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A Web Designer’s SEO Checklist (Including Portable Formats)

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Read Time: 7 min
This post is part of a series called SEO Fundamentals for Web Designers.
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Search Engine Optimization FAQ

As you might have noticed from our previous articles; there are many factors which need to be influenced to optimize a website for search engines. After a while you might not see the woods for the trees. To help you bring some order to this chaos, we’ve compiled an SEO checklist.

To make your task even easier, we’ve created a number of versions of this checklist, including an HTML version, Markdown, PDF and Evernote. Download them all from the Tuts+ GitHub account.


This checklist has been divided into three parts: site-wide SEO, on-page SEO and off-site SEO. We often reference previously published articles; you'll find a "Read more.." link where that's the case.

Site-wide SEO

Site-wide SEO techniques can influence the entire website.


  • Page access: If a search engine can’t reach a page, it’s impossible to have it indexed. Make sure that the robots.txt file or robots meta tag isn’t accidentally blocking important pages. Read more..
  • Inappropriate pages: On the other hand: some pages should not be indexed, for example incomplete pages or confidential pages. Block them via the robots.txt file or robots meta tag. Read more..
  • Pagination: help search engines handle pagination by implementing the rel=”next” and rel=”prev” tag. Read more..
  • Redirects: use 301-redirects instead of 302. 301-redirects pass more PageRank. Read more..
  • 404 errors: try to reduce the amount of 404 errors to a minimum. Read more..
  • Site speed: site speed has become a ranking factor. Faster is better. Use Google Page Speed to check the loading time of your pages. Read more..
  • Mobile accessibility: is your site accessible for mobile devices? Google recommends a responsive design. Read more..
  • Duplicate content: check for duplicate content in Google Webmaster tools, via the site: search command or via site crawling software. Duplicate content issues can be solved via a 301-redirect, the rel=”canonical” tag, meta robots tag, URL rewriting or Google Webmaster Tools. Read more..

URL Structure

  • www or non-www: Choose one and make sure the internal and inbound links use the same format. Use Google Webmaster Tools to set the preferred version. Automatic URL rewriting is also possible. Read more..
  • Domain extension: Local businesses might want to consider choosing a country-specific domain extension for better ranking. Read more.. Read more..
  • Subdomain or subfolder: Subdomains are often seen by Google as separate domains, so it’s best to use subfolders. If you have several, non-related products you can still opt for a subdomain though. Read more..
  • Descriptive URLs: use a descriptive page name instead of a random number of words and letters. The same goes for subfolders. Read more..
  • Hyphens: use hyphens to split words in a URL. Read more..
  • URL parameters: you can help Google handle URL parameters via Google Webmaster tools.


  • HTML sitemap: a HTML sitemap is not only useful for visitors, but also for search engines. It helps them understand your site architecture. Read more..
  • XML sitemap: this sitemap is only visible for search engines. XML sitemaps allow you to add metadata which can be used to provide additional information about the content of each page. An XML sitemap can contain a maximum of 50,000 links. Read more..
  • Image sitemap: The Image Sitemap can help your images show up in Google Image Search results and get you some extra visitors. Read more..
  • Video sitemap: a video sitemap can help with the creation of rich snippets for your page. Read more..

On-page SEO

On-page SEO techniques optimize a single page for search engines.


  • Single keyword per page: Make sure every page targets a single keyword. Read more..
  • Keyword research: ranking for the correct keywords is very important. Do some research and see which keyword has the highest traffic potential and the least amount of competition. Balance these two factors. Read more..
  • Keyword in URL: use the keyword in the URL (page name) Read more.. Read more..
  • Keyword in title: use the keyword in the title of the page, preferably in the beginning. This is an important indicator for search engines to categorise a page. Read more..
  • Keyword in headings: use the keyword in one or more headings (h1, h2, h3...). The h1 tag should only be used once on a page and should be used for the title.
  • Keyword in content: it’s impossible to write about a topic without using the keyword. Use it, including variations and synonyms, throughout the text. Try to use it in the first paragraph too. Read more..


  • Title: max. 70 characters long
  • Unique value: does your content provide unique value to the visitor? Great content attracts links naturally. Read more..
  • Content type: choosing a different content type, e.g. infographic, comic, quiz... can help you attract links. Read more..
  • Crawlability: Search engines have difficulties crawling certain content types, for example images or flash content. A combination of HTML, CSS and webfonts can be used to solve certain crawlability problems. Read more.. Read more..
  • Language targeting: inform search engines about a translated page by using the rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x” annotation. Read more..
  • Freshness: search engines like new content. Regularly posting or updating pages is recommended. Read more..
  • Content length: content length is correlated with rankings. Longer articles usually score better. Try to aim for at least 300 words. Read more..


  • File name: choose a descriptive file name instead of random words and numbers. Read more..
  • Alt-tag: don’t forget to add an alt-tag with a short description of the image. Read more..
  • Size: keep your images as small as possible to improve page load times. Read more..

Display in SERPs

  • Meta description: change the description of a page in the SERPs by adding a meta-description tag. A good description convinces surfers to click on the link. Don’t forget to use keywords because they appear in bold. Read more..
  • Structured data: add structured data to your page that can be used to generate rich snippets. Rich snippets can vastly improve the CTR of your pages. Structured data can be added via microdata, RFDa or microformats. Read more..
  • Authorship information: add authorship information to your pages. AuthorRank is a relatively new ranking factor. Read more..

Social Snippets

  • Thumbnail: choose an eye-catching thumbnail that’s at least 200 x 200 pixels. Read more..
  • Title: the title acts as an anchor text for your social snippet. Read more..
  • URL: the URL of the underlying page. Don’t forget to tag your URL using Google’s URL builder for additional information in Google Analytics. Read more..
  • Description: a short description of the content. You can use the meta-description for this. Read more..
  • Twitter: Twitter Cards use the Open Graph tags, supplemented with several Twitter-specific tags. Read more..

Local Search

  • Local optimization: optimize your page as you would do for any other keyword. Use the location (for example Palo Alto) in the page title, URL and content. Read more..
  • Structured data: location information can also be added via structured data. Read more.. Read more..
  • Multiple locations: if you have a chain of businesses, create a unique page with a separate URL for each location. Read more..
  • Google+: create a Google+ Local page for your business. Read more..
  • Local listing: get links from local listings (YellowPages, Foursquare, Yelp...) to improve your visibility for local search queries. Read more..

Off-site SEO

SEO tactics that are beyond our website.

  • Inbound links: check the number of inbound links. Read more..
  • Authority: links from sites with a high domain authority are more valuable Read more..
  • Anchor text: the anchor text is the text that is used to link to your site. Keywords in an anchor text are very useful, but don’t overdo this. Make sure your link profile looks natural. Read more..
  • Diversity: try to gain links from multiple, relevant domains instead of only a handful of sites. Read more..
  • Nofollow: inbound links that use the rel=”nofollow” tag pass no PageRank Read more..
  • Bad links: links from spammy, suspicious websites can hurt your rankings. Contact the webmaster to remove them or use the Disavow Tool. Read more..
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