9-point checklist to help you get found on Google in 2024

Getting found on Google becomes harder for new and smaller brands every year. Organic visibility isn’t what it was and the big names dominate the top spots more than ever – so how are you supposed to get found on Google in 2024? While it’s tempting to look for hacks and cheat codes for Google’s algorithm, the secret to being seen in organic search is simpler than you think.

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SEO is a long-term strategy so seeking out quick fixes is contradictory to everything Google is looking for. Analyse any of your search competitors and you’ll find few (if any) do an exceptional job at all of the following:

  1. Know what you’re optimising for
  2. Get the technical basics nailed down first
  3. Help Google crawl & index your site
  4. Create the content your audience is looking for
  5. Structured data
  6. Optimise for CTRs
  7. Optimise for on-page engagement
  8. Website & page performance
  9. Website audits

Many companies do a decent job of several of these, but few perform well across all of the SEO fundamentals. Some don’t need to because they’ve been in the game for a long time, they have a brand reputation that drives traffic and they have a long search history supported by strong website engagement. If you want to rank above these competitors, you need to focus your resources on doing as well as you possibly can at all of the SEO fundamentals.

1. Know what you’re optimising for

Before you start pumping money and other resources into SEO, make sure you know what you’re optimising for. How do you want people to find you on Google and what do you want them to do once they have?

Targeting the top spots is great, but this isn’t the only opportunity in organic search:

  1. Organic blue links
  2. Local packs
  3. Google Maps
  4. Product listings
  5. Featured snippets
  6. SGE AI-generated snippets
  7. People also ask
  8. Discover
  9. Image search

If driving traffic is your main goal, then the classic blue links and SERP features like featured snippets might be your priorities. Alternatively, if you’re promoting a local store, and you want to generate foot traffic from search, then local packs and Google Maps are probably more important.

Google maps search for 'cinemas in London'

The availability, value and difficulty of organic opportunities are constantly changing. For example, Google rolled out free product listings in 2020 for organic search – something that was previously reserved for paid ads. Now, we’ve got the experimental Search Generative Experience (SGE) potentially threatening organic CTRs.

As a result, you should constantly analyse the search marketing landscape for new opportunities. It’s also a good idea to integrate SEO and PPC so you can supplement any drops in traffic from either channel.

Further reading:

2. Get the technical basics nailed down first

Technical SEO lays the foundations for the discoverability and performance of your website. If you don’t get these nailed down as early as possible, you’re fighting an uphill battle with everything you do in SEO.

Try to beat your search competitors from the ground up by starting with solid foundations:

  • Indexability: Do everything you can to help Google find, crawl and index your website (more on this in the next section).
  • Navigation: Make sure you’ve got the right website structure with a suitable page hierarchy and intuitive navigation system – including internal links.
  • Quality code: Ideally, you want clean, lightweight code that performs efficiently and puts minimal strain on web browsers.
  • On-page SEO: Take the time to get the on-page SEO essentials right from the beginning – descriptive URLs, page structure, page titles, headings, keywords, internal links, etc.
  • Website performance: UX and technical performance are increasingly important for SEO.
  • Google Business Profile: If local SEO is an important part of your marketing strategy, you’ll need a complete Google Business Profile to get found by people in your target area(s).
  • Product feed: If you’re optimising for product listings in Google Search, make sure your product feed is 100% complete and optimised.
Google business profile Mos Diner

Obviously, you only need a Business Profile for local SEO and a product feed for eCommerce. If either of those applies to you, they’re just as important as your website, though. Either way, make sure the technical essentials are all in place during the development, launch and early optimisation of your website – you’ll thank yourself later.

More reading:

3. Help Google crawl & index your site

If you want people to find you on Google, you need to make it as easy as possible for its bots to crawl, understand and index your pages correctly. So, you could argue that indexability is the most important aspect of technical SEO – and it’s certainly important enough to deserve a section of its own in this article.

Here’s a quick summary of the essentials you need to cover:

  • Navigation: Google’s crawler uses the internal links on your website (navigation) to move between pages and understand the structure of your website.
  • Sitemap: This file provides Google the information it needs about your website, its structure, pages and assets like videos and other files.
  • Robots.txt file: Tells Google crawlers which URLs to access while allowing you to block access to specific pages with noindex.
  • Descriptive links: These provide search engines and users with contextual information, helping them understand your site’s structure and the relationship of your pages.
  • On-page SEO: Optimised page titles, headings, keywords, content, etc. also help Google interpret the structure and information on your website/pages.
  • Responsive design: Google recommends responsive design for delivering cross-device experiences and optimising for mobile-first indexing.
  • Structured data: Provides Google with extra information about specific pages, helping it rank them more effectively for relevant queries and display them as rich results in the SERPs.
  • Internal links: Help Google understand the relationship between pages and users navigate intuitively.
  • Canonical tags: Specify a single page from similar or duplicate pages that should show in search results.
  • Image alt. text: Provides contextual information for Google and users about the contents of images, also helping with indexing for image search.
  • Transcripts: By providing transcripts for long-form video and podcast content, you can help Google index them for relevant queries – and help users find them in search.

