Well, if you are starting off with a new website or you already have an existing website, here is a checklist to help you identify what you have completed and what you are missing out on.
By the end of this article 'SEO Checklist For New Websites', you will have a detailed checklist to help you gain that initial momentum as far as your SEO is concerned.
And as always, for any one-on-one consulting and assistance, you may mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
For the sake of brevity, let’s begin with the absolute basics.
What is SEO?
Yes, SEO is the acronym for Search Engine Optimization. But, apart from the acronym, what is SEO.
SEO, or rather the process, is ensuring your website, or article, shows up on the search engine results page (SERP) for your relevant keyword.
For example, let’s say you search for “best HP laptops”.
I suppose you’d agree there’s no point in your website, which may be dealing in clothes for kids, showing up in the search results. If you have typed a particular keyword or a search term, you expect to get relevant articles or information.
And that, my friends, is what SEO is.
Ensuring your website comes up on the SERP for your relevant keywords.
Consider the search engine, be it Google, Bing, etc., as a big answering machine.
You ask and you get it! You ask relevant questions, you get the best answers relevant to your keywords (questions).
And how exactly does your article become the best answer? Read on…
How Does SEO Work? And How do Search Engines Work?
Now, to understand how SEO works, we need to know how search engines work.
For which, it is important to first understand a few facts.
- In the U.S alone, the number of bloggers is expected to reach 31.7 million in 2020.
- That’s over 10% of the country’s population.
- Over 77% of the internet users read blogs regularly (i.e., at least once per month).
- Tumblr leads the way with well over 400 million blogs.
- WordPress powers over 34% of the internet but houses “only” about 60 million blogs.
- However, the platform sees over 70 million posts and more than 50 million comments every month.
(Source: Hosting Tribunal)
Which goes to say, there are over 2 million blog posts every single day on WordPress. And guess what, we are competing in that same very space. Gulp!
Search engines have three primary functions.
- Index, and
What is Crawling?
A couple of new terminologies here now – Spider & Caffeine
Let me simplify this.
Once you have created an article, and published the same on your website, what happens next? How does the search engine know your content is out there? Well, this is where Crawling comes in.
Crawling is the process where search engines send out robots called Spiders. These Spiders lookout for new content. Content can be articles, images, videos, etc., all of which are discovered through links.
The robot starts out with a few web pages. It then follows the links within those web pages to discover new links and URLs. By identifying new links and URLs along this path, the crawler is able to discover new content and add it to their index called Caffeine.
Caffeine is a new web indexing system. This new system allowed Google to crawl and store data far more efficiently, to be later retrieved.
What is Indexing?
Once the robot crawls and finds out content, this content is categorized and organized. It’s like having a huge rack with files being categorized alphabetically. This process of organizing the content is called Indexing.
What is Ranking?
And finally, your content is ranked in terms of its relevance for the particular search keyword.
The ranking of your website or article will vary, depending on the quality of the content. How well does your article solve the audience’s search query?
The more time the audience spends on your content, Google identifies your content is of value. And your ranking improves.
Is Your Website Indexed?
Without a doubt, reflecting on the SERP is of utmost importance if you want organic traffic. The icing on the cake is once you show up on the first page of Google. But to begin with, we need to ensure our website is being crawled and indexed.
Here’s a small tip to find out if your website, articles, content are being indexed.
Type out “site:(yourdomainname.com)”. For e.g., “site:bloggersbloom.com”
This gives you a clear idea of the pages from your website being indexed by Google.
You may know this already, but Google uses over 200 ranking factors in their algorithm. While all 200 ranking factors are not available, SEO can be bottled into two main categories.
a) On-page SEO factors
On-page SEO factors, as the name suggests, are all the Google ranking factors that you can control on the page, from your end.
These include factors such as,
- Including header tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.) in your headlines and content
- Adding keywords in the title and meta description.
- Including your keyword in the content
- Content length (ideally anything above 800 words)
- Keyword Proximity
- Keyword Relevance
- Adding keywords into the image ALT tags
- Internal (Inbound) & external (Outbound) links
- Including the keyword in the URL
- Using LSI (Latent Semantic Index)
b) Off-page SEO factors
Off-page SEO factors refer to all the Google ranking factors that typically aren’t in your own hands.
These factors include,
- Number of Backlinks
This is one of the most important ranking factors. You have to create epic articles and content, which will help you earn a link back. The more number of backlinks you earn, the more Google recognizes your website as an authoritative website. Hence, earning backlinks is imperative.
- Domain Authority (DA)
A link back to your website or article from, let’s say your friend’s website versus a government (.gov) website or an educational (.edu) website or even a news portal such as cnn.com, is completely different. The Domain Authority (DA) of websites such as .gov, .edu, or a cnn.com is way higher, simply because they are more credible websites. Hence, when you earn a backlink (link back) to your website from one of them, your ranking really increases. Therefore, you should strive to build links from high domain authority (DA) websites.
- Follow vs. no-follow links
Google stated that they don’t count no-follow links (link with rel=nofollow). Hence, the number of your do follow links should affect your rankings too.
- Contextual links
Links within the content of the page
Covering SEO can be a course by itself. However, after covering the basics of SEO, I’ve created a Checklist.
Follow this to the tee and it should help you gain that initial momentum as far as your SEO is concerned.
TECHNICAL SEO CHECKLIST
- Using WordPress?
Download the Yoast SEO Plugin. It will make your life 10x easier. Use it to complete many of the Technical and On-Page SEO best practices in one place. [Related article: 25 Must Have WordPress Plugins for Your Website (2020)]
- Verify Your Site in Google Search Console
This free tool allows you to check how the search engines view your site with reports about indexing status, search queries, crawl errors and penalties. To learn more, read this helpful guide.
