The Checklist

Our SEO checklist is unique... It's very comprehensive and still easy-to-use; helping professionals worldwide to understand & explain all the major factors of modern & futureproof SEO.

The respective weight of each factor is indicated in brackets (w:1 is heaviest, then w:2) and by colours (red is heaviest, then orange, in the order of a rainbow).

This SEO Checklist can be a great point of reference when working to optimise websites in search engines like Google, Yahoo, MSN, Bing, AOL, Ask Jeeves, Yandex, Baidu, etc.

Changelog: Jul 2011, major expansion of "Association > Non-Spam".

Changelog: Mar 2011, added checkpoints under "Association > Non-Spam".

Changelog: Feb 2011, developed checkpoints under "Association > Keyword density > Onsite".

The Factors

  • Accessibility
    • Content
      • Wording
        • Validity
          • Basic sentence, paragraph & article formatting (w:1)

          • Advanced spelling, grammar & vocabulary (w:3)

        • Efficiency (w:4)

      • Formats
        • Variety (w:4)

        • Consistency (w:5)

      • Stability
        • Theme (w:3)

        • Structure
          • Site-wide (w:5)

          • Page-wide (w:4)

      • Quantity (w:1)

        • Depth

        • Breadth

      • Originality (w:2)

    • Code
      • Validity
        • Critical elements (w:1)

        • Noncritical elements (w:3)

      • Efficiency
        • Simplicity (w:3)

        • Semanticity (w:2)

    • Server connection
      • Basic accessibility (w:1)

      • Speed & stability (w:4)

  • Association
    • Language & Territory
      • Wording (w:1)

      • Domain name extention (w:3)

      • Server location (w:4)

      • Inlinks (w:4)

      • Outlinks (w:4)

      • HTML LANG attribution (w:4)

    • Keyword density
      • Onsite
        • Page body
          • Standard text (w:1)

            • Exact matches & synonyms

            • Thematically associated wording

          • Image ALT attributes (w:2)

          • Internal linking (w:2)

          • External linking (w:3)

        • Titles (w:1)

        • URLs (w:1)

          • Domain name

          • Directory & file paths

      • Offsite (w:2)

    • Non-Spam
      • Quality of language (see Accessibility > Wording)
      • Buzz Factor
        • Onsite
          • Refresh rate
            • Rate of new content publication
            • Rate of general updating/editing
        • Offsite
          • Regularity of fresh inlinks
      • Range of inlinking site types
        • Blog, social media & news portal inlinks (quick response / informal)
        • Academic, governmental & elite news portal inlinks (authoritative)
      • Assocation with bad neighbourhoors.
        • Proportion of total inlinks that are "nofollow", or that appear to be reciprocal / 3-way / paid link deals, or are hosted on the same server/IP (or related server / ISP), or come from bog-standard web links directories (or other link farms or otherwise spammy sites) or forum profile pages / forum sig links / blog comments (or other common sources of heavy link spam).
  • Authority
    • Age
      • URLs
        • Domain homepage (w:1)

        • Internal pages (w:2)

      • Content within URLs (w:2)

      • Inlinks (w:3)

    • Linkjuice (w:1)

      • Quantity of inlinks

      • Significance of average inlink

Example 1

Here's a full example of how the SEO Checklist could be used as the basis for conducting a comprehensive SEO assessment of a website. In this case, we've assessed our own site (seoexample.co.uk).

Note, the factors involved in this example need updating.

  • Accessibility
    • Content
      • Wording
        • Validity (9) – We are well-spoken.

        • Efficiency (7.25) – We are trying to drag it out a little bit, waffling about some stuff that's not strictly relevant, and we're a bit posh at times.

      • Formats
        • Variety (7) – Some good vids, but could do better with bold, emotive imagery.

        • Consistency (7.75) – Some good house style framework, with consistent main menu & link icons, but messy incorporation of vids.

      • Stability
        • Theme (9) – Very consistent maintenance of relevance.

        • Structure
          • Site-wide (6.75) – Sitemap gets shaken up from time to time.

          • Page-wide (7.25) – Homepage often gets shaken up a bit, as do many internal pages from time to time.

