If you’re seeking SEO checklist which can allow you to expand your website’s organic traffic and ranking on Google, then you’ve just discovered it.
We’ve assembled the ultimate checklist which you will need to drive SEO achievement in 2021, covering best practice points and activities you will need to learn about.
In the search engine optimization fundamentals to must-knows when assessing your off-page signs, use this as a reference point for making sure that your website is sticking to best-practice which you are not being held back by problems you have missed.
Listed below are the main categories I will cover in this series:
On-Page SEO Checklist
Off-Page SEO Checklist
Local SEO Checklist
On-Page SEO Checklist
As the name of this chapter already implies, the on-page SEO section is all about the things you need to check on the actual website when optimizing a page. check it out!
Target people, not search engines
Back in the early days of search engines, it was common practice to overload your article with your target keywords as the amount of matching words was a crucial ranking factor.
Today, things are not that simple anymore and Google uses a variety of factors and complex algorithms to determine how high your site should rank. While it’s hard to optimize your site according to all parameters (the exact interplay is a big black box) it should be your major goal to provide real value for your users: The better the user-experience, the better it is for your site ranking.
Create content that matches searcher intent for your target keyword
We have already learned that Google uses a variety of measures to determine the “rank worthiness” of your site. As the search engine always tries to spit out the best possible result for a search query, it will track if people are satisfied with your page as a result. How does Google do that? It tracks how much time people spend on your site after clicking on it. This in turn means if someone realizes that your content is not at all an answer to their question they will “bounce” immediately, signaling to Google that your website is not what they are looking for. This is very bad for our ranking for the respective keywords.
There are 3 types of search intent:
- informational (example: “how to knit socks”)
- transactional (example: “hand-made socks amazon”)
- commercial (example: “mailchimp review”)
- navigational (example: “starbucks near me”)
Here is a piece of advice: Before creating content for a certain keyword, check and understand the top search results to see what Google shows for this keyword and try to match your content to it!
Include your target keyword in the URL, the title and the heading
Studies show that articles that mention their keyword in all three components tend to rank higher than articles that don’t.
Here’s an example: Let’s say we target “mailchimp review” as the main keyword with our article.
The optimal “trio” should look similar to this:
- Title: “Mailchimp Review. Still the Best Email Service Provider in 2020?”
- URL: “https://domain.com/mailchimp-review/”
- Heading (inside the article): “Prerequisites of our Mailchimp review”
Add your focus keyword in the first paragraph
Research has shown that pages that mention their focus keyword in the first paragraph rank higher than pages that don’t.
Therefore, always try to keep your focus keyword (or variations of it) in the first paragraph of your article.
Use ONE H1 (Headline 1) on EACH page
Sounds logical right? However, many website owners end up with two H1s on the same page.
Why can this be a problem? It’s simple: Heading 1 is a strong indicator for search engines about what the page is all about. Tip: Try to match your H1 with the Meta Title for the respective page.
Choose an alluring, yet SEO-oriented meta title
What is a meta title? It basically defines the title of each page and is pulled by search engines to display your website in the SERP results.
An SEO-optimized title has various advantages when it comes to Google’s ranking as it will trigger several ranking factors such as user intent, click-through rate (CTR) and keyword match. Hence, make sure to set it right!
When optimizing a meta title for SEO, always keep in mind:
- it’s important to match your content to the searcher’s intent of the target keyword
- try to come up with an alluring title to increase click-through rate
- keep it short – usually there is a maximum character limit (This varies by search type, but as a tip, include the target keyword in the first half of the title)
Develop a captivating meta description
While the meta description is not a ranking factor per se, it significantly influences other crucial ranking factors, for example the click-through rate. If it’s well written, a meta description can make a big difference!
Similar to meta titles, there are some “rules” to live by when drafting a meta description:
- it’s important to match your content to the searcher’s intent of the target keyword
- try to come up with an alluring text to increase click-through rate (you can also include a clickbait)
- keep it short – usually there is a maximum character limit (this varies by search type, but as a tip, include the target keyword in the first half of the title)
- include the target keyword in description
Use headings for a clear page structure
Google is a fan of well-structured websites and a clear content hierarchy. The easiest way to achieve this is to use headings.
Generally, you should use Heading 1 (H1) for the main page title. Subsequently, use H2 and H3 (and so on) for subtitles with the goal to further structure the content on the following levels.
Make sure your content is properly formatted and looks appealing
We have already mentioned the importance of headings on your site above. Not only Google loves a well-structured page – your users love it well. It makes it so much easier to read and understand your content if it’s formatted and styled according to your content hierarchy.
Apart from varying font size, you can leverage formatting parameters such as bold, italic or cursive styles, include lists or blockquotes, and so on to enhance the user experience – and in return, a better Google ranking!
Place strategic links to your own pages
Having internal links in place (see Content Hubs checkpoint) helps to turn your page into a healthy website and helps increase organic traffic.
