The Complete SEO Checklist For 2020
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The Complete SEO Checklist For 2020

Brian Dean

by Brian Dean · Updated Dec. 09, 2019

The Complete SEO Checklist

This is the most complete SEO checklist on the internet.

The best part?

Everything on this list is working GREAT right now.

So if you want higher Google rankings in 2020, you’ll love today’s checklist.

Let’s dive right in…

How To Use This SEO Checklist

Hey, I’m Brian Dean.

I’ve used this exact checklist to grow my organic traffic by 161.96% in 30 days:

organic traffic increase

It’s also helped me rank for SUPER competitive keywords, like “on page SEO”.

And “keyword research”:

That said…

You don’t need to implement everything on this checklist.

Just do the best you can.

The more tips you put into practice, the more traffic you’ll get.

SEO Basics Checklist

First, let’s tackle the SEO fundamentals. Here’s where you’ll learn about the tools and plugins you’ll need to rank in search engines.

1. Setup The Google Search Console

The Google Search Console is a VERY powerful free SEO tool.

This tool is designed to help you track your site’s performance in Google search.

That’s why the Google Search Console is packed with useful features, like:

  • See which keywords bring you the most traffic
  • Submit a sitemap
  • Fix website errors
  • Receive messages from the Google search team
  • Lots more

In short: if you’re serious about SEO, setting up the Google Search Console is a key first step.

2. Install Bing Webmaster Tools

Next, setup Bing Webmaster Tools.

Is Bing as popular as Google? No. But up to a third of all searches are done on Bing. So it’s worth optimizing for.

Plus, Bing Webmaster Tools has some nifty features, like a built-in keyword research tool.

3. Setup Google Analytics

Google Analytics is the BEST way to see how people find (and use) your site.

Its many helpful features include:

  • See how much traffic you get from Google
  • Find the pages on your site that bring you the most traffic
  • See if your traffic is increasing (and by how much)
  • Identify other sites and search engines that send you traffic
  • Your average bounce rate, page views, and time on site

Pro Tip: Connect Google Analytics with the Google Search Console. When you do, you’ll see helpful SEO information from inside of your Google Analytics account.

Here’s a resource that will walk you through the steps.

4. Install Yoast SEO (WordPress Users Only)

Yoast is the most popular SEO plugin on the planet.

And for good reason.

Yoast makes it super easy to optimize your WordPress site for search engines.

It also helps you with technical SEO stuff, like robots.txt and sitemaps. Recommended.

Keyword Research Checklist

Keyword Research is the foundation of SEO. So it’s important to do keyword research the right way. And in this checklist I’ll show you how to quickly find keywords that your customers search for.

1. Discover Long Tail Keywords With “Google Suggest”

This is one of the best ways to uncover long tail keywords.

Here’s how it works:

First, type a keyword into Google.

But don’t press enter…or the “Google Search” button. Instead, check out the keywords that Google shows you:

(These are known as “Google Suggest” keywords)

Because these keywords come straight from Google, you KNOW that people are searching for them.

Which means that they’re great keywords to optimize your site around.

Pro Tip: Check out Keywordtool.io. This tool scrapes Google Suggest keywords, which makes this process much easier to scale.

2. Find Solid Keywords In The Google Keyword Planner

The Google Keyword Planner is Google’s official keyword research tool.

It’s technically designed for Google Adwords. That said, it’s still VERY useful for SEO keyword research.

After all, the data comes straight from Google. So you know that it’s super accurate.

Here’s a guide on using The Google Keyword Planner for SEO.

3. Tap Into Online Communities

Reddit, Quora, forums and other online communities are excellent places to find keywords.

And I recently created a video that shows you how to find untapped keywords in these communites (step-by-step).

Here you go:

4. Identify Low Competition Keywords With KWFinder

KWFinder is a freemium keyword research tool.

What makes KWFinder unique is that it gives you TONS of data on each keyword.

As you can see, when you type a keyword into KWFinder, you get information on:

  • Search volume
  • Keyword difficulty
  • CPC
  • Trends
  • Estimated visits

That way, you can choose low-competition keywords that are easy to rank for.

5. Find “Question Keywords” With ATP

Question Keywords are PERFECT for blog posts and articles.

(For example: “How do you make cold brew coffee?”)

But how do you find them?

Answer The Public.

This free tool shows you questions that people search for online.

That way, you can answer these questions with your content.

On-Page SEO Checklist

Now it’s time to optimize your content using a handful of tested on-page SEO techniques.

1. Include Your Keyword In Your URL

Your URL helps Google understand what your page is all about. And a keyword-rich URL can improve your organic CTR.

That’s why you want to include your keyword in your URL.

For example, my target keyword for this page is “SEO checklist”.

So I made the URL for this page: https://api.backlinko.com/seo-checklist.

Simple.

2. Use Short URLs

Keep your URLs as short as possible.

Why?

A recent analysis of 1 million Google search results found that short URLs rank best in Google.

3. Front-Load Your Keyword In Your Title Tag

It’s no secret that you should use your keyword in your title tag.

But not as many people know that WHERE you put your keyword matters.

Specifically, you want to put your keyword in the front of your title tag.

For example, my main keyword for this post is “SEO case study”.

As you can see, my title tag starts off with that keyword:

4. Embed Title Tag Modifiers

Title Tag Modifiers are words and phrases to add to your title tag.

When you do, your page will rank for lots of long tail keywords.

Here’s a video that walks you through this process:

5. Use Your Keyword Once In The First 150 Words

Google puts more weight on the first 100-150 words of your page.

So make sure to use your keyword once here.

For example, for my SEO tools post, you can see that I use the term “SEO Tools” right off the bat:

6. Use Your Keyword in H1, H2 or H3 Tags

Make sure to include your keyword in H1, H2 or H3 tags.

For example:

You might have noticed that I included the term “SEO Checklist” in the first subheader on this page:

Well, that subheader is wrapped in an H2 tag. And including “SEO Checklist” in an H2 can help me rank higher for that keyword.

That said:

This tip won’t make a big dent in your Google rankings.

But when it comes to search engine optimization, every little bit helps.

7. Optimize Images

The images you use say a lot about your content.

Unfortunately, Google is really bad at reading images.

So to help them understand your images, you want to optimize your image alt tags and filenames.

(As a bonus: optimized images also helps you rank in image search)

Here’s how:

First, when you save the image, use a filename that briefly describes what that image is.

For example, let’s say you just took a picture of an spinach omelette with your iPhone.

Well, you’d want to name that image something like:

spinach_omelette.png

Then, when you add the image to your page, give it a descriptive alt tag.

I like to use lots of alt text so Google can fully understand what my image is:

That’s all there is to it.

8. Use Synonyms and LSI Keywords

Back in the day, it made sense to “keyword stuff” your page.

Not anymore.

Today, Google is smart.

So instead of using the same keyword 1000 times, use synonyms and LSI keywords.

For example, let’s say you want to rank for “how to start a blog”.

Well, you’d want to mention that exact keyword a few times on your page… and synonyms like:

  • How to launch a blog
  • Starting a blog
  • How to create a blog
  • How to setup a blog on WordPress

You get the idea 🙂

Next, add some LSI Keywords.

LSI Keywords are terms that go along with your main keyword.

You can find a bunch of these using LSIGraph.com.

Then, just add a few of these LSI keywords to your page. And you’re set.

9. Use External Links

Make sure to link out to 5-8 authority sites in your article.

For example, in this list of SEO techniques, I link to trusted websites like Wikipedia and Google.com.

And those links show Google that my content is well-referenced and trustworthy.

10. Use Internal Links

This is super simple:

Whenever you publish a new piece of content, link to 2-5 other pages on your site.

Pro Tip: Use keyword-rich anchor text in your internal links.

For example, note how I use the anchor text “on-page SEO”, in this internal link:

This tells search engines that the page I’m linking to is about: “on-page SEO”.

Technical SEO Checklist

Technical SEO can make or break your rankings. Fortunately, fixing technical SEO problems isn’t that hard… especially if you follow the items on this checklist.

1. Identify Crawl Errors

A “Crawl Error” means that Google has trouble viewing a page on your site.

And if they can’t view your page, it’s not gonna rank for anything.

You can easily find Crawl Errors in the Google Search Console’s “Coverage” report:

If you notice Google is having trouble accessing one of your important web pages (for example, robots.txt is blocking search engine spiders), you’ll want to get that fixed ASAP.

2. Find Out How Google Views Your Page

Sometimes users can see everything on your page…

…but Google can’t.