      • Relevance
        • General content (8.75) – This site is through & through very relevant to targeted keywords, but a bit thin on content so struggles to be as relevant as a much bigger site.

        • Linking
          • Inlinks (5) – Linked to mainly from a fairly respectable UK web development related site (BWDP), and some inlinks from SEO-related posts in UK Business Forums.

          • Outlinks (8) – Linking out to highly respectable & authoritative sites, all closely associated with the theme of the site & page where each link is placed.

      • Quantity (3.5)
        • Depth (7.75) – We're quite good at getting deep into certain subjects, but don't do this very often.

        • Breadth (3) – We cover various different aspects of SEO.

      • Originality (8.5) – We come up with nearly all of our own unique stuff (except the videos), but we do waffle on about things that other people waffle on about in similar ways.

    • Code
      • Validity (9.5) – Only niggle is non-fixed width floats (CSS warning).

      • Efficiency (8)
        • Simplicity (8.25) – Quite some white space & unnecessary HTML comments, and a few nested divs for styling.

        • Semanticity (7.75) – Great heading structures & paras, but lacking variation in element types, eg, could add data tables, definition lists, forms, XML feeds, RDF links, meta description tag, more internal linking if there were more pages on site, more significant images with info-rich alt tags...etc. Some paragraphs are a bit long & monotonous.

    • Connection (8.75)
      • Speed (9) – Great, popular hosting. Nearly always lightening fast.

      • Stability (8.5) – Good host, but low budget hosting package on heavily-loaded shared server, with lots of sites on same IP.

  • Authority
    • Age (3.75)
      • URLs (x)
        • Domain (4) – 1 or 2 years old

        • Internal pages

      • Onsite Content (3.5) – Most content on the site is not many months or years old, and there's not a lot of content anyway.

      • Inlinks (3.75) – Existing inlinks have been securely in place for a few months or years now

    • Link Juice (2.5)
      • Quantity of Inlinks (2) – We have very few inlinks.

      • Significance of average inlink (3) – From very small to lower-medium significance.

Example 2

Here's another exemplary set of scores based on the same SEO Checklist framework, that was made for a real client (on 13th May 2010) who will remain anonymous here.

Again, the factors have been updated slightly since this review. See the top of this page for the latest version of the SEO Checklist.

  • Accessibility
    • Content
      • Wording
        • Validity
          • Basic sentence, paragraph & article formatting (8.5) – There's bits & bobs, possibly lacking context, especially on the homepage, but generally the wording is based within good sentence, paragraph & article structure.

          • Advanced spelling, grammar & vocabulary (9) – Excellent quality of spelling, grammar & vocabulary. Possible room for adding semi-colons & ellipses to break up lengthy sentences.

        • Efficiency (7.75) – Plenty of ambiguous policy-style wording where maybe not necessary, and subject matter that doesn't often mention the main keywords.

      • Formats
        • Variety (6) – Very much text-based, with some small graphical items, downloads, and plenty of linking. Could do with a video and the occasional large picture within some main pages.

        • Consistency (7.75) – A quite consistent house-style; but with room for further sorting of content into more expectable & appreciable locations on pages, especially for non-visual users, as markup code is a bit messy.

      • Stability
        • Theme (8) – Multi-disciplinary theme, construably vague; but within the domain, while this modistly wide theme appears to have been expanding, it's been quite consistent in style & subject matter for the 10 years it's been online.

        • Structure
          • Site-wide (3.5) – Page addresses change every couple of years as the site gets redesigned, and the most recent one was a big shake-up. Old URLs should be 301 (permanently) redirected to equivalent new URLs in order to present search engines and visitors with a good sense of site-wide structural stability of content.

          • Page-wide (4) – There's not a lot of pages which retain their content, as pages are often updated with fresh information. A better strategy might be to have portal pages that get updated with introductory text and links, alongside deeper article pages which give the full story about each piece of news and can be archived for people to look back on. Not only may this be interesting to some visitors, it will mean there's more content to feed search engines with generally, and also better retention of content which is another thing that search engines like to see.

      • Quantity (3) – A few good pages, but far from a new article every day like many large sites have.