Quite simply, if Google can’t crawl your website, it can’t index your pages in search. Aside from covering the basics, you can help Google find and crawl new pages faster by resubmitting your sitemap, including updated pages (as long as you’ve meaningfully updated the content).

You can also help Google index your pages for the most relevant queries. Creating quality, clear content is the best way to start, but you can reinforce this with on-page SEO, internal links, structured data (where appropriate) and plenty more.

More reading:

4. Create the content your audience is looking for

Your target audience is only going to find you on Google if you create the content they’re looking for. At the same time, you also have to prove to Google that your content deserves to rank for the keywords your target audience is using.

Follow these seven steps to send the right signals to Google from day one:

  1. Keywords: Know what your audience is searching for and understand the intent behind their queries.
  2. Coverage: Cover the topics your audience cares about in detail, guiding them through sub-topics as their intent changes.
  3. Relevance: When all else is equal, the most relevant page/content to the user’s search query is the one that should rank the highest – and win their click.
  4. Quality: Secondary to relevance, the quality of two pages should* determine which one ranks higher where all else is equal – and satisfy the user if they click through.
  5. Accuracy: If you prioritise one thing in your pursuit of creating quality content, make it accuracy.
  6. E-E-A-T: Optimise your pages for experience, expertise, authoritativeness and trust (E-E-A-T).
  7. Inbound links: Develop a long-term strategy for earning quality inbound links from relevant sources, ideally with a stronger domain reputation than yours.
Venn diagram for Google's experience, expertise, authoritativeness and trust (E-E-A-T).

Early on, you may find sites with lower-quality pages outrank you. This is probably because they have a longer search history and stronger reputation – for now. Chances are, they’re winning CTRs, sending on-page engagement signals and earning some decent links now and then.

This is where you have to play the long game. Nail the technical basics and concentrate on creating the best content you can. This will give you the long-term advantage over lower-quality sites and the next steps will help you jump ahead of them faster.

More reading:

5. Structured data

Structured data provides Google with detailed information about specific pages. This helps it rank certain page types to relevant queries more effectively. Google can also use this data to show listings as rich results, showing more contextual, visual information to users, which is designed to increase CTRs.

For example, if your website includes recipe pages, you can add the structured data recipe properties to them. This improves your chances of ranking for recipe searches and, potentially, showing as rich results.

Example of recipe rich results in Google

Rich results stand out visually, making them more noticeable over the standard blue links. Generally, they also earn higher click-through rates, too, making them a powerful tool for driving more traffic to relevant pages.

Google supports structured data properties for articles, online courses, events, FAQs, reviews, videos and a range of other rich results. You can find a complete list of all the structured data markup that Google Search supports on this Google Search Central page.

More reading:

6. Optimise for CTRs

Click-through rates send a strong signal to Google that people want to visit your website for the query in question. To win a user’s click, your search listing needs to capture their attention and convince them that your page contains what they’re looking for.

  • Brand awareness: Building brand awareness, familiarity, reputation and trust is one of the most powerful strategies for maximising organic CTRs.
  • Relevance: The more relevant your page is to the query in question, the higher it should rank, but–more importantly– the more likely it is to win the click.
  • Specificity: Pinpoint audience interests throughout the customer journey, delve deeper into topics and win clicks from niche topics, long-tail keywords, etc. while you work on more competitive queries.
  • Page titles: Make sure your page titles communicate the relevance of your content and honestly reflect what users are going to find once they click through.
  • Meta descriptions: Use your meta descriptions to explain what users will find on your page and why they should click through.
  • Structured data: Again, structured data is ideal for capturing attention and CTRs – so use it where possible.
  • Competitor analysis: Analyse competitors with higher CTRs and determine why they’re winning more clicks than you.

Obviously, the higher you rank for a query, the easier it should be to win clicks. If you’re not where you want to be in the SERPs, optimise for CTRs relative to your ranking positions (and competitors).

Also, keep in mind that, while CTR is a relatively strong signal, Google can’t rely on it too heavily. Once a user clicks through to your website, you need to show Google that you’re giving users what they’re after if you want to rank higher for this query.

More reading:

7. Optimise for on-page engagement

A combination of high CTRs and on-page engagement is one of the strongest signals telling Google that you should rank higher for your target keyword. With CTRs proving you can capture user attention, on-page engagement tells Google that you’re delivering what people want after the initial click.

