SEO means many things to different people. For some, SEO is a strategic revenue driver in their company. To others, it's more about beating Google at their own game.
They try all sorts of techniques to try to get one over on the algorithms that search engines use to determine the rankings that they give to websites.
But that’s not going to work.
Search engines evolve constantly.
Take Google as an example.
The company tweaks their search engine algorithm more than once per day on average.
On top of that, it rolls out major algorithm changes periodically. These can have an even more drastic effect on your results.
These changes always focus on providing better results to the search engine’s users. That means they often target the bad techniques that some websites use to try to get ahead.
And it’s not just the little guys that these tweaks target.
Major companies, like eBay, often experience massive ranking changes due to these tweaks.
In fact, a change that Google made once resulted in eBay losing about 80% of its organic rankings.
Image form wordstream.com
All of this can leave you wondering how to do SEO on your website without putting your rankings at risk.
That’s where this SEO checklist can help.
If you check off every item on this list, you’ll learn how to improve search engine optimisation without using the bad techniques that lead to others getting punished.
SEO Checklist: Item #1 – Make Your URLs SEO-Friendly
Did you know that the URLs of your webpages have an effect on your SEO?
Many people don’t understand the importance of their URLs. But they are one of the first things that a search engine will look at when it’s trying to figure out how to rank your website.
Search engines use something called “spiders” to “crawl” your website.
These spiders want to figure out what your website does so it can figure out how to index you in a search engine.
They’ll look at a page’s URL to get a quick idea of what it does.
- Too many pages have URLS like this: http://www.webpage.com/products/785641/html
- That may look like a succinct URL. But it’s not telling the spider anything about the page. All it knows is that there’s a product on the page. Compare it to a URL like the below: http://www.webpage.com/products/cameras/canon/eos-5d-mark-iv/html
(Neither of these are real URLs by the way)
That second URL tells you the type of product, the manufacturer, and the specific make of the product.
Incidentally, all of these things are keywords that the website may want to target.
Conduct a website analysis that focuses on your URLs. Avoid using the defaults that a content management system might provide.
Instead, create URLs with a focus on site optimisation. Ideally, you want every URL to provide some insight into what the page has to offer.
This makes things easier for the search engines and builds trust with your users.
SEO Checklist: Item #2 – Do Great Keyword Research
Keyword research always comes at the top of any SEO checklist.
But it’s not as simple as you might think.
Just using a bunch of general phrases that relate to your business isn’t enough. For example, a mobile phone retailer is unlikely to rank for the generic keyword “mobile phones”.
Instead, you need to find the keywords and phrases that people are actually using to search for the products and services that you have to offer.
Remember that every search engine query is essentially a question. Your aim is to figure out what questions the user will ask that relate to your content.
First, come up with a primary keyword that’s relevant to your content. But don’t stop there.
Use tools, like LSI Graph, to find secondary keywords that relate to this primary keyword.
Image from LSIgraph.com
Alternatively, you can use Google Suggest to figure out what people are searching for.
Just type your keyword into the search bar and you get a list of similar keywords that you can incorporate into your copy.
Image from Google
This gives you a mix of short, mid, and long tail keywords to work with. You’ll target the big hitters, as well as the specific queries that searchers might use.
Do this for every page on your website and you’ve taken a big step towards proper site optimisation.
SEO Checklist: Item #3 – Set Up Google Analytics and Search Console
You can’t figure out how to improve search engine optimisation if you don’t have any data.
Thankfully, most search engines provide tools that allow you to see how your website’s performing. We’ll focus on Google here, but you’ll find that Bing offers similar tools too.
Make sure that you have both the Google Search Console and Google Analytics set up for your website.
Image from searchenginewatch.com
The search console allows you to do plenty of stuff, including:
- Submitting a sitemap so you can get every page of your site indexed.
- Find out the high-traffic keywords for your site
- Discover any issues or errors that Google has pulled up.
It’s also where you’ll receive important information from Google.
For example, your site may have a penalty attached to it.
You’d have no idea if you don’t have the Search Console activated. And if you don’t know, you can’t do anything about it.
Google Analytics serves a similar purpose, but it dives deeper into the data behind your website.
It lets you see the following:
- Where your traffic comes from
- The rate that your traffic increases (or decreases) over time
- How long people spend on your site and what pages they visit
- How many people bounce off your site
This is all useful information that you can use to decide on future strategies.
For example, if a page has a high bounce rate, you instantly know that it’s not serving the visitors’ needs. That makes the page a priority.
Both require you to have a Google account and to make some minor changes to your website’s code.
But it’s worth it for the sheer amount of data that you receive. Better yet, you can combine them to you get all of the data in one place.
SEO Checklist: Item #4 – Know Your Meta Tags
Every one of your pages has Meta content. They combine to tell search engines more about your website.
Great Meta content means more efficient site crawling. Plus search engines will know exactly what your site delivers.
The two most important are your Title Tags and Meta Description. These are what search engines display to searchers, so you need to get them right.
Let’s tackle Title Tags first. Consider the title tag as a short and snappy description of the page.
