The Proven SEO Checklist to Rank on Google in 2021
Table of Contents
1. Basic SEO Setup
2. Keyword Research
3. Technical SEO
4. Content SEO
5. On-Page SEO
6. Local SEO
7. Social Media Optimization
8. Link Building
9. Ongoing SEO
You probably know that Google is the number one search engine in the world and the go to place to search for any services, products, or information. It also serves trillions of search queries every year. Compared to when your website is on page 2 or later on Google searches, when your website has high rankings on Google’s first page, you’re guaranteed to dramatically increase your website traffic, convert more leads, and eventually increase your business revenues dramatically.
Google makes it difficult every year to gain higher rankings on their organic results simply because they constantly update their algorithms to give their users the best possible user experience. While it’s impossible to know every factor that goes into Google’s ranking of web pages, we know certain methodologies work and other that do not. In this article, we created the below checklist to help you understand what gets you excellent SEO results,where to begin, and how to go about setting up your website for success to make sure you have the best chance to rank on top of Google.
You will be pretty successful in getting good SEO results if you follow our checklist here to start optimizing your website and getting top rankings. Of course,If you need help optimizing your website to rank #1 on Google, Zivvy can help.
Zivvy is one of California’s top SEO agencies and we help businesses everyday increase their incoming qualified leads and overall sales through search engine optimization.
Get in touch with us online or simply call 408-915-5571 today and our experts will draft an effective SEO strategy that suits your business needs.
1. Basic SEO Setup
No SEO checklist is complete without setting up your accounts on Google Analytics and Google Search Console. Follow the checklist to understand more about how to do your basic SEO setup properly.
Set Up Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a great tool when it comes to offering your website and your SEO a 360 degree view. This is the information you get from Google Analytics:
· Incoming traffic volume to your website from search engines, social networks and directories.
· Web page sessions, bounce rate, conversions.
· How long it takes users to convert after finding your website
· Integrates with Google Ads and Google Search Console so you can get all your important numbers for running your business in one pace.
Set Up Google Search Console
Your next step is creating your Google Search Console and linking it to your Google Analytics.
Google Search Console is a powerful tool as it can provide your business with great insight into the performance of your website in search results and how people find you on search engines.
Here are some important metrics that Google Search Console gives you:
· Crawl errors and mobile-friendly issues
· View top linking sites
· Impressions and clicks on each page of your website
· Identifying your top performing keywords.
· Website submission for Google indexing
Set Up Bing Webmaster Tools
Even though Google is the number 1 search engine in the world, Bing still claims a fair share of search results. That’s why we recommend setting up Bing Webmaster Tools. Similar to Google Search Console, Bing Webmaster Tools will give you a detailed insight into your website performance in Bing search results.
Bing Webmaster Tools can offer you benefits such as:
· Submitting your sitemap
· SEO Report
· SEO Analyzer tool to check your site
You can set up Bing Webmaster Tools by following Bing’s handy how-to guide.
Set Up Yoast SEO For WordPress Sites
If you have a WordPress website, we would recommend you set up Yoast SEO as a part of your SEO checklist.
Yoast SEO is a free plugin that helps optimize your website. It also has other versions for local SEO, Video SEO, News SEO, and also WooCommerce SEO if you are an ecommerce business.
You can learn more about the paid and free versions of Yoast SEO to see which one is best for your website.
2. Keyword Research
Keyword research is the process of identifying search phrases that your potential users might use when searching for your products or services in search engines.
Once you identify your important keywords, you can use them in your website content to attract more traffic and potential customers.
We’re going to go through the basic steps of researching and creating your keyword list in the following steps:
Create your core list of keywords
You know your business more than anyone else so you should start by thinking of what key terms your potential customers might use to look for your business online. These keyword ideas can serve as your startup list.
This list should include any relevant keywords to your business and also any keyword that may refer to your company name, industry, or even office location.