Again:

If Google can’t fully access your page, it won’t rank.

That’s why I recommend using the Google Search Console’s “Inspect URL” feature.

Just enter a page from your site at the top of the GSC.

When you do, you’ll see your page from Google’s point of view:

Very helpful.

3. Make Sure Your Site is Mobile-Friendly

Google recently launched a new “Mobile-First Index“.

Which means:

If your site isn’t mobile optimized, it’s not going to rank very well.

Fortunately, you can easily see your site’s mobile friendliness with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.

Just pop in a page from your site… and get a clear “yes or no” answer.

Pretty cool.

4. Fix Broken Links

Broken links can REALLY hurt your SEO.

So you definitely want to find broken links… and fix them.

The easiest way to do that? DrLinkCheck.com.

It’s a free tool that scans your site for broken links:

5. Secure Your Site With HTTPS

HTTPS is a confirmed Google ranking signal.

So if you haven’t already, it’s time to move your site to HTTPS.

(Or if you just launched a new site, set it up with HTTPS on day 1)

Here’s a guide to help you migrate your site to HTTPS… without hurting your SEO.

6. Check Your Site’s Loading Speed

Does your site load insanely fast?

If not, your site isn’t going to rank as well.

That’s why you want to head over to PageSpeed Insights.

This free tool lets you know how quickly your site loads for desktop and mobile users:

It even lets you know what you can do to speed things up.

Content Checklist

There’s no denying it: if you want to rank in Google, you need to publish great content. That’s why content is now a BIG part of any modern-day SEO strategy. And in this section I’ll show you the exact steps to creating the type of content that ranks in 2020 (and beyond).

1. Create Amazing Content Using “The Skyscraper Technique”

The Skyscraper Technique is a powerful formula for publishing amazing content.

In fact, I used this technique to double my search engine traffic:

Here’s the 3-step process:

  1. First, identify a piece of popular content in your industry
  2. Next, create something even better
  3. Finally, promote that content

Obviously, I don’t have room to go into more detail on these steps here.

So if you want to learn more about The Skyscraper Technique, here are two helpful resources:

My All-Time Favorite White Hat SEO Technique (59% More Organic Traffic)

How I Increased My Search Traffic by 110% in 14 Days

2. Chunk Your Content to Maximize Readability

No one likes reading giant walls of text:

That’s why I ALWAYS break my content into easy-to-read chunks, like this:

These chunks keep my bounce rate low, which is a key Google ranking factor.

(More on that later)

3. Cover Your Page’s Topic In-Depth

When we analyzed over a million Google Search Results, one thing stood out:

Content that ranks best in Google tends to cover an entire topic in-depth.

For example, I recently published this guide on my site.

I could have published a lame piece of content like: “5 Tips for Video SEO”.

Instead, I created a guide that covered EVERYTHING about that topic.

And that’s the main reason that it ranks in the top five in Google for my primary keyword:

(And gets tons of shares on social media)

4. Use Schema Markup

Schema markup helps search engines understand your content better.

In fact, Google recently went on the record to say that Schema can help your rankings.

With that…

Implementing Schema can be tricky.

That’s why I recommend Google’s Structured Data Testing tool.

It makes using Schema MUCH easier than trying to do it manually.

5. Focus on Content Formats That Are Working Right Now

The team at BuzzSumo recently reviewed 100 million articles.

So, what did they find?

First, the bad news:

“The majority of content gets zero backlinks”.

Ouch.

Now, some good news:

They discovered that certain content formats perform better than others.

Specifically, “the big winners are sites that have built a strong reputation for original, authoritative content.”

What do they mean by “original, authoritative” content?

  • Content written by experts
  • Original research (like surveys and industry studies)
  • Content that isn’t just regurgitated information
  • Case studies and real life examples
  • Evergreen content that provides value for YEARS

For example, I recently put together this giant list of SEO tools:

I personally tested and reviewed 188 tools. It was an insane amount of work.

But it was totally worth it.

Why?

To date this post has generated almost 9 thousand backlinks.

6. Use Multimedia

Industry studies (like this one) show that using multimedia can help you rank in Google:

For example, you might notice that this post contains LOTS of images.

I do this for two main reasons:

First, it just makes for better content.

Second, images and other forms of multimedia help content rank better.

So I recommend using these forms of multimedia in your content:

  • Images
  • Charts
  • Infographics
  • Visual Content
  • Videos
  • Interactive polls and quizzes

With that, it’s time to cover a SUPER important part of SEO: link building.

Link Building Checklist

When it comes to SEO, link building is KEY. In fact, Google recently confirmed that backlinks are one of their “top 3” ranking signals. Unfortunately, building links isn’t easy (that’s why most other SEO checklists skip this step). But if you want to rank in Google, links are a must. And in this section I’ll show you how to do it.

1. Build Powerful Backlinks With Guest Posting

Guest posting is an AWESOME link building strategy.

That said:

There’s a right and wrong way to guest post.

Right way: Publish your guest post on respected sites in your industry.

Wrong way: Publish guest posts on any website that has a “write for us” page.

In fact, I only guest post on sites that will send me targeted traffic.

For example, I published this guest post on the Buffer blog:

Not only did I get a great backlink from my guest post, but decent amount of traffic too:

2. Reverse Your Competitor’s Backlinks

Why reinvent the wheel when you can copy your competitor’s link sources?

To do this, you’ll need a link analysis tool.

I personally use Ahrefs.

But if you’re on a budget, you can use a freemium tool like Link Explorer (from Moz).

No matter what tool you choose, the process is exactly the same:

  1. Grab your competitor’s URL.
  2. Pop it into the tool
  3. Finally, get as many of their links as you can

For example, here’s a link report from Ahrefs of my site:

Now:

Some of these links will be nearly impossible to replicate

(For example, links from sites I have relationships with).

But many are pretty easy to copy.

(Like links from guest posts and interviews)

3. Build Contextual Backlinks With Link Roundups

This strategy works GREAT.

That said, it comes with a catch.

I reveal that catch (and how this technique works) right here:

4. Become a Podcast Guest

This is similar to guest posting.

But instead of contributing an article, you go on a podcast as a guest.

For example, I went on this podcast last year:

As you can see, I got a sweet backlink (and a handful of targeted visitors).

5. Mention Influencers In Your Blog Posts

This process couldn’t be simpler:

First, mention influential bloggers in your content.

Then, let them know you mentioned them.

(Seriously, that’s it)

For example, when I published my list of SEO tools, I let the founder of each tool know that I featured them:

And, as you can see, they happily shared my content on social media.

Bonus #1: Advanced SEO Tips and Tactics

Now that you’ve got the basics down, let me walk you through a handful of advanced SEO tips and techniques.

1. Optimize Your Site for Click-Through-Rate

There’s no doubt about it:

The more people click on your result, the higher you’ll rank.

CTR is a user experience signal that Google is paying more and more attention to.

I reveal EXACTLY how to boost click-through-rate (CTR) in this video:

2. Limit Website Downtime

If your site goes down, users get mad.

As it turns out, Google gets mad too.

In fact, they state that unplanned site outages “can negatively affect a site’s reputation.”

Fortunately, you can easily track site downtime with a tool like Pingdom.

Pingdom pings your site hundreds of times per day.

If it’s down, you’ll get a notification so you can fix the problem ASAP.

3. Delete “Dead Weight” Pages

Google recently said that a huge site with tons of pages can be bad for SEO.

To quote the Google rep (Gary Illyes):

“Narrow it down as much as you can. Don’t create low quality and no value add pages. It’s just not worth it because one thing is that we don’t necessarily want to index those pages. We think that it’s a waste of resources. The other thing is that you just won’t get quality traffic. If you don’t get quality traffic then why are you burning resources on it?”

This is why I make sure that every page on my site is AWESOME.

In fact, Backlinko generates over 300k unique visitors per month…

…despite having only 100 posts:

How is this possible?

It’s because I focus on 100% quality.

Despite the fact that this quality over quantity approach clearly works, I see A LOT of sites struggle with “Dead Weight” pages.

Dead Weight pages like:

  • WordPress category and tag pages
  • Outdated blog posts
  • Duplicate content
  • Low-quality blog posts
  • Ecommerce product pages with zero sales
  • Archive pages
  • Thin content/boilerplate content
  • Old services pages

And as you just saw, Google said that these Dead Weight pages can hurt your SEO efforts. So I recommend deleting them.

