6-7 MIN READ.
There’s over 200 ranking factors but if you’re reading this it’s quite likely there’s a few basics in this SEO checklist that will do wonders for your rankings. So here’s your chance to beat your competitors to those vital positions in Google and begin your SEO journey.
We can divide our checklist into the following groups;
On-page SEO is anything you are in control of on your website. Where it differs from technical SEO is that on-page SEO is mainly content (text, images etc.) and it’s likely that you won’t need any technical expertise. Having the right information and in the right places is key to getting your site noticed by search engines. We’re assuming that you’ve read our post on the importance of mobile-friendly websites for SEO so have purposefully left that out!
Relevant & Engaging, Well-Written Content
This is THE most important factor of your on-page optimisation, everything else comes second. If you don’t write content that your audience wants to read and engage with; you’re never going to rank. Blog posts are great for your SEO and are easier it’s to create engaging blog post around specific topics compared to service or product pages. You can then use internal link building to direct users to your products/services. If you aren’t comfortable writing yourself, it’s worth using a copywriting service.
TIP: Remember that search engines only want to return the best result for the user. Don’t re-invent the wheel, look at the type of content that ranks for relevant search queries and do it better but don’t copy it!
You can use Google Analytics to see how your audience are interacting with pages and this is a good sign of their speed, design quality and relevancy. We often hear from industry experts that content length is not a ranking factor. And this is quite true as there is no optimum content length for SEO but longer content may answer your users questions better. Make sure your content gets your point across, keeps people reading and encourages them to interact with your site by using a call to action.
TIP: Ensure your content is unique! Don’t plagiarise from other websites and don’t regurgitate content from elsewhere on your own site. More unique content = more valuable content = better rankings.
You should structure your content to allow users and search engines to quickly and easily understand the information they want. To do this you need a clear header structure. Headers are labelled in HTML as H1, H2, H3 etc. but the first three are key for making you content understandable.
- H1 – A page title (only used once per page)
- H2 – A header for a main page section
- H3 – A sub-title for a sub-section of your H2
You can use them in any order you like but we would always use a H1 first and use H2’s to label our highest-level sections e.g.
Remember that if your content is good your page may start to rank for keywords you didn’t expect, some of which may be related to information below the fold. In addition to headers, create a list at the top of your page, especially if your content is long. Use the list to link to specific sections on your page and allow users to get to the section they want to read instantly. Check out the top of our page as an example.
This brings us nicely on to keywords. Keywords are what makes search engines tick and help the likes of Google identify both what a user is looking for and what a page is about. You shouldn’t fill your page with them but identify your primary keyword and a couple of secondary keywords with keyword research.
Your primary keyword should be included in these areas (it’s good if you can include your secondary keywords here too but don’t force them in!);
- Meta title
- Meta description
- URL (if you change a URL make sure you re-direct the traffic from the old URL!)
- H1 header
- A sub-header
- As close as possible to the start of the first paragraph of the main body content
- Placed sporadically and naturally through your body text
- As one of your image ALT tags (if the image is relevant and not solely for decoration)
Site Usability & Internal Link Building
Your site should be easy to use (on all devices), well-organised and your pages should complement each other. Before you think about any dramatic changes to your structure, insert links to a page when another page is mentioned. This not only improves your site structure and how users navigate but also how search engines’ bots crawl your site too.
TIP: Optimise your new links by changing the anchor text to the primary/secondary keyword of the target page. For instance, if our target page’s primary keyword was “SEO Services” we would ensure the text on the link was also SEO Services.
Off-Page SEO & Backlinks
Off-page SEO is probably the most important factor for optimising your website. Anybody can shout about their business or their product but when others do the shouting for you, it’s far more persuasive. Similarly, when search engines find links back to your website (backlinks) it’s like a vote that your content is good and worth a look.
Free & Authoritative Backlinks
Backlinks aren’t all equal and often cost if you want an agency to gain them for you but there are free and effective options. If you’re a local business just starting out with SEO, enter your details in local business directories, we’ve written more about how and why local business directory citations are important here.
There are many forms of outreach but traditional outreach is the process of reaching out to other websites with fresh content (like an article or an infographic). If the content is good, it’s likely the website owner won’t take much convincing to publish your content and link back to your site. If your website content is really good, you will find your backlinks increase organically with no outreach as other authors write about your site and its content.
Many experts also monitor press request alert services. These services post request when a journalist is looking for a quote or advice in a certain field. You reply to the request qualifying your expertise and a quote/answer. If the journalist uses your answer or quote it’s likely you’ll get a link!
Another form of outreach is link reclamation. You need to use special tools to find mentions of your company, product or service that are not currently linked. Then you contact the website owner to ask them to add a link.
Should You Pay For Backlinks?
If you want to compete online and don’t have the time or network to do it yourself, you will have to pay. However, don’t sign up to a service where you pay $x per link; they don’t work!*1 Instead you will need to pay for someone’s time to do the hard graft; it’s the only way to get valuable links through outreach.
If you’ve had a talented, and SEO-aware web designer develop your site it’s likely that a lot of this is already done. Here’s an earlier post where we covered what SEO comes with a website. As a lot of this relies on your web designer or platform/theme your website is built on, so I’ll keep it brief!
Sitemaps and Robots
Your website should contain a robots.txt file and a sitemap.xml file. The combination of the two and submitting your XML file to search engines helps them map and navigate your site.
Speed & Security
Slow page speed can cause people to leave your site so you should use Google Pagespeed Insights & GTmetrix as indicators of your site’s speed. It’s also good practice for your site to have an SSL certificate, check for a little padlock next to the URL in the address bar.
Broken Links & 404 Errors
Links that don’t work (either on your site or from other sites) can produce 404 errors which are an unrecognised address. These are dead ends for users and search engines’ robots. They can be a result of user error when linking or failure to implement redirects when changing URLs. Use special tools to find them and then create redirects for robots and users following the links.
Canonical, Encoding & Other Techy-Things!
It does get a little more technical and there are tools that identify issues with your site. Browse our list of SEO Tools below to do your own audit.
By identifying and fixing issues from this basic SEO checklist or by contacting us for your free SEO audit, you will increase your traffic. BUT, this isn’t the end, SEO is constantly evolving. SEO is scale-able and once you see the benefits to your business of SEO, employing an SEO specialist will help you compete at a higher level.
How To Perform Your Own SEO Audit
Here are the tools we use, so have a go yourself!
- Google Pagespeed Insights & GTmetrix (both free!) – We use these to help identify page speed issues.
- Google Analytics & Google Search Console (both free!) – These are really powerful tools to understand your traffic and your performance in search results.
- Screaming Frog SEO Spider (free to a certain level) – We use this desktop application to help find missing headers, meta data or 404 errors.
- Siteliner (free to a certain level) – We use this website to help identify the level of unique content on your site, average content length and any broken links.
- KWFinder (Paid subscription) – We use this website to help identify keyword volume, relevancy, difficulty and user intent.
- SEO Quake (Free!) – A great little browser plugin to quickly identify technical faults on a page.
- Ahrefs (paid subscription) – THE tool for exploring backlinks and helping with link reclamation.
- Moz Local & Moz Link Explorer (both free) – Great online tools for checking your appearance in local business directories and how your business appears online.
Thanks for reading and we hope you’ve found the information in this post useful.
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