We know the importance of search engine optimization when you’re trying to organically rank on search results pages. Whether you’re writing a blog or running an ecommerce website, implementing these tips and tricks from this SEO checklist can help improve your organic ranking.
Even if don’t use all these tips and tricks, you should still see an improvement in your website. Just remember, SEO is a longer process and it takes type before you see results.
Basic SEO Checklist
Even before you start with your website, there are some SEO fundamental tools you’ll need to setup. This will help in tracking and understanding the behaviour of users and help you make the necessary changes to your website to attract them.
Understanding your user behaviour is a real asset when you’re looking to drive traffic to your website. Google Analytics can certainly help with that. It’s a free tool you can sign up for that tracks how much traffic you get from Google, how users engage with your content, and which pages on your site is bringing you the most traffic.
With Google providing you with unique insights, you can find out your average bounce rate, page videos and time spent on your site.
Google Search Console
Another free tool offered by Google is the Google Search Console. This service helps you understand how Google sees you site. The Search Console offers tools and reports that helps Google determine whether your site is findable and crawlable. It also helps to identify and fix problems on your site, track how often you site appears in Google Search, and which sites link to your website.
Bing Webmaster Tools
Bing also provides a free tool called Bing Webmaster Tools, similar to both Google Analytics and Search Console. Although Bing is not as popular as Google, it provides a strong secondary market for organic ranking.
Bing Webmaster Tools includes a dashboard to keep track of how well your website is performing based on reporting and diagnostic tools that helps you understand what people are searching for and what leads people to your site.
Yoast SEO (WordPress Plugin)
Yoast SEO is a WordPress plugin that helps you optimize your site and create SEO-friendly content. Yoast SEO makes it easy to create page titles, meta descriptions, and slugs that optimize for your keyword. Yoast SEO offers a free and premium version of the plugin.
Keyword Research SEO Checklist
Keyword research is crucial for SEO in creating content and optimizing your pages for search results. Before creating content, it is important in identifying what people are searching for and how you can optimize your content so it can be seen when searched for.
Understand Search Intent
Understand your audience is important in tailoring your content and website to fulfill their needs. There are four types of search intent: informational, navigational, transactional, and commercial. Informational searchers are looking for information.
This could be a simple answer to a question or it may require a longer answer. Based on the question, you can provide content that answers a user’s question.
A navigational search means that the user knows what they are looking for and is looking for a specific website. Searches can include “Facebook”, “Twitter login”, or even “beginners guide to seo moz”.
In a transactional search, the user is looking to make a purchase. They know what product or service they’re looking and finding a place to buy it from. If you sell a certain product or service that people are searching for, it’s important in positioning yourself as a retailer people will choose.
A commercial search involves a person who has the intention of making a purchase but needs more information before making a final decision. They may search for “restaurant near me” or look for “best seo plugin”. Many local searches, like “restaurant near me”, demonstrate commercial intent and helps people make a final decision.
Understanding search intent will help you determine how you can answer people’s questions.
People may be looking for the same thing, whether that’s a product or service or blog, but the way they search can be different. That’s why it’s important to understand how people search in order to optimize for the right long-tail keywords.
The easiest way to do this is by using Google and Bing’s autocomplete feature. You can start to type your keyword and you will immediately be given long-tail suggestions.
It is also helpful to check other search results provided by search engines. Google shows you suggested searches under “People also ask” section while Bing shows “Related Searches”.
Since these keywords are being offered, you can trust Google and Bing that people are searching for them.
Use Google Keyword Planner to Find Keyword
Google’s Keyword Planner is a free tool and it’s official keyword tool. Implemented with Google Ads, Keyword Planner can be a helpful tool in finding new keyword ideas. With each keyword idea, you’ll be able to see average monthly searches, competition, low rang bid, and high range bid.
By using Keyword Planner you can start to understand what people are searching for and which keywords can be used to create valuable content. You can also see forecasts and predictions of how keywords will perform in the future.
Use Keyword Keg
Having a reliable tool like Keyword Keg is a huge advantage when researching keywords. Keyword Keg is a premium tool that helps you find suggested keywords and related keywords based on entering seed keywords.
The results show important metrics like volume (how many users are searching for the keyword), on-page difficulty (whether the top 10 search results are SEO optimized), and off-page difficulty (the quality of backlinks each site has).
Use Online Communities
There are a few online communities and forums that are a great source for understanding user search intent and ideas for content.
Quora is a platform where anyone can ask questions and get answers. If you’re looking for any content ideas, Quora can be the right place to find out what people want to know.
Another great source for keywords and content ideas is Answer The Public. Answer The Public allows you to enter a keyword and it will show you questions that people search for. Then you will have questions you can answer with your content.
Soovle is a similar platform to Answer The Public in that you enter a keyword or phrase and it shows you questions from 7 different search engines.