- Improve Website Performance & Speed
Analyze your site with Google PageSpeed Insights. Aim to score 80+. Speed things up with the free WordPress Plugins: WP Smush and W3 Total Cache [alternative: WP Super Cache].
- Take the Google Mobile-Friendly Test
Your site should deliver a great user experience across all devices. Extra important now that Google’s algorithm favors mobile-friendly sites.
KEYWORD RESEARCH PROCESS
- Develop a Buyer Persona
Getting into your customer’s shoes is the first step to keyword research. Remember, customers, are not searching for your site. They are searching for valuable information to solve their problems. Having a buyer persona is a crucial first step to figuring out what your best customers are typing into Google.
- Keyword Strategy
Aim to target less competitive “body and long-tail keywords” that competitors have overlooked. Create content around a portfolio of keywords rather than one single term.
- Brainstorm for Keyword Ideas
Hack Wikipedia for Topic Ideas and Synonyms. Generate 1000’s of long-tail keywords ideas using 3 automated tools: Google Autocomplete & Ubersuggest. Discover untapped keywords and topics using Quora.
- Narrow Down Your Keyword List
Use search volume data from Keyword Everywhere Extension or Google Keyword Planner to cut down the list. Be sure to consider commercial intent using Cost-per-click (CPC) figures as a guide.
- Choose Target Keywords
Once you have a list of possible keywords & phrases, start by reviewing the first page of Google for each keyword. Look to see if there are well-established sites with high-quality content. Then, use data from the MOZ SEO Toolbar to see the authority and number of links competitors have. Eliminate overly competitive keywords and focus on keywords you actually have a chance to rank for. Your chosen keywords will be the centerpieces of your content.
ON-PAGE SEO CHECKLIST
- Pick One Keyword Per Page
You’ll generally want to start with lower-volume keywords. (Again, use Uberguggest to get keyword ideas)
- Write Title Tags Search Engines Love
Every page of your website should have a unique title tag, preferably starting with a relevant keyword. Include modifiers like “best”, “2019” etc. to stand out and to pick up long-tail searches. Keep title tags 55 characters or less or they’ll appear truncated in search results.
- Follow Best Practices for URLs
Use short and sweet URLs that include your target keyword. e.g. www.yourdomain.com/target-keyword. Avoid numbered URLs like www.yourdomain.com/p=123. Always-use-hyphens-in-URLs. Never_use_underscores_in_urls.
- Skyrocket Clickthrough Rate with Meta Descriptions
Highlight the benefit of your post or product compared to competitors who already appear in the search results. Keep meta descriptions 160 characters or less or they’ll appear truncated in search results.
- Optimize for the Google Image Search Results
Include the target keyword in the filename and add keyword-rich alt text to images when uploading.
- Reduce Bounce Rates
Make the topic clear by including your target keyword in the first 100 words of your article.
- Give Your SEO a Boost with Heading Tags
Include your keyword once in an H2 or H3 subheading.
- Include Outbound Links
At least 2 outbound links to authority sites (popular blogs, news sites, and .edu and .gov resources) in every piece of content that you publish.
- Add Internal links
2-3 internal links to older articles when you publish a new one.
- Publish Longer Content
At least 300 words. 1500 words for competitive keywords.
- Use Prominent Social Sharing Buttons
Make sure your social sharing buttons are front and center on blog posts and articles. Use the DiggDigg WordPress plugin.
- Double-check everything
Once you’re live, check it with an SEO Audit Tool.
- Link Building Strategy
Not all backlinks are created equal. Your goal should be to earn quality “follow” backlinks from high ranking pages in your niche. Earn these naturally by creating (and promoting!) content worth linking to.
- Analyze Your Competitor’s Backlinks, Rankings & Traffic
This is the easiest way to get started with link building. Look at each of Top 10 search results for your target keyword, views link for each page using the MOZ SEO Toolbar Focus on their “Inbound Links” from “Only External” sources to see who has linked to them. You can also use Ahrefs, Majestic SEO & SimilarWeb to uncover competitors marketing strategies you can replicate.
- Maximize Links for Your SEO Campaigns
Find authoritative links in the tools above and reach out to those sources to pitch your latest blog post or product. Expect a 5% response rate from these cold emails. You can also search for existing non-linked content using Mention or Buzzsumo. Contact the owner or author of the piece and ask them to kindly link back to you if possible.
- Create Content That Generates Links & Social Shares on Autopilot
- Model Successful Content. Use Buzzsumo to find proven content ideas & formats.
- Put Together Best of Lists. e.g. Top 10 Lists
- Crowdsource Content. e.g. 7 Experts On Why Building Your Email is So Important
- Publish Survey Results. e.g. SEO Pricing: 600+ Agencies Share Costs & Pricing Model
- Create Infographics. e.g. Noob Guide to Online Marketing. Tools: Piktochart, Infogram, Canva.
Bonus Tip #1:
Leverage the high domain authority of other websites to quickly get to the top of the search results: Guest Posting, YouTube, Slideshare, Udemy, Quora & more. Publish your content on these sites and drive traffic back to your website.
Bonus Tip #2:
Local SEO. If you have a business with a physical location, bring your local business to the top of the search results.
SEO is more of a process than anything else. You need to give it time.
The bottom line is to provide immense value, in order to get those backlinks, improve on the bounce rate, increase social shares, among more.
I hope you found value in this article. Do let me know in the comments section below.
Also, if you would like to learn SEO, I have a course on SEO: Beginner to Advanced Course in SEO. Do check it out. I’ve got a 4.6-star rating too on Udemy for this course.