SEO Guide - Simple SEO Checklist for life

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Here is my SEO Checklist that I refer to when optimizing my website and new blogs. This definitive guide to SEO will make sure you do not miss optimizing any of the best SEO practices in 2020 for new and old articles. 

Titles

The most important and deciding factor on what keywords you will rank for, and what the user should expect if they click on your link on Google. Your title is one of the deciding factors on your SERP and CTR success.

  • Title character limit - from 55 to 65 characters
  • How about making your titles more playful and stand out from everyone else using Emojis? 😍 Not many people are using them and search engines understand them and render them perfectly. Not to mention, since your title stands out in the SERPs, that means you will see better CTRs.

Titles that reflect helpfulness

Make clickbait titles so even if you are in lower position, the people see it and click your link. For example, if you are writing a manual for a product, you can say “G176728 IV - A Helpful Illustrated User Manual” while the main user manual from the product owner would be like “G176728 IV - [User Manual]”. 

 

P.S: Make sure it is “indeed” helpful and UX is top notch, or else user will bounce back and Google knows.

Buffet Titles for generic keywords

“Kittens” - Google gets confused about what to show to the user.

  1. See what results are coming up
  2. Using this, Create a buffet of items on your page and answer everything.
    1. Cat video
    2. Why you should adopt a cat.
    3. Cat pictures
    4. Breeds of Cats
    5. etc..

Since google is confused about what to show, you can shoot up and rank the highest among all the others because you have all the answers to this vague search in just one page.

 

Title - Kittens : How to adopt, and what breed [with pictures and videos, of course]


 

URLs

  • Hyphens means spaces, so use hyphens (example.com/how-to-cook-pad-thai)
  • Keep it short. If your URL is 100+ characters, you need to work on such URLs and bring it down to 50-60 characters. This is more of a UX and Usability issue rather than an SEO issue. Search engines can index long URLs too.
  • Match URLs to the actual title (as much as possible)
  • Remember that URLs are case-sensitive. Two URLs with a single character in a different case would mean - well - two different URLs/pages and result in duplicate content, where only one page gets the ranking and other is excluded from Google index.

Meta Descriptions

  • The Meta Descriptions are like a summary of your entire page to let the search engine as well as the user using Google know what your page is all about (and whether they should click it. 
  • So meta descriptions are connected to your SERP as well as CTR success.
  • Keep your Meta Descriptions to a max of 300 characters (because that is how many characters Google search results ideally show for any Search result’s description.

Rich Snippets 

Now, even YouTube videos are being suggested more n more by google.

Even if you are in lower positions, if you can write a better summarized bulleted content than a very strong competitor, you can earn that stop and beat the competition.

Image SEO Checklist

  • Alt text - super important. Use ScreamingFrog to detect images with missing alt text.
  • Describe the image, you don’t necessarily have to stuff keywords in every image. Goal should be to describe the image itself as clearly as possible.
  • Filename of your image matters. Apply the same concepts of Alt text here too.
  • If you are using PHP to generate images from a string, use imageinterlace() function to generate progressive JPEGs - they have smaller sizes.
  • Compress your images using TinyPNG
  • Cache your png’s and jpg’s
  • Lazy Load your images and make sure your images are not the reason why you won’t ever rank on Google (images slowing down your page speed? Test)
  • Check your performance of Images that drive you traffic, using Google Search Console > Performance > Search Type: Image

How to check visitors coming from images on your website using Google Search Console. Go to PERFORMANCE and then you can change the Search Type to Images

  •  

Are your Website Images even accessible to Google

Due to technical disasters, it might be possible that the Google bots are not able to access the actual images on your website. If this is true, you might be losing out on big opportunities and traffic is being missed that you could now easily achieve with your current progress.

 

Go to Google Images, and use the site: operator to see all the images of your website that are recognized by Google Images (and all the chances you have to show up in Google Image search)

site:example.com

 

Why is Google not indexing all your images

There could be one or more of the following reasons.

 

  • Some of your images are not optimized upto Google standard
  • Images are not worth indexing as they are already available in the Google index.
  • You are hosting your images on a CDN instead of your own domain - so you won't find those indexed images when you use the site: operator on Google Images.
  • Google bot does not even see the image link due to a faulty lazy loading setup.