For example, a local moving company in Brooklyn could use a keyword phrase like this: “moving company in Brooklyn NY”
By the same token, an electrician could use keywords like “electricians in Fresno.” They could also target more general searches, like “how to wire a dimmer switch” or informational queries along those lines.
Of course these are just examples that may not apply to your line of business but we are just illustrating the general format for building your keyword list.
Get keyword ideas in tools
Once your core keyword list is ready, you need to start evaluating them by looking up these keywords using Google Keyword Planner. This tool actually shows pay-per-click related data but it is a valuable tool for SEO as it will show you search volume and competition level related to your keywords.
Google Keyword Planner gives you great insight into how many potential visitors your website can attract on a monthly basis since it will provide you with valuable data such as search volume and how many times people use certain keywords per month.
You should know that keywords with a high search volume are not always the right choice since most of your competitors are trying to rank for these keywords which makes it a harder target.
Regardless of what keywords you choose, you always need to check their search volume, cost per click, and competition level since this also gives you an indicator into their SEO difficulty when it comes to rankings.
Create a list of long-tail keywords
Here’s how to make the best list of long-tail keywords:
· Minimum 3 words or more
· Related to your industry
· Has over 10 searches per month
· Low competition
These types of keywords are called long-tail keywords. They’re easier to target since they have low search volume and low competition, but they bring steady traffic and can actually only take a short time to rank on search engines.
The more long tail keywords you target for your SEO, the more your brand will grow online because you rank for so many keywords.
You should also keep in mind the more specific the keyword is, the higher the buying intent is. For example, if you type in “lock repair company in Sunnyvale, CA” that’s considered a keyword with a high buying intent because it’s very specific to what the user is looking for instead of just typing in generic keywords such as “fix my lock.”
Your next step is removing irrelevant and highly competitive keywords from your list.
Eliminate irrelevant keywords
Irrelevant and highly competitive keywords usually follow this pattern:
· Short (one or two words)
· High search volume
· High competition
· Low relevance
If you have a new website, we don’t recommend using this keyword type since they will be tough to rank for. You will be competing against very established and old websites that have been doing SEO for years, not to mention franchises and nationwide businesses.
Later, after you establish your website online and maybe 6 months into your SEO effort, you can start targeting them slowly since you will have the base needed to go after competitive terms. At that time, you’ll also be ranking for long-tail keywords and getting traffic from there.
These competitive keywords will benefit your business eventually but you need to build up your brand and traffic first before you start targeting these competitive keywords. Otherwise you’ll find that you’re marketing dollars won’t go very far because it will be difficult to get quick results.
3. Technical SEO
Technical SEO can be the trickiest part of an SEO checklist. You can do it on your own or hire an SEO company to do it for you but you should be familiar with what these basic steps for technical SEO are.
Fix crawl errors
Having a crawl error means that Google bots can’t read your web page and if Google doesn’t understand your page, this page won’t rank for the keyword that you want. This will result in less traffic to your website so it’s important to fix this crawl error.
In order to see all the crawl errors in Google Search Console you need to follow these steps:
· Log into Google Search Console
· Click “Coverage” under the “Index” menu
· View any crawl errors
For each crawl error, Google will provide additional information. If you click “Learn More,” you can learn more about the problem and how to fix it. Once you repair the error, you can then validate the fix by returning to the error and clicking “Validate Fix.”
Use “URL Inspection”
While Google can certainly crawl web pages in a manner analogous to how a human does when he reads a webpage, it’s important to understand that Google can’t see your website the way most users do. For example, when it comes to images, Google relies on alt text to decipher your image and its role.
Follow these steps to use the “URL Inspection” tool:
· Log into Google Search Console
· Select “URL Inspection” or enter your URL in the search menu
· Click “Test Live URL”
· Choose “View Tested Page”
· Select “Screenshot”
· View a snapshot of your page from Google’s perspective
Once you see how Google sees your page, you can make the necessary changes.
Fix broken links
A broken link or a 404 error is not something that Google likes. That’s why every SEO optimization checklist should include checking for 404s on your site and fixing them.
