To make our SEO checklist more digestible, we’ll start with the tasks you need to tackle right away. We also encourage you to read our article highlighting the top small business SEO strategies, as this article further details the importance of schema markups and metadata.
Here’s a checklist of four SEO best practices you need to put together ASAP before you’re ready to optimize your SEO strategy.
Optimize Google Analytics for 2023
Google Analytics (GA) is the lifeblood of your SEO strategy, so ensuring it’s tracking properly is vital to your success. GA tracks and measures your website’s performance in search engines.
This includes metrics, such as:
How many visitors are coming through organic search
How long each session was on your website
How many pages the user visited
It’s also essential to check you’re running Google Analytics 4, not Universal Analytics. Universal Analytics is the old version of GA that will become obsolete in 2023. If Universal Analytics previously tracked your website, you’ll need to switch. If this is your first time setting up GA or you’re reading this after July 1, 2023, you won’t have to worry about this.
Set up Search Console
Google Search Console (GSC) gives insights into your organic search performance and alerts you to site errors, including broken URLs and request timeouts. If you haven’t already, set up Search Console and fix the important errors GSC has highlighted.
Check Out Google Tag Manager
Google Tag Manager lets you set up your tags for desired key performance indicators (KPIs), including conversion tracking, email marketing analytics, and remarketing metrics. This allows you to customize what you track so you can readily access the information you care about.
Get an SEO Plugin
Getting an SEO plugin for your website is one of the best things you can do for your SEO. There are many plugins that work great, but we use Yoast SEO at Big Leap. This plugin allows you to edit metadata, submit and organize sitemaps, and analyze content for SEO.
Start with the “Chunky Middle” Keywords
This wouldn’t be a complete SEO checklist without some mention of keyword strategy!
While it may be tempting to tackle high-volume keywords—the ones that already have loads of searches and activity. But those are also the most competitive. The chances of you successfully ranking in those keywords are pretty low.
Instead, look at medium-tail keywords (affectionately referred to as chunky middle keywords). While they’re still reasonably competitive, middle-tail keywords are much safer bets.
Verify Keyword Intent
Google always strives to deliver quality content to its users—changes like the Helpful Content update prove that. So if you don’t want Google to penalize you, you need to capture the search intent around your keywords.
Say you’re targeting something like “best mugs online.” Most people searching that term would expect to see a result that includes a list of products. If your content isn’t a list of products, people will bounce from your site and Google will assume your content isn’t worth promoting.
Use Appropriate Formatting
Properly formatting your content ensures both web crawlers and people can easily scan through your web pages. This involves using a hierarchical structure of H1s, H2s, H3s, and so on when applicable. It’s also good SEO to use bulleted lists, as they break up your content into smaller, easier-to-scan pieces.
Check for Plagiarized Content
Plagiarism is a big no-no in school AND on Google, as the search engine will penalize any company that attempts to plagiarize another’s content. Most of us know this, but some accidental plagiarism may slip through the cracks as you complete your research. Use Copyscape to scan your content for plagiarism to ensure it’s truly unique.
Technical SEO Checklist
Technical SEO encompasses all the website optimizations you can employ to assist web crawlers and improve your ranking ability. There’s A LOT more to cover about website health, but here are some essentials for a website SEO checklist.
Check Your Robots.txt File
Let’s start by unpacking the nuance of Robots.txt files. These are the mechanisms that communicate to Google’s web crawlers that your website can be crawled and indexed.
Specifically, you’ll want to:
1. Block Private Pages from Searches
While most of the pages on your website should remain unblocked so your users can discover them, there are many pages you should block from Google’s web crawlers, including eCommerce carts and account pages that hold sensitive user information.
2. Declare Your Sitemap
Your sitemap is the outlined architecture of your website, showing how each web page interacts with the other pages on your site. Declaring your sitemap to your Robots.txt file will help Google’s bots navigate through your site and find what they’re looking for.
Examine Your Site Structure
Is your site structure logical and easy to navigate? Poll friends, colleagues, and potential customers to get an objective perspective. They may point out issues you’ve missed.
