Every second there are 63,000 Google searches. Every day there are 5.5 billion searches. That’s an overwhelming amount of people looking to Google with their questions. If your SEO is successful, then your website will be ready and waiting with all the answers.
That’s what SEO is about really: being present and relevant in the place where it matters most.
However, SEO means different things to different people. For some, SEO is the strategic revenue driver that wins them waves of new customers every single day for the long run.
For others, SEO is a way to beat Google at its own game. Or perhaps, SEO is just something in progress without any clear objectives.
Where does your business fall on the spectrum?
Truth is, getting big success with SEO starts with small steps. We’re talking tried and true tips that businesses large and small continue to use today. That’s why we’ve created this article to be the answer for all your SEO questions.
Do you want high impact SEO results? Ready for search engine rankings that turn into revenue?
This ultimate strategic and onpage seo checklist is for you.
Proven checklist of SEO tips.
1. Create a website that’s relevant and valuable to your customers
While there are many resources teaching you how to game Google’s algorithm, effective SEO is about far more than technical tricks. It’s about understanding your ideal customers and tailoring your website to their wants, needs and interests. Your website needs to create a positive and valuable experience for everyone who visits.
“SEO is a marketing discipline focused on growing visibility in organic (non-paid) search engine results.
SEO encompasses both the technical and creative elements required to improve rankings, drive traffic, and increase awareness in search engines.” — MOZ
This calls for a unique blend of techniques that are onpage and offpage, technical and creative.
For example, boosting page speed is one crucial technique to employ. A slow loading page is a fast way to ruin the experience for any user.
In fact, a loading time any longer than 4 seconds and you’re losing 90% of your audience. That’s why page speed is one of many key ranking factors.
Image credit: Think with Google
Google’s PageSpeed Insights is a quick tool for auditing your current page speed. Every website page is awarded a speed score between zero to 100.
Take for example the Sydney Morning Herald. With a score of 31, they’ve got a long way to go. Thankfully, the PageSpeed Insights report identifies quick opportunities for boosting speed.
So how do you go from 0 to 100 with your page speed? Try these actionable tips:
Enable compression of files and images
Reduce redirects since every redirect adds precious seconds.
E.g. website.com → www.website.com → https//www.website.com
Invest in a content distribution network (CDN)
Export your images no larger than they need to be. Furthermore, export graphics as PNGs and photographs as JPEGs.
For any more technical optimisation, you may need the help of a trusted developer.
Another way to improve the experience of your website is by crafting compelling content on every single page.
We’re talking content that:
Resonates with the known wants, pain points and interests of your personas
Uses natural variations of keywords with high search volume
Includes internal and externals links to high quality content
Is engaging, concise and informative
We also recommend your content is at least 1,000+ words or more. Looking at Backlinko’s research shows why — there’s still a strong correlation between word count and high rankings.
However, a long piece of content doesn’t guarantee success. Quality is always key, because quality adds value and creates the right experience for your users. Avoid low-quality, keyword stuffing like the example below:
Image credit: seopressor.com
2. Make your digital presence accessible anywhere, anytime
More than ever, mobile matters. A website needs to offer a brilliant experience on devices of any size, because your customers want to find you anytime and anywhere.
58% of all Google searches are performed on a mobile device. — hitwise
That’s why, in 2015, Google overhauled its algorithm to focus on mobile search. So massive was this Mobile-Friendly Update, it was dubbed by many as “Mobilegeddon”.
Since this algorithmic change, Google has begun boosting the ranking of mobile-friendly websites, and subsequently decreasing visibility for non-responsive websites.
In case that wasn’t enough to get everyone thinking mobile, Google then launched its Mobile First Index.
Mobile-first indexing means that Google crawls and indexes web pages based on only the mobile version of the page, not the desktop version.
Google announced late last year that over half the pages shown in search results are from mobile-first indexing.
All of this points to one critical piece of advice: you must optimise your website for mobile.
So, how do you make sure your site is ticking all the boxes for mobile search?
