If you think search engine optimization (SEO) is just about appeasing Google with the right keywords, think again. 2024 is shaping up to be the year where relationship-building takes center stage.
Sure, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are on the rise, automating a bunch of tasks and even making some decisions for us. But at the end of the day, it’s about connecting with real people – your audience.
That’s why prepping your SEO plan for 2024 is crucial. It’s staying ahead of SEO algorithm updates and understanding what your audience wants and how they behave online.
We want this blog to be your go-to guide, packed with the latest trends and a killer checklist to ensure you’re ticking all the boxes.
Here’s an overview of what’s inside this checklist
• SEO Trends to Expect in 2024
• Sorting Out Your 2024 SEO Checklist
• SEO Component Checklists
○ Keyword Research
○ On-Page SEO
○ Off-Page SEO
○ Technical SEO
○ Local SEO
○ Mobile SEO
○ Link Building
○ UX and Core Web Vitals
• Frequency-Based Checklists
○ As Needed
• Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Ready to smash your SEO game this 2024? Keep reading for some SEO best practices and search engine optimization tips.
SEO Trends To Expect in 2024
You can’t plan for the future if you don’t know what’s coming. So, let’s break down the SEO trends you need to keep an eye on.
Microsoft’s Bing Chat and Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) made their debut in 2023, and they keep on adding features and refining how they rank content.
Image from Statista
With AI churning out content left and right, standing out is tougher than ever, and Google’s E-E-A-T guidelines provide a clear picture of how you can prove the “human-ness” and helpfulness of your content.
E-E-A-T stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. High E-E-A-T improves user trust, search engine rewards and leads to more conversions, making it more crucial than ever.
How about AI content?
The truth is it cannot replace human-created content when it comes to user trust. You can curate and generate relevant AI content, but you still have to double-check for its E-A-T SEO compliance and accuracy.
Voice Search Is Still Here
Don’t sleep on voice search SEO, either.
UpCity reports that half of the U.S. population uses voice search features daily. So, if you’re ignoring this, you’re basically turning your back on a massive chunk of your potential audience.
Image from UpCity
Around 33.2 million consumers are projected to use smart speakers and voice search to find and research products. If you’re an eCommerce company operating on Amazon or a similar platform, voice search optimization helps boost discoverability in almost any industry.
Sorting Out Your 2024 SEO Checklist
So, how should you organize your SEO checklist?
Here are two of the most effective ways to do it:
• By SEO Components: If you’re the type who likes to break things down into neat categories, this is for you. This way, you can focus on each aspect of SEO without getting overwhelmed.
• Frequency-Based: Maybe you’re more of a “when should I do this?” kind of person. The frequency-based checklists may be more to your liking. This is great if you want to integrate SEO tasks into your regular workflow.
Now, let’s start combing through our SEO checklist.
SEO Component Checklist
Keyword research for SEO is about knowing what your audience is searching for by understanding their interests and how they use search engines. This means that you’re not only picking random keywords but also getting a clear picture of how your audience uses them.
As an SEO exercise, there are five important things you need to do to ensure the keywords you use are relevant, value-rich and high-ranking.
1. Identify Your Audience
First, you need to know who you’re talking to so you know you’re not just throwing keywords into the void and hoping for the best.
To conduct keyword research, you can use tools like Google’s Keyword Planner to identify the most relevant keywords for your business. You can also use Google Analytics to get insights into your audience’s characteristics, such as:
Once you get a clear picture of your audience, you can find and tailor your keywords to match their search intent.
2. Use Keyword Research Tools
Keyword research is now easier with software as a service (SaaS) tools.
These tools let you find the right keywords using a combination of factors, such as:
• Search volume: How many times a keyword is searched for each month.
• Competition: Is the keyword cutthroat, or is there a lot of room for growth?
• Keyword difficulty: How difficult would it be to rank for this keyword?
• Related keywords: What other relevant terms are associated with the keyword?
Image showing how to find keywords using Ahrefs.
These tools also provide features like automated audit reports, competitive analysis and keyword-based content optimization for SEO.
3. Check Competitor Keywords
We’ve talked about competition, but what about checking out the competition’s keyword strategies?
Look at your competitors and see which keywords they’re targeting. Use tools like SpyFu or Semrush’s competitor analysis feature to see what keywords they’re ranking for. This gives you ideas for your own strategy and helps you identify gaps you can exploit.
Image showing competitor keywords through Semrush.
A good rule of thumb is to target keywords with medium or low difficulty and high search volume.
4. Identify Long-Tail Keywords
Since short-tail keywords are crowded and competitive, we recommend finding and leveraging long-tail keywords instead. While they’re more specific and less searched, they’re also easier to rank for.
According to Backlinko, 91.8 million of all searches are long-tail keywords. Tools like AnswerThePublic can help you find questions people are asking in your niche. You can then turn these questions into long-tail keywords.
5. Create Keyword Clusters
Keyword research wouldn’t be complete without keyword clustering. It’s a great way to organize keywords into topics and determine which content pieces you should create for your blog.
Image from Thrive
By grouping related words, you can structure your website in a hierarchical manner that Google bots love. This also helps users browse through your site more easily.
Here’s a quick way to do this:
1. Find a central topic to search for.
2. Group other related keywords under that topic.
3. Determine which content pieces you should develop to target each keyword cluster.
This way, your website will be well-structured and optimized for search engines.
Once you pin down your SEO keywords, it’s time to create on-page content that works for both search engine bots and human visitors. It’s really a mix of slight technical know-how and good content.
Here, we’ll cover the most fundamental on-page SEO checklist tasks that will optimize your website for success.