Schema markups are a great way to clarify your site structure to web crawlers. This is a semantic code that tells search engines what your content is about, allowing the engine to pull important data from your web pages and deliver them as visually stimulating search results. This includes results like answer boxes and lists of events.
You may also consider implementing breadcrumbs on your website. Breadcrumbs help indicate a page’s position within the site hierarchy, which helps users explore the site effectively.
Make Sure Content Is Indexable
Going back to the Robots.txt file, you must ensure all of your content (aside from the non-index scenarios previously mentioned) is indexable. The easiest way to tell if it’s indexable is to copy and paste the URL into Google with “site:” or “info:” in front of it. If your webpage comes up in the search results, it’s indexable.
HTTPS > HTTP
HTTPS uses encryption to make HTTP requests safer and more secure, ensuring threat actors can’t spy on your customers’ data when they land on your site.
Use Only One Domain
Don’t be fooled by the “www.” tag, “https://www.bigleap.com” is not the same as “https://bigleap.com”. Everything needs to be uniform, including the type of domain you use.
Check Your Site Speed
If Google has to choose between two similar sites but one loads two seconds faster, the faster website wins the ranking. To test your site speed, simply throw your URL into PageSpeed Insights to get some basic insights into your site speed. The ideal site speed load time is under two seconds.
Address Duplicate Content Issues
Duplicate content leads to keyword cannibalization. Overdramatic verbiage? Perhaps. But the effects are still devastating for your website. Essentially, pages with duplicate content compete against one another for the same keywords, harming your overall rankings.
301 Redirects: Rerouting crawlers trying to navigate duplicate content to the original content.
Canonical Tags: Adding tags to clarify which content you want to be indexed. If duplicate content is created from URL variation, canonical tags tell crawlers which version of the URL should get indexed.
Noindex Tags: Using Robots.txt files to block certain duplicate content from web crawlers.
Ensure Your Site is Mobile Friendly
Over half of all website traffic is from mobile devices. If you’re not optimized for mobile, you aren’t catering to the majority of your website’s visitors.
Fix 404 Errors
A 404 error usually indicates there is something wrong with the hyperlink connected to your website or a file was deleted. If your website is turning up 404 errors, you’re losing potential traffic. Find these errors and fix them promptly.
Address Core Web Vitals
Google’s Core Web Vitals looks at three criteria:
Largest contentful paint (LCP): The amount of time to render the largest content element.
First input delay (FID): The time from when a user first interacts with your page to when the browser responds to the interaction.
Cumulative layout shift (CLS): The total of all individual layout shift scores that occur during the lifespan of the page.
Google Analytics alerts you to any errors in these categories, which you need to address ASAP to improve your website’s visibility.
Revamp Your Metadata
Before we finish this SEO checklist, we have to talk about metadata. It’s not a ranking factor, but it certainly helps Google categorize your content.
You’ll want to do the following when considering your metadata:
1. Create Metadata Using Keywords From Your Research
It’s best practice to use the primary keyword you’re targeting once in the meta title and once in the meta description. But since it’s not a ranking factor, don’t worry about forcing awkwardly long phrases in either—just try to capture the same sentiment.
2. Keep Metadata Under the Appropriate Character Count
Meta titles should not go above 60 characters, including the space left for your brand name. Meta descriptions should be between 130 and 160 characters long. Anything longer will get cut from Google’s preview.
Get Your Website Ranking
Ready to get your website optimized for organic search traffic? This ultimate SEO checklist proves there’s a lot to tackle, but it’s completely doable with the right tools and an experienced team at your side.
If you want some extra support, consider getting a free site audit from Big Leap. Instead of checking off every item on this list yourself, we’ll look at your website under a proverbial microscope to find what’s working well and what needs immediate attention.
Here’s the thing about our SEO agency: We prefer long-term partnerships that are deeply rooted in trust. Before we dive right into this, we’d like to get to know you better, get a feel for your current situation, and talk about your marketing goals and expectations.
You can call us now, or we can meet over lunch. Either way, we’re excited to meet you.