 

Adding YouTube embeds the right way

When you embed a YouTube video to your blog, it comes with certain unforeseen problems that need to be addressed.

 

The following three parameters need to be added so it results in a very clean looking embed that does not serve up other people’s videos.

 

?rel=0&autohide=1

Stop showing related videos (rel=0)

Firstly, we need to understand that YouTube content may drive your users away from your page. In order to minimize this effect, hide “related videos” after the video ends. You can do that by tweaking the embed code and adding the “rel=0” parameter to the src of the iframe embed.

 

Update as of Sep 25, 2018, YouTube has enforced showing related videos regardless of this parameter being set. Now this parameter works in the following way: If you have set rel=0, related videos will still be displayed BUT from the same channel only.

Hide player controls (autohide=1)

This parameter hides the controls of the player until you hover over the video. 

 

Remove the YOUTUBE button (modestbranding=1)

The users can click the Youtube button on the player which opens youtube in a new tab. This can make your users leave your platform and go to Youtube. 

 

Here's a complete list of Youtube embed parameters

 

Youtube videos slows down your page speed

When your page which has YouTube embeds loads, static assets from Youtube start getting loaded which slows down your pagespeed. The hack for this is to show a video player-like get a cover image and show that image with a play button. When that play button is clicked, that is actually when the video player loads.

 

Here’s the CSS and the Script which also handles all the YouTube related settings automatically for you. Simple paste it. Wherever you have a YouTube embed, this magical code will handle everything for you.

 

You’re Welcome! 

 

CSS

<style type="text/css">

iframe

{

width: 100%;

/*height: 100%;*/

}

.ytLoader {

    position: relative;

    padding-bottom: 56.23%;

    height: 0;

    overflow: hidden;

    max-width: 100%;

    background: #000;

    margin: 5px;

    cursor: pointer;

}

..ytLoader:hover {

    -webkit-filter: brightness(75%);

}

.play {

    height: 72px;

    width: 72px;

    left: 50%;

    top: 50%;

    margin-left: -36px;

    margin-top: -36px;

    position: absolute;

    background: url(//i.imgur.com/TxzC70f.png) no-repeat;

    cursor: pointer;

}

</style>

Javascript

<script>

function youTubes_makeDynamic() {

var $ytIframes = $('iframe[src*="youtube.com"]');

$ytIframes.each(function (i,e) {

var $ytFrame = $(e);

var ytKey; var tmp = $ytFrame.attr('src').split(/\//); tmp = tmp[tmp.length - 1]; tmp = tmp.split('?'); ytKey = tmp[0];

var $ytLoader = $('<div class="ytLoader">');

$ytLoader.append($('<center><img class="cover" src="https://i.ytimg.com/vi/'+ytKey+'/hqdefault.jpg"></center>'));

$ytLoader.append($('<img class="play" src="//i.imgur.com/TxzC70f.png">'));

$ytLoader.data('$ytFrame',$ytFrame);

$ytFrame.replaceWith($ytLoader);

$ytLoader.click(function () {

var $ytFrame = $ytLoader.data('$ytFrame');

$ytFrame.attr('src',$ytFrame.attr('src')+'?autoplay=1&iv_load_policy=3&modestbranding=1');

$ytLoader.replaceWith($ytFrame);

});

});

};

$(document).ready(function () {youTubes_makeDynamic()});

</script>

CTR

  • As shared earlier, your Titles and your meta description are the two things that the user looks at before they finally decide whether they should click on your website link or not.
  • Apart from that, there are some external factors that might also affect your CTR.
  • For example, you may be at the first position of google for a search result, but still have a very low CTR of 2-3%. This might  be possible in cases where there are a lot of ads, a rich snippet position acquired by someone else, a video carousel and then your website. In such results, the user hardly sees you even when you are in the first position. The solution to improve your CTR here would be to create a video so you target a video position in the carousel, and try to win the snippet as well, so you are all over the above the fold results.
  • The best way to look at such low CTRs is Search Console’s Performance report. Just filter the positions upto 3, and sort the CTR column. Make sure there are enough impressions for such CTRs though - coz you don’t want to optimize CTR for a page that is getting only 20 impressions.