4. Improve Your Site’s Dwell Time

Dwell Time is another key Google ranking factor.

Google wants to see that people stay on your site.

If people quickly bounce from your page and visit another search result, it tells Google:

“People hate this page!”.

But when people get what they want from your page, they’ll stick around. And Google will take notice:

So:

How can you keep people on your site longer?

Here are a few simple tips that work really well:

5. Update and Relaunch Outdated Content

Do you have old articles on your blog collecting dust?

If so, check this out:

I recently updated and relaunched this post from my blog:

I improved the formatting, added more meaty content, included new screenshots and more.

(Basically, I made the page better)

Then, I relaunched it like it was a new post.

And that simple 1-2 punch increased search engine traffic to that page by 260%:

Nice!

Bonus #2: Case Studies and Examples

Now it’s time to show you the strategies from this checklist in action.

Specifically, I’m going to show you how Sean at Proven.com used a handful of the items on this checklist to increase his organic traffic by 88%.

1. How Sean Improved His On-Page Optimization

Sean’s site had A TON of pages.

So it didn’t make sense to spend hours on each one.

That’s why Sean focused on optimizing his 10 most important pages.

Some of Sean’s most important pages were blog posts, like this:

Others were service pages, like his homepage:

But in general, Sean used the on-page SEO tips from this checklist on all 10 pages.

Sean’s content was already well optimized. So it only needed to make a few tweaks.

For example, let’s see how Sean improved his post on questions to ask references.

First, Sean to add his target keyword (“questions to ask references”) in the first 100 words of his article:

He also sprinkled LSI keywords (like “business references”) into his content:

Now that Sean’s content was keyword-optimized, it was time to boost his click-though-rate.

2. How Sean (Quickly) Improved His CTR By 64.1%

Sean had a post on his blog called: 100+ Best Job Boards to Find Niche Talent.

Here’s what the page’s organic result looked like:

Not bad…but could be better.

Here’s exactly what Sean did to improve this listing’s CTR:

First, he looked at Adwords ads for keywords, like “job boards”:

And he noticed that most listed a specific number of job boards in their ads:

(Sean also noticed that NONE of them used the term, “niche talent”).

So Sean changed his title tag to:

“100+ Job Boards For Job Seekers and Recruiters”

And his meta description tag to:

“Find the best job boards on the web all in one place. See our list of 100+ boards right here.”

Here’s what his Google result looks like now:

Today, that page’s CTR is 4.88%…

64.1% higher than before.

Pretty cool, huh?

3. How Sean Got Users to Spend More Time On His Site

If people stick to your site like superglue, Google will give you a rankings boost.

Here’s how Sean got people to spend more time on his site:

First, Sean pushed his content above the fold.

How?

Well, Proven’s blog posts used to have a big gap between the site’s navigation and the post title:

The top of your page is million-dollar real estate.

That’s why you want to avoid unnecessary space that pushes your content below the fold.

So he reduced that space by 50%.

Proven’s blog also had breadcrumbs navigation.

Breadcrumbs navigation is OK for an ecommerce site. But it’s not necessary for a blog.

So Sean got rid of it.

Proven’s blog posts also had massive images at the top of each post.

These definitely looked cool…

…but they pushed Sean’s excellent content below the fold.

So Sean made his post images significantly smaller:

Next, Sean made his blog post introductions “sticky”.

Your blog post introductions are HUGE.

Because the truth is this:

If you lose someone in your intro, you’ve lost them for good.

But if you hook someone with a compelling introduction…

…they’re MUCH more likely to stick around.

For example, Sean’s changed his introduction from this:

To this:

What did he change exactly?

First, Sean cut out sentences that stated the obvious.

He also formatted the content so that there were only 1-2 sentences per paragraph (this improves your content’s readability).

These design and introduction improvements boosted Proven’s “Avg. Time On Page” by 12.2%:

4. What Happened When Proven Deleted 10k Dead Weight Pages

Proven had A LOT of dead weight pages on their site.

In fact, they had 48,300 pages indexed in Google:

Because Proven.com is an online job board, they had a lot of old job listings hanging around:

Not to mention profile pages for companies that hadn’t posted a job in months:

Also, Proven’s search result pages were getting indexed…

…which was creating tons of duplicate content.

So Sean quickly deleted or redirected Proven.com’s Dead Weight pages.

In total, Sean deleted or redirected over 10,000 pages.

And this is one of the main reasons that their search traffic improved so quickly.

5. How Sean Boosted Proven’s Page Speed

Our recent study of 1 million Google search results found a significant correlation between site speed and rankings:

(Not to mention the fact that Google has said that they use page speed as a ranking signal).

So yes, site speed IS important for SEO.

Here’s exactly how Proven sped things up:

First, they ran their site through Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool:

Then they tested their site’s loading speed with GTMetrix.com.

Why did did they use both?

Google’s tool only looks at your page’s HTML.

GTMetrix actually loads your page.

(That way you can see if server issues are slowing things down)

Overall, Sean’s site loaded pretty quickly.

The only problem was that his images weren’t well optimized.

Once he optimized his images (by manually resizing them and specifying image dimensions in his HTML), Sean’s loading speed significantly improved:

Conclusion

As you saw, this SEO checklist really works.

But before you get started on the checklist, I’d like to hear from you.

What did you think of today’s post?

Or maybe you have a question about something you read.

Let me know by leaving a comment below.

640 Comments

  1. Brian, amazing recap.

    It’s been a fantastic experience working together and I can’t recommend this checklist more.

    It’s transformed our content marketing and SEO strategy and directly impacted our growth and cost of customer acquisition.

    We are still continually tweaking our content, page load times, titles, and so forth based on this checklist and have seen continued traffic and ranking gains.

    If you have a blog and want it to to capture more organic traffic, I highly recommend dropping whatever you are doing and get to work on these checklist items. It will pay off big time.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Sean.

      As I mentioned, it was awesome working with you. You trusted in the process and the results have been insane. Even better than I was expecting. Kudos to you and the rest of the Proven team.

      1. Hi Brian. Just found your blog today and soaking up the content its killer! I run a travel blog with my girlfriend but its specific to type 1 diabetics so quite niche. We make diabetic specific content of course, but also general travel blogs.
        My question is (based on this article), is it harmful for us that we are pumping out 2 or 3 posts a week and some of them are just general travel posts? so would we have more effectiveness getting to the top of google for “type 1 diabetic travel” without all of the non-diabetic related blogs?

        Many thanks

  2. Stefano T. Avatar Stefano T.says:

    Amazing post as usual !!!
    Keep doing this kind of content, I also appreciate your videos.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Stefano. Glad you liked the videos. I’m heading to the studio soon for another batch.

      1. Hey Brian
        It was great to listen to you in Dublin another day. Didn’t get a chance to catch up after.
        Was looking for an info on your SEO course but had no luck. It would be cool if you could send a link. If you still doing it. We see you again in October in Dublin?

        1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

          Thanks Roman. Unfortunately, I won’t be in Dublin in October. But the gang has put together a great list of speakers.

          We will actually open up enrollment for SEO That Works in the fall. Hope to see you then.

  3. Honestly Brian, this “SEO checklist” is awesome. I love the part of optimizing your organic click-through-rate. I have bookmarked this post and will apply the techniques.

    Best
    Bill

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Sounds good, Bill. Organic CTR is HUGE. And it’s only going to get more important due to RankBrain.

      1. M D Avatar M Dsays:

        Honestly, this is the first thing I do for clients. It shows immediate results and gains trust. Great post.

        1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

          Thanks. For sure. Works 10x faster than most other things in SEO.

    1. Do you recommend archive page with only excerpt to be “no-index”?

  4. Hey Brian,

    Awesome casestudy and SEO checklist. I haven’t tried many things, but your skyscraper method works very well. I have used it 4 times, and it always exceeded my expectations.

    Right now I am working on to reduce my bounce rate and improve CTR. These tips are definitely going to help me a lot. And your article came just at the right time.

    Thanks a lot 🙂 You have the best resource on the internet. 🙂

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Vanessa. First off, congrats on your success with The Skyscraper Technique. It takes some serious work to pull off.

      Now that you have those pieces of content that performed well, optimizing your CTR and bounce rate is a smart next move. Let me know how it goes.

  5. Wow! Impressive results! Of course, I’m not sure if I expected any less 🙂 And Sean, congratulations on the increase!

    I printed out the 7 point and have them taped up by my desk as a great reminder. Thanks again for the thoughtful information Brian!
    It’s clear you always have other’s success in mind.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hey Scott, nice! I’d love to see a picture of this checklist printed out. It might help me when I create a Content Upgrade for this post.

