Ultimate 2023 Website SEO Checklist
Ultimate SEO guide for websites in 2023
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
If you are looking to increase your website rankings on Google, SEO helps promote your content online through a combination of keywords, backlinks, online portfolios, and more.
We put together a comprehensive 2023 SEO guide where we cover essential SEO techniques used by industry professionals, which can be applied to any entrepreneur or business who are looking to scale.
We will break down this tutorial into different sections, go over them in detail and provide a link to help with installation, and cover as many techniques as possible which can have an impact on search engine in order to make this a one stop SEO list.
1. SEO Basics
Set up Google Search Console (GSC) and Bing Webmaster Tools
Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster are tools used by developers to track the performance of their website. This will give you valuable data on keywords, which pages are ranking on Google (and their position), it will also inform you if a page hasn't been indexed yet and give you the option to petition for an index of the URL.
It is an absolute must for websites to have this tool because you can leverage the information in here and optimize your website.
Create a robots.txt file and submit your sitemap to GSC and Bing
A robots.txt file is a file that tells search engine which URLs on your website they can access. This is helpful so that your website isn't overloaded with requests from Google.
You may also include your sitemap in your robots file (or submit it directly via GSC or Bing), and what it does is essentially inform Google of what pages exist on your website, the relationship between them, any updates on the page, etc. As you may know, Google sometimes takes a while to index your pages, and if you include them in your sitemap you can help speed up this process a little.
Overall, it's a good way to keep search engines informed of the pages in your website so that all your content shows up on Google.
Set up Google Analytics (GA)
Google Analytics is another powerful tool for tracking website data. This one offers you insight on the demographics of your website, how long a user stayed on a page, which buttons they clicked, and more. If you're thinking about launching marketing campaigns for your business, GA might be a great addition to your website in order to track how your campaigns are performing.
Make sure your website is actually indexed
Last but not least, you should actually make sure that your website is indexed on Google. You can either do this by verifying on Google Search Console, or simply copy the URL of your website, and paste it on Google Search. If you setup things correctly, your website should show up on the results.
2. Keyword SEO
Keywords are one of the main ways Google will rank your website for any given topic. They are essentially what a user types on the search bar, and the better your score, the higher you will appear in the results.
You should start by taking a look at the bigger picture of your business, and determine what are the core services you are providing. Ask yourself what problem does your business solve? From there, try to narrow down as much as you can what your ideal customer candidate would search on Google in order to find your business.
My recommendation here is to create a list of different keywords, because you will need to do further research on those in order to determine which ones have a higher chance of landing you a client.
Depending on your keyword, it might be almost impossible to rank on the first page right away. Instead what you should do is use a long-tailed variation of that keyword, where you might have a higher chance of success.
For example, ranking for the keyword "mechanic" might be difficult since there are many companies out there that have been ranking for that keyword for far longer than you have, and spending a lot more money on it. What you could do instead is add some modifiers such as +location, +affordable, +etc; to your keyword and Google will categorize the strength of these searches individually.
You would end up with something like "affordable mechanic in Toronto" and that's a narrower search term than simply "mechanic" which gives you a higher chance of ranking since it might be an easier keyword combination. Make sure to check the actual keyword difficulty, a topic which we'll cover next.
It is important to also research what keywords your main competitors are using, because those are essentially the people you will be trying to outrank. There are a variety of tools online that can help you with this, one of our suggestions would be to check out SEMRUSH or Ahrefs.
Those two have tools that let you inspect a website for free, although the data is limited. It's a good way to peek at your competitors until you make the decision of actually investing in a SEO Agency to help you.
Check keyword difficulty
After you have compiled a list of keywords and long-tailed keywords for your business, do check the difficulty of ranking those keywords on Google. Once again you can leverage tools such as Semrush or Ahrefs for this, but my personal recommendation would be to go with a SEO Agency as they will be able to cover the whole process and any details for you.
Keyword ranking is something that takes time, and you probably don't want to invest your time on a hard SEO in the beginning as you won't be seeing results for possibly months or years.
3. Website SEO
Now we're going to cover how to optimize your actual website for SEO. This section will include technical tools, HTTPS, tags, meta descriptions, and more.
Use a SEO plugin
A lot of small and medium business owners might not have the budget for a full dedicated marketing sector. But one of the ways you can help manage SEO across your website, is through a plugin.
There are some notable recommendations such as the YoastSEO plugin for WordPress, which allows you to easily change title and meta tags for a page. It's worth it spending some time on Google to find one that works best for your website.
Check for broken web links
Google Search Console will actually inform you if there are pages on your website that results in a 404 error (page not found). If you want to run a quick scan on your website, go to your GSC menu and select "Pages" -> "Not Found (404)" and click on it, if there are any pages on your website that are not working, GSC will show it on this page.
Protip: Under "Pages" you can also view the pages that are currently not indexed for any reason. This might also be a good time to take a look at it, and make sure there aren't any other pages missing from Google, and request an index.