 

International SEO

ccTLD

A country-specific top-level domain. These are assigned by ICANN and are geo-targeted automatically in Google Search Console.

gTLD

A generic top-level domain. These are not country-specific and if used for country-specific content, they must be geo-target inside of Google Search Console or Bing Webmaster Tools. Examples include .com, .net, and .tv. Examples from Google found here.

Subdomain

A major section of a domain, distinguished by a change to the characters before the root domain. The most-used standard subdomain is www. Many sites start with www.domain.com as their main subdomain. Subdomains can be used for many reasons: marketing, region targeting, branded micro sites, and more.

Subfolder

A section of a subdomain/domain. Subfolders are sections marked by a trailing slash. Examples include www.domain.com/subfolder, or in terms of this guide, www.domain.com/en or www.domain.ca/fr.

Parameter – A modifier of a URL that either tracks a path of a user to the content or changes the content on the page based on the parameters in the URL. These are often used to indicate the language of a page. An example is www.domain.com/page1?lang=fr, with lang being the parameter.

 

Hreflang

A tag used by Google to allow website owners to indicate that a specific page has a copy in another language. The tags indicate all other translated versions of that page along with the language. The language tags can have regional dialects to distinguish between language differences like British English and American English. These tags can reside on-page or in XML sitemaps. 

False associations : Country and Language

international expansion wanting to do one of two things:

  1. Target users that speak another language.
    Example – A business in Germany: “We should translate our content to French.”
  2. Target users that live in another part of the world.
    Example – A business in Australia: “We should expand into the UK.”

For example, french is not just spoken in France. Also, don’t use flags to denote language.

Below are some implementations of posting the translated content we might see by the business. This table looks at a variety of combinations of ccTLDs, gTLDs, subfolders, subdomains, hreflang tagging, and geo-targeting. Each combination of URL setup and tagging results in different targeting according to search engines and how that can impact the base number of Internet users in that group.

 

You have to determine what your real focus should be (language, country, or if you need to use both

 

Does your business change in different countries?

Are you targeting countries that have different languages than your native language?

Are you targeting countries that have different languages than your native language?

Are you targeting countries that have different languages than your native language?

 

Lets says your answers to all the above were “Yes”, then you have to use an integrated approach.

  1. The site content in each country must be different.
  2. Don't use IP detection for country targeting, but ask your customers to set a cookie.
  3. Only use people native to the country for outreach in order to minimize cultural differences.
  4. Pick the URL structure for your international growth and stick with it. Keep in mind that the structure needs to include both translations and geo-targeting. We recommend one of the following options:
    1. ccTLD and subfolder: www.domain.co.uk/de/product
    2. ccTLD and parameter: www.domain.co.uk/product?lang=fr
    3. Subdomain and parameter: ca.domain.com/product?lang=fr
    4. Subdomain and subfolder: ca.domain.com/fr/product
    5. Subfolder and parameter: www.domain.com/ca/product?lang=fr
  5. Translate your content. Don't machine translate; while manual translation is costly, it's the best for your brand and user experience.
  6. Put your HREFLANG in XML sitemaps.
  7. Set up Google Webmaster Tools Geo-Targeting.

Language-only targeting can seem like the easiest route to take, as it doesn’t require a major change and multiple instances of marketing plans. Country-focused targeting requires new targeted content to each targeted country. There are far fewer languages in the world than countries. In addition, if you target the major world languages, you could potentially start with a base of millions of users that speak those languages. 

 

However, language targeting involves two very tricky components: translation and language tagging. If either of these components are not done right, it can cause major issues with user experience and indexation. 

 

If you are focusing on language targeting only, don’t use a ccTLD

Those are meant for targeting a specific country, not a language.

 

Troubleshooting International SEO: A flowchart

Guaranteed SEO Facts

PageSpeed

  • Although speed has been used in ranking for some time, that signal was focused on desktop searches. Today we’re announcing that starting in July 2018, page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches.
  • The “Speed Update,” as we’re calling it, will only affect pages that deliver the slowest experience to users and will only affect a small percentage of queries. 
  • The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a slow page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.
  • Check your Page Speed at PageSpeed Insights

Domain age does not matter that much

Do not obsess about buying an old domain.

 

“The difference between a domain that’s six months old versus one year old is really not that big at all.”

 

 

Keyword in the subdomain

 

Moz’s expert panel agrees that a keyword appearing in the subdomain can boost rankings.


