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Dominate Online: Follow This Checklist for Total Search Engine Optimization

Dominate Online With This SEO Checklist

Do you want to improve organic traffic, drive leads and improve your position in search engine results?

We suggest you start with on-page optimization.

This is everything done to each of your site pages so search engines understand what they’re all about. A proper search engine optimization strategy will help you boost your website to the coveted first-ranking position on Google for organic or unpaid keywords.

This Search Engine Optimization (SEO) checklist can help, but before you get started with our checklist, keep these tips in mind:

  • You should have one, or two keywords for each of your website pages. Trying to rank for multiple keywords on a single website page can be difficult, as search engines have a hard time knowing what keyword to rank you for. If you have multiple keywords on one page, consider breaking up the content and keywords across several different pages.
  • Arm yourself with knowledge of where your keywords currently rank. Ask us about an SEO assessment to see where you stand now. If you are already on page one of Google search for your keyword, leave the page alone.
  • Use Google Adwords: Keyword Planner to determine which keywords your audience may be searching for. You might be surprised at some of the keyword variations that will show a high search volume.

SEO IN 2020

SEO has changed with the goal of providing users with more comprehensive results and a shift to mobile-first indexing. The checklist above was sufficient in the past but today that is considered the bare minimum. To help you rank better in 2020 Digital Giants suggests using the following:

CREATE OPTIMIZED WEB PAGES WITH OUR SEO CHECKLIST

The checklist below will help guide you in creating optimized web pages. Keep this in mind: Google uses over 200 components in their algorithm to rank your website pages. No single component on the checklist will help you rank better, rather, they work in combination to raise your overall search engine ranking.

ON-SITE CHECKLIST

  • Create a new Google Account and Email address for your website
  • Make sure you install Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools. Add them to WordPress or the CMS you are using
  • Use Google Webmaster Tools to learn if you are already ranking for keywords
  • Choose 1 keyword per page. Google Adwords Keyword Planner or the SEMrush Keyword Research Tool are two tools available in helping to choose keywords.
  • Install an SEO plug-in such as Yoast
  • Add all title tags
  • Add all meta description tags
  • Add keywords to H1 titles. If possible add in H2, H3, H4 titles, too
  • Add descriptive ALT tags using relevant keywords for any images on your page
  • Add internal page links and use the page keyword you are linking to in the anchor text
  • Make sure your content and keywords are relevant so both users and search engines understand what your website is offering
  • Double-check spelling and grammar
  • Test your site’s speed with Google’s Test My Site tool

ON-PAGE OPTIMIZATION

Including all of the elements, on-page is not enough. Here are the best practices for each on-page SEO element.

PAGE TITLE

The page title is a major part of ranking on Google. This is one of the first places Google looks at to determine if the web page is relevant to the users’ search. The page title should include the primary keyword for the page. Page titles will often include the organization name in addition to the title. For example, the title for this page will be “SEO Blog | Digital Giants”

H TAGS

HTML headings are used to structure the page and its content. There are six headings H1 – H6 that can be used. Web pages should only have one H1 heading on the page while there can be multiple H2 – H6 headings. These headings help search engines identify the content that is on the page. Although they are required on a page, having HTML headings implemented correctly will give it a slight boost in ranking on Google. Using this post for an example again the H1 is “Search Engine Optimization Checklist”

ALTERNATIVE TEXT

One of the areas often missed is the alternative text for images. Google image search uses alt text to determine what the image is showing the user. When uploading images to the site there is an alt text box that allows us to add a short description of the photo. This is so Google can identify the content of the photo. If there was a picture of a dog with a ball, the alt text could be “ Dog with ball”. If it is possible adding relevant keywords here is always a good idea but do not stuff them, these descriptions should be short.

META DESCRIPTION

Meta descriptions or meta tags are one of the more important parts of a page’s SEO. Although they are no longer a factor in terms of ranking they are what the users and Google will be reading to determine if the page content is relevant to the search. It is important for every page to have a meta description and there should be no duplicate meta descriptions on the site. The length for meta descriptions is under 160 characters. If they are longer than this they will be cut off and the message may not be delivered to the user. Meta descriptions are often referred to as free advertising on SERP ( search engine results page). Having a unique description is recommended, but this is only helpful when it appears in the search result. Meta descriptions are best when they describe what is on the page and entice the user to click. 

INTERNAL PAGE LINKS

Internal links are links that go from one page to another on the SAME domain. These help with user navigation and can help to keep users on the site. When using internal links on a site they help establish a hierarchy of information and help the user along their journey. Internal links also help with page ranking as pages that are connected via link spread their ranking power and help search engines determine the relevance of their content. If used in the copy, the internal link anchor text ( the text used to link) should be a keyword that matches the content on the page it is redirecting to. If the link is an image, the alt text used for the image will be the anchor text.