On-Page SEO Checklist
On-page SEO is about optimizing your content and everything on your website to help search engines understand your content is relevant to people’s search queries.
Keep Your URLs Short
When it comes to create the URL for your page, it’s best to keep it short. According to Backlinko, having a shorter URLs tend to rank better than long URLs. At the same time, your URL should offer some insight into what people should expect to find on your site.
Use Your Keyword in the URL
Using your keyword in the URL is important in helping search engines understand what your page is about. Your URL is the first thing search engines see so using a single keyword or phrase will help search engines decide whether your site can answer a search query.
Try to avoid URLs like www.yourwebsite.com/post/2131 that don’t give search engines or even users an idea of what your page is about. A better URL would be www.yourwebsite.com/gluten-free-cookies.
Use Your Keyword in Your Title Tag
Title tags are one of the most important things when it comes to on-page SEO. The title tag is the first thing people see on the SERPs. That’s why it’s important to use your keyword in your title tag. Title tags are another element that tells search engines and people what your page is about.
Use Your Keyword in HTML Headings
Another element associated with title tags are headers. Including keywords in your H1, H2, or H3 header tags can help you rank higher for your keywords.
This is an example of using a keyword in an H2 heading from one of our articles. Can you guess what the article is about? It’s pretty easy by looking at the HTML headings that it’s about Google Ads.
Using images to accompany your content is beneficial in adding variety to your users while breaking up content. If you’re going to use images within your content or even throughout your website, it is important to use image alt tags and making sure they’re optimized.
If you have an image in mind, use a filename that describes the image.
For this image, you might want to name it waffle_with_fruit.png. Then, when you add the alt text, it should be a little more descriptive than the image title. It could be something like: Waffle with raspberries and whip cream on a plate.
Optimizing your images help you to rank in image search while being AODA or ADA compliant.
Optimize Your Meta Descriptions
Even though meta descriptions aren’t a ranking factor for search engines, optimizing your meta descriptions can be beneficial in increasing visits to your website. Writing an enticing meta description and including your keyword can help increase your click-through rate and bring more traffic to your website.
Search engines will even highlight keywords that are used in someone’s search query if it’s included in the meta description. But, your primary goal shouldn’t be to jam keywords into your meta description. Your meta description should be more focused on enticing people to visit your website.
Want to learn more about on-page SEO? Check out What is On-Page SEO?.
Content SEO Checklist
The content you create also contributes to your on-page SEO ranking. Creating great content is key in ranking well on search engines. Here are a few tips you can use to optimize your website content.
Use the Skyscraper Technique
The Skyscraper Technique is a content creation strategy that helps to create content that stands out from the rest. With the Skyscraper Technique, your goal is to research and identify a piece of content with the same topic you want to write about.
Once you have an article in mind, figure out how you can improve on it and create something more valuable. Then, you can start to promote your content on social media and with your email list. Remember that over time, you may need to revisit older content to update so that it stays relevant to your audience.
Be an Expert on Your Topic
Google actually using something called E-A-T, which stand for expertise, authority and trustworthy. That means when creating content on specific topics, like medical practices or film reviews, it should be written by people who understand the topic and can be trusted that their knowledge is accurate.
Another helpful tip is to create in-depth and long-form content. It’s been proven that content ranks best when it fully covers a topic in-depth. This article is a perfect example of that. We could have created an SEO checklist with a few points, instead, we are covering almost everything about this topic.
When creating content, it’s always helpful to sprinkle in some images and other forms of multimedia like infographics and videos. People may find it difficult to read long blocks of text, so breaking up content gives your readers a variety. This helps to break up your content making it easier to read and more entertaining.
Write Content for People, Not Search Engines
Back when it was easier to rank on search engines, people would keyword stuff their content in order to quickly rank on top of the SERPs. But, this strategy made their content spammy and unreadable. Now, that doesn’t happen because of the strict rules and penalties from search engines.
But, it’s still important to remember that your content should be created for human readers, not search engine spiders. Think about your target audience you’re writing for. If you’re content is frustrating and difficult to read and understand, you’re not going to have a lot of people visiting your site or coming back.
A helpful tool to use when creating content is SEMRush Writing Assistant that offers a guideline in optimizing your content. It tells you the readability of your content, such as reading level of your audience, along with tone of voice to ensure you’re meeting the expectations of your target audience.
Off-Page SEO Checklist
Off-page SEO is heavily focused on creating strong and valuable backlinks but there are more things you can do to build authority for your website.
Link building is at the heart of off-page SEO and is one of the most difficult SEO tasks. Link building takes time and effort in reaching out to other websites, bloggers, and influencers to let them know about your website and content.
If you’re going to share your website to others, you have to make an effort in finding the right people. Make sure that who you’re reaching out to will likely be interested in your content and will likely link to you in the future. If you write a blog on fantasy football, it doesn’t make sense to reach out to another website or influencer that talks about cookie recipes. Your website should be relevant to who you’re reaching out to.
