The SEO Cheat Sheet for Developers, Writers, and Marketers | Linkflow
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The SEO Cheat Sheet for Developers, Writers, and Marketers

March 14, 2024
SEO Cheatsheet LinkFlow Ai Blog

When you look at search engine optimization on the surface, it doesn’t seem too bad. Find keywords, write good content, have a nice website, and get backlinks.

But there are tons of best practices you need to remember. And millions of little things contribute to search engine rankings (not to mention, Google’s algorithm is constantly changing).

Unless you’re like me and work on it day in and day out, you can’t possibly keep track of all of it in your mind. That’s why I’ve put together this SEO cheat sheet to help you.

Technical SEO cheat sheet for web and SEO developers

Technical SEO covers all of the “behind-the-scenes” optimization that happens on a website. It’s what makes sure your site is easily crawlable and indexable by search engines.

Important HTML tags and formatting

As a web developer, you’re probably familiar with the importance of semantic HTML and proper formatting. 

Well, this is also important for SEO. It’s what tells search engines what your content is about and how to properly interpret it.

Title tags

The title tag is the first thing that appears on a search engine result. It’s also what shows up as the title in a browser tab.

Here’s what it looks like on SERPs:

And here’s what it looks like on the backend:

<head>
<title>Your Page Title</title>
</head>
  • Tags are best between 50-60 characters long
  • Place your target keyword/phrase near the beginning
  • Well-written titles boost your CTR

Meta description tag

Meta tags are lines of code that provide information about a webpage to search engines. The meta description tag is what shows up as the snippet under the title on search engine result pages.

Here’s what it looks like on SERPs:

Here’s how to code it on the backend:

<head>
<meta name=”description” content=”Page description goes here”>
</head>
  • Descriptions should be between 130 and 150 characters long
  • Use your target keyword/phrase once
  • Write a compelling and informative summary of your page’s content
  • Google rewrites ~70% of meta descriptions

Image

For every image, you want to add alt text, a descriptive file name, and image sizes, like this:

<img src=”img/keyword.jpg” alt=”A descriptive text about the image” width=”600″ height=”400″>

For responsive design, you can use CSS or the srcset attribute of the <img> tag to specify different images for different screen sizes, while still providing the width and height for the default size.

<style>
  img.responsive {
max-width: 100%;
height: auto;
  }
</style>
  • Adding image height and width improves page speed
  • Alt text helps visually impaired users understand the image and improves SEO
  • File names should be descriptive and include target keyword/phrase if applicable

When you link out to others, use open in a new tab or window to keep them from leaving your page:

<a href=”https://www.example.com” target=”_blank”>Link text</a>

For text links, use the target keyword/phrase as the anchor text.

<a href=”https://www.example.com”>Anchor Text</a>

Use nofollow links for paid links or untrusted sites.

<a href=”https://www.example.com” rel=”nofollow”>Anchor Text</a>

Use “sponsored” for ads and affiliate links and “ugc” for user-generated content.

<a href=”https:/www.example.com” rel=”sponsored”>Anchor Text</a>

For image links, the alt attribute serves as the anchor text.

<a href=”https://www.example.com”><img src=”img/keyword.jpg” alt=”Description of Image”> height=”400″ width=”600″></a>

Robots meta tags

Robots tags tell crawlers what they can and can’t do to your site. Place them in <head> section of an HTML document, below the title tag.

<meta name=”robots” content=”directive1, directive2″>

The content attribute contains a comma-separated list of directives for the crawlers.

Common directives include:

  • noindex — Don’t index the page (i.e., the page won’t appear in search results).
  • nofollow — Don’t follow any links on the page.
  • follow — Follow the links on the page, allowing them to discover other pages.
  • noarchive — Don’t save a cached copy of the page.
  • nosnippet — Don’t show a text snippet or video preview in Google search results.
  • max-snippet:[number] — The max length of a snippet for this page.
  • max-image-preview:[setting] — Controls the size of the image preview (none, standard, or large).
  • max-video-preview:[number] — The maximum duration in seconds of a video preview.

Core Web Vitals

Google’s Core Web Vitals are a set of metrics that measure key aspects of website performance. To optimize your site for Core Web Vitals, make the following considerations:

  • Minimize JavaScript and CSS
  • Compress images and use next-gen formats
  • Use a content delivery network (CDN)
  • Use minimal plugins and lightweight themes
  • Implement lazy loading for images and videos
  • Optimize your server response time

Here’s my complete guide to running a Core Web Vitals audit.