Keep it below 60 characters because Google only shows the first 60 characters of any Title Tag.
After that, make it descriptive. Tell the searcher exactly what the page has in store for them. And here’s the most important thing.
Don’t just use the same Title Tag on every page.
Each page needs a unique tag. If you copy and paste across the entire site, you’re not telling anybody what’s unique about your pages.
Let’s take a look at a possible Title Tag for this article:
OMG – An SEO Checklist That Helps You Get Great Rankings
It’s less than 60 characters and tells you exactly what to expect from the article.
You have some more leeway with Meta Descriptions.
This is the text that displays under the title tag of a Google search result:
And it’s important. 43.2% of people click on a search result based on the strength of its Meta Description.
Again, you’re going for short and descriptive. You have a maximum of 160 characters to work with. And don’t force your main keyword into the Meta Description.
You’ll often find that one of your secondary keywords or semantically linked keywords works better. Write with a focus on the searcher, rather than the search engine.
SEO Checklist: Item #5 – Create Credible Content
There’s an old saying in SEO. Content is king. And great content has a massive effect on your rankings.
Think of it as your most direct way of communicating with your customers.
Good communication matters. In increases brand awareness and boosts retention rates by over 85%.
Notice the use of the word good. If your content looks like this:
Image from seopressor.com
You’re not communicating with people. You’re trying to game the search engine. That’s a technique known as “keyword stuffing”.
The content had no use to the reader and barely makes sense.
Other bad techniques include:
- Creating duplicate content.
- Pushing content that has no value. If you’re not answering a query or providing some insight, you’re not offering value.
- Thin content. A 200-word piece isn’t going to do the job. The average size of a piece of content that ranks at position #1 is 2450 words.
Image from neilpatel.com
People want content that delivers useful information. But length alone doesn’t get the job done. You need to:
- Answer a genuine user query
- Make it readable to people, not search engines
- Keep it fresh
Search engines love fresh content.
Breaking news, new statistics, and any other content that shows you’re ahead of the curve will get ranked.
Freshness has been a ranking factor since 2003. Make your content useful, fresh, and long enough to actually deliver value.
SEO Checklist: Item #6 – Improve Your Site Speed
40% of people will leave a website if it takes more than three seconds to load.
One second of unneeded delays can result in 7% fewer conversions.
And worst of all, site speed has a definite impact on rankings.
Simply put, you need a fast website to maximise conversions and get the jump on your competitors.
Start by making a list of your main competitors.
Then use a tool like WhichLoadsFaster to compare your site speed to theirs. If you’re slower than the rest, you need to make some changes.
So, what can you do to improve things?
First, look at the file size of the image. You may want the most stunning images on your website, but they come at a cost. The larger an image is, the longer it takes to load.
This is a problem that many ecommerce sites with lots of products face. Turn you’re huge images into smaller JPEG files to get around it. Your site code is also an issue.
If it’s messy, the site takes longer to load. Clean it up to make sure everything loads as quickly as possible.
The Markup Validation Service checks the code on your pages to let you know what you need to tidy up.
SEO Checklist: Item #7 – Make it Mobile Friendly
Before the advent of smartphones, you could focus almost exclusively on building websites for desktop computers.
That’s not the case anymore. A lot of people use smartphones and other devices to search for websites.
In fact, not only do more people search using mobile phones than desktop computers, but mobile users also spend about two times longer on websites than those using desktops.
On top of all of that, mobile search engines work differently to desktop search engines.
They have algorithms that class the mobile-friendliness of your website as an important ranking factor. And mobile search is bigger than desktop search.
In fact, about 60% of all search traffic comes from mobile devices. That means it needs to be a priority.
Here’s a few things that you can do:
- Make text legible on smaller screens. A default font size of 16 pixels is a good start here.
- Ensure all images serve a purpose. They take up valuable space so they need an end goal.
- Align your site with mobile conventions. Mobile users expect to scroll down, but not sideways. And they expect easy navigation, rather than having to pinch and pull the screen to try and access links.
- Make all interactions obvious.
A better mobile experience means better mobile rankings.
The Final Word
With this SEO checklist, you’ve discovered several ways to improve SEO.
Some of these items handle the technical side of things, whereas others cover keyword use and general strategy.
All of them will help you to create a more optimised website that has a better chance of ranking well in search engines.
Check every item of the list to make your site searchable and user friendly.
Great rankings will follow.
Pushing traffic towards a website is an extremely important part of any SEO strategy. But it’s the quality of that traffic that’s the true deciding factor.
Even poor SEO can boost the traffic numbers. But it won’t provide a business with the quality that it needs to generate a return.
With all of this evidence, along with the many statistics shared in this article, you can now see just how vital SEO is for the modern business.
But you might have questions? Or you might be wondering if SEO with a digital marketing agency is the right choice for your business?
If so, just go here to have a friendly no obligation chat with one of our gurus.
We’ll ask you a few questions and tell you honestly if SEO makes sense for your situation. And if it doesn’t we’ll tell you that, too!