You can start reaching out to other websites or bloggers mentioning to them about an article or post you read and how you were inspired to create a similar article. You can also use the comment sections on blogs where you can point to your article and how you improved on their ideas.
But, ultimately, it comes down to your content. You’ve probably heard the phrase “Content is King”, and that is true. To earn links and shares, your content has to be great, has to be different and has to be valuable to become shareable.
Guest posting is a great way to promote yourself and your website. But, like building backlinks to your website, there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. First, you have to find the right websites that are relevant to your site and what content you’re creating. Another thing is choosing to guest post for a website that already has some authority and is trusted.
An easy way to find guest posting opportunities is by searching on Google. Using your keyword, which is what your content is about, like “travel tips” or “gluten-free recipes”, followed by “guest post” or “write for us”, you can find websites that have guest posting openings. You can then vet each website to determine which offers the best opportunity.
Podcasts are a huge trend that are continuously growing in popularity. Many people are using podcasts as another form of promoting themselves. Being a guest on a podcast is similar to guest posting in that you’re giving yourself another platform to share valuable information.
What people don’t always realize is that podcasts offer a massive link building opportunity. When people create podcasts they will publish the episodes on their website, along with the show notes. This is where they will add a link to your website along with your name.
Along with earning a backlink to your site, guesting on podcasts gets your name out there, giving you authority and credibility. If you’re a guest on a podcast, listeners will most likely see you as an expert and highly knowledgeable about the topic.
Related Content: What is Off-Page SEO?
Technical SEO Checklist
Technical SEO covers everything you to improve your site to make it easier for search engines to find your website. Technical SEO can either help you improve your rankings or completely destroy it.
Create a Sitemap
A sitemap is a file that provides information about the pages on your site, and how each page relates to one another. There are two types of sitemaps you should use: HTML and XML.
An HTML sitemap helps people to navigate your site easier. It can help users, who may be lost, find their way to a particular page. HTML sitemaps are beneficial because they can improve the user experience of your website. Search engines reward sites that are easy to navigate so improving your user experience can improve your site ranking.
An XML sitemap helps search engines spiders quickly and easily find the most important parts of your website. This makes sure that search engines can find and crawl every important page to help it understand your website structure.
A sitemap ensures that none of your most important pages aren’t missed by people or search engine spiders. It can cover mistakes you may have with your internal linking.
Identify and Fix Crawl Errors
Crawl errors happen when search engine spiders try to find a page on your website but are unable to. If search engines can’t find your site, they won’t rank it.
You can easily find and fix crawl errors using the Google Search Console or other tools like SEO Crawler.
For more SEO tools, check out our article: 18 Top SEO Tools for 2019.
Internet usage is slowly moving away from desktop to mobile devices. Now, having a mobile-friendly website is more important than ever. Google recently launched a new mobile-first index which means they will predominantly use the mobile version of a website for indexing and ranking.
Not having a mobile-friendly site can not only hurt your organic rankings but can also be annoying for people using a mobile device to visit your site.
You can check to see if your site is mobile-friendly with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool.
Improve Site Speed
In the world we live in now, where everything is at our fingertips, site speed can make or break the quality of your website. In 2018, Google recognized this and added page speed as a ranking factor on mobile devices.
Not only is it important for search engines, page speed is important to users. It can be frustrating for users when a website they want to visit doesn’t load fast enough. Have a slow loading speed can lead to an increase in bounce rates which can negatively affect your organic rank.
Google offers a free tool called PageSpeed Insights that analyzes the speed of your website while also giving you areas to improve on.
Improve Your Dwell Time
Dwell time is the amount of time between someone clicking on your search result, visiting your site, then returning back to the SERPs. Dwell time is different than time on page. Time on page is the amount of time a visitor spent on your page before going anywhere else. This could be back to the SERPS, to another page on your site or anywhere else.
Although not completely confirmed as a ranking factor, dwell time is a good indicator that your website is relevant and valuable. It also tells search engines whether people hate or like your page. If people quickly leave your site and visit another in the SERPs, this tells the search engines that your site is not helpful.
Having a secure site means that you should move your site to HTTPS. If you haven’t already, you should probably do that because Google confirmed HTTPS as a ranking signal. If you own an ecommerce website, having a secure site is important because you want to make sure any sensitive information, like payment information or passwords, being shared will not be stolen.
Related Content: Technical SEO – A Beginner’s Guide
Search engine optimization is an ongoing process and does not stop at this checklist. It’s actually quite difficult to mention every little tidbit of SEO gold into this article. But, If you are able to tackle this list, you will be well on your way to improve your website’s ranking.
You do have to remember that SEO is a process and it does take time before you see results. It takes effort in keeping all aspects of your website updated in order to always improve.