      • Originality (8.5) – Very little duplication of content from other sites or between different pages on this site.

    • Code
      • Validity
        • Critical elements (5.5) – html, head, body & h1 tags are used quite appropriately. But the odd empty h2 tag and repeated link & meta tags within body is an issue of priority concern. And considering the doctype is xhtml strict, the validity of noncritical elements is more critical than would otherwise be.

        • Noncritical elements (4.5) – Markup errors include improperly coded ampersand entities, lots of empty tags and missing attributes, attributes that shouldn't be present under strict DTD, and some generally misplaced elements.

      • Efficiency
        • Simplicity (7) – Lots of inline styling which could be moved to external CSS to clean up markup code, but could be a lot worse.

        • Semanticity (5) – The odd issue with heading structure markup code and empty elements, combined with lack of validity under strict DTD, on top of heavy inline styling, brings this score down fast, but still the site is generally based on the incorporation of good semantic elements. Just needs to come together more harmoniously. This could be a CMS issue.

    • Server connection
      • Basic accessibility (8) – Generally a good connection these days.

      • Speed & stability (4) – With a recent sitewide robots exclusion issue, the site has a history of zero access for search engines. This score will improve by itself if there are no more similar problems.

  • Association
    • Language & Territory
      • Wording (10) – Thoroughly & accurately, British-English wording, ideal for a British-English oriented organisation.

      • Domain name extention (10) – Spot on. An English, UK domain to perform ideal for UK-based & English-speaking Googlers.

      • Server location (10) – UK based server.

      • Inlinks (9) – Predominantly British, English organisations link in but very few small bloggers & grass-roots groups. Indeed, most inlinks are schewed as academia-related or government-authorised.

      • Outlinks (8) – Linking out mainly to British & English-language based sites.

      • HTML LANG attribution (7.75) – English language declaration present, but should be "en-GB" for extra relevance to the UK.

    • Keyword density
      • Onsite
        • Exact matches & synonyms (6) – Many words in the organisation's own name appear very rarely if ever within the homepage's main paragraph text.

        • Thematically associated wording (9) – Great variety of related wording to encompass the general theme of the site, even if the main keywords are not often mentioned explicitly.

      • Offsite (9) – Inlinking sites are mostly full of wording that's relevant to this site. A bit more variation in the types of sites that link in, and a greater quantity of inlinks, would be even better.

  • Authority
    • Age
      • URLs
        • Domain homepage (9) – Very old (& therefore trusted) website domain. Can't get much better. Registered since 1999 and with archives dating back to 2000.

        • Internal pages (3) – With website redesigned every couple of years to return missing-file errors on old page addresses, combined with the recent robots exclusion issue, the internal pages have far from matured enough to be trusted by search engines as much as the homepage.

      • Content within URLs (5) – Some catchphrases, including the organisation's name and some introductory text, has existed on the site for years, but most of it has been moved around between different pages & URLs a lot over the last decade, leaving search engines concerned that content may disappear from current pages again before long.

      • Inlinks (7) – Many of the major inlinking sites have been linking in for several years.

    • Link Juice (7) – Great link juice from plenty of authoritative sites. Can get more link juice but doing very well already, and this is always a difficult factor to improve on.

      • Quantity of Inlinks

      • Significance of average inlink

Example 3

Another example set of scores based on the SEO Checklist, for a real client who will remain anonymous here. This review was conducted on 21st Feb 2011.

  • Accessibility
    • Content
      • Wording
        • Validity
          • Basic sentence, paragraph & article formatting (6.5) – There's some good paragraphs of text on half of the pages on the site, but half of the pages lack such meaty "spider food". And the sidebars contain bits & bobs – single sentences or half sentences, which may be good for keeping the site easy to use, but isn't great food for search engines.

          • Advanced spelling, grammar & vocabulary (9.5) – Excellent standard of spelling, grammar & vocabulary. This is great for disassociation with spam. Very hard to find a mistake. Perhaps there's inconsistency in the use of full stops for sentences under the timetable on the right-hand column of the registration page, but this is really clutching at straws to find fault. There was also an issue with a typo in the homepage title tag, but this was quickly resolved.