 

keyword appears in subdomain

Become an Authority

High Quality Page definition

Google released a Quality Rater Guideline. Here’s the copy of your Quality Rater Guidelines PDF.

 

 

Any page that has 3 qualities - Expertise, Authoritativeness, or Trustworthiness (E-A-T). Expertise of the creator of the MC, and authoritativeness trustworthiness of the page or website, is extremely important for a page to achieve its purpose well.

 

 

You can have an authority from High to Highest based on your reputation in the real world.

 

Few examples of very high quality Main Content and authoritative websites are:

  • Video on an Official website of saturday night’s live tv show.
  • News site which has won 10 Pulitzer awards
  • You are adding value to the content. You have put effort in researching and creating content that is helpful for the user.
  • The purpose of this page is to provide an onlineBMI (Body Mass Index) calculator.  The calculator is functional and easy to use.The website represents an institute that is part of the National Institutes of Health.  It has an extremely good reputation and is an expert in medical topics.
  • Recipe Site : The website is one of the most popular recipe websites and the author of the recipe is a well-known celebrity chef who specializes in southern cooking.This page has a large number of user reviews of the recipe, detailed preparation time information, a “recipe box” feature, etc
  • Even though this user does not seem to be a well-known professional chef, recipes are an example of everyday expertise. The author of this blog has documented her extensive experimentation with a chocolate chip cookie recipe, and her expertise is demonstrated in the large quantity of high or highest quality MC.

 

 

Low quality page definition

 

 

  • The creator of the MC does not have adequate expertise in the topic of the MC, e.g. a tax form instruction video made by someone with no clear expertise in tax preparation.
  • The website is not an authoritative source for the topic of the page, e.g. tax information on a cooking website.
  • The MC is not trustworthy, e.g. a shopping checkout page that has an insecure connection
  • Grammar and punctuation errors, heavily paraphrased content from another source with factual inaccuracies. Copy a sentence and search with and without quotes in google search to see copied results. Is most of their MC the same? If so, does oneclearly come from a highly authoritative source that is known for original content creation (newspaper, magazine,medical foundation, etc.)? Does one source seem to reasonably be the original? Does one source appear to have the earliest publication date, verified by sources like the Wayback Machine?
  • A Q&A site that has no answer will be ranked lower, because there is no helpful content.

Medium Quality Page

  • They are of two types:
    • Nothing wrong, but nothing special - The page achieves its purpose, however, it does not merit a  High  quality rating, nor is there anything to indicate that a  Low  quality rating is appropriate.
    • Mixed with strong High quality rating characteristics - The page or website has strong High quality rating characteristics, but also has mild Low quality characteristics. The strong High quality aspects make it difficult to rate the page Low .
  • Examples
    • This page is from a humorous site that encourages users to post photos with mouths drawn on them.  This page is OK for its purpose, but it doesn’t display characteristics associated with a High rating. Nothing wrong, but nothing special.
    • There are many lyrics websites that have similar content.  This page is OK for its purpose, but it doesn’t display characteristics associated with a High rating
    • This website is known for high quality content about animals and the environment.  This particular page has a recipe for kids.  There Isn't much MC or SC.  This page is OK for its purpose, but it doesn’t display characteristics associated with a High rating.

Relevance

You have to write content for what people are looking for on Google.

 

Does the post thoroughly cover exactly what the user was searching?

 

Keyword Research tool generally just to give you very binary data of how much volume of people are searching for a very specific search term. These tools are dependent on Keywords and Google doesn’t care about keywords (anymore). It is the semantics that fuels Google Search. What is the intent behind the search. 

Quality Backlinks and Internal Links

  • Your reputation on the web matters the most. 
  • A flood of traffic speeds up your authority.
  • Images are a great way to get backlinks. Although a lot of spam websites auto generate their pages with links to your images, their bad black Hat SEO might potentially give you a bump in traffic initially.
  • If you and your competitors both have the same DA, same backlinks and potentially the same amount of helpful content - then who gets the rank? Probably some other signals come to play here - like time on page, social signals like shares, engagement etc.
  • Build a YouTube channel to send some traffic from there to your website.

UX

Google has access to different metrics in order to understand if the user got what he was searching for and was satisfied with your page or not.