1. Craft Compelling Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
Your title tag is like a newspaper headline, while your meta description is your elevator pitch – all displayed on the search engine results pages (SERPs). Make sure it includes your target keyword and speaks directly to what the user is searching for.
Viloria shares the five characteristics of a compelling meta title and meta description:
Title and Meta Description Length
You can qualify the SEO-friendliness of a title and meta description by ensuring they are within the recommended character limits.
For titles, it’s generally best to keep them under 60 characters, while meta descriptions should typically be between 150-160 characters.
Effectively crafted metadata are displayed correctly on SERPs and don’t get cut off. It should look like this:
Check if they contain the target keyword(s). Including relevant keywords in both the title and meta description can improve the chances of your page ranking for those terms.
However, it’s essential to ensure that the keywords are used naturally and don’t compromise the readability and user-friendliness of the content.
Relevance to Content
Qualifying the human-friendliness of a title and meta description involves assessing whether they accurately reflect the page’s content.
Users should be able to understand what the page is about by reading these elements. Misleading or clickbait titles and descriptions can lead to a negative user experience and high bounce rates, harming your search engine marketing efforts.
Human-friendliness also means considering the emotional impact of your title and meta description.
A well-crafted title and description can pique the reader’s interest, evoke curiosity or solve a problem. This leads to higher click-through rates (CTR) and improved user engagement, which are essential for SEO success.
Unique and Compelling
SEO-friendly titles and meta descriptions should also be unique to each page.
Duplicate content in these elements can confuse both search engines and users. Therefore, it’s crucial to create distinctive titles and descriptions that stand out and entice users to click.
2. Structure With Headings (H1, H2, H3)
Headings aren’t just for making your content look pretty, but they also help search engines understand the structure of your page.
Your H1 should include your target keyword and be unique to the page. Use H2s and H3s to break up sections and make the content easier to read. Tools like Screaming Frog can help you audit your headings.
Let’s take a look at this blog about email marketing:
This blog’s H1 title includes the keyword “eCommerce cart abandonment,” signaling to crawlers that the blog’s topic involves this keyword. However, this isn’t enough for crawlers to understand what your content is about. That’s why you need H2 and H3 sections to structure your content.
Typically, you’ll have H2 as your main section and H3 as your subsections:
These sections let search engines understand what you’re talking about without having to scan every word.
3. Optimize URL Structure
Your URL serves as a web address and an SEO opportunity.
Here’s how you can maximize its potential:
• Make it clean and easy to read: Keep it short and sweet, ideally fewer than 75 characters.
• Be descriptive: Use words that describe the page’s content.
• Include keywords: Doing this helps search engines understand what the page is about.
• Use hyphens instead of underscores: Hyphens are treated as a space by search engine crawlers, making them easier to understand.
The earlier email marketing blog example also employs this best practice in SEO:
Avoid weird characters or long strings of numbers. Most content management systems (CMS) like WordPress will let you customize the URL slug for each page.
4. Link Internally
Internal links help distribute page authority throughout your site. So, link to other relevant pages and posts within your content.
“Internal links enhance the user experience and SEO by offering readers easy access to additional, related information right within the same website,” said Viloria, noting the user experience component of internal links.
“This can keep them engaged and encourage them to explore more of our content.”
But how about SEO? Viloria said they’re a “significant component of SEO.”
“They help search engines understand the structure of our website and how different pages are related. This can improve the chances of our content ranking higher in search results.”
As an added benefit, internal links also “direct more ‘link juice’ to important pages,” which is the transfer of authority between pages on a given domain. Basically, the more internal links pointing to a page, the higher that page’s authority will be with search engines.
Use descriptive anchor text that gives an idea of what the linked page is about.
Viloria suggests using the Yoast SEO plugin to simplify the internal linking process by “providing suggestions for internal linking and ensuring that our content is well-connected throughout the site.”
5. Include Reputable External Links
While internal linking is great, you shouldn’t forget about linking to trustworthy, reputable websites for your SEO. External links show you’ve done your research and provide additional resources for the reader.
“It’s generally a good practice to link to websites with higher domain authority to maintain the integrity of your own content,” said Viloria, explaining how domain authority (DA) can influence your website’s trustworthiness and credibility.
Viloria recommends using popular options like Moz Link Explorer to see a website’s DA before you decide to link to it:
To ensure you’re hitting your SEO marks, only link to external content that is relevant, value-adding and high quality. You don’t want to link to sites that could potentially damage your website’s reputation in the eyes of search engines and human readers.
6. Optimize Images
Larger images can slow down your website, harming your rankings and user experience. To fix this, we recommend compressing your image sizes with tools like TinyPNG and ImageOptim. This is easy to do and decreases loading time, helping you get more traffic from search engines.
Also, don’t forget to include alt-text for images that describe the image in plain language. Alt-text helps crawlers understand your content better and allows visually impaired users to access your site’s visuals.
7. Responsibly Use Keywords
Keyword stuffing is seen as a negative ranking factor, endangering your rankings in the long term. So, if you think about just throwing keywords all over your content, think again. Google is smarter than that.
We recommend a keyword density of 1 to 2%. This means inserting one to two keywords for every 100 words. This keeps the content natural and prevents search engines from flagging your content as keyword stuffing.
It’s great to optimize what happens inside your website, but how about what happens outside? This is where off-page SEO strategies come in, elevating how the Internet and search engines value your content through campaigns you do with your community and industry.
From good backlinks and social media presence to customer reviews, off-page SEO is a busy component you have to keep optimizing throughout 2024.
Here are eight tasks you need to do next year
1. Build Quality Backlinks
Backlinks are like votes of confidence from other websites. But not all votes are created equal. Focus on getting backlinks from high-authority sites in your niche.
