The Ultimate 2018 SEO Checklist
We all know that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is absolutely necessary for anyone running a business, blog or website, but it can seem like a bit of a dark art at times – things are constantly changing and every marketing agency you talk to wants to charge you an arm and a leg to get it done.
To simplify things, and to make sure you start off with a solid foundation, we’ve put together a basic checklist that you can run through for any new site you’re putting together.
Install Google Analytics
This kind of goes without saying, but the first thing you should do on any new site you launch is to install Google Analytics. Not only does it give you really fundamental insights into who your visitors are, for SEO it allows you to track how much of your traffic is coming from search engines in the first place, what articles are ranking well and, in part, what keywords people are searching for to get there.
Configure Google Search Console
Formerly “Google Webmaster Tools”, the Google Search Console is a free tool provided by Google that gives you a host of information about how Google, and its visitors, see your site. Unlike Google Analytics, which shows sites about visitors to your site, Google Search Console gives you information about how visitors to Google see your site – the number of results you’ve shown up in, how many clicks this has resulted in, and so on. Furthermore, it gives you recommendations on improving your HTML, errors the crawler has encountered and the ability to see how Google crawls your site, including its sitemaps and robots.txt files. If you’d like to know more, Moz have a great beginners guide to the Google Search Console.
Bing Webmaster Tools
Often overlooked, Bing is the default search engine for the default browser on every new Windows machine that rolls out, so it’s no wonder that it holds as much as 33% of the search engine marketshare in the US. For you, this means a large opportunity to grab traffic that most people are ignoring.
And this is where Bing Webmaster Tools comes in – the Microsoft equivalent of Google’s Search Console. In addition to allowing you to add your site to Bing, the service offers a number of features to help you rank higher, including troubleshooting crawling and index errors, creating sitemaps, and so on.
Yoast SEO WordPress Plugin
Chances are, you’re running WordPress. In fact, according to recent stats, almost 30% of all websites run WordPress, and with over 5 million active installations, Yoast SEO is the WordPress plugin of choice when it comes to on-site Search Engine Optimisation.
This free plugin does too much to mention in a single post, but suffice to say that it will help you write better content and to structure your site in a way that will make it easier for search engines to index, crawl and rank your site.
Perform Keyword Research
Keyword research is by far one of the easiest, yet most important and valuable activities that you can perform with regards to your search marketing strategy. Not only does it help you understand your customers better, but it allows you to develop a strategy that is better able to bring the type of visitors to your site that you want to attract.
Basically it comes back to improving your knowledge of the specific terms and phrases that people are actually typing into the search box on Google, and structuring your content to meet those needs. And there are a few key resources you need to check out:
Compare Against Your Competitors
When it comes to hitting the front page of Google, you’re not only trying to create content that Google thinks is relevant to the person searching for it, you’re also trying to create content that Google thinks is better than your competitors. As such, understanding what your competitors are doing, and who is linking to them, is invaluable.
Hands down, Ahrefs is the tool we recommend here. It’s a little bit pricey, but after you give the free trial a shot, you’ll agree – it’s worth every penny.
Use Your Keywords
Once you know what keywords you should be targeting, make sure you use them!
But use them strategically:
- Put Your Primary Keywords In Page URL: If your piece of content contains an article for brownies, then somewhere in the page URL you should have ‘recipe’ and ‘brownies’. There’s a debate as to whether this is still taken into consideration for search rankings, but it certainly removes all doubt that a page will contain those keywords when they see them in the adress bar.
- Put Your Keywords in Meta Description: The keywords in your meta description don’t necessarily contribute to your search ranking directly, but they certainly play in to whether someone sees the term they were searching for when your site appears in search results, which impacts whether they click through and read your article. Yoast should help you here.
- Synonyms: Instead of re-using the same keywords over and over, make sure you mix it up a bit by throwing some synonyms in. This will not only spread your SEO footprint out a bit, but will also make your content more readable, and encourage people to stay on the page longer.
- Put your Keywords in your Header Tags (H1, H2, etc): Header tags are super important for breaking up massive walls of text, and for more guiding your reader towards the information that they’re trying to find. By injecting your keywords into your header tags, you’re also letting the search crawlers know exactly where to find the information that a user is looking for, and emphasising the value of those phrases.
Make Sure Each Page Has Text To Crawl
We know this seems a little counter-intuitive, but especially in a world where we use our blogs to share videos and other media, sometimes there are pages where there is very little text to accompany them. And while search engines are getting better at understanding what an image represents, including a couple of paragraphs along with your media to explain or summarise what’s in your video, image, or podcast adds immeasurable value to your search strategy. Note that adding a transcript for a youtube video or podcast is a great way to flesh out text on a page.
Keep it Fast and Mobile-Friendly
As the web evolves, the criteria for what makes a site rank higher is also evolving, and in 2018 site load speed and mobile responsiveness are two super important factors
Research shows that it takes only a couple of seconds of waiting before someone will click “back” and visit a different search result, and Google knows this, so sites are now being weighted by how quickly they load. Use GTmetrix to measure your site speed, and to get some improvements. [Cloudflare] is also great a great free resource for site speed (as well as security), and if you’re running WordPress make sure that you’re running a caching plugin such as W3 Total Cache.
Similarly, if a site’s not mobile-responsive in 2018… what are you thinking? Not only does this send a direct message to mobile customers that you’re not interested in having them visit your site, but it also tells Google that you don’t want them to find you either. Whenever you deploy a new site or piece of content, check it on several differently-sized devices to ensure that everybody has a consistently usable experience.
That’s all folks!
Look, we could suggest more and more things to you in an ever-growing list of must-do SEO activities, but suffice to say if you complete this checklist, then you’re going to make life a lot easier for yourself, and improve your chances of your site appearing in front of your customers when they go searching for you in 2018.
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