Looking for a comprehensive guide to build your strong SEO strategy?
You are in right place.
I have rounded up a complete SEO Checklist for 2020-2021 that can help you to find best practices for On-Page SEO, Off-Page SEO, Technical SEO, and Local SEO.
Go through the whole list to know essential factors to increase your success chances on search results and build a strong SEO foundation for your website.
Technical SEO Checklist
Optimize Robots.txt file
Robots.txt file is important as it has a series of instructions that tells search engine crawlers which page to crawl to index on SERPs.
Each website has a crawler budget, so make sure that your Robots.txt should include every important page you want to index. Verify your robots.txt file and ensure it to be easy to find and error-free to avoid SEO technical issues.
Optimize Site Structure
A good site structure and easy to navigate menu has a positive impact on user experience. Hence, it improves sites ranking.
Apart from better UX, an optimized site’s structure helps web crawlers to easily crawl through your site that results in faster indexing.
For a better optimized site’s structure, consider the following practices
- Make sure to use SEO friendly URLs
- Run User testing for a better user experience
- Ensure the responsiveness of your website on different devices
- Avoid duplicate content
Optimize Site Speed
Site speed is crucial in determining your site’s bounce rate. The longer a site takes to load, the more will be the bounce rate.
There are plenty of tools available that can help you to improve your site’s speed. Load time of site should be 1-2 seconds and not take more than three seconds.
Following optimization practices can work well to improve site’s speed
- Implement lazy-load
- Image format’s optimization for browser
Optimize your XML sitemap
XML sitemap explains your site structure as well as tells search engines what to index in search results.
XML sitemap optimization practices include
- Information about any new content either post or page added to your site
- Should have 200-status URL
- Because of the crawler budget, you should not have more than 50,000 URLs
Make sure Correct Structured URLs
For better relevance to user’s search queries, URL optimization is essential for technical SEO. Make sure to use readable URLs by avoiding the use of special characters that can help search engines and visitors better understand what your site is about.
Ensure the use of readable, informative, and accurate URLs on your website.
On-Page SEO Checklist
Optimize your Page Title
Page titles are important for both SEO and social sharing. So, Page Title optimization is a crucial SEO factor. To improve your ranking, you need to optimize your title well for relevant keywords. Make an accurate and concise page title that should not only be a list of keywords.
Page title optimization checklist includes the following practices,
- Each page of your site should have a unique title
- Title Length limit should be 60 characters
- Make sure to use target keyword in or near the beginning of the title
- Use Title Tag modifiers to rank for long-tail keywords
Meta Description Optimization
Meta Description is important and helps to improve Click through rate of a site. SEO meta description tags are an advertising opportunity to drive visitors from SERPs. Consider your description as paid Ad and add targeted information that can tell visitors what to expect on your site.
Consider the following practices to optimize Meta Description
- Limit your Meta Description length to 275 characters
- Use targeted Keywords in description
- Write meta description differently for every page (Don’t duplicate)
- Avoid the use of double quotation mark
Compelling Meta Description can maximize CTR on search engine result pages.
Website Optimization for Google Sitelinks
Site links are as important and appear on SERP for brand searches. It gives more opportunities to get more visitors via search results.
Although, you can not directly control which site links to show but, following best practices can help you,
- Using internal links, Give a clear and accurate structure to your website.
- Allow Google crawler to crawl through your site to index more pages in your site
- Set “noindex” for irrelevant pages
- Make sure to choose the informative and correct anchor text
- Use Google webmaster tool to control over pages to appear on site links
H1 Heading Tag Optimization for all Pages
On a website’s page, the H1 tag is the most important tag that explains what your page is about. SEO studies revealed the correlation of higher ranking with heading tags. Search engine’s crawler crawl through your site and analyze which content is in the heading tag. So, help search engines in understanding your page content and quick indexing.