Viloria lays down some factors to consider when building your backlinks:
• Relevance: The backlink should come from a website or page that is relevant to your content or industry. Backlinks from related websites carry more weight in terms of SEO.
• Page Authority: In addition to domain authority, evaluate the authority of the specific page linking to your site. A backlink from a high-authority page is more valuable.
• Link Placement: Backlinks placed within the body content of a page are typically more valuable than those in sidebars, footers or other less prominent areas.
• Traffic and Engagement: Consider the amount of traffic the linking website receives and the level of user engagement, such as comments, shares and interaction with the content.
• Editorial Backlinks: Backlinks placed within editorial content because the website finds your content valuable are usually of higher quality than paid or sponsored links.
• Site Reputation and Trustworthiness: Assess the overall reputation and trustworthiness of the linking website. Look for signs of credibility and reliability.
• Age of the Link: Older backlinks can indicate long-term credibility and relevance, making them more valuable.
• Linking Site’s Industry Authority: A backlink from an industry-respected website with high authoritativeness significantly enhances your SEO value.
• Social Signals: Consider the linking website’s presence on social media. Websites with an active and engaged social following may provide more influential backlinks.
An excellent tool to use here is Help A Reporter Out (HARO), a platform where journalists can request sources for their articles.
If you can get mentioned in a few of these, you’ll have an excellent chance of getting quality backlinks. Reach out to these websites and publications and offer valuable content they’d want to link to. Remember, quality over quantity.
“Building a natural and diverse backlink profile over time is a more sustainable and effective SEO strategy than pursuing low-quality or spammy links,” Viloria said.
2. Engage in Guest Blogging
If you think guest blogging is dead, then you’re wrong. Chances are, you’re just not doing it right. Find reputable sites in your industry and pitch them a killer article idea. Guest blogs are also excellent opportunities for quality backlinks. These websites allow you to put a backlink in the:
• Article body
• Author bio
• Resource box
Here’s how an author bio could be leveraged to gain backlinks from a guest article:
Don’t be overzealous, though. You don’t want to be a guest author on sites that are irrelevant to your business.
Focus on getting featured on reputable websites that will help build your domain authority and improve search engine ranking. Since thousands of journalists use HARO, you can also use it to find influencers who are looking for content related to your niche.
3. Leverage Social Media
Social signals may not directly impact SEO, but they can drive traffic and amplify your content, leading to more backlinks. So, share your content on all your social platforms and encourage others to do the same.
You can leverage company updates and special occasions to make your page and website relevant to your audience. Here’s a good example of how to do it:
Use platforms like Hootsuite to schedule posts and track engagement.
4. Participate in Community Discussions
Join forums, Reddit threads or Facebook groups where your target audience hangs out. Provide valuable insights and subtly promote your content where relevant. Just don’t spam – nobody likes a spammer.
Tools like Mention can help you track where your brand or keywords are being discussed.
5. Create Shareable Content
The easier your content is to share, the more likely it will get shared. Seems obvious, right?
Examples of shareable content include the following:
• How-to videos
• Checklists and cheat sheets
Here’s a simple cheat sheet that people can easily share on their own feeds:
You can also make sharing easier for your readers. Use social sharing plugins and widgets across your website, like ShareThis or AddThis. Review widgets also make it easier for users to share their reviews across social media.
6. Optimize Your Google Business Profile
If you’re a local business, your Google Business Profile (GBP) is your new front door. Make sure it’s complete, accurate and optimized for target keywords.
Here are some steps to fully optimize your Business Profile:
• Complete Your Profile: Ensure all sections of your Google Business Profile are filled out. This includes your business name, address, phone number, website, hours of operation and a brief but informative business description.
• Use High-Quality Images: Upload high-resolution photos of your business, including the logo, cover photo and images showcasing your products or services. • High-quality visuals help attract potential customers.
• Verify Your Listing: Make sure Google verifies your business. This adds credibility to your profile and allows you to access additional features.
• Accurate Location Information: Ensure your location on the map is accurate. Double-check the pin placement to help customers find your business quickly.
• Engage With Reviews: Encourage customers to leave reviews and respond to them promptly. Engaging with both positive and negative reviews shows that you value feedback.
• Add Posts and Updates: Use the Google Business Profile’s Posts feature to share updates, events and promotions. This keeps your profile fresh and informative.
• Utilize Google Q&A: Answer frequently asked questions on your profile, and ask and answer questions yourself. This can help potential customers find the information they need.
• Add Products and Services: List your products and services in the Products section. Include descriptions, prices and high-quality images to provide potential customers with detailed information.
• Use Google Insights: Monitor the Insights section to track how customers interact with your profile. This data can help you make informed decisions to improve your profile.
• Stay Consistent: Ensure that your information is consistent across all online platforms, such as your website and social media profiles, to boost your online presence.
Here’s what a fully optimized GBP listing would look like:
7. Encourage Customer Reviews and Testimonials
If you’re not a local business, don’t worry. Reviews still play a huge role in your off-page SEO strategies. For all companies, they provide fresh, user-generated content for your website, something that search engines love.
Here’s how you can get client reviews and testimonials:
• Email campaigns: Send out emails to past and present customers asking them for a review.
• In-app prompts: If your company offers an app, you can use it to ask customers for reviews.
• Social media: Use social media platforms to request customer reviews and testimonials from followers.
You can then display reviews across your website, have a dedicated page and link them in your content.
8. Monitor Your Backlink Profile
Keep an eye on who’s linking to you. If you notice any spammy or low-quality links, take action to remove them. Tools like Google’s Disavow Tool can help you tell Google to ignore these links.
