Search engine optimization (SEO) is the backbone of digital marketing, with 3.5 billion Google searches performed each day. Businesses across the globe are leveraging SEO to drive organic traffic and improve their digital presence. This comprehensive guide presents a 10-step masterplan to boost your website’s search engine ranking, derived from the wisdom of seasoned SEO experts and industry-leading brands like Hubspot and Wordstream.
Decoding SEO: The Impact and Importance
SEO is the practice of optimizing your website to make it more visible on search engines like Google. It’s a powerful inbound marketing technique that allows potential customers to find you when they have a need. “Think of SEO as a mechanism that communicates your website’s relevance and value to search engines, subsequently improving your visibility to potential customers,” says Greg Bernhardt, a senior SEO specialist at Shopify.
Unleashing the Power of SEO: A Step-by-Step Checklist
A high-ranking website is the cornerstone of a successful online business. This comprehensive SEO checklist will guide you through the process of optimizing your website for search engines.
1. Laying the SEO Foundation: The Basics
Purchasing a domain and setting up a website doesn’t automatically make it SEO-ready. Here’s a fundamental checklist to get started.
1.1. Google Search Console
Google Search Console is a free tool that helps you monitor your website’s traffic, track search performance, and identify issues that might obstruct your site’s ranking. Head to the sign-up page to get started, and don’t forget to verify your domain.
1.2. Bing Webmaster Tools
Bing, the second-largest search engine in the U.S., accounts for 15% of all searches. Bing Webmaster Tools is a free service that lets you add your website to Bing’s search results. Simply open a free account on the sign-up page, then add and verify your website.
1.3. Sitemap Submission
A sitemap informs search engines about your website’s structure. Shopify stores automatically generate a sitemap file, which lists your website’s individual pages. To submit your sitemap to Google and Bing, use the Webmaster Tools accounts you just created.
1.4. Google Analytics Set-Up
Google Analytics provides data about how people interact with your website. Once installed, you can monitor how people engage with your website post-arrival through search engines. Set up a Google Analytics account and add your web property to get started.
1.5. SEO Tools Selection
Keeping abreast of algorithm changes, rankings, and competitor keywords is crucial but challenging. Fortunately, there are several paid and free SEO tools to help achieve your search goals.
1.6. Site Indexing Check
Your website needs to be indexed by a search engine to appear in search results. Check for indexing through a site search (i.e., site:yourdomain.com). Remember, for new websites, indexing might take up to a week after submitting the sitemap.
2. Optimizing Individual Pages: On-Page SEO
Getting your individual pages ready to rank requires effort and time. Here’s an on-page SEO checklist to ensure your webpages are fully optimized.
2.1. Keyword Research
Use keyword research tools to determine the search volume of keywords and get keyword ideas. Shortlist keywords your target audience is most likely to search for and determine the search intent for each. Map these keywords to specific content types on your site.
2.2. Heading Tag Optimization
Heading (H1) tags, used as the main headline for a page, usually contain the page’s main keywords. Search engines use this information to understand the context of a page.
2.3. Title Tag Crafting
Title tags, the clickable links that appear in the SERP, help convince users to visit your page. Write compelling, clear, human-readable page titles, include important keywords, and keep your title tag less than 60 characters.
2.4. Meta Description Optimization
A meta description is the snippet of text that appears below your title tag in the SERP. Write a clear, compelling description that describes the page content and includes your target keywords.
2.5. URL Keyword Inclusion
Your URLs inform search engines about the content on your page. Include your target keyword and keep URLs short by avoiding filler words.
2.6. Alt Text for Images
Write descriptive alt text for your images. This helps search engines understand image content and makes content accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired.
2.7. Schema Markup Addition
Schema markup helps Google understand your website content better. It structures data in a way that allows information to appear directly in SERPs, potentially leading to higher click-through rates and more website traffic.
3. Creating Quality Content: The Content Checklist
As Jake Munday, co-founder of Custom Neon, says, “Relevant, interesting, useful, or fun content encourages visitors to stay longer, improving search engine rankings.” Here’s a content checklist to optimize your website content.
3.1. Content Marketing Strategy Creation
Developing a full-fledged content marketing strategy can take months. Start by brainstorming customer questions, using keyword research tools, and helping customers get more value out of products.
3.2. Content Formatting
Clear, concise content is valuable. Use content formatting tips to make your content easily digestible, such as adding a table of contents, using multimedia, breaking up sections with bullet points, adding subheadings, and including an FAQ.
3.3. Duplicate Content Rectifying
All content on your website should be original. Duplicate content refers to similar content that exists on two different URLs, making it hard for search engines to determine which of the two pages they should rank.
3.4. Specialized Landing Pages Creation
Instead of directing customers to a homepage, create a unique landing page for each specific topic. By optimizing them with the correct keywords and formatting, your site can appear in the SERP for people looking for that information.
4. Getting Technical: The Technical SEO Checklist
Technical SEO is a crucial part of getting your website to rank. Follow this technical SEO checklist to ensure search engine crawlers can access your website and users have a good experience while visiting.
4.1. Mobile-Friendly Store Check
If your site isn’t mobile responsive, Google is less likely to recommend it. Every theme on the Shopify Theme Store is mobile friendly, but if you’re not using Shopify, use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool to check your optimization.