        • Efficiency (8) – Sentences are generally short & sweet without lack of dynamics. Very concise. Not too many longwinded sentences. Better use of emphasis on key phrases could improve efficiency of wording a little, but that's no big deal beyond the scope of standard heading structures.

      • Formats
        • Variety (6) – Decent variety of text formatting between the pages, and good to see some use of imagery on small slideshows, and some audio content; but there's a lack of embedded video, comprehensive social media widgets and any really large pictures (perhaps in a gallery), etc.

        • Consistency (7) – A fairly standard house-style throughout the site. This helps Google to understand the sitemap and helps users to navigate between pages quite instinctively. Interpage format could be made a little more consistent, for example, if the "x" page had a good little paragraph of introductory text like the "y" page has, and this would be good for increasing vital quantity of content too.

      • Stability
        • Theme (8) – A broad-ranging theme, construably vague from Google's perspective; nonetheless, this wide theme has been quite consistent in style & subject matter for the many years that this site has been online.

        • Structure
          • Site-wide (3.5) – Page addresses have been changed with each site redesign, while redirections and error pages are not in place. This is a big shake-up as far as Google is concerned. Old URLs should be 301 (permanently) redirected to equivalent new URLs in order to present search engines and visitors with a good sense of site-wide structural stability of content.

          • Page-wide (3.5) – The latest site redesign turned each page upside down not just in terms of sitewide navigation but also in terms of main content and structural page design, and Google doesn't like these big shakeups.

      • Quantity (5) – A few hundred pages, that's not bad, but half of them are very thin on content, so there's lots of room for improvement. News story pages should not simply be 1-liners like this page "x", they should have at least a few sentences of unique content such as with this page "y". Blog archive pages should also have plenty of proper sentences like that at the bottom of this page "x" rather than just title/link/title/link like in this page "y". Each blog archive page could also have a paragraph to introduce the category/theme, and maybe a few links to other sections of the site that would be specifically relevant to the present category/theme (and in that case there could also be a sentence describing the significance of each of these links, rather than just a list of links).

      • Originality (8) – Very little duplication of content from other sites or between different pages on this site. Room for improvement includes report category pages like "x" where there main feature of each page is a checklist that is duplicated across all these pages, and there's little unique content on each of these pages, so these pages could be worked on to improve duplicate:original content ratios. There's not too much duplicated site-wide content in the sidebars or in the header though, so that's good. It would help a little, however, in terms of page-content-originality as well as keyword-relevance and linkjuice-retention, to turn the sitewide design credits section of the footer into a single link to a "Credits" page.

    • Code
      • Validity
        • Critical elements (7.75) – Coding of critical elements is generally quite good. Potentially significant coding validity problems include lack of character encoding declaration on the homepage.

        • Noncritical elements (5.5) – There's a lack of "alt" attributes on some images, and this alone is enough to tangibly impact on SEO. Further room for improvement includes properly encoding ampersands in links, and commenting out the javascript for news ticker (which contains angle-brackets that render HTML invalid) if not moving it all into a separate .js file.

      • Efficiency
        • Simplicity (7) – Some javascripting should be thrown into an external javascript file to improve on efficiency of code. But generally document markup is quite concise.

        • Semanticity (7) – Semanticity is typically very good, with properly coded paragraphs and headings, etc, and divs & spans correctly used for non-semantic elements. But there is the odd dodgy bit of code, like on "x" where the page's main heading is split into two sections and so should be coded as a single heading with use of spans for styling, but it's coded as two separate top-level headings and this can be confusing for search engine robots and other non-visual users to interpret. And when the document is difficult to interpret, search engines know some users will be dissatisfied, and search engines also have a hard time allocating weight to keywords in such headings (because of uncertainty about whether or not they have lots of content beneath them).

    • Server connection
      • Basic accessibility (9) – Generally a good connection. Nearly always loads very fast.

      • Speed & stability (8) – No knowledge of history of server connection quality, but it's currently very fast.

  • Association
    • Language & Territory
      • Wording (10) – Thoroughly & accurately, British-English wording, ideal for the website of a British-English oriented organisation.

      • Domain name extention (10) – Spot on. An English, UK domain to perform ideal for UK-based & English-speaking Googlers.

