Ranking On the First Page: SEO Checklist for 2021

Ranking On the First Page: SEO Checklist for 2021

Search engine optimization is essential. Not only does it help you to boost organic website traffic, but it also assists you in climbing the search engine rankings. However, SEO is complex and can seem quite overwhelming for many website owners. If you’re based in Denver, CO, a local SEO service can take some of the hassle out of running a successful website. In the meantime, here’s a comprehensive SEO audit checklist of what you need to do to improve your optimization strategy.


Basic SEO Checklist

There’s no such thing as perfect SEO and you can’t do everything at once. However, the more you can do, the better it will be for you. Let’s look at some of the basics.

Set up Google Analytics and Bing Webmaster Tools

Google Analytics is simply the best way to find out how visitors find your site and how they use it once they get there. You’ll be able to see a wide range of statistics, including:

  • Which pages on your site get the most traffic
  • Which search engines and sites drive traffic to your side
  • Whether your traffic is increasing
  • How much time people spend on your site

Bing Webmaster Tools is the equivalent of the Google Search Console and it allows you to see how your site is performing in the Bing search engine.

Setting up Google Analytics is an important task on any website SEO checklist.

Generate and Submit a Sitemap

You’ll want to make it easy for search engines to find the pages that you want to be indexed. Creating and submitting a sitemap assists them in understanding the structure of your site.


Create robots.txt

A robots.txt file works with your sitemap to determine the activities web crawlers can perform regarding each page. When you include a robots.txt file in the top-level directory, you control how search engines crawl and index your site.

Make Sure That Google Can Actually Index Your Website

Some sites aren’t set up to be indexed. Others get de-indexed accidentally when the developers switch from a staging environment to a live site. You should use a site audit tool to make sure that search engines can crawl and index your website.


Keyword Research Checklist

Once you’ve completed the basic SEO checklist, you also need to move on to your SEO checklist for keywords.

Understand Searcher Intent 

Search intent refers to the reason why someone is searching for particular keywords. Google seeks to identify not just the terms users input but also their intent. Therefore, you need to make sure that your content matches both the terms and the meaning. Searches are usually:

  • Informational - The user has a specific question or wants to learn more about a topic.
  • Navigational - The user wants to visit a specific website.
  • Transactional - The user wants to buy something.
  • Commercial investigation - The user is researching something they want to buy at a later date.

Understand Search Volumes

Depending on which keyword research tool you use, search volumes for any given term will vary. Don’t try to figure out which tool is correct. Simply use the numbers as relative metrics, not absolute ones. You’ll still be able to tell if “donut shop near me” is several times more popular than “donut store near me”.

Find Long-Tail Keyword Variations

Another important step in your search engine optimization checklist is to identify the long-tail keywords your audience uses. These keywords have a lower search volume than head terms which are very broad and highly competitive. However, they have a higher conversion rate.

Finding long-tail keywords is one of the most important SEO tasks.

Make Sure That Ranking for Your Keyword Is Achievable

When you find a keyword that relates to your business, you need to determine if you can compete for the traffic. Not all keywords will be easy to rank for. Many keyword research tools tell you how difficult it will be to rank for certain keywords. If there are famous brands in the top ten results or the top pages have a high URL rating, you may find it hard to get onto the first page. If the top-ranking pages have lots of referring domains, you may also experience difficulty.

Technical SEO Checklist: Facilitating Crawling and Indexing

Technical SEO refers to everything you do to help search engines find your website. Let’s look at some of the technical SEO requirements.

Make Sure You Are Using HTTPS

Upgrading from HTTP to HTTPS doesn’t just make your website safer; it may give you a small boost in rankings. Google has been using HTTPS encryption as a ranking factor since around 2014. In 2021, there’s no reason why you shouldn't migrate.

Find and Fix Crawl Errors

Crawl errors stop search engines from finding your content. You can identify them through the Google Search Console and you should take the time to resolve them.

Improve Your Site Speed

Your site won’t rank highly if it’s slow. Search engines put lots of value on websites that offer a good user experience and slow speeds are a sure way to ruin the user experience. Visitors will go elsewhere and this will increase your bounce rate.

Make Sure That Your Website is Mobile-Friendly

If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, it simply won’t rank highly. More and more web traffic comes from smartphones and tablets. If your site isn't responsive to all the various screens, usability will be lower. Also, you need to keep in mind that Google crawls and indexes the mobile version of sites rather than the desktop version.

Your technical SEO checklist should include making your site mobile-friendly.



On-Page SEO Checklist: Giving Searchers What They Want

On-page SEO helps search engines to understand that your content contains the information that users want.

Improve Title, Meta Tags, and Page Content

Your titles and meta tags give you an opportunity to rank for variations of your main keywords. Use the Google Search Console to identify the search terms on each page that have lots of impressions but few clicks and a low average position. This could mean that even though you’re ranking somewhere, you haven’t included these variations in either your tags or your content.

A keyword research tool can help you to improve your on-page SEO.

Ensure Images Use ALT Tags

You need to optimize both text and images as part of your onsite SEO checklist. This includes using ALT tags to describe what the image shows. This is important since search engines can’t see images in the way people do.

Improve Internal Linking

Don’t overlook the value of internal links. Your search engine ranking can improve quite quickly just by adding a few links from other high-quality pages on your site.

Off-Page SEO Checklist

Your SEO checklist for 2021 also needs to include some off-page tactics.

Analyze Your Competitors’ Link Profile

The only way you can outrank your competitors is to take a close look at their link profile. Run some of their URLs through a backlinks analytics tool. This will help you to understand the quality of the links to their site.

Conduct a Link Intersect Analysis

You may be missing out on opportunities for links even though your competitors are taking advantage of them. You can also use the backlinks analytics tools to find out which domains are linking to which competitors.

Find New Link Building Opportunities

Link building is an ongoing task. Put some time and effort into building a strategy for identifying new opportunities. There are tools that can help you find websites to reach out to.

Get Professional Help with Your SEO Checklist for 2021

If what we’ve discussed above sounds like too much, get assistance from Direct SEO. We help website owners in Denver, CO to master some of the most difficult aspects of SEO. Don’t hesitate to get help from an expert SEO service.

  • Kevin Dunn

    Kevin Dunn

    Sales Manager

  • Nicholas Walker

    Nicholas Walker

    Sales Executive

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