Crawling and indexing

For search engine crawlers to find your website, it needs to be indexed.

  • Create an XML sitemap and submit it to Google Search Console.
  • robots.txt prevents crawling. Use it when disallowing whole sections of your site (e.g., a category).
  • meta robots prevent indexing. Use them for individual files and pages.
  • Using both at once renders your page useless.
  • Noindex things that can eat crawl budget, like pagination and search results pages

Here’s my complete guide to SEO indexing.

Canonicalization

Common duplicate content URLs:

  • https://www.example.com
  • https://example.com
  • https://www.example.com/index.html
  • http://www.example.com/index.html?sessionid=123

Specify a canonical link in the <head> section of your HTML code.

<link rel=”canonical” href=”https://www.example.com/page1.html”>
  • Define only one preferred page
  • Use 301 redirects to direct both users and search engines to your preferred URL.

Security/SSL

Google prioritizes secure sites in its search results.

  • Get an SSL certificate from a trusted provider.
  • Use HTTPS instead of HTTP in your URL.
  • Update all internal links on your site to use the HTTPS version.

Responsiveness and mobile optimization

Nearly two-thirds of all searches happen on mobile devices, so web pages with a responsive design rank higher in search engine results pages.

  • Use responsive design to ensure your site looks good on all devices.
  • Test your site’s mobile-friendliness using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool.
  • Optimize images and videos for mobile viewing by compressing them and using next-gen formats.

Schema markup

Use schema markup and structured data to provide additional information about your website’s content for search engines.

Use schema where for info you want in rich snippets:

  • Products
  • Images
  • Videos
  • Business NAP information
  • Reviews and ratings
  • Events and bookings
  • ***FAQ schema has been removed by Google

Content SEO cheat sheet for writers

When it comes to writing content for SEO, keyword research and usage is important, but that only scratches the surface. Topical authority, readability, and user engagement are also key factors in ranking well in search results.

Keyword and topic research

1. Use keyword research tools

  • Google Keyword Planner Great for AdWords but also useful for organic search insights.
  • Ahrefs The largest and most accurate data pool for keyword discovery, competition analysis, and SEO opportunities.
  • AnswerThePublic Find questions and prepositions related to your keywords for content ideas.
  • Ubersuggest Free tool by Neil Patel if you can’t afford Ahrefs.

2. Identify keywords and topics

  • Start with seed keywords (broad terms related to your products, services, or content).
  • Look for long-tail keywords (more specific phrases that are often less competitive and more conversion-friendly).
  • Analyze competitors (see which keywords your competitors rank for and identify gaps in their content).

3. Evaluate keyword metrics

  • Search Volume — Average monthly searches for a keyword
  • Keyword Difficulty — How hard it will be to rank for a keyword
  • Cost Per Click (CPC) — The commercial value of a keyword (when running ads)
  • Trend data — Keyword popularity over time (Google Trends)

4. Refine and organize

  • Group keywords by topic and intent.
  • Don’t use a keyword, or super closely related variant, more than once
  • Prioritize keywords based on search volume and competition.
  • Create a list of primary and secondary keywords to use in your content.

Search intent

Before you start writing content, it’s important to understand the intent behind a user’s search query.

  • Informational: The user is seeking information about a topic.
  • Navigational: The user is looking for a specific website or webpage.
  • Navigational The user is ready to make a purchase or take an action.
  • Commercial: The user is researching products or services with the intent to make a future purchase.

If the content on your web page doesn’t match the user’s intent, it will not perform well.

Target keyword placement

Your target keyword/phrase belongs in:

  • Title
  • Meta description
  • H1 (typically the same as the title)
  • ~20% of other headings
  • Body copy (a reasonable amount of times)
  • Image alt text

Content formatting

  • Only 1 h1 per page (typically the same as the title)
  • Use h2 and h3 for subheadings
  • Keep space between headings <300 words
  • Keep paragraphs short (1-3 sentences)
  • Use bullets/numbered lists for readability
  • Use bold, italics, and other formatting to make content easy to read
  • Break up text with images and video
  • Use web-safe fonts and ensure font size is legible

Semantic keywords

  • Use synonyms, related terms, and variations of your target keyword throughout the content.
  • Don’t overuse or stuff keywords, focus on providing quality and relevant content.
  • Use Surfer SEO’s Content Editor to get semantic keyword suggestions based on the top-ranking pages for your target keyword.