    1. Thanks Scott. I like the idea of the print out.

      We use checklists a ton. It’s a great way to make sure everyone is following every step.

      I highly recommend the book The Checklist Manifesto as a good compliment to Brian’s excellent work.

    1. Smart idea with the checklist Scott! This will help keep me on track as I work through the steps. Thank you!

  6. OMG this post is great BUT soooooooooooooooooooooooo long, and I really don’t have time to read whole thing. Can it somehow be condensed so we get the gist but don’t have to spend 2 hours reading?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Angela, this post is a goldmine for anyone that wants more traffic. So if SEO is a priority for you, I recommend taking the time to read it.
      If it’s not, no worries 🙂

      1. Alex Avatar Alexsays:

        Actually, I thought this post was going to be longer LOL I enjoyed reading it I guess and that made it a quick read, you do not need 2 hrs!

        1. @Angela – I am not a fan of reading such a long posts.

          But believe me the way Brian writes & the way he structure the post, you wont be bored at any instance. His posts are long but they are truly worthy you just spend the time reading it & at the end you get tons of information. Truly a goldmine posts.

          Love your work Brian .. Cheers!

    1. Clwyd Probert Avatar Clwyd Probertsays:

      I think that the length is the point! Most blog posts are not authority pieces and therefore do not merit being shared or linked to. This is a key piece of work on on-site seo. As such it will be pickd up naturally and shared and will receive links from authority sites. In addition it will be picked up and ranked by Google, because of those authority links. Read, bookmark, enjoy.

  7. Brilliant article! No gimmicks, nothing fancy just pure data-driven basics.

    Kudos to Sean for taking quick action and sharing the insights.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Heck yeah, Aditya. I’ve seen some SEO checklists that have 50+ action items. This is the 80/20 version.

  8. Awesome checklist Brian. I recently optimized one of my pages till it had a bounce rate of 4%. I immidiately noticed my traffic going up.

    [Question]
    I run an ecommerce website with over 25000 products. Obviously some pages have thin content, little sales and no links. I wanted to optimize my site for quality content.
    Its a print on demand category so I wouldn’t want to delete the products.

    My thought was to no-index the pages product pages which have little content or links.
    I would love to hear your thoughts.

    [PS] You have a missing image after the page speed module. Just find the “[” in your post and you’ll see it.

    Keep rocking with these amazing posts. 🙂

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Yuvrav. 4%? That’s a legendary bounce rate. It’s probably a glitch. Either way, what did you do to improve by so much?

      1. Yeah.. even I was surprised! I did a few things and it kinda happened.

        1. Remove banners, text above the fold. The products come above the fold now.

        2. Added a small “free shipping” notice on top, like Hello Bar.

        3. My design looks professional and trustworthy.

        4. Using Google GA enhanced e-com tracking, figured out which products were getting most clicks and moved them on the top.

        5. There are a lot of filters available which can help narrow down the products quickly.

        The average time on page is over a minute now. I’ll try to improve some other elements as well. 🙂

        Btw, what would be your suggestion to the large number of products? Should most of them be no-indexed?

        1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

          Very cool. It depends. If the products are ranking/selling, I’d keep them. Otherwise I’d noindex or delete them

        1. Helen Avatar Helensays:

          4% bounce rate is not legendary, it’s a glitch. Check your code, I bet you have your GA code twice on a page. You are welcome.

  9. Maximillian Heth Avatar Maximillian Hethsays:

    Every post on this site is worth its weight in gold. Well done, Brian! =)

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Maximillian 😀

  10. Interesting how aligning the picture on the right instead of having a massive and graphically impressive picture, lowers the bounce rate. There are still wars among web designers about this whole above-the-fold thing. My take is that it comes down to the actual case and if the design feels natural and the picture really adds value to the story.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Agreed Karsten. I personally think the huge image above the content looks cooler. But it’s terrible UX if you think about it. The user came to read your content. Why make them work for it?

  11. Always a pleasure to read your articles. Thanks Brian for taking the time to R&D for the lazy seo guys out there 🙂

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Louis. I legitimately love SEO so I don’t mind running 20 experiments to see what’s working right now.

  12. Sam Avatar Samsays:

    Well done for being a good tester, Sean – awesome results!

    It’s time for me to bust out a big, juicy post, so I can start getting some organic traffic!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      For sure, Sam. Sean was awesome to work with on this project. And the results speak for themselves 🙂

  13. Sammy Avatar Sammysays:

    Fantastic post! Thanks, Brian.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      No problem, Sammy.

  14. Carl Avatar Carlsays:

    Hey Brian,

    Thanks so much for this – awesome. I just set up my own copywriting site/blog that I hope to turn into a business and be able to quit my job. Your stuff is definitely gonna help!

    Thanks again man 🙂

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Carl. I hope this helps with your new venture.

  15. This is a very informative post. While it combines techniques from your previous posts, I thought it was very helpful to do so. Those are all great tips. I personally use your posts as guides when writing content so I believe in what you do. Thanks for all the time you take in putting these articles together .

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      No problem, Jason. I’ve had a ton of people from the Backlinko community ask me about technical SEO/site audits. So I decided to publish this resource. Glad you enjoyed it.

  16. One of the only bloggers who’s posts I actually read all the way through! Thanks Brian

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Yeah! You’re welcome, Sunny

  17. Dmitry Avatar Dmitrysays:

    Brian, thank you for putting together another great SEO resource.
    Super helpful and easy to digest.

    Quick question regarding getting rid of “dead weight” pages.

    Would it be sufficient to “no-index” these pages as opposed to removing them altogether ? (We have internal users that still need to access these pages).

    Thanks again.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Dmitry, great question. This is something I’ve debated quite a bit with other SEO peeps.

      And I’d say that if the page brings value to users and/r brings in revenue, you want to noindex it. Otherwise you’re better off simply deleting it.

  18. Great stuff as always Brian. Always great to learn something new from the master. I now have to go fix my above the fold!! thanks :>

    BTW: Give webpagetest.org a go for speed tests, I find it a lot more powerful and realistic than Gmetrix.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Ashley. Yup, I recommend testing smaller images on a few pages and seeing how it goes.

      Thanks for the heads up about webpagetest.org. I’ll check it out.

  19. Hi, Brian

    First of all AWESOME case study on SEO checklist. I loved it!

    I have two quick questions for you.
    1. How many LSI keywords should we sprinkle in the 2000-3000 word article?
    2. If we have low-quality content without on page SEO. Should we update it or delete it permanently?

    I would like to see your views on following asked questions.

    Thanks
    Aakash Patel

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks dude. 1. There’s no hard-and-fast rule. Just sprinkle in as many as make sense. 2. If you feel that it can be salvaged, I’d update it.

  20. Jim Avatar Jimsays:

    Hi Brian,

    Great article as always.

    Would the technique towards low-quality pages on ecommerce sites work well here?

    I’m feeling that if I grouped categories together more if they are it may help.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Jim, yes they would. In a way Sean’s site is an ecommerce site. Instead of products, he has job postings.

      Does that answer your question?

      1. Jim Avatar Jimsays:

        Thanks it does.

        I’ve always wondered how to weed out pages with little or no traffic as I felt it couldn’t be helping anyone.

        Google Analytics would show me if I filtered it but I guess it will need to be cross referenced on search analytics manually to see potential as well.

        1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

          Cool. Honestly, 9 times out of 10 the best approach is to delete them. But that’s definitely something to do on a case-by-case basis

  21. James Avatar Jamessays:

    Brian, I think one of your images isn’t showing. See [gt metrix shot]

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks James. Fixing that now

  22. Hi Brian

    Great post as always – and very timely. I’m tidying up my own site and a couple of client sites and this is extremely useful.

    Many thanks!

    Loz

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hey Loz, thanks man. Let me know how those site audits go.

  23. Adam Avatar Adamsays:

    Its interesting how what you are teaching goes against almost every single popular blog template on the internet. (small images, content above the fold etc.)

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Yup. But unlike those other “experts” I have data that proves my approach works.

      1. Adam Avatar Adamsays:

        Exactly. So when can we expect the Backlinko WP template? 🙂

        1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

          HA! Coming soon to a store near you 🙂

  24. Clwyd Probert Avatar Clwyd Probertsays:

    Hi Brian,
    FYI The Raven site auditor that you mentioned is not currently available. I think that they are rebuilding it. Not used that particular tool but Screaming Frog is an excellent site tool. https://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/seo-spider/

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hi Clwyd, they’re actually building a new one. But the old one still works (at least for current members). Yup, Screaming Frog is also solid.

