As experts on website management, you can imagine we do a lot of Search Engine Optimization. And whether we’re building a new website from scratch or creating an original image for an older one, we always follow this very SEO checklist. It guides us through all the necessary steps and the many possibilities of SEO. And now, we’d like to share it with you!
These are all the little things you should keep in mind whenever you’re building each page of your site. However, it’s important to note that you don’t have to fulfill every single point here. Go through as many items as you can: most websites cannot satisfy every detail here. That’s quite all right, just do the best you can!
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The Ultimate SEO Checklist
1. Get Google Analytics
There’s really no excuse not to work with this incredible tool at this point. The free version is the most used web analytics tool on Earth, and its reports on performance will satisfy most webmasters.
Why you need Google Analytics:
- It tracks how you get website traffic.
- It shows you what users are doing on your website, and how they behave.
- It breaks down how people on your site go from random visitors to converted customers.
2. Set Up Google Search Console (Previously Webmaster Tools)
Another essential and free tool from Google, Search Console allows website managers to see their site’s organic performance on the Google search engine, plus gather data about status.
A few of the things Search Console allows webmasters to do:
- Sitemaps support. Through the tool, it’s possible to submit sitemaps and check if they have errors.
- Receive notifications from Google’s manual penalties. This means that, if Google penalizes you for bad practices, you won’t be in the dark, continuing them.
- Get reports from when Google bots crawl into your site, and which links it had trouble reading.
3. Check for Technical Errors on Google Console
Now that you’ve installed this essential tool, use it to look for technical errors that could hurt your site. Some of the main things you should be checking from the get-go:
- Crawl errors.
- Duplicate content on your site.
- Missing titles.
- Find data about search rankings, visibility, and click-through rate.
4. Submit info to Google Console
There are two files you should submit to Google Console to help your site rank:
- An XML sitemap. This helps Google understand how you’ve built your site, and index each of its pages.
- A robots.txt file. This file will let the search engine know which activities to perform on each page of your website. When you add one of these files to your top-level directory, you get to control the way Googlebot (and other search engine bots) crawls your site.
5. Set Up Bing Webmaster Tools
Bing Webmaster Tools is the Microsoft equivalent of Search Console. Installing it is particularly relevant if you’re targeting U.S. and Canada web searches. Bing is the default search engine on Microsoft, so those who surf from Internet Explorer or Edge use it.
Users still prefer Google above all, but Bing holds about 10% of all web searches on the U.S. and Canada, which is a pretty significant share. You won’t want to lose all those potential customers!
6. Get the Essential WordPress Plugins
If you’re working on a WordPress site (which you should!), we recommend you get at least two essential plugins:
- Google Analytics. There are many available plugins to manage Analytics directly from WordPress. This is great for the more careful webmasters and website owners that don’t want to add the Google Analytics tracking code to their websites themselves.
- Yoast. A great WordPress plugin that lets you fix details of your SEO directly from your dashboard. It helps users create SEO-friendly content by checking a post’s readability and giving webmasters easy access to toggling the SEO title and meta description. It also helps optimize the copy.
7. Check Your Redirects
As the name would suggest, redirection means forwarding one URL to another URL. And doing it right is one of the most fundamental SEO practices out there.
What you want from your redirection:
- Avoid 302 errors. These tell Google that the URL has only moved temporarily, which means Google won’t delete the previous page from the directory. Unless you’re doing something like site maintenance or running a specific promo, you don’t want 302 errors.
- Focus on 301 redirects. Search engines interpret this error as a permanent redirect, therefore passing between 90 and 99% of your info to the new URL. This is the industry standard.
8. Search for Errors
You want your site running at top performance, without any lingering errors from previous updates. This means you always have to check for:
- Broken links.
- Errors of all kinds in each of your pages.
- URL or crawl errors that aren’t allowing the Googlebot to review your website correctly.
9. Do Keyword Research
This is one of the most essential items on this checklist. It means getting to know the minds of your visitors, by knowing what exactly they search on Google.
A few factors to consider when choosing the right keywords:
- Consider searcher intent. When people try to find what you’re selling (be it products, services, or just a blog), how do they search for it? The wording is crucial in SEO, and you don’t want to use an obscure term that won’t get you any visitors.
- Pick one keyword per page. Don’t overstuff!
- Start with lower-volume keywords and work your way up.
10. Check Out Your Competition
There’s a good chance your competitors already have an SEO strategy. Learning from their mistakes (and their successes) is the quickest way to find out where to head.
The main thing you should be noticing from your competitors? Their use of backlinks. Backlinks are incoming links to a page and a pretty important factor for SEO. Tracking your competitors’ backlinks will give you an idea of what they’re aiming at SEO-wise.
What you can figure out from competitors’ backlinks:
- SEO strategy.
- How they’re anchoring links to their pages.
- Where you can get similar authoritative links.
11. Work Your URL
Help your page’s SEO by adding your primary keyword into your URL. Remember to:
- Keep it short. Stuffing your URL with keywords is actually detrimental to SEO. Plus, shorter URLs rank higher.
- Only change your URL if your page has little authority. If your page already has links, replacing the URL could lead to a lower search engine ranking.
12. Work Title Tags
Title tags are crucial for SEO. A few tips to optimize yours.
- Include your primary keyword.
- Write an attractive and compelling title. Adding keywords isn’t enough anymore, as search engines now notice the clickthrough rate on results as well. An enticing copy will make more people click on your page!
13. Add Your Primary Keyword in the Right Places
A few spots where you should definitely be adding your primary keyword:
- Meta description. While these don’t help you rank on search engines, they do help with click-through rates. Write compelling copy to get noticed.
- Your H1 tag. Include your primary keyword on your main header tag, and make sure there’s only one of those on your entire page. It’s also important that it appears before any other lower header tag. Can’t hurt to add the focus keyword to one of your lower heading tags, too!
14. Focus on Your Copy
Content is the basis of high-ranking pages, and creators have more freedom with their words now that Googlebot can read a more natural language. A few things to consider:
- Write compelling and original copy. This might seem silly, but what will ultimately set you apart is good content. You could be ranked high thanks to proper SEO practices, but if your content is less than impressive, you’ll get zero results.
- Don’t be stingy with words. Longer text is more appealing to search engines, as there’s more to crawl. Have at least 100 words per page, though it’s best if you add more. You can also rank with fewer words, but we recommend robust copy. No need to add useless words, though!
- Use synonyms. Write content thinking of people first, and search engines second. Don’t repeat your keyword a gazillion times, as you’ll get visitor quickly leaving your site if repetitions are that transparent. Natural-sounding content with synonyms will get you places.
- Use latent semantic indexing. Also called LSI, this is a method Googlebot uses to determine context. If you add terms that are thematically related to your primary keyword, the search engine is more likely to rank your content well.
15. Dip Your Toe in Social Media
Claim your brand’s name on every social media site you deem necessary. This will help:
- Ensure your account name.
- Potentially own every first-page result of your brand’s name, as your social media will appear at the top. This is particularly interesting for new brands.
16. Get an SEO Audit Tool
Save time by getting an SEO auditing tool that won’t mean you lose precious time checking every page manually. You need time to focus on providing excellent service and building your brand overall. What these SEO tools do:
- Identify errors on every aspect of your SEO, including broken links.
- Offer different solutions to any issue you might have.
Try one of these SEO tools to your audit.
Bright Vessel has a long history of providing exceptional and custom solutions for websites of all types. Our services encompass everything from WordPress and WooCommerce management to SEO and SEM. Contact us to find out how we can work together!