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Search engine optimization (SEO) is no longer a voluntary marketing activity reserved for the savvy, but an important requirement to achieve the best results. It helps to index and rank your website on search engines like Google and Bing, to increase the visibility and reach of your brand.
But implementing SEO requires a lot of work, patience, and effort for it to be successful. That’s why it’s important to take the time and apply all the technical and on-page tactics. To ensure nothing is missed, here is a complete SEO checklist for you and your website.
First things first – technical SEO. It involves completing various tasks that make it even possible to rank your website. These actions help search engines access your website, crawl and interpret information, and evaluate and successfully index it on SERPs.
Open accounts on reporting platforms
First off, you will need to get tools that allow you to stay on top of your SEO efforts. The essential software includes Google Search Console, Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager and Bing Webmaster.
All of these reporting platforms are free but provide invaluable diagnostic and analytics data. They will help you track progress, evaluate it and make adjustments well after you complete every item from this checklist.
Build and submit an XML sitemap
An XML sitemap is a roadmap to your website. Submitting the sitemap file serves as a guide to search engines as they crawl web pages.
Building and submitting a sitemap is pretty straightforward. Many web platforms have this feature built-in or have plugins and add-ons that create the file for you. The sitemap remains automatically updated and in sync with the pages on your site.
On the other hand, you can use a number of free tools to generate a static sitemap. That includes your free reporting platforms.
Create a robots.txt file
A robots.txt is the instruction manual for search engine robots. It tells robots how to crawl your site and what pages or parts of the site not to index. It’s an important step seeing as how search engine robots will examine the entire site as their default setting.
Create the file even if you don’t want to implement any restrictions on your site. But make sure that the file is accurate, verified in your consoles (Google and Bing), and doesn’t obstruct access to important pages.
Examine all domains
It’s important to examine every site domain, in case any of them redirect to your primary domain. If they do redirect to your website, make sure they have a permanent 301 redirect in place.
It’s a simple fix, but don’t overlook it. A wrong redirect HTTP code can duplicate content and perplex crawlers when indexing your site.
Increase the website speed
A first impression lasts just five seconds. If a user spends more than three seconds waiting for a page to load, most likely, they will bounce from the site altogether. That’s why search engines have incorporated the page speed ranking factor, and why Google wants your site to load in less than a second.
Create a mobile-friendly environment
Statistics reveal there will be almost three billion smartphone users in 2020. Search engines know this, and responsive design has become a ranking factor and a staple of UX design.
Run a Google mobile-friendly test to determine how well your website performs on smaller devices. Also, keep in mind that even though most WordPress themes automatically scale to tablets and smartphones, it’s worth doing a quality assurance (QA) test to determine the true usability of your website on a smaller screen.
Include an SSL certification
Security is yet another significant ranking factor. Chrome, Opera, Mozilla and other browsers will make sure to raise red flags and alert visitors that your website is insecure. That’s why your website should have an SSL certification in place. It’s a sign of trust which is fairly simple to include on your site.
Install plugins, add-ons, and extensions
If you used a content management system (CMS) to build and upload content to your website, it’s important to add plugins and extensions to enable advanced technical optimization.
WordPress has many plugins that turn your site into an SEO powerhouse. The same applies to Drupal, Magento, Wix, and others. Look for add-ons to increase management control and maximize functionality.
Resolve pre-existing issues
SEO tactics are consistently changing, and staying up to date is crucial for the success of optimization. You will need to resolve outdated tactics and missed issues like duplicate pages to make your new on-page tactics effective. Looking for the data-lead SEO agency in your area to help you with this can be quite beneficial.
Modern SEO is all about context. The days when all you had to do is stuff a page with keywords are gone. Today’s search engine algorithms care about how each web page fits the website as a whole.
That’s where contemporary on-page SEO steps in. Refining page elements to optimize them and fit them into the context of the website makes it easy for search engines to navigate and ultimately rank your website.
Keywords and topics
Before you build context with your website, you need to know the aim of those efforts. Keyword research will help you find the main context for your website, each web page, and additional topics and phrases used in your niche market.
Creating topic clusters might be a good starting point. Define the main keyword of your business (primary product or service), and branch it out into several specific sub-topics (secondary products and services). Then use sites like AnswerThePublic to help you define even more specific topics for your content.
Content is king. That’s an old SEO saying that has withstood countless algorithm changes.
When creating content for your website, remember that quality always beats quantity. But you shouldn’t have a few lines on a large page either.
Instead, focus on creating relevant, informational and accurate content that adds value to visitors. Content that resonates with users automatically ranks better with a search engine. It’s a sure road for moving your website higher up the SERP.
URLs are often overlooked elements of a website, but they can be used to improve ranking. Customizing a URL of a page lets you induct a keyword or even a long-tail phrase which immediately tells crawlers what the page is about. It also makes the structure of your directory cleaner and works towards adding context to your website.
Custom title tags, meta descriptions and even alt text for images might be less relevant to the site visitor, but all three are used by search engines when indexing each page on your website. To optimize them, make sure each one contains concise helpful information and keywords relevant to the content on the page. These are small steps, but highly important if you want your site to be featured as a first-page result.
After you check off everything from this list, you will have to be patient. Optimizing a website for search engines requires a lot of effort, dedication, and consistency. But if you effectively implement technical SEO and on-page tactics, in time, success will come and a top spot on SERPs will be yours.