  25. Once again, excellent post. I love these case studies. Great stuff, Brian.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Yup, case studies are where it’s at Gareth 🙂

  26. Great stuff as usual, Brian. It’s always nice to see real life examples with proof/results. Keep up the good work!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Chris. I agree: SEO has more than enough theory and BS. That’s why I focus on real life examples, results, proof and data.

  27. Hi Brian

    Your first point really jumped out at me!

    Im dealing with that issue, right now! My MD has asked me to write content for 5 more “manufacturer” pages – we already have 20 of these hyperlinked from the footer of our website, from logos of each manufacturer and now theres going to be 5 more.

    i want to combine all of the images of the logo, into 1 large image for the footer, and not link it to any manufacturer pages, or at best link it to one page with a summary on.

    Would you be tempted to get rid of these? Afaik there is pretty much zero organic traffic to them.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Steve, in that case you may want to consider noindexing those pages. That way they’re their for visitors (I assume they provide value in some way), but won’t detract too much from your SEO efforts. That said, I think your idea is your best bet.

      1. Thank you Brian: FWIW: A couple are ranking for some good keywords, but wayyyyy down the google list, and theres literally only a couple.

        Would you put 301s from the category pages to the actual product pages with the manufacturers on?

        1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

          For those pages I’d focus on improving their CTR and dwell time. When done right that can push them into the top 5.

  28. Dan Avatar Dansays:

    Great checklist, it is so easy to get wrapped up in all the different aspects of SEO. This is a great way to take them in chunks to see great results.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Dan. Agreed. This checklist is like an 80/20 approach to technical SEO and site audits.

  29. Wow, Another amazing post.

    Thanks for sharing this case study Brian. Learned a ton. I guess I’ll have to take a look at my content and header gap. Need that fixed.

    Nice work dude.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Babs. Yup, I’d definitely test removing that gap and seeing how it impacts your bounce rate and time on site.

  30. Hi Brian,

    as always – kick ass post! I’m launching a new site soon (3rd time’s a charm!) and this just became my SEO bible. Straight to the point, easy to understand even for someone who’s been dabbling in SEO for just a year. I have a question, if you could give one piece of advice to someone launching a new website project, what would it be? I’ve been following your blog ever since I started pursuing an online business and I’d love to know your thoughts!

    Cheers,
    Viv

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Viv. My #1 piece of advice would be to establish your positioning. In other words, answer the question: “Why would someone read my site over the hundreds of others in this space?”.

  31. I’ve worked with Sean for six years…he is the man!

    Thank you for all the help, Brian.

    Pablo
    CEO, Proven

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hey Pablo, I agree 100%. Sean was awesome to work with. Congrats on all of yours success. Well deserved.

  32. Courtney Avatar Courtneysays:

    Newbie here. Why do you not have more share links available for this article? Is that an SEO issue?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Courtney, What do you mean by share links?

      1. I think Courtney means social share links – You have Twitter & FB floating ones, maybe Courtney is asking if you restrict it to these too for SEO reasons, such as avoiding too much JS code bloat? (I’m wondering if you find that your primary audience is mainly on these channels?)

        1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

          Ahhh. Good call Mike.

          Exactly: it’s because the Backlinko tends to hang out on Twitter and Facebook way more than other networks (like Pinterest).

  33. Brian!
    I read the email you sent me and I couldn’t help my self clicking on the link!
    How do you do that???
    Could you write an article about that?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Reza, hmmm that would be a pretty cool article actually. I’ll add it to my list of topics to cover.

      1. That would be great!
        I’ll keep my eyes on my inbox (:

    1. Karen Sowa Avatar Karen Sowasays:

      Same! I came to skim it since I love your content and just spend the last hour on this article. Thanks for all of your great content over time, you’re one of my favorite resources.

      1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

        You’re welcome, Karen 🙂

  34. Very good post, I have been researching around to get advance training info for SEO, and your post was very well explained, I have a blog with 200k uniques/months (perrocontento.com) and only 15% comes from SEO so I will use your 7 steps, thanks

  35. Richard Avatar Richardsays:

    Hi Brian. Quick question: I’ve seen you also use the “filter” element on a number of your own posts – is there a plugin that you use for this?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hey Richard. Yes, I actually use a plugin that we developed in-house.

    1. For our page, I built my own. It’s pretty simple.

      Someone with Javascript and CSS experience should be able to pull it off in quick order.

    1. Hi Richard,

      If you don;t have a plugin, it’s easy to replicate with some simple HTML code. Just google “bookmark html”.

    1. In Chrome, you can also right click on the page. Clicl ‘view source’, use that as the base of the code and modify it as required.

  36. Henry Avatar Henrysays:

    Hey Brian,

    Here’s what I’m going to do with the checklist,
    I’m gonna print it
    Glue it to the wall in front my working desk
    Stared at it
    and work on it.
    I am sure these will help me a lot just like a bunch of your previous posts.
    Great work man! Appreciate this a LOT!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Sounds like a plan, Henry 😀

  37. Jure Avatar Juresays:

    Brilliant article as usual, Brian.
    That GTMetrix is a great tool, found quite a few things to fix now 😉
    I also learned that I need a better meta description, as my CTR is only 5% of 33.000 searches and I’m on position 2.
    Thanks Brian, always a pleasure seeing your email in my inbox.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, June. Depending on what’s on the page (ie. Adwords ads, product listings etc.) 5% for a #2 spot may not be so bad. That said, there’s always room for improvement when it comes to organic CTR.

      1. Jure Avatar Juresays:

        Thanks. Well, it’s a classifieds website, so I’ll try to improve it 🙂

  38. Bhaskar Sarma Avatar Bhaskar Sarmasays:

    This is a killer list. I am going to try each of these steps on my blog and report back to you.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Sounds good, Bhaskar.

  39. Hey Brian,
    Nice Post, Well Said, You have covered all the aspects of main points of SEO including On-page & technical errors. I completely agree with step 3 & 4. CTR is strong ranking signal in 2016.

    Thanks,
    Sachin

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      I agree: CTR is the big ranking signal no one’s talking about…even though it’s insanely important.

  40. Great post Brian, really nice, concise workflow you’ve developed, very useful for sure. It’s always so much more efficient to work from a flow like this, than just thrash around randomly fixing things without a plan, so kudos to you for publishing this post, I bet it’ll help lots of folks take action & get things done 😀

    I think it’d be super-cool to mix-in a responsive check too, something I do as part of my own little workflow when on-boarding new SEO clients, is not only check the Google mobile friendly test, but also check their current mobile user engagement metrics in GA benchmarked against their desktop visits. It’s not uncommon to find issues on various pages for mobile visitors in this way, which I think is important these days. I think it’s important to re-check the pages after making improvements to the desktop view too, as if a site uses media queries, it’s possible to inadvertently cause ‘ooops!’ moments on smaller resolution devices!

    I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the above Brian 🙂

    BTW, regarding the example in your post, interesting to see they use a subdomain for their blog, rather than a subfolder! I’d have thought there’d be a lot more value flowing back to the homepage from the great shares & links etc that their Skyscraper posts generate if the blog were in a subdomain?

    I guess maybe it’s a scary prospect for large domains to make such a chance though… Still, perhaps worth considering? – What’s your take on this Brian?

    Once again – great post, hugely useful! 🙂

    Mike.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Mike. I can tell from your insightful comment that your clients should be thanking their lucky stars they found you as opposed to the thousands of so-called SEO “experts” out there. I agree 100% that seeing how users interact with the site is a smart first step in 2016.

      Regarding subfolder vs. subdomain. I 100% agree that subfolders are better. But in many cases it’s not worth switching over.

      1. Thanks for the reply Brian, great that you take the time to reply to folks individually on your comment section like this, especially with so many comments… I’m impressed 🙂

  41. Much thanks for the article. What are your thoughts about links to the Skyscraper page from external sites that are typed fully as example: http://www.mywebsite.com/my-skyscraper-page ? Or should external sites use words like “Click Here” and make that the link. Recently a webinary I was on said that inbound anchor text can harm SEO.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Ryan. The most important thing with anchor text is to make sure that it’s varied. So “naked” URLs like that are just fine.