Follow this actionable checklist:
A. Make your user experience seamless.
The number one factor is to make sure users have an easy, seamless experience visiting your site on their mobile.
Use Google’s Mobile Usability Test, found in the Google Search Console, to see if your site has any mobile usability issues.
B. Speed it up.
We talked earlier about fast page speeds, and the same applies for mobile SEO. Google recommends that your site should load in under a second for mobile users.
Head over to Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to see how quickly your site loads on mobile and follow the recommendations to speed things up. One thing you can do today to drastically speed up load times for mobile is optimise your images.
C. Avoid using intrusive pop-ups.
They’re not user-friendly, and while Google isn’t cracking down on them yet, expect them to soon.
D. Make sure your content easy to access and read on mobile.
This comes back to creating an exceptional user experience:
Make the font big, bold and readable (at least 16pt font)
Use short paragraphs - a couple of sentences will suffice
Use heaps of contrast between text and background.
Don’t use any formats that have trouble loading on mobile.
3. Configure a strong foundation with Google Analytics and Search Console
Google Analytics and Search Console are fundamental to any SEO campaign. Once set up correctly and regularly monitored, both platforms let you accurately measure, collect, analyse and report on key data - which will ultimately help you secure a solid ROI from your digital marketing strategy.
In a nutshell, here’s what they do:
Google Analytics: Use to track the traffic performance and trends on your website so you can make data-driven decisions around your SEO strategy.
Search Console: Use to monitor technical issues (crawl errors, indexed pages, HTML improvements, schema implementation) and track keyword performance.
A. Let’s start with Google Analytics.
It is incredibly important that your analytics platform is tracking correctly, otherwise you won’t have the right information to make data-driven decisions about your SEO campaign - or any other digital marketing spend.
Here is a list of useful checks when setting up your Google Analytics account to ensure things run smoothly from the outset:
Tracking info: Check the domain’s source code for a tracking code consistent with what’s in the admin area of Google Analytics.
Remarketing campaigns: Make sure you enable this option in the ‘Data Collection’ section of GA if you are running remarketing campaigns.
Referral exclusion lists: This tells Google to exclude certain sites from your referral traffic in Google Analytics. Not doing this can potentially cause issues with how revenue is tracked in GA.
Set up goals: Use the ‘Goal Settings’ area to configure any goals you want to track, which are important to your business, e.g. email list sign-ups, order completions. GA goal tracking can be tailored to your needs, so you are always informed about how successful campaigns have been.
Configure filters: Start by filtering out your IP, your office IP, your agency IP, or any other IPs likely to frequently access the website, which aren’t customers.
B. Next is Google Search Console.
Google Search Console is a set of tools that help you fully understand how Google sees your website, and why it ranks your website where it does.
Using Search Console tools, you can measure your site's search traffic, monitor performance and fix issues that might be holding back your SEO performance with Google, and other major search engines.
Here are 3 things to use Google Search Console for:
Pinpoint crawl errors. This could be preventing your site from being visible in search results (more on that next). Go to the Crawl Errors tab and check data from the last 90 days on which pages Googlebot had trouble crawling or returned a HTTP error.
Analyse your link profile. Go to “Links to Your Site” to see all the websites that link to your site. Are they mostly relevant, quality websites? If not, it’s time to plan your backlink strategy.
Data highlighting: Communicate certain data to Google so it can highlight information to your audiences in accurate ways, e.g. dates, time and locations for upcoming events.
Above all, understanding how to interpret and use the knowledge gained from these two platforms to propel your ROI is essential.
Take time to orientate yourself with the systems and work out the best way to set up your dashboard so you can easily collect and analyse the information that’s important to your business.
4. Address any crawl errors or broken links
This is one of those tasks that you should be doing regularly to ensure the long-term success of your SEO efforts.
Especially because Google clearly states in its guidelines:
“Website crawl errors can prevent your page from appearing in search results.”
Googlebot’s job is to crawl pages and index all the content for Google. Crawl errors occur when the bot tries to reach a page on your website but fails. It returns “crawl errors”.