If you want to take a look at your backlink health, Viloria recommended two trusty solutions: Ahrefs and Semrush. Both software offers backlink auditing tools that you can use to check your backlink profile:
Both these tools will help you understand the quality of backlinks pointing to your site, which can ensure that you’re not getting any spammy or low-quality links.
Optimizing your website’s performance also includes tweaking backend website elements. Doing this technical SEO checklist ensures your website runs smoothly and makes it easy for search engines to understand.
These tasks will help you make your website faster, safer and more responsive.
1. Implement SSL Certification
Google takes security seriously, and so should you.
SSL certificates “encrypt the data exchanged between a user’s browser and the website’s server, ensuring that sensitive information, such as login credentials, payment details and personal data, remains confidential and protected,” said Viloria.
He explainsed that SSL certificates not only enhance user trust but also rank you better since Google prioritizes secure websites.
Browsers like Chrome also flag non-SSL sites as ‘Not Secure,’ a surefire way to scare off visitors.
2. Optimize Website Speed
Slow and steady doesn’t win the race here. A slow website can hurt your rankings and annoy your visitors.
Viloria recommends the following practices to make your site speedier:
• Optimizing images and videos
• Minimizing the use of large files
• Leveraging browser caching
• Utilizing content delivery networks (CDNs)
• Reducing unnecessary plugins or scripts
• Enabling compression techniques like GZIP
You can also use “efficient coding practices, such as minimizing HTTP requests and utilizing asynchronous loading for scripts, to enhance website performance and provide a better user experience,” Viloria said.
3. Ensure Mobile Responsiveness
With more than half of all web traffic coming from mobile devices, you can’t afford to ignore mobile responsiveness. Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to see how your site stacks up. If it’s not mobile-friendly, it’s time for a redesign.
Most modern CMS platforms like WordPress and Squarespace make it easy to build mobile-friendly websites.
4. Fix Broken Links
Broken links are essential for user experience and search engine crawlers. If you find broken links on your site, use a tool like Screaming Frog or Xenu Link Sleuth to identify and fix them. This will also help improve your site’s overall performance.
5. Create an XML Sitemap
“An XML sitemap is a file that lists all the web pages on a website, helping search engines like Google, Bing and others to better understand the site’s structure and content,” said Viloria.
Think of an XML sitemap as a roadmap for search engines. It helps them crawl your site more efficiently and understand the structure of your content.
• Use a Sitemap Generator: There are many online tools and plugins available that can automatically generate XML sitemaps for your website.
• Organize URLs: Make sure the URLs in your sitemap are well-organized, reflecting the logical structure of your website.
• Include Only Canonical URLs: Only include canonical URLs to ensure that search engines understand the primary version of a page
• Submit to Search Engines: After creating your XML sitemap, submit it to search engines using their webmaster tools or search console. This step helps search engines discover and index your pages faster.
• Include Media and Multilingual Content: If your website contains images and videos or is available in multiple languages, consider including them in your XML sitemap for better search engine optimization (SEO).
Here’s what a sitemap looks like:
A clear XML sitemap like the one above is essential to ensure that search engine crawlers can find and index your website’s content quickly.
6. Optimize Robots.txt File
Your robots.txt file tells search engines what they can and can’t crawl on your site.
Ensure it’s configured correctly to allow search engines to access important pages while excluding ones you don’t want indexed, like admin pages.
When configuring your robots.txt file, you should:
• Avoid blocking essential pages from being crawled and indexed.
• Exclude the content of any subdirectories you don’t want crawled.
• Specify a crawl delay if necessary to prevent overloading your server.
The XML sitemap is also enclosed in the robots.txt file and should look like this:
To upload your robots.txt file, you can either access it through your FTP client or use the Search Console.
7. Utilize Canonical Tags
Duplicate content can confuse search engines and dilute your rankings. Use canonical tags to tell search engines which version of a page to consider as the “original.” This is especially useful if you have similar content across multiple URLs.
Most CMS platforms like WordPress have built-in options for setting canonical URLs. To add it manually, simply add a tag to the <head> section of your page. The syntax looks like this:
<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://example.com/your-url”>
8. Improve Site Structure
Make sure your site has a logical hierarchy with a clean URL structure, intuitive navigation and a breadcrumb trail. This helps search engines understand the relationship between pages and can improve your site’s crawlability.
Here are three ways you can do this
• Breadcrumb navigation: This helps users find their way around your site and helps search engines understand the page hierarchy.
• Internal links: Linking pages together is a great way to improve the user experience and keep visitors on your site longer.
• Flat architecture: A flat structure can make it easier for search engine crawlers to reach all your content without traversing too many levels.
Here’s a tip: Try to keep your page hierarchy as shallow as possible. This will make it easier for search engine bots to crawl and index your content.
9. Configure URL Parameters
URL parameters like session IDs or tracking codes can create duplicate content issues. Use Google Search Console to tell Google how to handle these parameters. This ensures search engines crawl your site more efficiently, saving crawl budget and avoiding duplicate content issues.
10. Implement Structured Data Markup
Structured data is a piece of code that you can add to your website’s HTML, helping search engines understand the content on the page. This can lead to featured snippets in SEO, improving click-through rates:
Image: Effective use of structured data and SEO, leading to featured snippets in SEO for a blog article.
Google supports several structured data and schema markup for SEO, including the following
• Article: Use this for content like blog posts and stories.
• Local business: Use this to show customers the address, phone number and other information about your business.
• Education Q&A: Use this to make educational content more discoverable.
• Event: Use this for upcoming events.
• FAQ: Use this to show questions and answers related to a topic.
• Product: Use this to showcase products you sell online.
• Recipe: Use this to make cooking recipes searchable.
• Video: Use this to help people find videos related to a topic.
• Logo: Use this to show the logo of your business.
• Image metadata: Use this to include information about the images on your website.