  42. Hi Brian!
    I have been counting down the days for this case study to be published! Thanks to you and Sean for being so awesome & thorough! It is beyond exciting to watch the organic growth just climb & climb.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hey Caileen. Me too! I knew that this would provide a ton of value to the Backlinko community and couldn’t wait for today. Again, congrats on everything.

  43. Hi Brian, I enjoyed every single word of your post! (It’s just funny as I received the newsletter on my junk mail).
    I’m struggling for months to increase my organic traffic, I even gave up, but now I do understand how and why! “Dead Weight pages”.
    I’ll take time to read again this post and ALL your posts! and I’ll see how I can implement it.
    Hope one day, I could get some deep advice from you.
    Thanks

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hey Herman, yup dead weight pages can make a difference. No guarantees of course. But deleting those pages can definitely help.

      1. Landon Avatar Landonsays:

        Hey Brian, loved the post. Quick question – when you delete a page and it’s in the “trash” tab, is that good enough?

        The reason I ask is there are a couple of projects we have on hold but the pages are done, I don’t want to redo them if I can just resurrect them when needed.

        Thank you for all that you share with us,

        1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

          Landon, that depends on your CMS. If the page 404s you’re good

  44. Hey Brian,

    Thanks for this. Was getting ready to launch a skyscraper post on Friday in regards to New Zealand travel but will push it back to Monday. I’m pretty sure I can go through this list step y step and improve my user experiences plenty first.

    I really like the small picture at the top as well for the skyscraper technique. Guilty: was going to use a big beautiful pic of NZ 🙂

    Spacing is certainly some I can reduce above the fold too!
    My search traffic has improved 3x this year (essentially non-existent in December last year). Plenty more to do though.

    What are your thoughts on tags, are they are must have in posts?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Awesome Jub. UX is the BIG ranking factor in 2016 to pay attention to. So you’re smart to make it a priority.

      I’d say tags are pretty much worthless. I haven’t used them in years.

  45. Great article. I’m just setting up a whole new business. I’ll implement this right as I go.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Sounds good, Sid. It’s definitely preferable to implement this from Day 1 vs. years later.

  46. Hi Brian,

    This is a great piece with so much actionable insight – thanks for taking the time to put it together and share!

    Just one thought, do you think that having one huge (albeit massively useful) page with all jobs descriptions on it limits their opportunity to perform for more specific search queries (e.g. ‘mortgage processor job description’)? I suppose it could be a case of weighing up the pros and cons of each approach?

    Would be great to hear your thoughts!

    Thanks again,

    Jason

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Jason.

      That’s a legit question and concern. In Sean’s case (he can correct me if I’m wrong on this), they still kept some of their most successful descriptions on separate pages for that reason.

      1. Yes, this is a great question.

        We ended up having both, but we re-wrote and expanded all the descriptions for this Skyscraper post so there’s no duplicate content.

        A lot of our individual pages do really well for organic traffic because the specific search terms like “cashier job description” are pretty low competition but fairly high volume.

        So I think it’s worth doing both if you put the time in to make each individual page unique and rich with information.

        1. Thanks for the responses guys – really appreciated. All makes sense and seems like a good way to get around the issue.

          Hope the effort that you put in continues to drive the strong results seen to date.

          Great work!

  47. Excellent detailed information, Brian!
    I am taking a long hard look at a site that sells art prints. It has been dormant for months and needs an overhaul. After reading this article, I am confident the improvements you spelled out will make a huge difference. As I speak, I am rolling up my sleeves.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Paul. I hope so too. I’d really focus on step #7 as backlinks will ultimately make or break your success with SEO.

  48. Wazza Avatar Wazzasays:

    Great article as always Brian.

    When you are looking at dead pages, specifically blog posts that are getting little to no traffic (despite good on-page SEO etc) do you think it is better to no-index them, delete them totally, or try to fold them (only related ones) into a new larger single article?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Wazza, I’d say in most cases you should roll them together and 301. That’s not the case with product pages, archive pages etc. But with blog posts that’s a smart move.

  49. Bridget Avatar Bridgetsays:

    This was very helpful. Trying to build my blogging skills and this was worth the read. What about video SEO? Do you have any articles for getting organic search for youtube videos?

  50. Great list, as always.. will work on these on my website now… One Question:

    I also indexed category pages, should i remove them and make them noindex or what?

    Is this good practice to index category pages?

    Thank you

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      In general I’d noindex them. Not sure if you can remove them in WordPress without hacking the code. If its’ easy to get rid of category pages though, I’d get rid of them.

      1. I’m a bit confused by this, I thought that category pages are supposed to be really great for SEO? We have a marketplace that has lots of different summer camps and activities for kids. Similar to what Proven or other e-comm sites face, we struggle with a lot of really long tail category pages (e.g. “improv dance camps in XYZ zip code”) with very thin content. But we also have some really important category pages with lots of results (e.g. “STEM camps for Elementary Kids”).

        Should we still delete the thin content category pages? (By deleting, I’m assuming we remove them from the sitemap or nofollow the links. Or, do we completely remove it from the site all together?)

        How else should we think about optimizing our category pages?

  51. Brian, you are a true leader.

    Who show people the way to succeed….!

    Few months back in frustration I bumped your site and read about the skyscraper technique for the first time and become fan of it just by reading it as it makes complete sense.

    I allocate huge time, effort and resources in creating 6 skyscraper content in last 2 months and I almost doubled my organic traffic, user registration and SEO ranking. All THANKS to you.

    I wish to learn more of real stuff that matters than whole lot garbage people sells out there. I wasted almost 4 years in following the garbage stuff and I really know the value of your metrics based goldmine content.

    Read this post today and I think it’s time for our car community to loose some dead weight now as we have tonnes of data since 2010. Hope this make some great difference and show us some more better results.

    If there is anything we can do from Dubai, UAE we will be happy to help you and collaborate. Keep up the good work.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Gaurav and congrats on your success 🙂

  52. Outdoing competitors by grabbing your camera/phone and taking REAL photos vs. the “cheesy” stock photos that blanket the web is a huge opportunity everyone can get in on (well almost everyone: don’t try at home if you don’t think you have a good eye for visual creative).

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Interesting idea, Eric. Love it.

  53. Corvin Avatar Corvinsays:

    Hey Brian.
    Awesome post. I will probably read it again to make sure I get even more out of it. I have watched I think all your videos too. I have a page that my wife and I have been working on for about 2000 hours. Lol no joke. It will be done soon. Looking forward to applying the seo knowledge I have learnt. Would you be willing to give guidance like you did with him? 🙂

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Corvin, 2000 hours on a single page? Do you mean website?

      1. corvin Avatar corvinsays:

        Yes sorry, meant website for sure. 🙂

  54. Awesome post, Brian! I’m also a firm believer in pruning low-quality content. No one wants that extra baggage hanging around, do they?

    I hadn’t thought of looking at Adwords ads for inspiration when writing and titles meta descriptions. Definitely something to keep in mind.

    Thanks again!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      No they don’t, Gina 😀

      You’re welcome. Glad you enjoyed the post.

  55. Garit Avatar Garitsays:

    As usual, great post.

    The info about dead pages is something that I have been hearing chatter about recently among my SEO peets, so I’ll have to look into it more.

    Also, you made me curious to try to increase dwell time and see the SEO impact.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Garit. Yup, I’d definitely consider deleting dead weight pages. It doesn’t make sense for every website. But if you have a site with thousands of pages, it’s worth looking at for sure.

  56. Great post Brian, outlining the best ways to improve a website from an user experience perspective. Thanks.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      That’s right, Cristian. User experience is key.

  57. Annie Avatar Anniesays:

    Hi Brian!
    Congrats to you and Sean on the awesome work! I’ve seen a 209% increase in organic traffic since January using many of these techniques. The biggest things that have held me back is a crummy dev team, which was replaced last month, outdated design and branding but no design resources, and the fact that it is hard to come by link opportunities in my industry. Next Monday will be my first “skyscraper” post – wish me luck!

    Annie

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Go Annie!

    1. Thanks Annie and congrats on your success as well!

  58. Awesome and very useful post yet again Brian. It is amazing what some simple changes can do for your positioning in the SERPs. A great follow up post to this would be how all of this was optimized off site and how the content was promoted to earn links and social following.