There are two types of crawl errors, and you want to avoid both:
Site errors: These are the worst type of crawl errors as they prevent the bot from accessing your website. They include DNS errors (the bot cannot communicate with the server), server errors (flaws in your code prevent a page from loading), and more.
URL errors: These occur when a bot tries to crawl a specific page of your website. The most common are 404 Not Found errors, which are mostly caused by broken internal links. In other words, you deleted a page from your site but other internal pages still have links to it.
Crawl errors and broken links can quickly derail all of your hard work.
First, they result in a bad user experience. When visitors click on links and reach dead-end 404 errors, they get frustrated and may never complete their purchase, download or whatever they were trying to do. They will simply go to your competitor instead.
Secondly, broken links can undermine your SEO efforts and negatively impact rankings. Google pays attention to the flow through your site, so if bots reach dead ends in your site, this can hurt the authority of your site.
So, how can you prevent this?
First, you need to find broken links and crawl errors.
There are two ways to check:
Crawl the site using your crawling tools, such as Screaming Frog.
Review for Crawl Errors on Google Search Console or Bing Webmaster Tools. On Google, you’ll find this on the dashboard.
Once you know where the errors are, fixing them should be easy. For example, setting up a redirect can ensure you don’t get any more 404s — and the broken link can lead to a more relevant, published page.
If not, work with your tech team.
Chances are, there will always be some kind of crawl error on your site - the bigger the site, the longer the list will be.
The bottom line here is to do regular maintenance to make sure you stay on top of crawl errors and don’t let them hold back your SEO.
Follow these simple maintenance tips:
Check regularly for crawl errors and fix them
If you’re overwhelmed by errors, tackle them in order of priority.
Practice good site maintenance - if you delete a page, remove the inbound links too.
5. Perform keyword research to map demand
None of the tips above will have an impact on your SEO success unless you have a rock-solid keyword strategy.
Many businesses struggling with their organic search performance find that an inaccurate or incomplete keyword strategy is the problem holding them back.
The truth is, if you only think of keyword research in terms of identifying a list of primary keyword and filling your landing pages and content with them, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to reach your target audience and drive conversions.
Instead, your keyword research should:
Map out user intent and demand
Identify seasonal search trends
Find longtail opportunities
Inform an overarching strategy for your whole SEO campaign.
Matching your content to the user’s intent and demands is the most important point here. It’s no longer about using exact match keywords and stuffing them into your content.
Here’s what you need to do:
A. Start by harvesting the keywords.
In other words, the keywords that you (and your competitors) are already ranking for, or could be ranking for. Do this using tools like Search Console, AdWords Keyword Planner, SearchMetrics or SEMRush.
B. Expand this list to find what people are searching for.
Figure out the questions your audience is asking and the topics they want to know about.
This is key if you are going to create content that will directly answer their questions and rank high. A tool like Answer The Public helps with this. Enter a search term and you’ll get a bunch of questions based on that term:
Another way to find out what people want to know is to check industry-relevant forums and online communities such as Reddit, Quora, and Yahoo Answers. This will give you the long-tail keywords and topics to build your content around.
C. Prioritise keywords.
Run through a list of keywords (low, medium and high) based on search volume, level of competition, SERP features and more. If you have a lot of keywords that share a similar intent and they all serve the same purpose, group them together. This is where you can create content pillars and single pages focusing on high-demand keywords.
D. Align keywords to different stages in the buyer’s journey.
They might not all fit into a defined stage, or some might go in multiple stages. This starts to frame what type of content is most appropriate for that keyword or phrase. You might notice patterns with keyword phrases and where they get mapped to in the buyer’s journey. For example, “price” is often at the decision stage, and “how to” at the awareness stage.
Now you have your list of keywords, you can start mapping your content to create value for your target audience, which is the key to ranking higher in the SERPs.
6. Create URLs that are short, relevant and keyword rich
URLs that are simple to understand can lead to better crawling of your pages by Googlebot.