We recommend using Google’s Rich Results Testing Tool to check that your structured data is valid and will be accepted by search engines. The tool will let you know if there are any errors or warnings and provide detailed feedback for each type of markup.
Make sure everything is in green check:
You can also use the tool to preview how search results may appear.
10. Monitor for Site Errors
Site errors can hurt your SEO and provide a poor user experience. However, it’s easy to miss them. Here are some of the most common errors to look out for:
• 404: Not Found errors: When a user visits a page that doesn’t exist
• 500: Internal Server Error: This is usually caused by a server, programming or other technical SEO issue
• Redirects: When users are redirected to unexpected pages
• Slow loading times: Pages need to load quickly for users to stay on your website and search engines to index them.
Google Search Console and Ahrefs have built-in tools that alert you to site errors so you can fix them quickly.
11. Optimize for International Audiences
If your site targets users in different countries or languages, consider implementing hreflang tags. These tell search engines which language you’re using on a specific page, helping to serve the right content to the right audience.
“Implementing hreflang improves SEO consistency across different country/language versions of a website,” Viloria said.
Viloria went on to explain that this piece of code is essential for multinational companies and franchises with global sites so the right language is displayed based on a user’s location. Franchise or multi-location SEO strategies implement this strategy.
Here’s a quick international SEO checklist:
• Implement hreflang tags.
• Set up the correct language in Google Search Console.
• Create a localized content strategy.
• Conduct keyword research to optimize each page for the target language and location.
Remember: It’s not just about the language. You must also consider the culture and context of international markets to engage with the right audience.
Local SEO (for Local Businesses and Franchises)
If you’re a local or multi-location business, then you’ll derive tons of value from local SEO strategies. A lot of the tasks in this checklist involve Google Business Profile, the company’s listing solution for small to large businesses.
It’s a mixture of reviews, managing business information and leveraging local keywords to help enhance your search visibility on the local level.
1. Claim Your Google Business Profile Listing
Claiming your Google Business Profile is crucial for your local SEO strategies – it’s like your business card on Google Search, Maps and other Google services.
Claiming your listing as the official owner “enables essential features and information management that can improve the discoverability and reputation of your local business on Google,” said Viloria.
“An unclaimed GBP limits your ability to control how customers engage with and contact your business online.”
Ensure the following information is accurate:
• Business Name
• Phone number
• Website URL
As we said, you can also add photos, videos and even a photo and virtual tour of your physical business if you have one.
2. Optimize Your Google Business Profile
To optimize your Google Business Profile, first target local keywords in the business description and make sure your categories are accurate. And then, regularly update your business profile with the latest information to keep it fresh, such as:
• Attributes: Fill out all applicable attributes like menus, price range, parking and payment options.
• Posts: Publish posts highlighting sales, events and news to engage local followers.
• Photos: Add high-quality photos of the storefront, products, services and staff. Photos boost clicks and trust
Don’t forget to set your service areas if you serve customers outside your physical location. Your local SEO ranking factors will improve with an up-to-date business profile.
3. Find and Optimize for Local Keywords
Local keywords often include location-specific terms like “near me” or “in [City Name].”
Other local keywords you can use include the following
• “Best coffee shops in [Your City]”
• “Plumbers near me”
• “Family restaurants in [Your City]”
• “Dentists in [Your City] area”
• “Car repair services [Your City]”
• “[Your City] digital marketing agency”
Once you’re correctly optimized for local keywords, you’ll start appearing in local search results:
Use tools like Google’s Keyword Planner with location settings to find these gems. Then, include them in your website content, meta descriptions and even your Google Business Profile.
4. Encourage Customer Reviews
Encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews on your Google Business Profile and other review sites like Yelp. Respond to reviews to show you’re engaged, and use any negative reviews as an opportunity to improve customer service.
Here’s an example of an excellent review submitted by happy clients on Yelp:
Responding to negative reviews can be tricky. However, the goal is to illustrate that there’s a human behind your services that actually listens to feedback and customer concerns.
Here’s what it looks like:
Screenshot from Google Reviews
In the image, the response from the company is detailed, explaining the issue that transpired and the measures implemented.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that the review would be removed, but it’s always good to have an open dialogue with customer review sites. This shows customers that the company is taking their feedback seriously and actively trying to improve its services.
5. Maintain Consistent NAP Citations
NAP stands for Name, Address and Phone Number. Ensure this information is consistent across all platforms, directories and websites. Inconsistent information can confuse search engines and customers, bringing down your local SEO ranking factors.
6. Create Local Content
Content plays a huge role in your success as a local business or franchise. So, create blog articles, post videos and design infographics for local events, news and activities. Regularly posting boosts your SEO and makes you part of the community, driving more traffic to your business.
7. Utilize Local Backlinks
Backlinks from local businesses and newspapers can give your local SEO strategies a boost. Reach out to local partners, sponsor events or even offer to write content and guest posts for local blogs to earn these valuable local backlinks.
8. Engage in Local PR
Local PR can be as simple as getting featured in the local newspaper or as elaborate as sponsoring a community event. Either way, it gets your name out there, which can lead to more local backlinks and citations.
Remember when we talked about HARO in earlier sections? That’s a great way to get local PR.
9. Optimize for “Near Me” Searches
According to Uberall, 82% of people are using “near me” in their searches to find businesses near them. So, use keywords like “near me” to optimize for these types of searches.
If you’re not sure where to put them, here are some ideas:
• Page titles and headings
• Meta descriptions
• Content about your location, services or products
That way, when someone searches for “plumbers near me” or “best bakery in (your city)”, you’ll show up in the SERPs. That can get you more local backlinks and visibility.
