Search Engine Optimization is a foundational part of any digital marketing strategy. SEO is meant to bring qualified traffic to your business, increase revenue, and impact important KPIs for your business. There are countless ways to optimize a site for organic search. However, the most important part of any SEO strategy is ensuring that your site content can be easily understood by both search engines and people alike.
After reading through this guide, you should be able to identify the major opportunities or roadblocks to work on in 2023.
Remember! This resource is a checklist – Whether you are starting a new website or optimizing for an established brand, you may need different things from this list. Instead of checking off every item one by one, we recommend that you consider each of the sections below as they relate to your overall digital marketing strategy.
SEO Tools Checklist
Technical SEO Checklist
SEO Keyword Research Checklist
Quality Content (for SEO) Checklist
On-Page SEO Checklist
Access to these tools is one of the first things an agency partner or an in-house specialist will ask you for, so it’s a good idea to have these ready when meeting with new business partners.
HTTP vs. HTTPS: What’s the Difference?
How to Fix the HTTPS Not Secure Error
Remember! Sitemaps help websites, like Google, crawl your website easier, as it is a roadmap that shows all the pages and digital content on your website.
A few extra tips about XML sitemaps:
XML Sitemap Resources:
How to find your XML sitemap
How to create and submit your XML sitemap
In addition, having a mobile-friendly website IS a ranking factor in the Google Algorithm. Some mobile optimizations that help enhance user experience include:
In Google Search Console, under the Experience tab on the left-hand side, you can check your website’s mobile usability, and address any usability issues flagged by the smartphone crawler.
Learn more about Mobile Friendliness and the Page Experience update
Identifying & fixing crawl errors and broken links are crucial for SEO. For example, if your competitor notices a broken link pointing to your website, they could contact the individuals linking to your site, and ask to point the link to a working website (theirs)!! You could also miss out on valuable click and impression data that can be utilized for reporting or diagnostics.
But no need to fret – luckily, there are easy ways to check for crawl errors & broken links.
SEO tools that can check for crawl errors are Moz & Google Search Console, in addition to SEMrush and Ahrefs which can help identify broken links. An all-around tool that can identify broken links & crawl errors (and more) is Screaming Frog.
Remember! If you fix any broken links, you need to resubmit an XML Sitemap!
Next, we focus on research. Why? While “best” practices for SEO are ever-changing, Google still uses keywords as a primary way to understand the content of your site. Google’s language processing now includes powerful algorithms like BERT and MUM, which inch closer and closer to human-looking levels of query comprehension. Getting good at keyword research not only helps you understand what Google is looking for, but also unearths additional opportunities for your business.
Make sure your keyword research prioritizes people. How can you answer their questions?
Keyword Research Resouces:
What is keyword research?
How to use Google Keyword Planner
How to do eCommerce keyword research
Use this checklist for on-page recommendations. Why? On-Page SEO is a method of producing quality content that both improves user experience and helps align your brand with Google’s recommendations. On-page SEO strategies get into the nitty-gritty of optimizing your content at the URL or page level, after the subject matter itself has been produced.
The following elements of a webpage all play a role in helping search engines understand your website. There are several strategies that incorporate optimizing some or all of these elements.
The URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is the address where a visitor (or a bot) can visit specific content on your site. You can think of this like the physical address of your home – how someone can know where to visit you!
A URL includes a bunch of information within its structure.
Learn more about TLDs
The terms used within a URL can help search engines understand what the page is about and therefore is considered to be a ranking factor.
Additionally, the readability of your URLs can influence click-through-rate from search and help visitors understand where they are within the site.
Since the URL can indicate to visitors where they are in the site’s architecture it’s important to use consistent and relevant folder structures.
Shorter URLs are easier for visitors to read and therefore understand what the page is about.
Generally, the closer the page’s path is to the domain, the more important the page is. This is not always the case but it’s important to keep in mind when creating your URLs.
As described in Google’s documentation on URLs:
Example of a URL in a browser address field
Example of a URL within Google’s search results
Example of an unoptimized URL:
The long number sequence in this URL provides no context for what the page is about. An exception to a case like this is when the numbers reflect a product number or SKU.
Example of an optimized URL:
The URL about uses dashes to separate words to help readers quickly and easily understand the URL and make assumptions about the content the page contains.
Let’s dissect the following URL into its components.
A great Title Tag is like a great headline – it both hooks the reader and it gives enough information about the subject to indicate what someone can expect to find in the content.
The title tag is an HTML element, within the head section, which is displayed within the tab of a browser and as the blue letters within search results (usually*). Each page can only have 1 title tag.
Learn why Google sometimes updates page titles in search results
The title tag is the content defined by the site owner within the HTML tag.
The page title is what Google shows within the search results. The page title may be the title tag, the first heading on the page, content within the page or some combination.