It was also found by a study done by Online Marketing Gurus that keyword inclusion within your URLs increases the likelihood of ranking for that keyword.
Let’s face it, nobody knows what they’re looking at when they see a URL like this: “www.example.com/product/category1/f4057fvw9”.
Try to include keywords or something else in the URL that indicates what the page contains, like this: “www.example.com/products/smartphones/iphone7”.
Here’s a quick checklist of do’s and don’ts for your URLs:
DO use keywords in your URLs.
DO use a directory structure that makes it easy for visitors to know where they’re at on your site and also makes use of relevant keywords.
DON’T use lengthy URLs with unnecessary parameters and session IDs.
DON’T choose generic page names like “page1.html” that have no relevance.
DON’T use excessive and/or repetitive keywords.
DON’T have deep nesting of subdirectories like “.../dir1/dir2/dir3/dir4/dir5/dir6/ page.html”.
DON’T use directory names that have no connection to the content in them.
DON’T have multiple URLs that access the same content.
DON’T use weird capitalisation of URLs.
7. Optimise your page with informative and irresistible meta tags
Meta tags are part of the HTML code that describe different elements of your page content to search engines and humans. They are essentially the first impression for all search engines and humans, so it’s important to get them right.
But can they actually improve your SEO results?
Meta tags might not be a direct ranking factor but they do have a direct impact on click through rates, which ultimately affect rankings.
We’ll let Google’s webmaster trends analyst explain:
“Meta Tags can affect the way that users see your site in the search results and whether or not they actually click through to your site.” - John Mueller, 2017
On other words, pay attention to your meta tags and you can directly impact click-throughs and conversions for your site.
There are lots of different types of meta tags, but here we’ll cover the top 3 you need to focus on for SEO.
A. Title tag
One of the first things that searchers notice, the title tag offers a preview of what your content is about. It tells search engines the title of the page to show in the SERP and browser tab, which may be different from the headline you write for the page. It is also pulled out as anchor text and a title in social shares.
How to write a title tag for SEO:
Make it clear and descriptive.
Don’t exceed 55 characters otherwise it will be cut off in results.
Start your title tag with your targeted keyword, but don’t stuff with other keywords
B. Meta descriptions
Searchers see your page’s meta description as part of the results that search engines present to them:
It doesn’t improve your rankings on its own, but it does show the searcher what they’ll get if they click on your page. If the meta description matches the query, the searcher is more likely to click.
More clicks lead to more chances of selling, and more engagement, which will ultimately influence yours rankings.
How to write a meta description that gets clicks:
Write a description that informs and interests users if they saw your description meta tag as a snippet in a search result.
Use the correct character limit (Google keeps changing this but currently it’s at about 160 characters before being truncated in the results).
Write a description meta tag that relates to the content on the page.
Don’t use generic or auto-generated descriptions.
Don’t stuff the description with keywords.
C. Alt tags
Search engines cannot “read” images like normal pages so you need to tell the search engine what the image is. That’s what the Alt tag is for.
You should be doing this for all your images, so they show up in image search results.
Key points to consider while creating Alt tags:
Be short, clear and to the point
Use informative filenames, not “image75.jpeg”.
Use up to 55 characters
Other meta tags to pay attention to for SEO are: canonical tags, robots meta tags, social media meta tags, header tags and responsive design meta tags.
8. Include relevant internal and external links
Using relevant internal and external links on your site will ultimately improve its visibility and ranking.
Linking is one of those often overlooked parts of SEO. Everyone is focused on getting backlinks to prove their authority to Google, that you forget about the other types of links that can strengthen the overall search-optimised value of your site.
What are internal and external links?
External links are links out from your site to other trusted, authoritative websites. Including relevant external links in your content does two important things:
Shows that your content is well-researched and well-referenced
Provides value to users
Internal links connect your pages to create clear crawling paths for Google bots and an easy path for your users. This has the double effect of:
Helping Google understand the architecture of your site for indexing.
Prolonging sessions for users - which helps Google rank your higher.
