51% of all website traffic comes from organic search. So people type what they want into search engines to go directly to a website to purchase or learn more. Sounds like a dream come true for an entrepreneur or someone with a new-ish website, right? Well, mostly.
If you haven’t set up your website with the keywords that are ACTUALLY searched for to get to your products, you won’t capitalize on any of that beautiful traffic. Because, really, who will find you if you’re ranked on page 7,352.
Enter our hero… SEO.
Before we get into the SEO checklist, there are some marketing terms we need to get out of the way first:
⚪ SEO = Search engine optimization, which is the process of strategically optimizing your website for human visitors first but also search engines.
⚪ SERPs = Search engine results pages. After you search for something, the pages that are displayed are the SERPs.
⚪ HTML = Hypertext Markup Language, what most web pages are built with that tells how and what to display.
⚪ Title tags = An HTML element that describes what is on the page. Title tags are shown in the SERPs as well as crawled by Google. They should be between 50 - 60 characters in length.
⚪ H1s = An HTML element that identifies the one main headline. Unlike title tags and meta descriptions, this is visible to the user when they’re on the page. They should be between 20 - 70 characters in length (depending on how it looks on the page).
⚪ Meta description = An HTML element that summarizes what is on the page for search engines and usually displayed in the SERPs. They should be between 10 - 160 characters in length.
Listen. We like to keep it real, so, in the spirit of being totally candid - it can take a while for your website to rank high in the SERPs, and even longer to rank on the first page, if at all. SEO is in it for the long game. That’s why it’s important, and way easier (ask any SEO), to lay the groundwork of your website before you launch if possible or when it’s still in the growth phase. So follow our SEO checklist below for some tips on growing your organic traffic!
SEO Checklist Step #1 - Do your homework
Keyword data and a flushed out marketing strategy are the foundations of SEO. To get to that point, research is needed as this is the most important step in an SEO plan.
🔲 Analyze the competition
Who are your biggest, most well known competitors?
What keywords are they optimizing for? Use the free Screaming Frog SEO tool to crawl their site and look for common words listed in their title tags, H1s (headlines), and meta descriptions.
🔲 Look at all the keyword options
What keywords are people searching for when looking for your products or services? Google Keyword Planner is the best source for this, but it does require a Google Ads account for search ranges and an active ad for exact search volumes. You can also find search terms with paid SEO tools like ahrefs or Semrush, which are really robust and offer a lot more than just keyword research. Write down all the keywords, both highly searched and keywords with not a lot of traffic.
Have any of these keywords increased in popularity lately? Check out Google Trends for interest over time, interest by subregion, related topics, and related queries.
🔲 Pick the right keywords
Which keywords get the most traffic? When a keyword has a high average search volume, it means that people are routinely searching for it. The more people that look for a keyword you’ve optimized for, the more people could visit your site. BUT...
Which keywords could you rank for? High volume keywords usually have a ton of competition, though, and you’ll probably be out of your league. For example, we would love to rank for a head term like “marketing” but this is what page 1 of the SERPs look like:
Investopedia - can’t compete
American Marketing Association - definitely can’t compete
Wikipedia - no way
Hubspot, Marketing Insiders, Content Marketing Institute. You get our drift.
What are the long-tail variations? Go back to your keyword options and find variations of the best keywords that might have less search traffic but will give you a better opportunity to rank. For example, instead of “marketing,” see how much “internet marketing agency” or “san diego marketing consultants” gets.
Are there different variations of your keywords? For example, if you sell couches, check out the search volume for “sofa,” too.
SEO Checklist Step #2 - Optimize
Once you’ve done your homework, it’s time to optimize your site.
🔲 Identify which pages to SEO
🔲 Perform keyword mapping
What keywords naturally fit on what pages? Go back to the keywords you identified in Step 1 and select one target keyword for each page. Your goal is to optimize the page to rank well for your one chosen keyword so do not use the same target keyword on multiple pages.
🔲 Start writing
Where can you naturally put keywords on each page? Search engines consider many factors when they decide where your website ranks for a particular keyword, but make sure you use your target keyword in these areas of your website:
URLs (don't forget redirects to the new URLs!)
Alt text on your images
🔲 Avoid keyword stuffing
Does it sound natural for my keyword to be on the page? Keyword stuffing will sound weird to both your human visitors and search engines, so try to use the keywords only where they make sense.
SEO Checklist Step #3 - Track your progress
You aren’t done yet! SEO is an ongoing marketing tactic, which means you need to track your progress and, if needed, tweak your strategy.
🔲 Use technology to your benefit
What platforms do you have set up to track your SEO? Create a Google Search Console account and add the code to your website to track search queries leading to your website. Use the URL Inspection Tool to find site errors and then fix them. You’ll also need Google Analytics. GA tracks (among many, many other things) your website’s organic traffic volume, helping you identify if pages start declining so you put a plan in place to tweak them.
🔲 Optimize often
Do you check how your SEO is performing at least twice a month?
If you’ve made structural changes to your site, is your sitemap up to date? Has it been submitted to GSC to crawl?
Do you have broken pages that need redirects put in place?
The bottom line
SEO doesn’t have to be intimidating! All you need is some knowledge, time, and technology to set your website up for success. Our 3 step SEO checklist will help you get started, but if you’re in the market for more hands-on SEO help, we’d love to chat about an SEO audit and ongoing SEO services.