HIGH QUALITY / HIGH-VALUE CONTENT

As we move into 2020 Google continues to improve. Previously, Google could only check pages for keywords and often the “best” result was not the best for the user. This was due to Google only being able to see and understand elements like the titles, meta description, and alt text. Now, as Google becomes smarter it has improved its ability to analyze content. It is no longer about strictly content but context. The better your content or page solves the users’ intent, the better it will rank.

Content that ranks well Google has become longer and more in-depth.  A study by Backlinko found that the average length of the content on the first page of Google was 1,890 words. Including images also helped content, as it outperformed those without images.

REVIEW OLD CONTENT

As Google improves and changes, your old content may no longer be optimized for search. You should be regularly checking and updating your content to ensure it is always optimized.  The advantage of doing this is that you can refresh older content rather than creating new content from scratch. This will save you time and resources as well. We recommend starting with your oldest content (that is relevant) and working your way to more the more recent stuff.

OPTIMIZE YOUR CONTENT FOR QUESTIONS AND VOICE SEARCH

A simple way to help your content rank better is to optimize it for user questions. Common questions can be found using tools such as Moz’ keyword explorer or even Google’s “related searches”.

Voice search is anticipated to continue growing.  With the increased use of devices such as Google Home and Amazon Echo users will rely on voice search much more. Most queries include a question such as “How do I…”. It is helpful to include the question as well as the answer on your page when trying to optimize for these searches.

Voice search has increased the use of modifiers. These are words such as review, best, and near me. Including these in your content will help it appear more relevant.

USE A VARIETY OF DIFFERENT MEDIA TYPES

When creating content you should always try and mix it up. Rather than have blog post after blog post you could create a listicle, infographic or a video.  You can also include a variety of media within your content. A common method is having a video and a blog about the same topic where the blog is often a transcript of the video. The benefit of this is being able to share this across multiple channels ( website and Youtube).

CONSIDER USING VIDEO CONTENT

Youtube is a great channel for content as it is the second largest search engine, behind only Google. Many users will visit YouTube to watch product reviews, demos, etc.  If users are searching on Google there is a good chance a video will appear in the results. A great example of this is instructional content such as “ How to install X”. Videos like these are great for answering questions around products.

Do you need to make video content? A great way to find out is to search for questions around your product or service industry. If you find industry professionals or your competition in the results you should consider creating your own content.

PAGE SPEED / MOBILE FRIENDLY

With the recent change to mobile-first indexing, Google is now prioritizing websites that perform well on mobile devices.  It is now important that your website’s speed is quick and navigation is easy for users.

To find out how fast your website loads you can test your website using Google’s Test My Site tool.

Some of the changes required are more technical and we recommend asking your developer to assist you with these.

GOOGLE MY BUSINESS

As voice search grows in popularity, so does the need for local results. This has increased the importance of Google’s My Business platform and is now the most important ranking factor for local SEO.  Be sure to build out your business’ profile as much as possible. This will help users find you and your products/ services. Once you have your profile built out and make sure to update frequently, adding things such as photos and other content. Regular updates will help your users when they are searching.

GET BACKLINKS TO YOUR CONTENT

Like internal links, backlinks are links that redirect the user to another page. The difference is that these links are off-site and redirect users to our website. Backlinks are often found on review sites, directories, and vendor websites. Backlinks can be acquired a few different ways:

  • Naturally, This is done by sites who link to your website from theirs
  • Manually, this is done by reaching out to bloggers or paying for backlinks on a site
  • Self-created, this is done through posting on forums, blog comments, and user profiles

These help with your page ranking as it shows Google that other sites are recommending your content. The influence level of a particular website is dependent on the Trust Score and Domain Authority they have. As these websites provide links they pass on some of their Domain Authority. When websites with a high domain authority shared a link to another website it shows Google that the smaller website has relevant content.

SUMMARY

As SEO and search continue to grow and techniques change, there may seem like a lot to cover. As a whole, search engines are becoming very good at providing the best content to solve the user’s query. This requires that the search is actually solved, the site is easy to use and fast, and the format delivers the best user experience. Many of the changes are in response to both mobile device use continuing to grow and voice search improving.

SEO is a fundamental part of your digital marketing strategy and skipping the basics will prevent you from fully maximizing revenue opportunities. If you need help figuring it out, reach out to us and we’ll help you get you started.