The key is to make the links relevant. The idea is to provide value to the reader - while telling Google that the page you’re linking to is so incredibly relevant and important that you are happy for your reader to stop what they’re doing and go straight there. That’s good news for SEO.
For internal links, it also pays to go deeper into your site structure. Avoid linking to main navigational pages, especially Contact Us and Home, as they already have lots of pages linking to them already.
9. Make it visual with multimedia elements
There’s a lot to say for visual content.
Visuals increase people’s willingness to read your content by 80% while helping you communicate your message in a more memorable and impactful way.
Plus, visuals can increase the time a user spends on your site, improve engagement scores and reduce the bounce rate - all of those user-interaction signals that Google pays attention to when ranking your site.
Another thing about multimedia elements is that they increase the perceived value of your content. This means more people - trusted, high authority sites - are more likely to link to your content. And you know what quality, relevant backlinks means?
There’s one more compelling reason to use multimedia content on your site, and here it is:
One third of all searches on Google occur on Google image search (Moz)
That’s a huge number of searchers that you can get your content in front of.
Which types of multimedia elements should you use?
Popular types of visual formats include:
Header images for articles
Screenshots and GIFs (for “how to” articles)
Images that highlight key quotes from the article
Graphs and charts to visualise data and stats
Infographics for explaining complex or statistical information
Memes and GIFs
Videos and audio with transcripts
Interactive elements such as a quiz, calculator, map, etc.
When you include multimedia elements in your content, you still need to ensure it’s optimised for search.
Use this actionable checklist:
Use clear, descriptive file names
Add alt tags to your images, using our tips above, to improve your ranking in Google Images
Supply an Image Sitemap file
Compress images for faster page load times
10. Implement schema markup to boost rankings
Schema markup is one of the latest and most promising evolutions in search engine optimisation.
But even though it is proven to boost website rankings, many marketers aren’t taking advantage of schema markup yet. This means that if you get it right, you can get ahead of the competition.
What is schema markup? It’s code that you put on your website to help the search engines return more informative results for searchers.
It tells search engines what your data means, so the content not only gets indexed but returned in a different way.
For example, this website has used schema markup on its event schedule page:
The schema markup told Google to display a schedule of upcoming food events in Melbourne, so the dates and festivals are clear to the searcher.
Here’s how Schema.org explains it:
“Most webmasters are familiar with HTML tags on their pages. Usually, HTML tags tell the browser how to display the information included in the tag. For example, <h1>Avatar</h1> tells the browser to display the text string “Avatar” in a heading 1 format.
However, the HTML tag doesn’t give any information about what that text string means — “Avatar” could refer to the hugely successful 3D movie, or it could refer to a type of profile picture—and this can make it more difficult for search engines to intelligently display relevant content to a user.”
The good news is you don’t have to learn code to get ahead with schema markup (though this perception could well be what’s holding people back).
You can use a plugin, like the Schema Creator plugin for WordPress sites, or Google’s schema generator. Google has also created a free simple tool for webmasters called the Structured Data Markup Helper.
Schema markup is one of those SEO innovations that you should take the time to implement now, because it’s probably going to be with us for a long time.
Here are some essential tips to get ahead:
Find the schemas that are most commonly used AND best suited to your business. Schema.org provides a list of the most common types on its Organization of Schemas page.
The more content you mark up, the better - as Schema.org’s instructions explain clearly. Invest time to mark up the maximum elements on your website to improve your results.
Mark up only the content that is visible to people who visit the web page - not other hidden page elements.
Over to you
With this SEO checklist, we haven’t covered every single thing you can and should do with SEO. But that wasn’t our goal.
We set out to tell you the essential hot ticket items that you need to prioritise if you want to see your organic search rankings soar.
Some items handle the technical side of things, whereas others cover general strategy and foundations. All of them will help you create a sustainable long-term results. We hope you found it helpful!
If you need help with any of items on this checklist, or want to talk to SEO gurus about creating a long-term strategy, we’re ready to help. 👇
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