To optimise for on-page engagement, pay close attention to the following:

  • Attention: You caught users’ attention to get the initial click-through and, now, you need to win it again with your headlines, tag lines, opening paragraphs, images, etc.
  • Relevance: The first thing users look for when they click through is that the page they’re on delivers whatever incentivised them to visit in the first place – make sure you don’t disappoint.
  • Quality: At this point, quality is in the eye of the user and satisfying their expectations is crucial to keeping them on your page/website.
  • Value: Above all, users need to feel like they’re getting value from your page and will continue to do so, the more they engage with your site.
  • Incentive: Delivering value satisfies user expectations, but you also need to incentivise ongoing engagement by anticipating their needs (problem, solution, problem, solution).
  • Interaction: Incorporate interactive experiences where appropriate to make engagement more immersive.
  • Conversions: A particularly strong signal indicating that you’ve provided what users were after and, also, crucial for your broader marketing goals.

In terms of measuring engagement, the classic metrics you would want to track were things like session time, time on page, pages visited, bounce rate, etc. However, Google Analytics 4 has introduced a more insightful system for measuring on-page engagement with its engagement overview report, featuring new metrics, including: average engagement time, engaged sessions per user, user stickiness and plenty more.

You can also use the new enhanced event measurement system to track page views, scrolling, clicks and other interactions. If you need help setting up Google Analytics 4, you speak to our data analytics team by calling 023 9283 0281 or sending us your details.

More reading:

8. Website & page performance

Google is constantly working on new methods to measure and reward sites delivering quality experiences. It needs users to feel satisfied with the results they get from search and usability is a key factor in this – so it’s no surprise Google cares so much about UX.

At the very least, you should prioritise the following:

  • Loading times: This is the first – and most noticeable – factor in website performance, so make sure you’re not falling at the first hurdle.
  • Core Web Vitals: Google’s latest set of UX measurements for loading times, responsiveness and the visual stability of pages.
  • Page experience: A broad usability signal that includes Core Web Vitals and other UX signals: mobile-friendliness, safe browsing, HTTPS and intrusive popups.
  • Accessibility: Rarely gets the attention it deserves, but brands need to recognise that accessibility improves UX for everyone.
Core Web Vitals: Google’s latest set of UX measurements for loading times, responsiveness and the visual stability of pages.

Quality content isn’t the only thing users need when they click through to a website. They also need performance, reliability and security – otherwise, they’re not going to trust the recommendations they get from Google Search.

Also, keep in mind that the more satisfying users find the experience of using your website, the more they’ll engage with it. This feeds back into the engagement signals you want to send Google, telling it to bump you up the SERPs.

More reading:

9. Website audits

Regular audits help you maintain the quality of your website and consistently build a stronger search reputation. With the technicals nailed down and a solid, ongoing SEO strategy, this is the final piece of the puzzle that will move you above your rivals in search.

Broadly speaking, you can break this down into four key areas:

  1. Performance: Running regular audits flags up any performance issues, allowing you to fix them before they cause unnecessary harm (to the user experience and your search ranking).
  2. Technical SEO: Automated technical SEO audits can alert you to any critical issues like indexing problems and broken links.
  3. Content updates: You’ll also want to regularly audit and update your content to maintain accuracy, relevance and quality.
  4. Keep, combine, kill: This is what we call our site-wide content update campaigns where we update (keep) the best content, merge competing pages (combine) and remove anything problematic (kill).

Ideally, you should run this kind of audit at least once every year – at the very least, to update your most important pages to keep them relevant, accurate and valuable.

More reading:

Excel at the basics, ignore the noise

We know it’s difficult to perform well across all of the SEO fundamentals, but this is why it’s worth doing. You’ve never had more competitors in the SERPs, yet so few of them perform consistently well in all of the areas we’ve covered in this article.

To outrank brands with a longer search history, you have to build a stronger search history by really nailing the SEO essentials. Start with the technical foundations, create the content your audience is looking for, deliver quality experiences and maintain performance so you’re constantly improving your search reputation.

Our SEO team is ready to help you get found on Google in 2024. Find out more about our SEO services or if you’d like to chat, send us your details and we’ll get right back to you.

Dave Colgate profile picture
Dave Colgate

Dave is head of SEO at Vertical Leap. He joined in 2010 as an SEO specialist and prior to that worked with international companies delivering successful search marketing campaigns. Dave works with many of our largest customers spanning many household names and global brands such as P&O Cruises and Harvester. Outside of work, Dave previously spent many years providing charity work as a Sergeant under the Royal Air Force Reserves in the Air Cadets sharing his passion for aviation with young minds. He can often be found in the skies above the south coast enjoying his private pilot licence.

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