4.2. HTTPS Secure Domain Usage
Secure websites are encrypted, ensuring digital eavesdroppers can’t intercept the information being passed through your site. Google takes SSL certification and HTTPS domains into account when determining where a site should rank.
4.3. Store Speed Improvement
Websites that load slowly don’t provide a good user experience, which is why site speed is a ranking factor for both desktop and mobile searches. Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to get a list of recommended performance enhancements for your store.
4.4. Broken Links Fixing
Broken links can cause crawling errors, which occur when a bot fails to reach a specific page on your site. Use Google Search Console to check for any crawling errors and fix them immediately.
4.5. Internal Link Strategy Development
Internal linking involves linking from one page to another within your website. Done right, it can improve your search engine rankings.
4.6. Anchor Text Optimization
Anchor text, the clickable text over a link, helps search engines understand the context of the page being linked to. Diversify your strategy with a balance of anchor text types.
4.7. Global Navigation Menu Building
A website’s navigation holds the most important links in your online store. For SEO, your global navigation links tell crawlers what pages are most important on your site.
5. Link Building: Off-Page SEO Checklist
When another website links to yours, it indicates trust, boosting your domain authority—a key metric in how competitive your site is for a certain keyword. Use this link-building checklist to build more high-quality links to your site.
5.1. Competitor’s Backlink Profile Analysis
Explore what sites and pages are linking to your competitors using tools like Moz’s Link Explorer and Ahrefs Site Explorer to understand why these sites decided to link to your competitors.
5.2. Guest Posts Writing
One of the best ways to build backlinks is to focus on partnerships and determine who you can provide and share value with.
5.3. Press Mentions Securing
Journalists are always looking for news to cover in the publications they write for. Making friends with journalists helps secure press coverage on authoritative sites that build strong backlinks to your website.
5.4. Brand Mentions Reclaiming
Use a brand monitoring tool to find “unlinked” mentions of your store or products on other sites. You can politely ask the writer or publication to turn the brand mention into a link.
6. Local SEO: The Local SEO Checklist
If you have a physical store, local SEO should be a big part of your SEO checklist. It helps customers in your area discover your business’s retail locations.
6.1. Google My Business Set-Up
Google My Business is an excellent free SEO tool for local businesses. It helps customers find you across Google Search and Maps.
6.2. Major Directories and Platforms Listing
Listing your business on web directories can improve your rankings. Some top directories include Facebook, Apple Maps, Google My Business, and LinkedIn Company Directory.
6.3. Thorough Contact Us Page
Your Contact Us page is important for building trust and attracting local customers. Provide your name, address, and phone number to ensure Google has consistent, accurate information for searchers.
6.4. City-Specific Landing Pages Consideration
If you have physical locations in multiple cities, consider creating a unique landing page for each city. This makes it easier to rank for each market area without having to build a separate website for each location.
7. SEO in 2023: Top Tips for the Future
The SEO industry is constantly evolving. As we look into 2023 and beyond, here’s what experts say will impact your SEO strategy.
7.1. AI for Content Creation
With intense pressure to produce content, some website owners are turning toward artificial intelligence (AI) tools to keep up. Use cases for SEO include first drafts of product descriptions, blog post introductions, page titles or headings, and content outlines.
7.2. Content Format Diversification
Search engines reward sites that format information in an easily digestible way. Google pulls different content formats into the main search results page, including images from Google Images and videos from YouTube.
7.3. Influential Creators Invitation
Invite third-party experts to contribute to your content to make it more credible. Google’s E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness) update to its algorithm measures how credible the creator of a piece of content is.
7.4. User Experience Improvement
Always keep in mind the connection between the user experience and search optimization. As search technology improves, these two things seem to march in lockstep, which means the easiest way to please a search engine is to please the people who use it.
While the way people use search engines will continue to evolve, the only timeless SEO strategy is to provide searchers with what they’re looking for. The vast majority of what we included in this SEO guide are things that make searchers’ lives easier. Understanding and implementing these strategies will significantly improve your website’s search engine ranking.
Need extra help? Consider hiring a Shopify Expert to help with your search marketing strategy. Or download an SEO plug-in for your website in the Shopify App Store.
SEO Checklist FAQ
What is an SEO checklist?
An SEO checklist is a comprehensive guide that outlines the necessary steps to enhance your website’s search engine visibility.
How often should I do SEO?
SEO is an ongoing process. Websites need to be refreshed and re-optimized regularly to meet search intent, prove relevance to Google, and target keywords your audience is searching for.
What are the requirements for SEO?
A responsive website design, fast loading speeds, a secure HTTPS domain, and high-quality content are all essential requirements for effective SEO.
Can I do SEO myself?
Yes, you can perform SEO yourself. Platforms like Shopify and WordPress offer SEO plugins that make it easy to optimize your website.
How can I rank a new website on Google?
Submit a sitemap through Google Search Console, set up Google Analytics, produce high-quality content, build internal links, secure external links, and optimize images with descriptive alt text to rank a new website on Google.
Remember, SEO is a continuous journey. Keep optimizing, analyzing, and adjusting your strategy to stay ahead of the curve and ensure your website ranks high in search engine results.