Google fully transitioned to mobile-first indexing, which means all your content should be optimized for mobile devices. While the transition took seven years to complete, SEO professionals, website building solutions and website owners have been for SEO for mobile apps and experience to prepare for this.
If you don’t know where to start, these are tasks you should be doing to make your website mobile-friendly and mobile-first:
1. Run a Mobile-Friendly Test
The first thing you should do at this point of the checklist is check if you’re mobile-friendly. Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool can give you the answer in seconds. While we already covered this step in earlier sections, it’s crucial to do it again now as you may have made some changes since then.
Here are more tools Viloria recommends to test your site for mobile-friendliness:
• Search Console Mobile Usability Report: Within Google Search Console, there is a report that checks indexed pages for mobile usability issues.
• PageSpeed Insights: Google tool that checks page speed and user experience on mobile and desktop. Gives suggestions for improvement.
• Chrome DevTools: Allows you to test the site on mobile device mockups and throttling network speeds to simulate the mobile experience.
• WebPageTest: Provides advanced site speed and optimization checks, including for mobile browsers.
• Screaming Frog SEO Spider: Crawls the site, checking for mobile errors, HTML/CSS issues, crawl depth and more. This is a paid tool, but you can run free crawls for websites under 500 pages.
• Think With Google Test My Site: Google’s mobile-friendliness test optimized for mobile devices.
Testing for a mobile experience is an important part of website optimization. It requires a different set of tools than desktop-focused tests, and the above tools are just a few that can help you get started.
2. Design for Touch
Being mobile-friendly means your website design is optimized for taps instead of clicks. This means all elements of your website interface are easy to tap on a touchscreen, such as:
• In-line links
SEO for mobile apps creates unique opportunities for ranking and extending the reach of your app.
A good rule of thumb is to ensure they’re big enough to tap and spaced far enough apart to avoid accidental taps on the wrong thing. If you want to learn more about which parts of your website to optimize, we recommend using heat maps to visualize what your users tap on.
3. Use Responsive Design
Responsive design adjusts to different screen sizes, making your site usable on everything from a smartphone to a desktop.
Here’s what a responsive website design looks like:
The page experience between mobile and desktop is not that different since the content is adjusted for mobile SEO optimization. By using a responsive design, you can make sure that your users have an enjoyable experience no matter what device they’re on.
If you’re using a CMS like WordPress, many themes come with responsive design built-in. If not, you may need to get your hands dirty with some CSS media queries.
4. Get Rid of Pop-Ups
Pop-ups are annoying on desktop but downright infuriating on mobile. Google also penalizes sites that use intrusive pop-ups on mobile, so get rid of them or ensure they’re as unobtrusive as possible. If you absolutely need to keep them, ensure they’re easy to close and don’t block the entire screen.
5. Implement Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
AMP is a Google-backed project designed to make mobile pages load faster. While it’s not a direct ranking factor, faster load times can improve user experience and indirectly boost SEO.
“The relevance of AMP has declined a bit in recent years as Google has updated its mobile first indexing and page experience algorithms,” said Viloria. However, he cites certain use cases that would still benefit from this tech, such as
• News and media sites leveraging Google’s Top Stories carousel.
• Websites that have not fully migrated to a mobile-first experience.
• Pages that have heavy JS or poor Core Web Vitals
Tools like Google’s AMP Test can help you see if your pages are AMP-compliant.
“From an SEO standpoint, optimizing for AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) is no longer necessary or beneficial for the majority of websites in 2023,” Viloria said.
“With Google’s switch to mobile first indexing, the search engine can now effectively crawl and rank regular responsive mobile web pages.”
If you’re not a news or media publication, AMP provides little to no SEO boost anymore.
Google and other search engines love backlinks – high-quality backlinks, that is. While we already touched on internal and external linking in previous sections, link-building as an SEO component has its own unique tasks that you must complete.
The goal of this section is to reinforce what you’ve already built with useful links to boost your SEO campaigns.
1. Run a Backlink Audit
Before you start building new links, you need to know what you’re working with. Use tools like Ahrefs or Semrush to run a backlink audit. This will show you who’s linking to you, what pages they’re linking to, and the quality of those links.
If you find any toxic or low-quality links, consider disavowing them through Google’s Disavow Tool.
2. Monitor Competitor Link Building
Keep an eye on what your competitors are doing. Tools like Ahrefs can show you new backlinks your competitors have gained. This can give you ideas for your own link-building efforts. Maybe they got a link from a site that would also be relevant for you.
Don’t just copy them; let their activities inspire your strategies.
3. Harness Broken Link Building
Keep an eye on what your competitors are doing.
Tools like Ahrefs can show you new backlinks your competitors have gained. This gives you ideas for your own link-building efforts. Maybe they got a link from a site that would also be relevant for you.
4. Utilize Resource Link Building
Some websites have resource pages that link out to useful articles and tools. If you have content that fits the bill, reach out and ask to be included. Just ensure your content actually adds value – nobody likes a moocher.
Use Google search operators like “inurl:resources” and your target keyword to find these pages.
5. Use the Skyscraper Framework on Your Content
The Skyscraper Technique involves finding popular content in your niche and creating something even better. Then, reach out to sites that link to the original content and ask them to link to yours instead.
To find content that you can use as a framework, run searches with keywords like “best,” “top” and “ultimate.” Look for list posts or long-form guides that cover multiple topics.
User Experience and Core Web Vitals
For those that don’t know, Core Web Vitals is a set of metrics that measure key aspects of site performance and user-centric factors that impact page experience,” said Viloria, explaining what Core Web Vitals are and how they impact SEO.