You can use the following tools to find broken links on your website:
· Screaming Frog
· Link Check
· SEO Minion
If you have a small website, this step in your SEO checklist should only take a little bit of time. In comparison, a larger website will require more time and resources to fix 404 errors.
Make your web pages mobile-friendly
Having a mobile friendly website is a MUST since more than half of search engine traffic comes from mobile devices which makes it an essential step for your web presence. If your website is not mobile friendly, you will lose not only traffic but search engine rankings.
Check how mobile-responsive your website is by using any of these tools:
· Google Mobile-Friendly Test
· Google Search Console via “Mobile Usability” or “URL Inspection”
· Chrome Dev Tools via Device Mode
If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, you need to fix it now as you don’t want to lose search engine rankings because of it.
Have an HTTPS site
HTTPS is a protocol that helps display and secure pages across the web and is also one of Google’s ranking signals. Having an HTTPS website is essential and a must for any search engine optimization checklist.
You must make it a priority to provide both search engines and users with a secure experience when surfing your website.
Sometimes, converting a website into an HTTPS secure website is as easy as downloading and installing a plugin but other times it can be more complicated. All of our websites we design for our clients are HTTPS secure so if you have problems securing your site, we can help.
Improve your page speed
The final step on your technical SEO checklist is improving your page speed.
As we talked before about ranking signals, Google uses page speed as a ranking factor. If you don’t provide a fast experience on your website, you run the risk of a high bounce rate with users leaving your website.
Google understands this and penalizes sites with slow page speeds which will not only affect your traffic levels and conversions but also decrease your search engine rankings.
You can check the speed of your website pages using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.
You will generate a report which will provide you and your team with actionable items that must be addressed to improve your overall website page speed. Sometimes your website may be slow simply because of how it was designed and that is difficult to change. However, there are often quite a few easy to moderate changes that you can do you your site to improve page speed without having to redesign your website.
One last thing is to check with your hosting provider as in some cases slow speed is a result of bad hosting service. If you are paying for a cheap hosting service, you may be sharing resources with many other websites which can negatively affect your page speeds. If this is the case, you’ll want to consider changing your hosting provider.
4. Content SEO
Content is every element that you add to your website like text, images, videos, and graphics and so on.
There are six types of content that you can use on your website to attract customers, ranging from blogs to infographics.
Content plays a big role in your SEO effort, that’s why we created an SEO checklist for it.
Start a Blog
A blog is a section on your site that is used to publish posts about events, industry trends, or any useful information that attracts users to read and share. It is usually written in an informal tone that can be fun and engaging.
Blogs are also a great way to establish your authority in your business as a thought leader. Once you start attracting more readers every month, you increase your online authority and that is something that Google likes. That means you enjoy more rankings and higher rankings, which means even more traffic to your website. That’s a vicious cycle we like to see!
Articles are like blogs in that they cover topics relevant to your business, but articles are different in that they carry more of an authoritative and formal tone, establishing credibility for your business as a leader in your industry.
Articles are used to talk about your products and services — especially why someone should choose you over your competitors. Articles are also typically longer than blog posts, usually having over 1000 words.
Writing good quality articles takes time, but if you have a content team and can post daily or weekly articles, you could easily end up with hundreds of article pages on your site after a year that target highly-specific keywords.
Imagine all the free traffic you could get from that!
Images are a great addition to blog posts and articles because they give a visual element to text-based content.
Google can’t “see” images the same way as humans, but their algorithm can still appreciate that you have an image on a page that’s providing value to your reader.
A high-quality, relevant image tells Google that you’re creating content with your user in mind, which eventually helps your Google rankings.
Infographics is basically data in an illustrated form which covers a specific topic relevant to your topic of discussion. Good infographics are ideal for drawing traffic and links to your website.
Sharing infographics on social media can also help attract traffic, especially if your followers share them with their friends.
This form of content is different from blog posts and articles because most people are visual. So while it may be that they pass over a long body of text because it’s too intimidating, they will look at a nice infographic that presents data in a way they can quickly understand.
