An Organic SEO Checklist To Follow In 2021

I’ve been spending the last week launching an e-commerce website, delcalifa.com which sells handmade carpets, during which I’ve been speaking to SEO experts, marketing professionals and web designers asking their opinion on how to perform better on search engines. Some of the comments have been:

“make sure you blog frequently”

“consider paying for Ads”

“target your customer”

The responses have varied and to be honest I’m been quite surprised at the level of surveillance tools which are now “normalised”. The conversations around using tracking tools, connecting to platforms which manipulate their users in-order to get better SEO makes me realise surveillance capitalism really is a thing. There must be a more ethical checklist to follow for SEO. For this purpose I’ve created a checklist of SEO features which can be followed in 2021 and some pitfalls worth avoiding. Success can be achieved by following this checklist; however, it does require work: significant time and effort.

1. Backlinks

The idea here is your website should be cited by reputable sources. Even though there have been changes made to the search algorithm and ranking system at Google the confidence associated with backlinks from trusted sites is critical. For example reviews and backlinks from TripAdvisor really helps, similarly from say the Guardian newspaper or other established publications. You can think of this as similar to say research, where references to your paper if cited by long trusted journals makes all the difference.

It should be noted that toxic backlinks can kill your SEO, these would be malicious sites that known to only serve the purpose of boosting SEO and not providing useful content whatsoever.

2. Write Long Form Content

Google wants you to write long form content on your blog that is actually helpful for those that perform searches. The idea is search engines want you to focus what someone is searching for needs as opposed your SEO ranking. Long form articles maybe 3,000+ words long and should ideally be well researched.

3. Google Business (optional)

If you have a physical site for your business you should set this up on Google Business — super simple to do. Add your details and Google will send you a postcard to the physical address to verify your identity.

4. Internal links should be used

Ensure there that its easy to move around the links are clear and a breeze to navigate. A clear path for visitors is essential.

The rest of the things you need to do are technical aspects of SEO. In this case the developer who has full access to the site should perform these tasks, often this is the role of a Webmaster as it requires access to the HTML code, DNS and associated google analytics and google search console.

5. Set Meta Tags Title and Description

Google explains:

“A meta description tag should generally inform and interest users with a short, relevant summary of what a particular page is about. They are like a pitch that convince the user that the page is exactly what they’re looking for.”

Make sure you set the meta tags, they should reflect what is being searched for in the search engine. Here’s an example from ceziam.com.

<!-- SEO Meta-tags --><% set_meta_tags title: 'Cyber-security checker',description: 'Detect your core cyber security risks including dangerous ports and attack surface with a simple website freely available to all.' %>

6. Optimise your images

Make sure the alt image tags are descriptive of what is shown, not what you’d like someone to imagine they are seeing.

<img src="img_girl.jpg" alt="Girl in a jacket" width="500" height="600">

Ideally use JPEG file format and ensure you compress the images so the load times are optimised (using ImageOptim for instance).

7. Internal links should be used

Ensure there that its easy to move around the site using easy to find links. A clear path for visitors is essential.

8. Site Crawling

Ensure that bots are able to crawl your site by having a robots.txt. In some sites such as Shopify, where I host delcalifa.com, its not possible to change the robots.txt but parameters around it can be verified.

9. Add sitemap.xml

The sitemap is what tells search engines what to crawl regularly. Its often in the root directory and needs to be uploaded to the search engine. For instance Google Search Console if you’re concentrating on Google or Bing Webmaster Tools if Bing is your thing.

10. Verify that you own the site with search engines

If search engines are going to point to your sitemap they need to be able to verify that the owner has allowed this. Simply create an account with Google Search Engine or whatever other search engine interests you. You’ll need to make a straightforward TXT DNS change on your site for this as instructed by the search engine you upload to.

11. Add Google Analytics

If you want to know insights into the usage of your website then you need to add a snippet of code from Google Analytics. Place the tracking code in the HEADER SECTION ( <head>) of the website. Be careful when using trackers as you should only track usage of the site and its performance — not details of the profile of who used it. Surveillance is is just plain creepy.

12. Practice Good Hygiene

Correct errors that may come up such as redirect problems and crawl errors, make correct use of H1, H2, and H3 tags.

From a DNS perspective you could have a www site or just the plain naked domain such as delcalifa.com. The problem is to search engines this can appear as different sites. Ensure you “redirect” all traffic to the correct domain. You probably want to just point everything to the same domain…this technique is known as Domain-Level Canonicalization.

I hope you find these SEO techniques useful.

Next I hope to provide a detailed account of how to perform SEO in a more ethical manner, with no tracking and dependency upon the bigger tech platforms.

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