You can link to other relevant pages as well as to your own pages.
Place strategic links to other relevant, authoritative websites
Research shows that websites that link to external sites tend to rank higher than websites that don’t. Hence, try to place links to other websites where it makes sense, for example if these sites go in depth on a certain topic. This increases overall user experience as well as it makes it easy for people to navigate to other topics.
Another option is to set anchor parameters:
- “rel nofollow” (if the link is an affiliate you should always set that anchor)
- “target _blank” for opening the link in a new window
Not sure what this means exactly? Go more in-depth here.
Never link to a website with the same anchor the current site is targeting
While this sounds like a no-brainer, it happens all the time!
Here’s an example: Let’s say we target the focus keyword “Los Angeles Wedding Planner” with our homepage. On this homepage I now accidentally link to my “About me” page with the SAME anchor text. Why is this bad? Because at the end of the day I want my main Homepage to rank for the target keyword – if I link to the “About me” page in this manner, I signal Google that I would like the “About me” page to rank higher – which should never be the goal.
Tip: Turn it around and link from the “About me” page to the Homepage – with the anchor text “Los Angeles Wedding Planner”!
It can be tricky to identify this issue – especially when it comes to blog posts and external links – as the anchor texts sometimes don’t coincide with the focus keyword, but with variations of it. What happens is that you end up giving another website a boost, rather than your own.
Have proper names for your images in place
Even though we are in the year 2020, Google still has no proper way to identify the “content” of a picture. So what Google does instead is relying on the image names and tags. In order to make sure Google understands your pictures and can classify them accordingly, make sure to give them meaningful names.
A great example are stock pictures which often have perfectionized the image naming. See it for yourself: Go to depositphotos.com and hover over any picture to see the description behind it. This is how it could look like:
Add alternative text to your images
This goes hand in hand with the previous paragraph: Add descriptive alternative (alt) text to your images to provide more context. These additional tags are an important source for search engines to “understand an image” – it basically enables them to index it properly.
But be careful: Make sure to use unique and descriptive alt tags in order to avoid “over-optimization”. Hence, don’t use tags that are similar to your focus keywords but not directly relevant as this adds up to the keyword density.
Control for social markup
Whenever someone shares your website on a Social Media account, these platforms automatically pull the content of your page and displays information such as URL, title, description and image.
These tags are called og (short for open graph) tags and are determined by your SEO plugin.
Make sure you double check what kind of information is shown when someone shares your content on social networks and if needed, tweak it so it matches your content.
Maximize dwell time
Per definition, Dwell Time is “the amount of time that a Google searcher spends on a page from the search results before returning back to the SERPs.” Dwell time deserves attention as it is considered a main ranking factor
Here are a couple ideas on how to improve it:
- try to match search intent
- produce outstanding content
- avoid “fluff” and get to the point in the first paragraph of your article
- add visuals and media (e.g. embed a video or an audio such as a podcast)
Beat the “Featured Snippet”
While this might be the first time you hear about so-called “Featured Snippets” you have most likely seen them a million times already. Featured Snippets are a way for Google to provide you with instant and concise answers to certain search queries without you having to click on an article. You will typically find the at the very top of the result pages. Although this is a very useful feature if you are looking at it from a user’s perspective, it also means that people will land on your website less often since they might already find their answers in the Featured Snippets. Therefore, your goal should always be do beat them – here are a couple tips on how to do that:
- Featured snippet URLs often feature <ol> and <table> so try and adjust your content accordingly
- Ensure that one article answers multiple similar questions
- Include images in your posts and name them appropriately
- Ensure that your article ranks on the 1st page of Google SERPs
Hereis an article by Ahrefs that goes more in-depth on this topic.
Be careful: Don’t over-optimize!
You might now ask “How is this even possible?” or “Why is this a bad thing?” Search engine over-optimization, however, is a thing: It basically describes the phenomenon that too many SEO adjustments can cause your ranking to drop.
How does this happen? Here’s how over-optimization occurs:
- Through content: Stuffing your article, or in other words, overusing your keywords and variations of it might sound logical – however, Google is not as simple as it used to be and won’t simply react to the number of keyword mentionings. Actually, the opposite happens: Your article will be significantly less fun to read which negatively impacts the user experience. And as we learned before, user experience is essential for your ranking!
- When you try to “stuff” keywords in the footer or sidebar to increase the number of mentionings without any serious value-add
- When your website does not look natural! If your page has a high dofollow/nofollow ratio when it comes to external backlinks that’s not ideal. While it’s right that “dofollow” links are beneficial try to include both types of links to appear natural
This OnPage SEO checklist can help your business get started with SEO.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy to implement on SEO checklist on a site. It requires time, dedication, and some background SEO knowledge. At Pacelab, our team can help you check-off every to-do on your checklist.
Request a free quote online today or call us at +919717778130 to start using SEO for your website!