Make sure your website is using HTTPS
HTTPS is an extension of the old HTTP, the 'S' meaning secure. Its main function is for data encryption which helps with creating a secure line of communication between the user and the server.
Websites with HTTPS have a higher positive rating from Google, as they are more secure than their older counterparts. This will also play a factor in SEO.
You can read here how to setup HTTPS. But if you're still unsure, feel free to contact a web agency to help you with it.
Use proper tags and meta descriptions
Did you know that every web page follows a set structure?
URL - Try to keep it under 5 words so users can easily remember and type it in their browser.
Page Title - This is the main place where your keyword should go. Google places a high priority on page title.
H1 Tags - Try to include a variation of your keyword on your H1 tags, to reinforce what the content of your page is all about.
Subheadings - Utilize H2, H3, H4, etc... to setup the structure of your page. It makes it easier for Google to understand how the content in your website is structured.
Meta Description - This is what is actually displayed on Google Search. It's great because it isn't necessarily displayed on your website, so you can actually tweak it a little more to how exactly you want your website to read on Google. (Do keep in mind that sometimes Google will straight up pull content from your page instead, if it believes the content is more accurate than what you wrote.)
And for you to have a better idea, here's how a common page structure should be. The homepage should contain links to the main categories, which then link to its sub-categories, and so forth. Keeping it this way makes it easier for both users and Google to find your content.
Optimize your page for speed
Speed also plays a factor on how well your page performs, and therefore, how high Google may place that page on their search. I will say that you might need a developer to help you with this part, so it's best to employ a web agency to help.
One of the main factors that can impact speed on a website is:
- The size of images and videos on the page
- How many effects you have on the page, since they also take time to execute
- How many elements are being loaded at the same time on the page (There is a technique called "lazy loading" that can help with this, fyi)
- How much content you have on the page in general
- And more
4. Off-site SEO
Now we take a look at off-page SEO, which is one of the best ways to increase your website rankings through means of vetting the content on your domain, from other websites. This is the equivalent of having someone vouch for your work when you're trying to sign up for a new client, except that the client is Google.
The techniques employed here are both time consuming and can sometimes be pricy (Advertisement), but you absolutely must include them in your SEO portfolio as they have a direct impact on your audience and traffic.
Backlinks are created when another website has a link back to your website. The more quality backlinks you have, the more positively it will have an impact on your search rankings.
Keep in mind that the game here is quality over quantity. A backlink from a well-known website, Forbes.com for example, will have a higher impact on your website than 5 backlinks from unknown websites on the internet.
Another thing to keep in mind when creating backlinks is understanding the difference between "follow VS no follow".
- Follow - Those links can be accessed by search crawlers (Google) and they transfer link equity to the website, which have a positive impact on their search rankings.
- NoFollow - Those links do NOT transfer link equity, and will have no impact on search rankings.
If you want to verify whether a link to your website is a follow or nofollow, simply right click the link and click "Inspect". If the anchor tag <a></a> does not have the attribute rel="nofollow" inside it, then that means that link is a follow link and will transfer equity. If it has a nofollow, then it is a nofollow link and will not transfer equity.
Follow anchor tags won't necessarily say that they are follow links, so don't waste your time looking for a "follow" attribute. They simply don't show the "nofollow" attribute instead. That's how you distinguish them.
Click here if you wish to read further about it.
Inspect your competitors
A good way to discover new websites that you could potentially leverage to link back to your own, is to find out what your main competitors are using. Tools like SEMRUSH and Ahrefs offer an insight on websites that let you view what are the "backlinks" to that domain.
After you determine the best links, you can make a list and start reaching out to them, providing some type of value in exchange to a link back to your own website.
Leverage social platforms
Social platforms are a good place to publish information about your website on your profile, and reach out to a bigger audience. Usually the links from social platforms are all "nofollow", but even that is OK because you are still reaching out to an audience. It is completely normal for websites to have a mix of nofollow and follow backlinks.
My recommendation is to try and provide some sort of value before you ask a reader to visit your website. You want them to have a reason to contact you, so here is your chance to give them value and nurture that reason. Setup profiles on Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, etc. Anything that fits your business and could help increase traffic.
More traffic = More chances someone becomes a client.
Last on this list is advertising. With platforms such as Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Microsoft Ads, Amazon Ads, etc; you can pay to appear directly at the top of search results. That is a MASSIVE traffic increase for your website, and very high chances that a reader will convert into a buyer.
The tradeoff however, is that it can be very expensive. You are essentially paying for keywords, and just like normal SEO, the keywords with higher difficulty are usually the simpler ones such as "mechanic", "restaurant", "digital agency", etc.
You need to do a good amount of research in order to determine which keywords are valuable to you, and have a good price so that you're not spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in ADs and seeing a small return. My personal suggestion is to reach out to a digital marketing agency for this step, as some of them are experienced in Advertising and can optimize your campaigns, save you money, and increase ROAs.
We hope that this list offered you some insight on how to scale your business online. If you are looking for assistance with your business, feel free to contact us below. We’d love to hear from you and we can help you with your website.