soni Post author

    Complete package for seo, whether you're a beginner or a pro… Ahrefs 💛

    Reply
  19. Hritik patgiri Post author

    Hey ahrefs team if you are looking to this comment then please think about it… How can a beginner blogger can pay 100$ per month on ahrefs… So can you less the price for beginners

    Reply
  20. Viral Muz Post author

    Does trustpilot reviews help in ranking a website?

    Reply
  21. Ruhul Amin Post author

    Hi, Sam Oh. Please make a video. How To Rank Site in Google's Featured Snippets. 🙏🏻

    Reply
  22. Eskimoz Post author

    Très intéressant surtout la deuxième partie merci pour le partage.

    Reply
  23. Amber Moore Post author

    Thank you so much for the info. Ahrefs is my favorite tool ever!

    Reply
  24. Paras Shah Post author

    Thanks a lot for such an informative video !!!

    Reply
  25. J YH Post author

    Another EXCELLENT vid, Sam! Thank you. 🙏

    I really appreciate that you acknowledge that your keyword difficulty metrics are “rough estimates”.

    And… Nice nod to Eric Ward. Sometimes we spend so much time looking ahead that we forget what we can learn from those that came before us.

    Reply
  26. designerToshi Post author

    Thanks for the very helpful tips! Subbed

    Reply
  27. MlleSymphonyofdreams Post author

    I like Ahrefs but don't use it enough to justify $99pm, if there was a cut down version I would sign up, maybe half the allocation.

    Reply
  28. Sudip SB Post author

    Can i get ahrefs tools for free ??Awesome video thanks for your valuable information about the great seo tool ☺

    Reply
  29. Arno Pisspot Post author

    Thanks for the content, as always. Please take it easy with those camera transitions, kinda made me nauseous 🤢

    Reply
  30. Abdulasalam alqaisy Post author

    Thanks sam. This very simple explain.

    Reply
  31. MONTU GOYAL Post author

    plz make video on reverse engineering in seo

    Reply
  32. Jonathon Emery Post author

    This is definitely a good video with lots of great advice, but can you guys please stop using exact match keyword titles for your content? It looks so much like 2010 SEO when you do that, and you should honestly be above that.

    "SEO Checklist 2019" – seriously? I facepalmed when I read that. It's so obviously written for a search algorithm instead of a person. "Guys we gotta get that exact match keyword right at the beginning of the title every time!". No you don't. It's clunky and painful to read. You'd rank just as well with "The Definitive SEO Checklist for 2019" or something similar.

    I know you're not the only ones who do this (Brian Dean has a video with almost the exact same title and subtitle), but from someone who's done SEO for 10 years, it honestly just looks silly, and furthermore makes the industry itself look a little silly because you guys are such visible leaders in the space.

    Reply
  33. ingeneren Post author

    thank you for the information, however I had to slow the video speed down to .75 because of the camera shots flashing in and out. It was too fast to read or write the snippet down. Great content though, thank you.

    Reply
  34. Tim Berry Post author

    Awesome training and checklist. Every time I watch one of your videos, I realize all the ways I'm not using Ahrefs to full capacity. Thank you!

    Reply

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