For infographics you’ll need the help of a graphic designer, or someone knowledgeable enough to bring your data to life. You’ll want to use less words, more statistics, and lots of data visualization. A poorly written infographic will do nothing to improve your site so make sure you put out quality infographics.
Video content is a great way to offer your customers a visual that they can appreciate and interact with. They’re also great for adding value to your SEO efforts.
Videos can give you the benefit of summarizing an entire article or blog post in a matter of minutes. This gives the reader the option to not read the entire article to understand the content—they can get it all in a few minutes by watching your video.
Good videos provide great value to your users, which is something that Google likes to see. Adding quality videos to your site is always a part of an effective marketing strategy for any business.
Interactives is a type of content on your site that lets your users accomplish something by adjusting settings, inputting information, or changing other criteria.
Interactives are also more engaging than videos and that’s why they are even better at earning links than infographics.
A good interactive can generate lots of shares on social media, earn thousands of links, and jump up the ranks of Google search results day after day.
The catch is that interactives also take the most time for planning, creation, and testing. But once you have a great interactive on your site, you’ll have an online product that can pay dividends for years on end.
Create valuable content
With content, you always have to provide value and that’s the main point of it.
If you don’t offer something valuable to users like information, answers, or ideas, they won’t have a reason to stay on your site. That means you’ll be losing your hard-earned site visitors to your competitors and that’s the last thing that should happen with an SEO campaign!
In a nutshell, regardless of what type of content you have on your website, you have to offer value to your visitors.
5. On-page SEO
On-page SEO is all the measures taken within the website in order to improve its search rankings, including measures to optimize the content or improve the meta description and title tags.
The idea of on-page optimization is to make it easier for Google to do its job and read your website properly so that you can get high rankings faster.
In order to make this process seamless, you need to follow the points on this website optimization checklist. Starting from optimizing your title tags to using your keywords, there are several points you want to accomplish when optimizing your on-page SEO.
Title tags are one of the most important aspects in your SEO process. A title tag is simply the title of a page and what the user sees in the blue title font on Google search result pages.
A well written title tag tells Google and users what to expect when they click on the link and can also help bolster your SEO efforts.
Google can’t read images and videos but they can read text and that’s why you need a title tag to match the content of your page. Otherwise, Google will not rank your website as high in the search results.
Title tags can also work well to attract users to check your web page if you add attractive elements like eye catching words in your description.
The general idea is that when you have an attractive title for your page, you’ll naturally draw clicks that might otherwise go to your competitors.
Meta descriptions are brief descriptions to summarize your page’s content and tell people what to expect if they click to your website.
Meta description tags appear right below your title tags in Google search results. They don’t have a great effect on your ranking in Google, but they’re helpful for convincing users to click on your page.
Alt tags are short codes that you use to describe to Google what an image, video, or audio file is. Remember when we talked about how Google couldn’t “see” images earlier? Alt tags is how you solve that problem.
Google can evaluate the user experience you’re showing your visitors through these short descriptions of your multimedia.
Make sure that whenever you’re using a multimedia file on a page to use an alt tag with it.
Having keywords in your content tells Google what your website is all about and what keywords your website should rank for.
You should always write content that is easy to read but at the same time make sure to add your target keywords within your text.
If you ever find yourself stuffing your content with keywords on purpose, just take a step back and try to write as you would speak and you’ll use keywords as naturally on a page as in a conversation. Be careful not to stuff keywords in your content as Google frowns on this type of behavior because it starts making the content sound awkward…and whatever Google determines as bad for user experience is usually bad for rankings.
Latent semantic indexing
Google now understands latent semantic indexing which is close variations of your target keywords.
This is important for two main reasons as: 1) It lets you rank for close variants of keywords of interest but that you did not explicitly target. 2) It gives you the flexibility to write more conversationally, which is good for users.
6. Local SEO
Local SEO is listing your business information with local directories and optimizing it for location-specific keywords. Google uses a user’s location based on IP address and geolocation to customize what results to show the user.