  59. One of the very few articles found online to describe the step by step process. Will you be shedding light any time soon on ecommerce websites and how to approach them? That would be awesome.
    Keep up the great job!
    Sam

      1. Thank you for your work and for your feedback!
        Much appreciated
        Sam

  60. Hi Brian. Thanks for a great post. Very informative. I have a question: You say that your blog only has 33 blogposts. I have read on other blogs about marketing that you need to blog several times a week to keep your audience engaged. How does that work? I am sorry if this is a silly question – I am a beginner 🙂
    Best regards,
    Lene.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Lene, good point there. That advice is complete BS. It’s quality >>>>> quantity all the way.

    1. Brian is 100% right.

      Back in October of last year, we produced something like 50 blog posts in one month because we followed the same advice.

      It had some search impact, but minimal.

      Last month we published only one piece of content and grew our search traffic 35%.

      We have enjoyed these massive search traffic gains by changing the way we think about content. For every article we publish, we try to make it the very best piece of content available on that subject.

      There’s a lot of other parts to this as outlined in Brian’s checklist and his other articles about link building, but it all starts with amazing content.

  61. Crazy thorough as usual Brian! The sales copy tip is brilliant. I am guilty of yielding to this strategy myself, making my intros a little to wordy.

    Certainly something I am working into my new PP’s. 😉

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Brock. I used to be guilty of that too. Then I noticed that I my time on page shot up when I shortened the heck out of my intros.

      Keep me posted on how things go for you.

      1. What is PP’s??

        Thanks!

  62. Hi Brian,

    It’s fascinating blog post you know. Comparing to off page SEO, On-page SEO I think is one of the most underrated factors out there. Many people tend to overlook on-page SEO.

    Speaking of page speed, what are your thoughts on AMP project? WordPress’ plugin seems doesn’t work, and I am thinking of hiring SEO to do it for me.

    Anyway, I know it’s hard to reply to every comment, so take your time.

    Thanks,
    Carl

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Carl. I haven’t done much with AMP yet. But the way Google is pushing it, it’s worth looking into if your site gets a lot of mobile traffic.

  63. Hi Brian,
    Every time I’ve read your content I get something actionable and easy to understand. Thank you for sharing your insights and techniques with us all.
    Question: I manage an e-commerce site with the following stats from a Google site:___ search “About 19,100 results (0.33 seconds)”. We have a lot of products, and the site format is Parent Category > Child Category > Individual Product (for the most part). I’ve optimized the parent categories with Meta data and on-page verbiage, have done Meta data on the child categories, and have created unique title tags for each of the individual product pages. Is there something I can do to better optimize our Parent and Child Category pages so that our organic results are better? I’ve begun writing cornerstone content and linking, but perhaps you have additional suggestions…?
    Thank you for your time!

      1. Hi Brian, thanks for the link — it’ll take me a while to read through it all, but I’m downloading the PDF for future reference.
        I appreciate your reply. Have a good day… and thanks again for consistently creating excellent articles!

  64. Awww man now I have to go delete a bunch of pages because you say so…thanks brian. I’ve been stuck on the second page of Google for almost all my keywords (language school German site) I know this will help 🙂
    Any advice for someone stuck on the second page for months?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Kevin, my #1 priority would be to build more high quality backlinks. That’s ultimately what gets you to page 1.

  65. Paul Carrasco Avatar Paul Carrascosays:

    As always, great gold mine post Brian! Will surely apply this…

    One question though. Since you’ve missed explaning the meat on the Skyscraper for Sean’s blogpost. Did you guys put the leg-work in informing others in order to get a link-back?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Sounds good, Paul. Yes, I’m pretty sure Sean promoted the post with backlinks in mind. It’s one of the reasons it’s already ranking on page 1.

    1. Yes, besides optimizing the on-page SEO and CTR for the title, we used some of Brian’s link building techniques like reaching out to resource pages, broken link building, reverse engineering existing top ranked pages and guest blogging.

      This process is labor intensive, but it has helped us move into the top 10 for some high volume search terms within a month of publishing the article.

      1. Paul Carrasco Avatar Paul Carrascosays:

        Thanks for clearing, Brian and Sean. 🙂

  66. Hi Brian – what plugin did you and Sean use for the filtering?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Oge, we actually both developed our own plugins for filtering.

  67. Brian,

    LOVE reading your posts. Thanks so much for your great info!

    Marc

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Marc. Happy to help.

  68. Wao. It’s like a holy-grail of the SEO checklist. Thanks for sharing such awesome detailed information as always. A Big fan of yours 🙂

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Cheers Navneet

  69. Excellent post, I can’t imagine how much time you put into each post that you do. I get what you are saying about dead content, but cutting out old content that you put so much time in is hard to do. Great video’s by the way, love them!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Joel. Yup, it’s hard to do (I’ve deleted dozens of old posts), but worth it. 🙂

  70. Hello Brian,

    Very useful post 🙂 i want to ask how can i apply this strategy on image based site ? My site contains more images rather than the data, so should i include the English content into my posts ?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hi Shah, all the principles apply to image-based websites.

  71. Great stuff as always Brian!

    Will be working through the checklist his week over at Health Room!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Sounds good, Luke. Keep me posted 😀

  72. Hi, you mention about deleting pages which I agree with, just out of interest, do you 404 them or redirect them to something relevant? I’ve got lots of time based posts (about events etc) that were only relevant then so I’m going to delete them but others might be suitable to redirect to another page or potentially the homepage as well.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Roger, if you have a page that makes sense to redirect, go for it. But if you redirect all your pages to your homepage it can be a bit spammy (a 301 redirect is designed for when a page moves).

      1. Thanks Brian, I’ll 404 the rest

  73. Just WOW! This is such a comprehensive post! I’m glad I read this BEFORE I started tweaking my site design. I knew I was missing some key points to increase my traffic, but I didn’t realize just how much. Going to work, starting with Step #1. Thank you Brian!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Kemya. This should definitely help 😀

  74. Wow, that’s quite a lot to take in but the detailed and methodological approach has really impressed me./ I’m going to book mark this page and grow through it slowly with my note pad and start implementing

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Sounds good, Teddy. Let me know how it goes.

  75. I would just say you saved me on time.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      And money, and time, and frustration… 🙂

  76. Thanks Brian for a great post as usual.

    I have worked on loads of content audits this year, but never considered no indexing category pages. In my head it was how Google got to all the blog posts easily. Not being imaginative there. I will no index one of my own sites tonight and watch.

    Just to clarify. In the content you changed it from fairly uninteresting features to benifits?

    Thanks

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Leslie. Actually Proven’s intros were already benefit-driven. It was more re-writing them to be more concise.

  77. Radha Sharma Avatar Radha Sharmasays:

    You have again come up with a great post Brian! I am a huge fan of your posts and follow every tip / recommendations religiously. You are my link building and content writing God!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Radha

  78. Hi Brian – One of the strategies you have suggested here and on your other posts to improve the CTR was to update the meta title and meta description by using words that would help improve the CTR. However, I have seen that on many instances these meta title and meta descriptions are being auto-written by Google even though a good meta description and title are already specified. Do you have any suggestions on what can be done about it?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Piyush that does happen (especially to description tags but sometimes to title tags too). But as long as you write an awesome title tag Google will show it to more people.

  79. Great post here Brian.

    This made me realize all that I needed to change / modify on my site.

    Great insights and detail as usual. Can’t wait to start on these steps. Mainly because I know I have a lot of dead weight pages to get rid of.

    – Andrew

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Andrew. I’m always looking to hear from people that delete dead weight pages. So please let me know how it works out for you.

  80. Patrik Avatar Patriksays:

    Hi Brian,

    Great post, as usual. One question: how did Sean redirect 10,000 pages; did he use a tool or something?

    Thanks

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Patrik. I’m honestly not 100% of the technical side of how he set that up.

    1. The redirects and removal of the 10k pages was all custom, but I was able to do most of it with a few simple changes.

      Most of our low value pages that I removed were generated dynamically based on content from a database.

      For example, every job that is posted on Proven gets its own page, but each job page gets generated from the same backend source code.

      When Brian pointed out that we had a lot of old jobs that job seekers can’t even apply to anymore, it was easy to 301 redirect any expired job to our main job search page because I only had to touch one location in the source code.

      I made similar changes for customer pages.

      I also noticed that Google had duplicate content in their search index due to querystring parameters that we were passing along in the URL.

      For example, Google had separate entries for listed like this:
      /jobs/view/12345
      /jobs/view/12345?page=1
      /jobs/view/12345?page=1&sort=rank
      ….

      Those were actually all the same page.

      Google still has some of these old pages listed in their index so over time, I expect our total indexed pages to drop even more.

      A simple way to check your own site is to query on Google site:URL.

