Tommy McDonald's 6-Point SEO Checklist for Strong Organic Google Rankings

When producing content for your website, it's important that you optimize it for Google, giving you the best chance of attracting organic search traffic. SEO is a constantly changing landscape, so I tend to brainstorm with other SEO professionals on a regular basis.
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When producing content for your website, it's important that you optimize it for Google, giving you the best chance of attracting organic search traffic. SEO is a constantly changing landscape, so I tend to brainstorm with other SEO professionals on a regular basis.

Tommy McDonald, owner of SEO agency SerpLogic, is someone that I communicate with on a regular basis, and the other day we were discussing something that many people forget about when it comes to SEO -- the basics. I asked McDonald to put together a simple checklist of the basics that can't be ignored, and they can be found below.

Following these tips isn't going to magically guarantee rankings or traffic, but these best practices need to be implemented if you want to even attempt to attract organic visitors from Google search.

1. Target keywords and search phrases that your customers are actually searching for.

Too many people focus on keyword search volume, rather than the intent of the keyword. For example, a local florist in Los Angeles isn't going to want to rank for the keyword "flowers" -- first, because it would be extremely difficult, but more importantly it's a very generic keyword without clear intent.

Someone might be looking for pictures of flowers to use as their desktop wallpaper or they might be looking for a list of different flower species. Better keywords to target in this example would be "Los Angeles florist" and "flower delivery in Los Angeles." Those keywords have clear buyer intent.

2. Perform competition research for keywords before you start.

Some keywords are more difficult to rank for than others. It's important to lay out a well thought out strategy that will help you bring in revenue as quickly as possible. You can often rank some keywords fairly quickly because there isn't much competition, which will help you generate revenue that you can then roll back into your SEO to target the keywords that have more competition.

SpyFu and SEMrush are two online tools that can help you with keyword research.

3. Perfect your on-site optimization.

On-site optimization -- including elements like page titles, headings and URL structure -- all need to be optimized for the particular keyword or search phrase that each page is targeting. While it may appear to be overwhelming at first, on-site optimization really isn't that difficult to grasp. Especially with tools like Moz Pro, which has a great on-site audit feature.

On-site optimization also includes elements that don't directly impact your rankings, such as meta descriptions and user experience. A compelling description can help attract clicks to your website, even if you aren't in the top positions. You also want to make sure each page delivers a pleasant user experience, making it easy for your visitors to complete the intended action.

If you have a WordPress website, there are several SEO plugins that will help you stay on top of your on-site optimization. One of the most popular options, Yoast SEO, is free and very easy to use.

4. Publish content that the search engines love -- but your visitors should always be your main focus.

With each page targeting a specific keyword, the page content is naturally going to be optimized for the keyword. It's important that you don't publish content that is only written for Google, ignoring the visitors that are going to actually engage with the content.

Years ago, content would be jam packed and "stuffed" with the keyword(s), repeated over and over, completely ignoring the end user. You could be ranking on top, but if your traffic is leaving your website without converting because the quality of your content is poor your top ranking is essentially worthless.

5. Use an intelligent internal linking strategy.

As you publish more content and your website grows, it presents you with opportunities to interlink your content. While it has an SEO benefit, it also helps to push your visitors to additional pages of your website.

Not every visitor is ready to convert immediately after landing on your website. Some people like to explore several pages to get acquainted to your brand, and interlinking helps to navigate traffic around to additional similar content.

6. Build strong external links.

Links matter. Let's not pretend they don't, because they do, they always have and they more than likely always will. Quality content can help attract link earning opportunities, but far too many people are hearing "create content" and assume that rankings will just naturally occur as long as they just publish content to their website or blog.

You can't forget that links are the number one ranking signal. There are thousands of new pieces of content published daily, so just posting it and letting it sit there won't do you much good. You need to promote your content on social media and through various paid outlets, share it to your email lists and social channels and perform outreach to put it in front of influencers. All of this is done to attract links.

SEO is a very complex topic, and there are many working parts beyond this checklist. While these best practices will definitely help, there isn't a one-size-fits-all search engine optimization solution.

Jonathan Long is the Founder & CEO of Market Domination Media®, an online marketing agency that provides SEO coaching and online marketing consulting. Jonathan also created (Entrepreneurs & Business Owners Community), a private business forum. Follow him on Twitter.

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