      • Server location (10) – UK based server.

      • Inlinks (8) – Most inlinks come from British-English websites, and there's a good mix of all different types of sites, from high authorities to smalltime bloggers, including sites from all different parts of the world, most of which are very well written & respectable and this is great for disassociation with spam.

      • Outlinks (7.5) – A lot of linking out to English UK sites but also quite a lot of outlinking to non-UK (but still typically English-language based) sites.

      • HTML LANG attribution (3.5) – There is an "EN" DTD but there's no standard HTML "lang" attribute declared, so American English is typically assumed to be the default language (by checking code, before checking other indicators). Ideally there would be an explicit "en-GB" language declaration for full affirmation of relevance to British English audiences.

    • Keyword density
      • Onsite
        • Exact matches & synonyms (6) – Some of the main targeted keywords (like "x") appear a few times on half of the site's main pages. But some important keywords (like "y") appear only once or twice on the odd page. The homepage has had some keyword optimisation done recently, but there's still lots of work to be done regarding site structure and flow of keyword relevance between the main pages.

        • Thematically associated wording (7.5) – Great variety of related wording to encompass the general theme of the site, even if there's not a great deal of content-rich pages.

      • Offsite (8) – Inlinking sites are rich with wording that's quite relevant to this site. But there's always room for more, for example, setting up inlinking satellite sites for each of the main target keyterms would assist in optimising the central site for these keyterms seen as the relevance would rub-off with the linkjuice.

  • Authority
    • Age
      • URLs
        • Domain homepage (9) – Very old (& therefore trusted) website domain. Can't get much better. Registered since 1997 and with well-indexed archives dating back to 1999.

        • Internal pages (3) – With a recent website redesign to return missing-file errors on old page addresses (eg, "x"), combined with recent optimisation of URLs as part of the new SEO strategy going forwards, there's very little age-based authority on internal URLs.

      • Content within URLs (4) – Some wording has remained on the site for years, such as the organisation's name and a few keyphrases, but most copy has been reworded and that which has remained has typically been moved around with each site redesign. This leaves search engines concerned that content matching people's search terms may disappear from current pages again before long (which could leave people expecting content that isn't present, making them dissatisfied with the search engine). For this reason, it's often best to create new deep pages for new content and use main pages as portals that only typically get updated with links to new pages.

      • Inlinks (6) – Quite a few of the major inlinking sites have been linking in for several years, but some old deeplinks are deadlinks because of recent redesigns where no redirections were put in place. There should be something like a htaccess 301 redirection list, or at least a catch-all error page, so as to preserve age based authority via inlinks and also to maximise linkjuice and to minimise user dissatisfaction, because search engines care about these things and modify site rankings within search results accordingly.

    • Link Juice (8) – Great link juice from plenty of authoritative sites. Could make use of more link juice, but doing very well already, and this is always a difficult factor to improve on.

Example 4

Another set of scores, based on the same SEO Checklist. This review is incomplete (it covers wording & formats (of content, for accessibility) only).

  • Accessibility
    • Content
      • Wording
        • Validity
          • Basic sentence, paragraph & article formatting (8.25) – Generally, mostly good sentences, paragraphs & articles. But some sentences on this page – "x" – are cut off in the middle of words (this can be improved with a little bit of extra PHP programming). Some pages have a lack of good paragraph-based content, for example "y".

          • Advanced spelling, grammar & vocabulary (8.5) – Excellent quality of spelling, grammar & vocabulary. Possible room for adding hyphens or additional punctuation to increase readability of some lengthy sentences.

        • Efficiency (8.25) – Some big words but generally straight to the point.

      • Formats
        • Variety (6) – A few interesting pictures and interactive forms, and different styles or linking, but very text-heavy and quite short of graphics in general. Could do with more pictures & videos, and maybe some downloadable summarisary DOC or PDF files.

        • Consistency (7.75) – A good house style, maintained throughout the site, with main content in the middle column (for visual users), supplimentary features in the right-hand column, and main menu in the left column...etc. But the main menu is very jumpy, with rather awkward-to-use popup links. And some pages have a lack of good paragraph content whereas others are good in this department.