So when someone does a local search for a dentist, plumber, or a roofer, Google will display local businesses relevant to their location.
Claim your Google My Business Profile
Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool made by Google to help local businesses share their business information with local customers. GMB lets you create a business profile summary which contains your full business information such as business name, phone number, hours of operation, and more.
GMB let’s you appear on searches related to products or services for your local area. For example, keywords like “plumber near me” or “plumbing company Brooklyn NY” would show your business if your business category is plumbing and you are located in Brooklyn, NY.
If your profile is well optimized with full and accurate business information along with verified reviews from your customers, then you stand the chance of being featured in the top 3 spots on the map listing which appears on the first page of Google search results under related keywords (a.k.a. Snack Pack or Local 3 Pack).
Create your Bing Places For Business profile
Bing Places for Business is similar to Google My Business, but it’s for the Bing search engine.
It has the same features and benefits of Google My Business so you just have to copy what you do with Google and replicate that on Bing. It’s also a great addition to our local SEO efforts.
Create a Yelp account
Yelp is the world’s number one review website which enables users to review any business that they dealt with with either positive or negative reviews. People can share their experience and how well they received your service.
In a way, Yelp is like a special 24/7/365 forum but for business reviews which means people can be talking about your business without you knowing. That’s why it’s so important to “claim” your listing on Yelp and monitor what people are saying about your business.
Similar to Google and Bing business profiles, Yelp lets you add your name, address, phone number, and other business related information to your listing.
It’s also a place for people to see how credible your business is. It also gives you the chance to moderate and communicate with your customers about any reviews about your business.
Yellow Pages profile
Yellow pages has both a physical and a digital phone book for businesses around the United states.
Joining the digital version of yellow pages also gives you the chance to take advantage of their advertising solutions and pumping your business listing ahead of your competitors.
Depending on where you live and who your target audience is, Yellow Pages may still be one of the most trusted sources in business which can give your brand a good boost in exposing it to future customers.
But local SEO is just the beginning. You can get your brand exposed to potential customers by also using social media to improve your marketing.
7. Social Media Optimization
Everyone now has a social media presence and people spend countless hours on social media everyday.
So if you want to reach more customers, you should have a good social media presence to bolster your brand awareness along with your SEO.
You can encourage your customers to engage with your brand and also promote and buy your products or services by presenting your brand in front of them using social media.
There are many social media platforms out there and below is a list of the most popular:
Facebook is the most popular social media platform in the world with billions of users. It offers companies the chance to create a free business page containing the business name, address, phone number, and other important information.
Facebook can also help with your local SEO effort but it won’t carry the same weight as Google My Business and Yelp
However, similar to Google My Business and Yelp, Facebook also helps users to review your business and talk about their experience using your service.
You can use your Facebook business page to promote your products or services and gain followers. You can also moderate discussions and connect with your followers directly by replying to comments. It shows the human side of your business which makes your company more accessible and trustworthy.
Creating a twitter account for your business can be beneficial if you’re wanting to increase brand awareness and start conversations about your products or services.
That means that you need to be ready to talk about your business and engage your customers.
Twitter can also be used as a customer service platform since customers may post questions about your products or services and you can reply to them directly from your Twitter business account.
You can also utilize Twitter as an advertising medium by using Twitter Ads to promote your business. Promoting your business on Twitter can help you gain followers and eventually increase sales by reaching a totally new audience.
Instagram is a very popular photo sharing app owned by Facebook which gives you the ability to manage both your Facebook and Instagram accounts in one place.
Instagram can be a great way to promote your products or services using photos and videos.
Your Instagram photos can be of your business, employees, products, or before and after results if applicable. The more you share photos, the better because it gives a human side to your business and resonates well with users.
You can also use Instagram as an advertising platform as it allows you to run ad campaigns using promoted posts and lead forms.
Instagram is a must for almost any type of business from cleaning services to doctors.
Pinterest is a photo sharing app too and is exceptionally popular with women, who make up more than 66% of its users.
