1) Set up Google search console
The first part of an essential SEO checklist is setting up Google Search Console. An essential tool for SEO providing you with invaluable insights into your site’s performance, Google Search Console provides you with a wealth of data that you can use to grow your site’s traffic and organic visibility. This tool allows you to view the keywords and search terms users are typing in to find your site on the “search engine results pages” (SERPs).
It’s also worth setting up Bing Webmaster Tools while you’re at it, which is the equivalent platform providing data and insights for the Bing search engine. After reviewing the insights, you can adapt your website to ensure you will gain that top spot in the SERPs.
2) Set up Google analytics
Google Analytics is a free marketing analytics tool that will allow you to view data about people visiting your site, and should be the next consideration for your essential SEO checklist. After all, without the right data you can’t make the best decisions for your campaign. This will allow you to understand who is viewing your website and when, and how they are engaging with it. You can then make informed decisions about adapting your website or SEO strategy to meet the needs of the people visiting your site.
You can also connect Google Analytics and Google Search Console in order to cross reference the data you’ve collected – clever.
3) Troubleshooting – can Google index your website?
Although we may not think it, it is actually common for a website to be unable to be indexed by Google. This could be due to a rogue piece of code being moved or other factors, but this reduces your ability to rank in the SERPs.
You can use the SEMrush site audit tool to ensure your site can be crawled and indexed effectively. If the crawl is blocked at some point by the tool, this means the search engine would not be able to crawl and therefore index your site either, so its therefore critical to identify this in your essential SEO checklist.
Checking these pages can be indexed will not only increase your chances of ranking in the SERPs, but also save a lot of troubleshooting problems if you find any issues later on down the line. So not only are you helping yourself now, your helping your future self too!
4) Complete your keyword research
Keyword research is the final part of your essential SEO checklist. If you’re using keywords you think are right based on gut feel rather than actual research, chances are you aren’t going to rank for the right terms, so your traffic then won’t convert at the rate it should. Researching the keywords you should be using is essential for your SEO. Let’s break down the process:
- Identify your competitors: no time spent doing competitor analysis is wasted time. Once you begin to identify which websites are competing in the same space as you, you can focus your efforts on ranking better than them.
- Find your ‘money’ keywords: these are the keywords that are actually going to drive you leads, sales and conversions. Conduct keyword research around your products and services to identify your head terms, and use them.
- Find long-tail keyword variations: although long-tail keywords typically hold a lower volume than head terms, they often deliver a higher conversion rate. Make sure you are researching long-tail keyword variants as well as head terms in order to ensure your page effectively ranks for a variety of related terms.
- Check the intent of pages that rank: in order to rank well you need to be providing content that matches the searcher’s intent. Research pages that rank for your target terms and ensure your content aligns.
- Identify questions being asked: are you able to answer the questions that are being asked? Not only can this help you identify if you are creating relevant content that will rank, but can also provide you with inspiration for new content you should be including.
5) Looking at the technical side
A big part of SEO is creating solid technical foundations that ensure your site can be crawled and indexed effectively, if not, you’re not going to rank where you want. Check out our top tips for technical SEO:
- Ensure you are using HTTPS: if you are not using HTTPS encryption on your site, it’s time to make a change. HTTPS has been known as a key ranking factor since 2014, so if you haven’t made the change, make it now!
- Find and fix crawl errors: as previously mentioned, ensuring your site can be easily crawled is essential in securing your ranking. Check out point 3 up above.
- Improve your site speed and user experience: search engines not only focus on the relevance of your site when ranking, but also the user experience. If your site is slow and difficult to navigate, you’ve got no chance. Make sure your user experience is top-notch, as Google have recently confirmed an upcoming page experience update for 2021, which will set an even greater focus on user experience as a ranking factor.
- Make sure your site is mobile-friendly: with more and more users browsing the internet on mobile devices, with 50% of traffic coming from mobile, having a site that isn’t compatible with mobile browsing is not an option. Make sure your site is mobile friendly to ensure you’ll rank on searches from mobile devices. Google uses its mobile first index for most websites, prioritising looking at the mobile version of your site first when looking where to rank your site.
While there are hundreds of other ways to improve your SEO, the basics above will give you a good start in ensuring you will make your way up the rankings. Just remember the fundamentals: you need to create relevant content, using the right keywords on a site that is easy to crawl and ensures a great user experience.
If you’re still struggling with your SEO strategy and need some help from one of our experts – get in touch.
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