Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of increasing quantity and quality of website traffic through non-paid or organic search engine results. As search engines like Google display rankings on the basis of various ranking signals, it becomes vital to optimize your website accordingly. Thus, having a SEO checklist in place helps you rank better on Google SERP organically.
Not only this, SEO checklist become more important with the rapid pace of algorithm updates that are released by Google. To help you solve this problem, we have put together an SEO checklist covering top 10 best practices and tasks that you should be aware of. These best practices if incorporated correctly, can help you rank well on search engines organically.
Top 10 Best Practices for Google Ranking
1. LCP (Web Vitals)
As per Google, Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) is the render time of the largest content element visible within the viewport. It is a measurement of how long a page takes for the main content to download from the server and ready for interaction.
LCP in 2020 is a key metric as it is now one of the ranking factors, as per Google. LCP should not be more than 4 seconds. LCP more than 4 seconds is rated poor by Google, which negatively impacts your Core Web Vitals experience as well.
2. CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift) Score
CLS is an important aspect to measure visual stability. This help you check how often users experience unexpected layout shifts. A lower CLS score indicates no shifting or less shifting and a good CLS score and user experience. You should work towards keeping the CLS score under 0.1.
CLS score of more than 0.25 is considered poor. The aggregate CLS in Core Web Vitals Report by Google indicates the lowest common CLS for 75% of visits to a URL.
Minification or Uglify is the process of compacting the code by removing unnecessary white spaces, comments, unwanted or unused characters in the code. The primary goal is to optimize the website and improve the performance. The main part to understand here is that not only reducing the size of the code and files is the key but eventually to reduce the amount of bytes sent over network.
This eventually helps us in reducing the network requests to get the data, which is the main problem statement. And here the minification or Uglify shines. Compression of files to the optimal size greatly reduces the load time of the website and therefore increase the performance overall.
4. Canonical Tags
Canonical tags are used to tell a search engines that one specific URL represents a copy of a page. Canonical tags help you prevent issues caused by identical or duplicate content live on multiple URLs. “Rel Canonical” tag provides information to the search engines the pages which have identical content.
Canonical tag comes in handy when you want to retain both the duplicate/ variant pages unlike redirection where only the destination URL (final URL) is visible to end user. Not only this, canonical tags can be self-referential as well. So, it is always recommended to have self-canonical tags in case of no duplicate pages. Also, don’t forget to add a self-referential canonical tag to your home page.
5. Crawlability Issues
One of the most common technical SEO issues is crawlability issue. Hence, it is one of the key things to look at in the SEO checklist. Your analysis, keyword research, on page SEO will not be able to help you if Google bot is not able to crawl your website or unable to index your website properly. Thus, it is of utmost importance to check if Google bot is able to crawl your website.
Some of the high priority issues pertaining to crawlability issues are Robots.txt, server errors, 404 errors. Robots.txt file is mostly the primary cause of crawlability issues as the rules in this file could block Google bot or any bot from crawling the contents of your website or webpage. You should always keep a check on the live test screenshot using Google Search Console and cache version of the webpage to check if Googlebot is able to crawl the website perfectly or not.
Some of the other issues causing improper crawlability are rendering issues, technical issues like spider traps which causes the crawler to crash.
6. Poor Navigation Issues
Website Navigation and architecture is of extreme importance. Keeping users at first should be the first objective that you should always keep in mind. You should always structure the architecture of the website by categorization and sub-categorization of content. This will help in better navigation and pass the link juice to all the important pages.
While working on navigation, you should place all the important or primary pages of your website next to root domain. The maximum link depth for important pages under the category pages should not be more than 3 clicks from the home page or root domain.
While working on categorization of content you should always interlink all the pages so that you don’t have any orphan page left on your website. All the pages should be well interlinked and part of the categorization or navigation. Any standalone page not linked to any category is treated as orphan page, which means user landing on such pages will have no option other than to bounce off the page.
8. Avoid Multiple Page Redirects
Every time you redirect one page to another, the visitor faces additional request response time. These redirections include permanent redirections (301) and temporary redirections (302). The additional route that is taken to reach new location slows down page load speed. You should keep a check on all the redirections and reduce them as much as possible. To do so, you can use tools like Google Page Speed Insights.
9. Optimize images
Optimizing images is one of the most important things to be considered in the SEO checklist. Images helps in enhancing the look and feel of a web page but it tends to directly impact the page load time. This makes it of extreme importance to keep a check on the image size and format.
Image formats like PNGs followed by JPEGs produce better quality, which comes with a considerable image size as well.
To cater this, you can start using WebP images on your website, which can help you in reducing page load time. Not only this, you can use lazy loading on images in the second half of the page to reduce LCP (Largest Contentful Paint) and First Contentful Paint (FCP).
10. Schema Markups (Structured Data)
Structured Data helps you enhance how your page displays on the SERP by providing relevant information to search engines, which they need to understand the page content. This help them provide the best search results by using the rich snippets. You can use different schema markups like Organization, Product, Blog Posting, FAQ, Breadcrumb, Video schema and much more.
As of now, there is no proof if schema markups help in improving organic rankings. But, schema markup might give you an edge with rich results on SERP to have a better click-through rate (CTR).
Recently, Google has started showing fewer FAQ schema markups. To which John Mueller responded “In general, if the markup is on the pages and is “findable” with the rich results test, then that’s what you should be aiming for.”
With regards to FAQ markup in general, one of the things that I’ve noticed people talking about online is that we’re showing fewer of these in the search results. And that’s something from my point of view, that’s kind of natural development, where we try to find the right balance between showing these everywhere and showing these for pages where it kind of makes more sense.
And that’s something that generally doesn’t have any kind of effect from the markup that you have on the pages themselves. It’s really more that suddenly everyone has added FAQ markup to their pages and we can’t show every search result with FAQ markup. So we have to kind of fine tune which ones, which queries, which pages we would be showing the FAQ rich results type for.” This means that Google now displays schema markups like FAQ not with every search result, but only where it is relevant.
As SEO is an ongoing process, we should keep on working, optimizing our website to rank at the top and achieve desirable results. Not only this, you need to implement a multifaceted approach that resolved various issues to improve SEO hygiene to be successful.
So, to achieve higher rankings and be well ahead of your competition, you should try and solve each of the things mentioned in the SEO checklist mentioned above and keep in mind your customer’s queries, pain points, wants and needs.