      This will show you everything Google is indexing. Go through the results and make sure you don’t have low value or duplicate content in there.

  81. Whao, always coming up with great and life saving research.

    I tell you Brian, you don’t write articles but great and thoughtful research posts.

    Have to work with these tips on my blogs. Won’t be an easy task though

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Sheyi. Definitely not easy. But worth it.

  82. Matt Avatar Mattsays:

    Great case study, Brian! Thanks for sharing.

    I’m a little surprised you didn’t recommend that Sean move his blog from a subdomain to a subfolder. Seems like when most people do that, they see an increase in traffic and rankings.

    Also, is there a downloadable pdf containing the checklist?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Matt. In many cases I would recommend that. But the blog was making a ton of progress and I thought the risk outweighed the reward.

      PDF coming soon.

  83. Hey Brian,

    Great post! I love the suggestion about cleaning up old “dead” pages on your site. What are your thoughts on NOINDEXING vs 301? I read in the comments that you answered this if the page has value, you should not 301 it. That part makes a lot of sense.

    What if you have a large site though? Is there any concern with Google and Bing if I create a lot of 301 redirects at once? Could that seem odd to their spiders? Does having a lot of 301 redirects hurt my site at all in terms of SEO? Are those the only two options that I should take when I am cleaning up old content?

    Thanks!

    P.S when are you coming back to Boston to give another presentation about links? I went to your meetup and it was incredible!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Greg. I’d only 301 is there’s a relevant page to redirect to. A 301 is technically for when a page has moved. So I’d stick to that interpretation because I think Google does as well.

      PS: Maybe in September? I’ll be in Boston.

  84. Simon Avatar Simonsays:

    Hi Brian, great post, really helpful check list and a great case study.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Simon. Glad that you learned some new stuff from the checklist.

  85. Brian, you deliver every time.

    Question about improving CTR – if you already have a handful of posts that are getting a good chunk of your traffic, couldn’t it be risky to change the title tag and meta description?

    It might be better for CTR, but what if it’s not as good in google’s eyes?

    Thanks Brian!

  86. Hey Brian,
    Killing it with awesome article is your thing… Thank you for doing just that again. I am currently using your tips on my blog and I’m getting great results.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Ife.

  87. When did this post first appear on the site? I first was looking at 207 comments in 3 hours and was amazed, but I see the top line says this post was last updated today, not published today.

    Anyways, this is some amazing, in depth advice!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Josh, this post actually came out today at 11:10am Eastern. Lots of comments!

  88. I used to think, Brian, that you’re a king of links, but I was wrong.

    You’re a king of words!

    You manage to dish up such a difficult topic of SEO so easily and surprisingly engaging.

    Your introductions are pieces of art!

    I wish you luck not only in work but in your personal life too: you deserve it like no one else. Thank you for the help you give me by supporting me.

    From my experience of an SEO specialist I may tell you that not long ago I helped to increase the traffic of my girlfriend’s travel blog by 767.33% using your advice, SEO audit (I’ve written an awesome article on SEO audit on my blog), and surely her constant work on promotion.

    What has been done:

    1. We installed an SEO-friendly WordPress theme

    2. We totally remade menus (we got rid of drop-down menus, the menus were also shortened from 30 links to 3!)

    3. We organized a correct internal link structure.

    4. We found 30 TOP articles that brought the most of the traffic in Google Search Console, and we also improved her CTR in search results.

    5. We found 30 TOP worst articles that meanwhile had a big potential (Big Search Volume), added some internal links with different anchors.

    6. Removed all trash from the sidebar and left some links and the most important articles.

    7. We improved the load speed of the website using GTmetrix and PageSpeed Insights (mostly it was images).

    8. Changed image filenames.

    9. Changed publication date to Last updated

    10. Narrowed the niche by choosing only a few directions out of many.

    11. Analysed competitors’ main keywords and took the best from them.

    12. Added text on important pages keeping in mind newly selected relevant words and synonyms. (LSI keywords.)

    13. Got many external links from other blogs with the help of guest posts and competition

    14. Found technical errors using the tool called Screaming Frog.

    15. And lastly, we made friends with many other bloggers!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Good stuff, Michael. Glad to have been a part of your success.

  89. Jub Avatar Jubsays:

    Hey Brian,

    Managed to get rid of about 12% of my ‘dead content’ so far. Will go back through these steps twice so that number will grow.

    In regards to Step #2: Fix On-Site Issues and Errors, I’ve been guilty of not adding alt text to all images.

    Is there a plugin that makes this easier to go back over old posts and
    insert the alt text or is all about getting into the posts and inserting the alt-text HTML code manually? Cheers

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Awesome, Jub. Way to take action!

      As far as I know it can only be done manually because each image needs unique alt text. Kind of a pain.

      1. Jub Avatar Jubsays:

        Yea, couldn’t find anything. Ah well, gotta do what you gotta do 🙂
        Cheers Brian

  90. Jim Avatar Jimsays:

    Should we maybe have the list as a downloadable checklist as well 😉

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Jim, yup it’s ironic that I don’t have this as a downloadable checklist. I’ll try to get that out soon

  91. Manuel Cadaing Avatar Manuel Cadaingsays:

    Amazing case study! Very detailed and I learn so much from this post. thanks for sharing Brian. You’re the best as always.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Manuel. Glad you enjoyed it.

  92. Hey Brian, great piece!

    I was very intrigued by one of the steps you listed .

    When you said it was time to delete the pages that have no weight , you said that the total volume was almost 10 thousand pages and that’s a lot!

    You know tell me if there is any tool or plugin to perform the redirects all those pages ?

    I think to do this as quickly cleaning is something very complicated.

    Thank you in advance for your attention.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Renato. Sean actually answered how he did that in a previous comment

  93. Inga Avatar Ingasays:

    Hi Brian
    Great post really ! I can’t wait to full fill all 7 steps and tricks you give! What would you recommend in my case? I’ve just migrated my site to a shopify platform ( during 1 year my site was on another less known platform) . So, after the migration google still sees a lot of dead weight links to the previous urls. So almost each time my site appears on the search result to sends to 404 page , even though the content does exist but on a new site the url link is no more the same. Btw, it’s an ecommerce web site. So how can I clean all this stuff now ? Thanks for your help! Inga

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Inga. I’d set up 301 redirects for all of the old/new pages.

  94. Hey Brian,

    Awesome piece, as usual.

    Friendly suggestion to add the “rel=0” parameter to your YouTube embeds for this post. As you know, when the video ends, it doesn’t always suggest videos that have Backlinko’s dwell time in mind 😉

    Cheers!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Tyler. Interesting tip. I never heard of the “rel=0” parameter before. Good stuff.

  95. A good review and case study. I follow your steps with insane detail, not just in the posts that I create.

    I just launched a new site, with one of the posts around a main keyword search of 10,000/month with competition. I created an insanely detailed post with over 2,500 words (no fluff either;) ), and it’s ranking around the mid 20’s with only 5 backlinks. That’s when it came out of Googles sandbox.

    I can’t imagine what my new site will be like once I go all out with a solid white hat backlink campaign like you show us Brian.

    Thanks for sharing and leading the way!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Awesome Todd. Yup, building white hat backlinks should definitely help. That’s still Google’s most important ranking signal.

  96. Brian – this was amazing.

    #mindblown

    I’m bookmarking this so I can come back to it and really make my site awesome. It’s obvious how much time you put into it. Thanks for making it easy for novices to understand. Appreciate you.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Bethany. Yup, this post took about 20 hours to write (which doesn’t even include the time Sean and I spent actually doing the work). But to me it’s well worth it.

  97. Oh my god. This is mad. Implementing these right now.

    Thomas

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Awesome Thomas. Way to take action right away!

  98. How do you hire someone to go through your site and follow these directions?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hi Adrian, I actually don’t offer SEO services anymore so I can focus on growing Backlinko.

  99. As always Brian, love it.

    I really like your “dead weight” suggestion at the beginning of this post.

    I am getting ready to launch a new site, and per your advice, want to keep things lean. It sounds like you would recommend limiting the architecture to just a homepage and a handful of REALLY good pages.

    Is it fair to say that you use your emails like other people use blog posts?

    I’m thinking this might be a good strategy for me to think in terms of…

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Awesome Dan. Not sure what you mean by “you use your emails like other people use blog posts”…

  100. Amazing case study! Very detailed and I learn so much from this post. thanks for sharing Brian. You’re the best as always.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Malik.

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