Search engine optimization (SEO) for a website is a complex and technical process. Even skilled digital marketers need to invest a significant time commitment to stay up-to-date with best practices, especially since Google changes its search algorithm 500-600 times per year. A common issue website/business owners face—whether it be a startup, small business, or even a large organization—is focusing on the development of a site and leaving no room in your budget for ongoing SEO. Here is a basic, yet comprehensive, SEO checklist anyone can use to boost the performance of your website.
✅ Do you have Google Analytics set up?
Setting up a few technical reporting platforms will ensure that your site can be indexed and crawled by major search engines, the biggest, of course, being Google. Google Analytics (GA) is the foundation of SEO for any site. Setting up GA on your site is a relatively simple process, most platforms offer step-by-step instructions, like this guide for WordPress or this one for Wix.
Once GA is set up on your site, you can create a Google account and access your dashboard. The GA dashboard can be complex for first-timers, but there you can view integral data such as page views, bounce rate for users, session duration, and referral source. GA in its most basic form allows you to monitor traffic, view patterns and understand how users find and interact with your site.
If you go no further in this checklist, let this be the one activity you do — Even if you don’t plan to use GA once your account is set-up. You are not actively collecting data and history for your website until you set up Google Analytics. So even if you do not want to invest time or effort in SEO right now, it will be useful if you’re going to employ further SEO practices in the future.
✅ Have you set up other fundamental diagnostic tools?
While GA is the main resource, there are companion Google tools that can be set up, as well as a Bing tool that will capture the data from users that do not use Google as their primary search engine. Let’s go over three services you should also be using.
Google Search Console
Search Console is another free tool offered by Google, that not only gives you further insights on your website’s SEO performance but also helps with the indexing of your site. Through search console you can communicate directly with Google on subjects like;
- Specify which country you’re targeting for your audience
- Submit a sitemap to Google
- Enable messages from the Google search team, which can warn you if your site is compromised by hacking or malware
In connection with your GA account, search console will also help track your site’s search performance, understand which keywords bring the most traffic, and keep track of all the external links to your site.
Google Tag Manager
Google Tag Manager (GTM) is software from Google that allows you to add specific tags to elements of your site. This is a more in-depth process, useful if your site has multiple pages and you want to track specific sales, conversions, etc. GTM might require an SEO or developer to set up.
Bing Webmaster Tools
It’s not altogether clear how many searches are via Bing opposed to the monolith Google, but generally, the number hovers between 20-30 percent, according to Search Engine Land. Almost a third of all searches is significant, which is why you can’t miss out on tracking the data of Bing users. Once you install and use their Webmaster Tool, you can analyze traffic coming from Bing and add that valuable data to your overall reports on digital marketing activity/performance as a whole.
✅ Do you have an XML sitemap?
An XML sitemap not only acts as a roadmap for the user but also leads Google to essential pages, integral for SEO. Sitemaps help users find and navigate all the pages on your site—which offers positive User Experience (UX). It also serves as a blueprint for Google to crawl your site, find relevant content and help your pages rank higher.
Most website platforms will include a sitemap in their templates, or offer quick and easy plug-ins/add-ons for you to implement a sitemap. Once you have an XML Sitemap, you can submit via Search Console to Google. By doing this, you show Google you believe these pages are important with high-quality content, in hopes that they are indexed.
✅ Is your page speed optimized?
Page speed is determined by how long it takes all the content to display on a specific page of your site. Why does this matter? Well, beyond the fact that you’ll likely lose a site visitor if your page takes longer than three seconds to load, it also affects the overall SEO of your site. Google has used overall site speed as a factor in their ranking process since 2010. They have also recently announced that mobile site speed affects mobile search, as well. You can test your speed on their PageSpeed Insights tool.
✅ Is your site mobile friendly?
Mobile-first indexing has become an SEO reality for both Google and Bing. It’s not enough to have a mobile version of your website; it’s got to be good because when it comes to being indexed, that’s where you’ll be judged first.
It’s easy to check how mobile-friendly your site it by performing quick UX and Quality Assurance (QA) tests on various devices (tablets, different types of smartphones, etc.) Google also provides a mobile-friendly testing tool.
✅ Is your site secure?
Having a secure website means you’ve installed an SSL certificate, which uses encryption to protect users when connecting their browser to the server where your site is hosted. It’s essential for UX to see a secure notification on a website. For SEO purposes, research generally points to secure websites ranking better.
✅ Do you have unique and high-quality content?
Google continuously instructs sites to focus on high E-A-T content when they are trying to improve SEO. E-A-T stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. To break it down;
- Make sure you don’t have duplicate content on your site
- Long and short-form copy should provide rich yet concise content to the user
- Blog posts should provide unique and value-driven content and resources to a user, make sure to cite and link all sources properly
For WordPress users, Yoast SEO is a valuable plugin that helps analyze pages for readability. You can also curate a compelling title, meta description, and URL with their snippet function.
After the SEO Checklist, Next Step—External SEO
These few simple steps can truly increase the on-site SEO of your website. However no matter how high-quality your website, UX, and content is, you’ll never rank without the crucial next step of External SEO, i.e., social media promotion, backlinking, and other digital marketing campaigns.
External SEO is a technical long game, 10x digital not only provides free SEO audits for websites, but we can also help create a dynamic external SEO campaign. If you’d like more info, let’s connect.