The optimal length of a title tag is between 50-60 characters.
Title tags are considered a ranking factor since they help to inform search engines about the main topic of the page. They also can impact click-through rate (CTR) from search. Using dates, numbers, questions, and calls-to-action can help increase your CTRs from search.
Example of a title tag within a browser tab
Example of a title tag within search results
From Google’s documentation:
Common mistakes include missing, duplicate, non-descript, or misleading title tags.
Seer Interactive: A Big Data Digital Marketing Agency
The meta description is the snippet shown below the page title within search results. It’s located within a meta tag, using the name description, within the head section of your document. The text is used to provide a brief rundown of the page’s content and what a visitor can expect when they visit the page.
Meta descriptions are not a ranking factor; however, they can greatly impact a page’s click-through rate from search results.
Example of a meta description (or SERP snippet) within search results
Seer recommends mentioning value propositions and using active voice when writing your descriptions.
Explore meta description examples and writing tips
Google describes meta descriptions as snippets in search results. The snippet below your page title in search results may be different from your declared meta description. The snippet might be pulled from the on-page content if Google believes it’s more relevant to the searcher’s query.
Best practices based on Google documentation includes:
The recommended character length for meta descriptions can vary based on situations like device type. A description of 150 characters or less is recommended. Keep in mind that although there is no minimum character limit, the best practices listed above should be followed.
Headings are HTML tags that identify the structure of your content. There are 6 tags available to establish a page’s hierarchy (h1 – h6).
A page’s headings communicate what the content below will include. The h1 is the most important since each page should have only one h1 tag to provide the overall title and purpose of the content. After the h1, the following headings (h2-h6) become less important in terms of the page’s overall purpose. A page can have multiple h2 tags to demonstrate the content’s outline. Tags h3-h6 should be used to identify additional content sections within the content.
A very rough sample outline using headings 1-3 could be:
<h1>Main topic of the page</h1>
<h3>What the topic is</h3>
<h3>What the topic is not</h3>
<h2>Benefits of the topic</h2>
<h3>Benefits for marketers</h3>
<h3>Benefits for consumers</h3>
<h2>Next steps for the topic</h2>
Headings allow readers to skim the content of the page and review sections that are most appealing/applicable to them at the moment of their visit. They also provide context to search engines about the content immediately following the heading.
Internal links are links on your site’s pages that can send visitors (and search engine bots) to other pages on your site.
They’re important because it helps search engines to understand the relationships between different pages and provides the opportunity for visitors to explore additional content.
Anchor text is the words you use to hyperlink a URL within a page. The anchor text can show the visitor what action to take and explain what the next page is about.
When thinking about internal linking within your site’s content you should
Learn more with our internal linking guide
Google’s advice on link architecture includes:
Things to avoid when linking to internal pages on your website include
Review the elements of a full-funnel strategy
Internal Linking Resources:
The value of internal linking
Site Structure and Hierarchy for SEO
How to find internal linking opportunities at scale
The body of the content is everything in-between the page’s headings which provides the actual information a visitor is looking for. This copy should include content that aligns with the searcher’s intent, provide a comprehensive breakdown of the topics, and can include a variety of content types/mediums.
Recommended reading: Google’s Search Quality Guidelines
Images provide visual context and extrapolations to other mediums on your website (text, audio, video, etc.). They can be served in multiple formats including JPEG, PNG, and WebP.
To understand how search engine crawlers may see your images it is important to take a look at the HTML referencing your image.
<img alt="Semrush Site Audit Report showing Internal Linking data" src="https://site.com/blog/uploads/cats.png">
The img indicates that an image will be there, the alt should describe the image in the context of the surrounding content, and the src provides the location of the image file.
The alternative attribute with the image element (aka alt text) provides a description for Google to understand what the image is displaying. It also ensures that users who are not able to display images (either due to browser technology or ADA eligibility) are provided an alternate user experience. The alt text of an image should be limited to 125 characters.
Learn more: how to write impactful alt text for images
Quick, effective, and free tools that site owners and content creators can use to check their on-page SEO elements include SEO Minion, Chrome Dev Tools, and Web Developer.
SEO Minion is a browser extension, available for Chrome and Firefox, that displays the page’s URL, Title Tag, Meta Description, Headings, links (internal and external), and more.
Chrome’s Developer Tools is available directly within your Chrome browser. It allows you to see the rendered version of your page’s code by right-clicking anywhere on the page and inspecting the element.
While this may not have been the most exhaustive list (and that’s probably for the best!), we covered a fair amount of SEO information with one checklist. By now, you should be able to reference a particular section and get to work! Whether you are working with a new website and submitting a sitemap for the first time, or you have been tasked with existing on-page SEO projects, we are here to help.
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Source: www.seerinteractive.com, originally published on 2022-12-16 16:58:46