Pinterest allows you to share photos of your products and services and is very popular with women. It is also a great way to promote these photos to gain followers and leads and increase your brand real estate.
Pinterest also gives people the opportunity to “re-pin” your content which is Pinterest’s version of sharing.
The platform also has some buying functionality built into it, and that makes it an ideal fit for ecommerce businesses. B2B companies can also promote content, sharing industry information, and more.
Pinterest is very useful to any sort of business regardless of your type of company.
LinkedIn is the world’s #1 social network for professionals, and when you create an account for your business, you can connect with other like-minded leaders and business owners.
You can post content from your website and blog about your business and the services or products that you offer, which will translate to attracting new customers.
One of the best features of LinkedIn is the ability to run ad campaigns targeting specific audiences based on their job title, company, location and more.
LinkedIn is also great if you like running webinars or online conferences as you can market your events on LinkedIn through your network to gain more attention that way.
8. Link Building
Link building is the process of getting popular websites to link to yours. Google sees link building as the number one most important SEO ranking factor. It shows Google that other websites trust the value of your content, and therefore…they link to your website.
Google cares more about quality over quantity and when you get more quality links to your website, you’re simply showing Google that you’re an authority in your industry and that helps your search engine rankings.
So what are quality links? Quality links are links that come from sites with high Domain Authority (DA) and preferably more domain traffic than yours. You should always target links from a large number high DA sites.
Below, we’ll discuss the three most effective link building strategies:
Email outreach is the process of sending your website’s content (blog posts and articles) to journalists, bloggers, and industry influencers in your industry who are interested in the content’s topic.
This is the most effective strategy when it comes to building quality links. If you pair outstanding content (like an infographic) with a short, effective message, it lets users quickly skim your email, navigate to your content, and decide whether they want to link to it from their site.
Email outreach is the most trustworthy and effective way to earn new links to your website, especially if you email other websites moderators directly.
Social media outreach
Social media outreach is another way to reach out to site owners and moderators to earn links similar to email outreach.
This method is not as effective as emailing site owners directly but it can work as an alternative if you can’t find their direct email addresses.
One bonus tip here is also getting your content noticed by industry influencers so they can share it to their own network and you also benefit not only from getting a backlink to your website, but also boosting you as an industry authority.
You can still get residual links from people who saw your content and enjoyed it, and linked to it themselves.
Natural acquisition is based purely on creating valuable content, letting it be found online by interested people, and having them naturally link to your content that way.
Simply put, if you create valuable content it will sell itself and the backlinks will come naturally and this process can become seamless and automated.
The general rule is that the more links you get ,the better your website ranks on Google. This will translate into more people discovering your content and your traffic levels will increase.
The goal is always to churn out the best possible content so that it passively gets good returns (links) without your monitoring.
9. Ongoing SEO
It’s important to realize that SEO is an ongoing process and it doesn’t stop at any one point.
So even if you are finished following this checklist, you’ll want to revisit it periodically to see if there is anything else you can add or make better.
You should also remember that your competitors never stop their SEO effort and they’re constantly trying to compete for higher placement on Google just like you are. Also, there’s a ton of new competitors out there starting their SEO process too.
That’s why you should always bolster your SEO effort and continue it on a monthly basis in order to keep ahead of the competitors and never lose what you have gained over them.
The good news is while SEO is a lengthy process, it’s also not as difficult as you think. Once you follow this checklist you just need to “rinse and repeat” and the results will follow.
SEO can turn your website into a lead-generating and money-making machine and that’s the whole idea of marketing your business in the first place. You need leads and to increase your revenue an SEO is one proven way to do just that.
We understand that SEO can be quite tedious so if you ever just want to focus on growing your business, we encourage you to enlist the help of Zivvy, California’s top SEO Company with over a decade of experience in website design, SEO, social media optimization and paid advertising. Our team has built and optimized many websites in different fields and has the right expertise that your business needs to surpass your marketing goals and increase your overall revenues through search engine optimization and online marketing. Contact us today to see how we can help increase your numbers!