Following are the H1 Tag Optimization best practices
- Your h1 tag and page title should be the same or slightly different
- Use your targeted keywords in H1
- Make sure that H1 heading should be different from the rest headings on the page
- Maintain the hierarchical structure of headings
- There should be only one H1 tag on the specific page
- Don’t use long headings
Optimize Other Page Headings
Apart from h1 tag, you need to optimize other page headings as well that include h2 and h3 tags.
Adding relevant keywords in heading tags can improve search engine visibility for those keywords
- Avoid the use of multiple heading tags
- Make sure the hierarchical structure, H1 first, H2, H3, and so on
- Add targeted keyword in the beginning
- Don’t overuse headings on a specific page and maintain balance
Optimize Site’s Images
Image SEO has become an important part of the 2020-2021 SEO checklist. Search engines like Google acknowledge Images as a crucial part of blogs, and articles.
To help you to improve Image optimization, I have mentioned some important and simple practices
- Add Unique yet page relevant images
- Make sure the use of proper image file
- Add Alt text and Caption in images
- Reduced file size with correct file type
- Add Images to the sitemap
Optimizing your images well can help you to boost your SEO ranking and visually attract visitors as well.
Use Target Keyword in Opening Paragraph (In 150 words)
Focus keyword or keyphrase helps you to rank on search engines. It’s important to know where to use and place your targeted keyword in content.
According to the study, Google search engine gives more weight to the first 150-200 words in your content. Adding targeted keywords in 150 words is considered to be a good optimization practice.
Create Perfect URL for SEO – URL Optimization
For SEO, make sure your website should have SEO friendly URLs. Your URL or permalinks let search engines know about your page. So, it influences SEO ranking. Keyword’s Optimized URLs for a specific search query improve click-through-rate.
To make your URL SEO friendly, the following practices should be followed
- Use short, yet descriptive URLs
- Include targeted keywords in URL
- Avoid the use of special characters
- Use hyphens to remove words
Reinforce Internal Linking Strategy
Internal Linking – A simple and important SEO practice. Internal linking helps in connecting your web page to the website and developing a hierarchy. Add 2-5 internal links to your newly published page.
A page having more internal links identified as an important page by search engine. It helps Google crawler in rendering and indexing your page.
Want higher ranking?
Reinforce your internal linking strategy with keyword-rich anchor text.
Use External Linking Strategy
External linking is a top powering ranking factor. Links coming from authoritative sites relevant to your site’s content can help in improving your site’s ranking as well as influence authority.
Make sure to use at least 5-8 outbound or external links on your page in your SEO checklist. Quality outbound links further improve your site’s credibility for search engines, and it seems your site is sharing valuable information.
Along with this, an external link is a simple yet free way to drive traffic to your website.
Off-Page SEO Checklist
Analyze and Measure your Backlink Profile
Consider checking your backlink profile as the foremost step in optimizing off-page SEO.
There are different tools available like Google search console, Ahref Backlink Checker, and Moz link explorer that can help you to analyze your backlink profile.
To evaluate your backlink profile, you need to check the following
- Number of links coming to your site
- Number of root domain link to your site
- Authority of linking sites
- Anchor texts in site
Analyze your Competitor’s Backlink Profile
Strengthen your backlink profile by evaluating a competitor’s backlink profile. Running competitor’s analysis can improve the chances of your success on Google search results.
Use tools like Ahref or SEMush to find competing domains, do an in-depth analysis to evaluate the quality of links a site is getting, and analyze which links are performing well.
Compare your backlink profile with competing sites and replicate backlink by getting those high performing links for your site.
Make Sure to Fix 404 Errors
Search Engines like Google always focus on user experience and 404 errors can affect user experience as well as your site’s ranking.
Finding and fixing 404 errors is a crucial part of your off-page SEO checklist. Broken links can be a reason for error 404 that lead users nowhere and red flag for search engine’s crawler. That’s why it’s required to fix such broken links and errors.