Here are some things you can do to improve your Core Web Vitals and your chances of ranking higher
1. Enhance Site Interactivity
Interactive elements like buttons, links and forms should respond quickly to user inputs. Google measures this with First Input Delay (FID). A good FID score should be 100 milliseconds and below. Go above that, and you’ll likely get penalized.
Image from web.dev
2. Ensure Visual Stability
Ever been reading something online and the text suddenly jumps? Annoying, right? That’s what Google’s Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) metric measures. When a page is stable, the CLS should be 0.1 or less.
Image from web.dev
Keep your CLS score low by specifying dimensions for images and video SEO optimization, and avoiding elements that cause layout shifts. Again, PageSpeed Insights can help you measure this.
3. Design for Accessibility
Ensure your site is navigable via keyboard commands and screen readers for visually impaired users. Use semantic HTML tags like header and nav, and include alt text for all images.
This is how these tags look in code:
<header>Your page header</header>
<nav>Your page navigation</nav>
<img src=”example.jpg” alt=”Example image”>
For instance, if you include a chart graphic, the alt text should describe the data presented.
4. Test on Real Users
Nothing beats real-world data. Conduct usability tests to see how real users interact with your site. This can uncover issues you might not have even considered. Use tools like Hotjar or UserTesting to run these tests.
5. Monitor Your Core Web Vitals
Keep an eye on your Core Web Vitals for SEO through Google Search Console. This will alert you to any issues that could affect your rankings. Regularly monitoring these metrics can help you catch and fix issues before they become major problems.
Viloria recommends using a diverse set of tools to monitor your Core Web Vitals effectively:
• Google Lighthouse: This audit tool provides performance scores for core web vitals and other metrics. It can be run on individual pages to identify content optimization for SEO opportunities.
• Chrome User Experience Report: This public dataset aggregates real user experience data on core web vitals for millions of websites and provides industry benchmarks.
• PageSpeed Insights: Google’s tool analyzes page speed and core web vitals with lab data and field data options, giving optimization recommendations.
• Search Console’s Core Web Vitals for SEO report: Within Google Search Console, this report shows core web vitals metrics for your site’s indexed pages over time.
• Google Analytics: Custom reports can be configured to pull in core web vitals for SEO data. This allows correlation with other SEO analytics and reporting like traffic sources, conversions and more.
One-off tasks are the set-it-and-forget-it of SEO. You do them once, but their impact lasts for a long time. These are foundational elements that don’t require frequent tweaking but are crucial for your SEO strategy.
Here’s what you need to focus on as you start your SEO campaign:
1. Conduct a Website Audit
A comprehensive website audit gives you a baseline to work from. It identifies issues with your site’s structure, content and technical elements.
Use tools like Semrush or Ahrefs to conduct the audit. Here are some issues you can identify with a comprehensive website audit:
• Broken links
• Duplicate content
• Missing meta descriptions
Fix these issues to create a solid foundation for your ongoing SEO efforts.
2. Set Up Google Analytics
Google Analytics provides the data you’ll use to make informed decisions.
Once it’s set up, it runs in the background, collecting data. Install the Google Analytics tracking code on your website. Ensure it’s on every page you want to track. Set up goals to measure conversions and key performance indicators (KPIs).
There are several reasons why you should do this as a one-off task, including the fact that it provides data about organic traffic, such as:
• Search engine-drive visits
• Most popular landing pages
• Best performing keywords
It’s also integrated with your Search Console report via clicks, impressions, CTR and position metrics, complementing your GA data and informing your SEO efforts.
3. Create and Submit an XML Sitemap
An XML sitemap helps search engines understand the structure of your site. You only need to create and submit it once, although it should be updated when you add or remove pages. Use a tool or CMS feature to generate an XML sitemap. Submit it through Google Search Console to ensure search engines can effectively crawl and index your site.
4. Set Up Google Search Console
Like Google Analytics, Google Search Console provides valuable insights but only needs to be set up once. Verify your website with Google Search Console and submit your XML sitemap. Use it to monitor critical data, such as:
• Site errors
• Search queries
Periodic tasks in SEO are about keeping your strategy fresh and responsive. These are tasks you need to revisit regularly, like tuning a car to keep it running smoothly. Whether it’s tracking performance or refreshing your keywords, there are tons of periodic tasks that must be done throughout 2024.
Keep this list in mind when running your SEO campaigns next year.
1. Track Ranking Performance
Search engine rankings are not set in stone. They fluctuate due to various factors like SEO algorithm updates, new competitors and shifts in user behavior.
Use SEO tools like Ahrefs, Moz or Semrush to keep tabs on how your keywords are performing.
Don’t just look at the rankings, though. Also, pay attention to click-through rates and user engagement metrics. If you notice a significant drop in rankings or engagement, it’s a red flag that you need to investigate.
2. Review and Update Content
The Internet is always evolving; what was relevant or accurate six months ago might not be today. Search engines also give preference to fresh, updated content.
“Fresh content improves organic rankings, attracts more backlinks, increases website traffic over time and allows for iteration and improvement of old content,” said Viloria.
Schedule regular content reviews and use Google Analytics to identify high-performing and low-performing content. If you can, update outdated information, statistics or images. You can even add a new section to reflect recent news and developments.
Doing this not only keeps your content fresh but also provides an opportunity to re-optimize for current keywords.
3. Review Internal and External Linking
Over time, some links may break, or you may publish new content that could be linked from older posts. You can identify and fix them using tools like Screaming Frog and Ahrefs, updating the URL and redirecting your links to a more relevant page.
As you publish new content, revisit older, relevant posts to include internal links to your newer content. This helps distribute page authority throughout your site and improves crawlability.
4. Optimize On-Page SEO Basics
As you continually add new content or make site updates, it’s easy to overlook basic on-page SEO checklist elements, such as meta titles and descriptions.