Internal linking helps Google understand the structure and hierarchy of your website. It can also help users navigate to relevant content.

  • Don’t use more than 1 per paragraph or every 2-3 sentences.
  • Use relevant anchor text.
  • Don’t use the same anchor text to send people to multiple different pages.
  • Find 3+ places to link to this new content from existing pages on your site.

Here’s my complete guide to why internal links are so important.

E-E-A-T signals

Google added an additional “E” to E-E-A-T (“Experience”). It means search engines want to see if the author has firsthand experience with the topic or product they’re writing about.

  • Include author bios.
  • Write from an “I” perspective (if it makes sense).
  • Include images, videos, and other multimedia to demonstrate experience.
  • Use expert sources and cite them.
  • Get links from authoritative sites in your niche.
  • Build trust through reviews and testimonials.

Here’s my complete guide to E-E-A-T.

Off-page SEO cheat sheet for marketers

On-page SEO is a start, but your off-page SEO strategy is what really boosts your website’s authority and ranking potential. It includes link building and local SEO.

Guest posting

Guest posts are the best-known way to get links back to your site. It’s a win-win, the blog owner gets free (high-quality) content, and you get a link.

  • Find sites in your niche that accept guest posts.
  • Reach out with a personalized email and a topic in mind.
  • Follow their guidelines and prepare a quality piece of content.
  • Include 1 link back to your site within the content, using relevant anchor text.

Alternatively, hire a link building agency. Otherwise, you’ll waste a lot of time cold-emailing people and writing articles.

Local SEO

If you’re a local business or compete in local markets (i.e., against local businesses), you should care about local search.

  • Claim your Google My Business page.
  • Fill out all the information, including photos and hours.
  • Ask for reviews from happy customers to improve your listing’s visibility.
  • Get listed in relevant local directories (Yelp, Angie’s List, etc.).
  • Local backlinks like chambers of commerce, sponsorships, an event, or a speaking engagement.
  • Create local content (mention your location in relevant articles).

Here are my complete guides to local business SEO, small business local SEO, and B2B local SEO.

Ecommerce SEO cheat sheet for ecom brands

Ecommerce SEO is unique because you’re optimizing product pages and category pages, not just blog posts or articles.

  • Optimize your URLs (short, keyword-inclusive, no stop words).
  • Optimize your title tags (include primary keyword and branding).
  • Optimize your meta descriptions (include primary keyword, CTA, and USP).
  • Optimize your H1s.
  • Include alt text for images.
  • Use product schema to include product info (e.g., photos, pricing, “Free Shipping”) on SERPs.
  • Show product reviews and ratings on the page.
  • Avoid duplicate content bloat by using canonical tags.
  • Use internal links to help users find similar products and improve site structure.
  • Use breadcrumbs to help users navigate and search engines understand your site hierarchy.

Here are my complete guides to technical SEO for ecommerce sites, ecommerce SEO tools, product page SEO, content optimization, and link building tactics for ecom.

SaaS SEO cheat sheet for software vendors

Software companies are unique because they sell complex products to large buying groups (each member of which has different priorities). Sales cycles last several months, and content marketing is key to nurturing leads through the process.

  • Focus on long-tail and intent-based keywords
  • Talk to your customers — create content around their pain points and questions
  • Create content for every stage of the buyer’s journey
  • Have a healthy mix between lead gen and demand gen content.
  • Publish technical content like whitepapers, data sheets, and detailed guides.
  • Optimize for feature-specific keywords.
  • Use lead magnets like interactive tools (e.g., a quiz or ROI calculator), free trials, and free tools (e.g., HubSpot’s website grader). 
  • Leverage social proof through customer testimonials, reviews, and case studies.

Here are my complete guides to SaaS SEO, SaaS technical SEO, SaaS content marketing, and SaaS SEO mistakes to avoid.

This just scratches the surface…

I could write a whole textbook about this.

I didn’t mention anything about how I…

  • Write for SEO
  • Research keywords and competitors
  • Measure the success of a campaign
  • Look at conversions vs. traffic
  • Handle an algorithm update

…and I failed to mention one of the most critical factors of all: every business needs a unique, customized SEO strategy.

Brittney Fred, SEO Analyst
Brittney has been working in SEO and digital marketing for ten years and specializes in content strategy for the B2B SaaS industry. She is based in Denver, CO and absolutely fits the Denverite stereotype. You’re just as likely to find her hiking, snowboarding, or doing yoga as reading sci-fi or playing video games.