Guest Blogging to Generate Backlinks
Guest posting aka guest blogging is an effective way to get valuable backlinks as well as helps in creating brand awareness.
Well written and SEO optimized guest blogs can help you to gain credibility and high authority for your website and end up building trustworthiness. Search websites with good domain authority, pitch via email, write for the topic of your choice, and get a natural backlink as many as you can.
Use Social Media to Promote Content
Nowadays, social media platforms are a powerful and free avenue to share your content and help in driving traffic to your website.
Use Facebook, Linkedin, and Instagram to advertise your content, it can build your strong link profile and more online following.
Content Promotion through Paid Ads
Advertising on Google Ads and Facebook can help you to drive more links to your site. Paid advertisement can be an effective off-page SEO checklist if monitored and optimized well.
Launch your compelling Ad campaign, share quality content, and monitor it continuously to build a strong linking profile. Platforms Google Ads, Facebook, Microsoft Advertising, Instagram, and Twitter can help you to share your content.
SEO Outreach for Powerful Backlinks
SEO outreach can help you to create valuable links back to your site. It can increase the success chances of your SEO strategy and organic ranking on SERPs.
Find potential sites and blogs, pitch through compelling email, and create valuable content that a reader of a blogger is looking for. Although, it’s time taking practice; but, one of the most powerful link building strategies.
Local SEO Checklist
Logo Optimization for Local SEO
Optimizing your logo can be helpful. Use ALT text that can provide information about your business e.g. Location.
Being a webmaster, you must be familiar with the importance of ALT text as it gives strong signals to search engines. Optimizing your ALT text for your brand name or location can help search engines to rank your company’s site.
Make sure to Add NAP Information on All Pages
Make sure that your important information like Name, Address and Phone number should be visible on your site.
Include NAP information in the top header as well as in the footer on your website. Be sure to use the same information on all platforms wherever your business is listed like Facebook and Google My Business.
Google Map on Contact Info Page
Google Maps on websites is a strong signal of your business location for search engines. Avoid using images of map locations, instead, embed Google maps using an iframe tag.
Make sure to have text content including your business name, address, and phone number information.
Company’s Listing in Google My Business
Listing your business on Google My Business is an important SEO factor for Local SEO. Once you get approved for your business address, your business will appear on the map as well as on the local result box.
To improve your local ranking on Google,
- Provide Correct NAP (Business Name, Address, and Phone Number) Information
- Add Relevant Photos of your business to your Google Business My Page
- Correct, updated, and accurate opening hours of your business
Use Proper Schema’s
Schemas help crawlers better understand the context of your website. If you want to improve your local SEO ranking, consider Schema’s as important in your Local SEO checklist.
Use appropriate and correct schemas based on your business type.
Encourage Online Reviews
Online Reviews are digital proof about your business. So, encourage users to give reviews on different channels as well as on Google My Business Page.
Try to reply to all reviews and incentivize your customer by sending personalized emails or SMS to seek reviews.
Site Submission in Local directories
Along with listing on Google My Business, try to add your site on other local directories listing that can be helpful in giving signals to search engines about your location.
Be consistent in providing your business information across all platforms and make sure to provide the same details.
Some of the local directories where you can register your site include
- Bing places for Businesses
- Local Business Page on Facebook
- Yelp Business Owners
- Foursquare for Business
Whether you are experienced or new to SEO, this comprehensive checklist will help you to drive big results.
Make sure to follow the Do and Don’ts mentioned in the article. Covering almost every area, the checklist will help you to get a higher ranking and ultimately, help to drive more traffic to a website.
Hamid Mahmood is a Digital Consultant, serving multiple business communities since 15 years, focusing on their growth & success via successful Digital Transformation.
Making a name for himself in the Digital & IT community, Hamid is among the makers of brands i.e. Shopify Pro, and Napollo Software Design, the World’s top 10 service providers in the Digital industry.
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