So, for every quarter, take some time to review on-page elements across your site. Check that title tags, meta descriptions and header tags are optimized for your target keywords. Tools like Yoast SEO can automate some of this, flagging pages that need attention.
5. Conduct Keyword Research
Keywords change as industries see new trends and consumer behavior changes. At least twice a year, conduct a comprehensive keyword research for SEO session. The frequency of keyword reviews depends on the size of your website.
Brainstorm possible topics related to your product or service, and note any emerging terms you can use to optimize content.
As Needed Tasks
Unlike the SEO tasks we discussed above, which should be completed quarterly or bi-annually, there are other tasks that you should complete as needed. They’re not scheduled, but they’re critical when specific situations arise.
Being prepared for these tasks ensures you can quickly respond to changes and challenges, keeping your SEO strategy resilient.
1. Address Website Errors
Website errors like 404s or server issues can pop up unexpectedly and hurt both user experience and SEO.
To find them, you can use Search Console or other website monitoring tools. Depending on the error, you might need to restore deleted pages, fix broken links or resolve server issues. The key is to act quickly to minimize impact.
2. Handle Redesigns and Migrations
A site redesign or migration is a major event that can significantly impact your SEO if not handled correctly. Before making any changes, document your current SEO standings, such as standings and traffic.
Here are a few key things to consider when handling a site migration from an SEO perspective:
• Implement 301 redirects from old URLs to new URLs to transfer link equity and avoid broken pages. But instead of implementing them all at once, roll them out gradually.
• Use a change of address tool in Search Console to map old and new URLs.
• Minimize downtime by prepping the new site in advance and migrating during low-traffic hours.
• Verify existing metadata and optimize pages that are crawled/indexed correctly post-migration.
• Update XML sitemaps and submit in Search Console to facilitate crawling.
• Monitor rankings continuously to detect any issues early and recover promptly.
• Don’t let migrations create duplicate content across the old and new sites.
In SEO, site visibility plays a huge role in determining the success of a website. During this time, it’s important to find a balance between ensuring content isn’t lost during the transition and improving SEO performance afterward.
3. Optimize for SEO Algorithm Updates
There are tons of algorithm updates every year, such as:
• Broad core updates
• Helpful content updates
• Spam updates
• Product review updates
When an update occurs, review its impact on your site. You may need to update your content, improve page speed or make other changes to adapt.
4. Update Site Architecture
As your site grows, your original architecture might not be as effective or logical as it once was.
The best way to address this is to review your site structure to ensure it’s logical, both for users and for search engine crawlers. Make adjustments as needed, such as:
• Updating your navigation
• Adding new categories
• Implementing new internal linking strategies
A good rule of thumb is to aim for a maximum of three clicks between any page and the homepage. Any more than that could make it difficult for users to find the content they’re looking for.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How often should I update my website’s content for SEO purposes?
Updating your website’s content is crucial for maintaining SEO relevance. Ideally, you should review and update your content every three to six months. This involves refreshing outdated information, adding new sections to reflect recent trends or data and optimizing existing content with current keywords.
Regular updates signal to search engines that your site is current and relevant, which can positively impact your rankings. Additionally, updated content can re-engage your audience and potentially attract new visitors, keeping your site dynamic and engaging.
Is mobile SEO really different from regular SEO?
Yes, mobile SEO optimization differs from regular SEO in several key ways. With the increasing use of smartphones for internet access, mobile SEO focuses on optimizing your website for mobile users’ experience. This includes ensuring your site is responsive to different screen sizes, loads quickly on mobile devices and has touch-friendly navigation.
Mobile SEO also often involves optimizing for local search, as mobile searches frequently have local intent. Ignoring mobile SEO can lead to a poor user experience for a significant portion of your audience and potentially harm your search engine rankings.
How important are backlinks in 2024’s SEO strategy?
Backlinks remain a vital component of SEO strategy in 2024. They act as endorsements from other websites, signaling your content’s value and authoritativeness to search engines. However, the focus has shifted towards the quality of backlinks rather than sheer quantity. High-quality backlinks from reputable, relevant sites have a more significant impact on your SEO than a larger number of low-quality links.
For this reason, it’s essential to focus on building meaningful connections and creating high-quality content that naturally attracts these valuable links.
What are Core Web Vitals, and why are they important for SEO?
Core Web Vitals are a set of specific factors that Google considers important for a webpage’s overall user experience and SEO.
They include metrics like loading performance (Largest Contentful Paint), interactivity (First Input Delay) and visual stability (Cumulative Layout Shift). These vitals are crucial for SEO because they directly impact how users experience your website.
A site that loads quickly, responds promptly to user interactions and maintains visual stability provides a better user experience, which can lead to higher rankings in search engine results pages.
Can I handle SEO on my own, or should I hire an agency like Thrive?
While it’s possible to handle SEO on your own, the complexity and ever-changing nature of SEO often make it challenging for individuals or businesses without specialized knowledge.
An agency like Thrive brings expertise, experience and a suite of professional tools to the table. For businesses looking to maximize their SEO potential without diverting focus from their core operations, partnering with an agency can be a more efficient and effective solution.
Elevate Your 2024 SEO Game With Thrive
Staying ahead in SEO requires diligence, adaptability and a keen eye on the ever-evolving digital landscape. But let’s be real – while you could spend your time keeping up with all these tasks, wouldn’t you rather focus on what you do best and let the experts handle the rest?
Thrive is here to help you with the heavy lifting. Our team lives and breathes SEO – providing full-service solutions to your needs. From the nitty-gritty of technical SEO to the creative angles of content strategy, we’ve got you covered.
So, reach out, and let’s put your SEO ahead of your competition.