 

CTR - Mainly your titles decide how good your CTR is going to be.

 

Time on Page - Google takes this data to decide how long somebody stays on the page

 

E.A.T

Expertise

Authoritativeness

Trustworthiness

 

Use of Images

Outbound Links

Who do you link to? If you link to low quality crappy pages, maybe you are one yourself.

 

Content Age

Older content has had more time with the algorithm so has potential to rank well. However, if it's too old then it might not be relevant anymore.

 

Social Signals

Site Structure


 

Observations

Domain Name relevance

 

Look at the Image above. It shows the top 4 ranking websites for the Keyword “Beach quotes”.

 

Although the second position website has way higher DA, PA, Backlinks and FB shares, a website with much lower numbers is ranked number 1.

This is very likely because of the “relevance” of the website on the keyword. The first website has the word “beach” in it.

Content Gap Analysis

  • Search engines getting smarter; you gotta have a strategy behind your content
  • Product focused content alone does not always create conversion, especially if you are not engaging in the right point in the path-to-purchase - Content needs to align with the buyer’s wants and needs and at the right stage of the buying cycle.
  • If a particular customer segment or persona is neglected, key relationship building opportunities and potential conversions could be missed.

 

A Content Gap Analysis is a strategic tactic used to outrank competitors on industry related terms and capitalize on terms currently not targeted by a brand’s website. The more valuable content brands have on their site, the more opportunities they have to not only rank organically in search, but also to create a great landing page experience for their paid media efforts. The increase in opportunities and search rankings will likely lead to more traffic, which will lead to more awareness, further exploration of the site and ideally end with conversions by the consumer.

 

The difference between the actual state and the target state can be identified and measures can be defined on this basis in order to close the gaps. With the results of this gap analysis companies can uncover and activate hidden and unused potential. This applies to both the optimization of existing content as well as the creation of new content. This makes content marketing more efficient, increases the ROI and raises profits.

 

Inventory and Audit

By auditing and taking inventory of existing content, brands can better understand their current website’s pages by breaking them out into different levels of the Customer Experience (CX) Loop.

 

This will help evaluate opportunities for new content.

 

If the majority of content is tailored for the purchasing spectrum of the CX Loop, brands will miss out on reaching consumers who have not yet reached the “awareness” stage, and therefore are not familiar with the brand’s products or services.

 

Brands should first look to make consumers aware of their products before attempting to sell. Broader content or unique long-tailed keywords can help generate traffic to a page built out specifically for unaware consumers. For example, a car salesman may create a page about the best cars to buy for teen drivers. From there, customers can move through the CX Loop and convert once they have had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the product.

 

Competitor Analysis

Once you are aware of the kind of content you already have, it’s time for a competitive audit - to ask questions like “what are our competitors writing about that we are not?”.

 

Tools are used.

 

Buzzsumo

  • To analyze what content is performing best for a topic or for a competitor. 
  • It also provides data on how often content is being shared on social media platforms which is a good indicator of whether or not messaging is resonating with consumers.

For example, if we search the topic “healthcare” into Buzzsumo, we’re able to uncover that the highest pieces of content that are trending are all articles, and two of them are from news sources. By understanding what other sources are reporting on, healthcare brands can leverage this to create similar content that is even more appealing.

 

BrightEdge’s DataCube

  • To research competitor’s domains for keywords and content strategy from the industry’s largest data set. 

 

Continuing with a healthcare example, if we searched for www.healthcare.gov, we can discover the amount of keywords that are ranked in high positions:

 

Open Site Explorer & Ahrefs

  • Both show you what are the top landing pages of competitors’ sites.
  • This gives insight into which of their pages are deemed most valuable or relevant from other sites on the Web. 
  • Find keywords your competitor ranks for, but your website isn’t ranking in the Top 100 SERPs.

 

To demonstrate, if we use healthcare.gov as an example through Open Site Explorer, we are able to uncover basic information about the page’s authority and page link metrics:

Top Pages also known:

Keyword Research

  • The final step is to explore the depth and search volume of potential keywords from your findings in the previous two steps. 
  • By conducting keyword research, brands can fuel new ideas to help build out unique content strategies. 
  • The keywords implemented should be relevant, have substantial search volume and be attainable for your site to rank.

 

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