The SEO checklist for beginners • Yoast

The SEO checklist for beginners • Yoast

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SEO is a HUGE thing – and who doesn’t love a checklist? Although SEO work is never done, there are many things you can simply cross off the list to ensure you’re optimizing your website not just for people but for Google as well. Want to work on your site’s SEO? Check out these things so you know where to start.

Content, content, content!

SEO is about optimizing your content so it’s helpful for users, and, therefore appears at the top of search results for relevant keywords you want to rank for. Making sure that if someone searches for a term you want to rank for, you actually end up on that first page. That’s why you should focus on two very important things: keyword research and E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness). Let’s talk about those a bit more.

Keyword research

Before you can start optimizing your website, it’s crucial to know what you’re optimizing for. Let’s say you own an online store for climbing equipment. You sell tape, brushes, bags, and shoes. Before you can start ranking, you need to think about what kind of words your audience uses to describe these things. Because if you’re not optimizing your content for the words your target audience uses, you won’t be visible to the right people. This means that you might attract some traffic, but not the traffic you want.

For example, if someone searches for ‘tape’, and finds your page about climbing tape where they want to know more about paper tape – they will leave your site and continue their search. This is bad for website engagement and will lead to poorer rankings. Here, you want to think more about the semantics and context of the content you write.

So, that’s why this SEO checklist starts with doing proper keyword research. And no, this isn’t the easiest thing to do, or the one that takes the least amount of time. However, if you have a solid keyword list, you’re off to a good start for the rest of your SEO work. And if you really want to be thorough, just read the step-by-step guide to keyword research.

E-E-A-T

When you have that keyword list, the next thing on your SEO checklist should be to focus on E-E-A-T. This stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. In simple terms, it means that Google judges your pages based on the credibility of the page, the author, and the website as a whole. So, what does that mean for your website, and what should you be checking your content for?

  • Experience: the content should contain examples of the writer’s experience on the subject. It’s about giving opinions and for example, sharing pictures.
  • Expertise: this means that the writer should have the right knowledge and qualifications to write about something. For example, I can write about this SEO checklist because I have been in marketing for years and years (experience), and have done courses on the subject (expertise). This example shows that both experience and expertise can overlap, but they don’t have to be. For example, a hobby chef doesn’t have to be a professional to write about new recipes.
  • Authoritativeness: are you an authority in this area? With ‘you’ Google means the creator and the website. Meaning that ‘Yoast’ can be the SEO authority, but the writers on the website should also be some kind of authority.
  • Trustworthiness: this is about citing trustworthy sites, having a secure connection, and not hiding content behind a wall of ads.

Update old before creating new content

Without good content, it’s very difficult to rank on Google or other search engines. Although you might have a nice keyword list by now, that doesn’t mean you should just go out and create new content. So, next on your SEO checklist is:

Improve high-potential content

If you already have a lot of content, but it isn’t ranking very well, you might wanna update some high-potential pages. These are pages that have the potential to rank, because the keywords have a high volume and low competition, but don’t yet. Check out those pages and go through the specific on-page SEO checks. For example by using the Yoast plugin to optimize your content. One of the ways to look at your current content is by using the RID principle, which stands for Retain, Improve or Delete:

  • Retain means you’re keeping the content
  • Improve means you need to update it
  • Delete means it’s no longer needed

Just export an overview of all your content, and label it with an R, I or D. Now you’ll have another checklist that you’ll just need to follow.

One of the things Google looks at when indexing your website is metadata. That’s data that describes other data. In other words, it’s words describing the content you’ve made. The meta description for example, is a short summary of your page or post. This is often used by search engines in the snippet in the search results. So, that’s very important data! But it’s not just the meta description that counts, also think about adding alt text to your images to describe them. That doesn’t just help search engines, but also screen readers. Making it a win for accessibility.

Schema

Metadata isn’t just about adding a couple of details, it’s also about something bigger: schema. Schema, in the context of SEO, refers to structured data markup that you can add within the page source code to make web pages more contextually understandable for search engines to understand what kind of an entity it is. This isn’t just about making the content look better for users, but about making it clearer for search engines.

When you use schema markup on your website, you’re essentially providing search engines with a clear and structured way to identify and interpret these entities within your content. This allows search engines to not only grasp the individual elements of your content (like the name of a person, a place, or a date) but also understand the context and relationships between these entities. By doing so, schema markup aids search engines in accurately categorizing and indexing your content, which can improve how your site appears in search results. This deeper level of understanding helps search engines connect users’ search queries to the most relevant content on your site, enhancing visibility and user engagement.

Images and video

Up until now, I’ve talked a lot about content in terms of words. Of course, content is more than that. Think about images, audio and video. Now, with AI being used even more, this means algorithms can easily recognize and interpret visual content, meaning it gets even more important for SEO. So, what should you do? Here are a couple of tips:

  1. Always use relevant file names
  2. Check the file size and format 
  3. Use alt text for images
  4. Add subtitles to your videos
  5. Publish a page and add a transcript to your videos
  6. Ensure you have embedded links pointing back to a relevant page on your site

Internal linking

One of the things that you shouldn’t miss on your SEO checklist, is to check your internal linking structure. The thing is, this really helps you show search engines what your site’s about and it helps visitors navigate easier. And, even more important: your pages need links in order to be indexed at all

 But, where to start? We like to follow these 9 steps:

  1. Determine the ideal structure for your site
  2. Decide what your most important content is
  3. Add contextual links to your articles so you show that the articles are relevant in that context.
  4. Link hierarchical pages. So link parent pages to their child pages and the other way around. 
  5. Consider adding a related post section. This way you can even give your pages more link value. 
  6. Link to your important pages from the menu or home page. 
  7. Add links to your taxonomies. 
  8. Add links to your most recent posts. 
  9. Consider adding links to popular posts. 

I know, this is not an easy fix. That’s why I suggest you start working on the big list that I mentioned here, but also start working on the little things. For example, every time you publish something new, make sure to include relevant internal links. That way, you can start building your internal linking structure slowly.

Page speed

A main factor that impacts your SEO, is page speed. But page speed entails lots of things. It is not an easy thing or a single measure. It ties back to things like the infrastructure of your web server, but also depends on the internet connection of the user, for example. So, what are easy things you can do to improve your page speed?

  1. Compress your images. For example with squoosh or TinyPNG.  You’ll sacrifice a little bit of image quality, but will improve page loading speed. 
  2. Minify JavaScript, CSS, and HTML. You can easily do this by using an online minifier tool, or a plugin.
  3. Enable browser caching. This will store webpage data in a user’s browser. You can do this with a WordPress plugin as well, for example, Litespeed Cache or WPRocket.

Long-term SEO

I know this might not be what you’d like to hear, but SEO is something for the long term. Fixing your website and content for SEO purposes takes time and effort. However, the good news is that you don’t have to check everything off your SEO list at once. Meaning that you can simply start working on one of these items each day, and will definitely impact your SEO in the long run. What helps you most in working on your SEO every day? Well, I’d recommend using Yoast SEO to optimize your content. But I might be a bit biased. 😉

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