20+ SEO Checklist for new & existing websites
When it comes to websites one of the first questions we think about and our clients ask is what is the best way to get on page 1, position 1, of Google. That answer is simple. Follow all the best practices Google Webmaster Tools recommends. These best practices will let you know you need quality content, not "break the rules", write for humans (not computers), and have an easy to use navigation structure that answers the questions your visitors want to know. Sounds simple, right? Well, it is! With some time, effort, and a dedication to grow your business you can do it as well. In this article, we'll cover what you need to do for new or your existing website.
Research your competitors
To us this is the easiest step but one we see many people completely miss the mark on. You need to know who your competitors are, what they are doing today as well as in the past (you can find this out), and based on this information you can make educated guesses on the direction they will be going in the future.
Not all keywords are created equal on the internet. Your market will determine which words you should use and you shouldn't use. A item we love to tell our clients is you are not your customer. They do not know all your internal codes or phrases. They will most likely type in 3-5 words to find what they are looking for (more if they use voice) and they will be non-technical words. Using tools like Google Keyword Planner, io, WordStream, or SERPs Keyword Tool to come up with a large list of phrases to begin your process.
- Focus on valuable keywords that have a "buyers" mindset.
- Choose keywords that have lower difficulty to start.
- Start with 1 keyword per page.
- The next step will help in your keyword decision-making process.
Initial Setup StepsThe first step involves setting up information so Google and Bing (yes Bing is just as important as Google!) can find you and index your site.
- Setup Google Analytics – you will need a Gmail account to associate with your Google Analytics. Click here to access Google Analytics.
- Add Your Site to Google Search Console – This is going to be essential in the long run and it will take time for Google to collect data. The sooner you do this the sooner you'll have usable data. Google Search Console provides valuable feedback as well as helps in being found online. Click here to access Google Analytics.
- Add Your Site to Bing Webmaster Tools – It never hurts to have more data. Bing's webmaster tools can offer some interesting insight at times. This may also be beneficial if you're specifically targeting the U.S. Click here to access Google Analytics.
- Are You Using WordPress? If so, install Yoast SEO and Google Analytics by Yoast. These 2 plugins are going to allow you to finely tune your on-page SEO making everything else you do to promote more effective.
- Use Keywords Near The Beginning of Your Page Titles – The closer the keyword is to the start of the title the more weight it carries in Google's eyes. Keep titles 70-75 characters long. If the title is longer Google may cut off the end with ellipses. Use this title to entice people to click on your listing. It's essentially an organic advertisement! Check your click through rates in Google Search Console and improve your titles over time.
- Add Unique Meta Descriptions To Every Page You Create – This can be challenging for enterprise sites with 100K pages. However, most sites should be able to handle this. By using your keyword near the beginning and a bit of copywriting you'll end up with a search listing people want to click on. That's incredibly valuable. This is the second part of your organic ad. 160 characters has been the standard length without an ellipsis cutoff. However, Google is currently testing longer descriptions.
- Aim to Produce Content of 1,000 to 2,000 words per page – Do this for any page you want ranked in Google. A study done by com found that pages with word counts in the 1300 range ranked well vs less.
- Use H1 Tags for Page Titles – This signifies to Google that the words in this tag are important. Make sure you optimize this with your most significant keywords for that page.
- Use H2 and H3 Tags Within the Body Content – This not only helps to break up the content in a pleasing way to the eye it's also a chance to optimize for secondary keywords. Again, these tags signify important words on the page to Google.
- Add Images & Alt Tags to Every Page – Make sure your alt tag uses a keyword you want that page optimized for.
- Add Internal Links – You should link 1-3 times to other pages on your site where it makes sense. If you only have 100 words on the page 3 internal links would be overkill. Doing this will increase the "crawl-ability" of your site for the search engine spiders (meaning you'll have more pages indexed faster).
- Add External Authority Links – Adding a link out from your page to an authority on the topic of that page's content sounds counterintuitive. There's no need to put them front and center to drive traffic away from your site. Have these links open in a new window. This is a quality signal to Google that works incredibly well. It should be done on every page.
- Check Your Site Speed – There are several free site speed checking tools out there. Tools like Google's own Test My Site will analyze both your mobile, and desktop site load times. You'll also find a very handy technical analysis of what to fix to increase your speed. You should aim for less than a 2 second load time.
- Mobile Optimized – Having your website found online is critical. Mobile search accounts for more than half of all web searches since 2016. If you are not mobile optimized you are missing a large piece of the web visitors out there.
- TLS (SSL Certificates) – Your website should have the green pad lock for all pages and not just eCommerce checkout pages. Security is important to your users and providing your visitors with the green padlock is a great first step.
- Create an XML Sitemap – This can be done with a plugin like Yoast or others on WordPress. There are also free online resources for sites not based on WordPress. When this is complete be sure to link to it in the footer of your site and submit it to Google in Search Console.
- Create a Robots.txt File – This is a great opportunity to either allow or disallow search engine spiders from seeing specific sections of your site. Don't want Google to index a PDF you give away for an email opt-in? You can do that here. Don't want Google to index pages that may cause duplicate content issues for you? Yep, that's an option here too.
- Fixing Technical Errors – Now it's time to do a little house cleaning (if it's necessary)
- Clean Up Your Meta Data – This is where Google Search Console will have come in handy. They will pull in data from your site and show you exactly which pages don't have meta titles or descriptions. If they are too long or short you'll know. It's incredibly helpful as it shows you the exact URL where the meta needs adjusting. When you have any errors in this area you must go through and fix them all. It's your job to bring each column with a number of errors down to absolute 0.
- Fix Any 404 / 500 Errors – You'll be able to find this info in Search Console as well. It's just another bit of housekeeping that will help you stay ahead of the competition in the long run.
- Find Broken Links – When you click on your site link every link should go to a valid page. There's a fantastic tool called ScreamingFrog it will crawl all the pages on your site seeking out broken links, errors and more. It's essential for uncovering aspects of your site you may have never realized were there.
Use Social Media
A website is only a start. If you think having a website alone will be the perfect solution you are wrong. If you think having only a social media solution is the right solution you are also wrong! You need both and you need them both to work harmoniously together.
- Setup your social media page - Your social media page needs to be setup. Do not sign up for every social media outlet. That is so early 2000's!!! Be on the social media channels your customers are on. Setup them up correctly. Be prepared to join others as your market changes. Keep every social media outlet you are on updated, have current information, and keep the information relevant for the social media site you are on.
- Create a Content Posting Schedule – Whether you're adding content to a blog or just articles to your silo'd website you absolutely must add new content. It doesn't have to be every day. But in today's hyper-competitive environment it doesn't make sense to post once a month anymore. Besides you now have these new outlets to post your content on social media. Search engines love change. Write your blog, put it on your website, then take a very short snipper and manually (not automatically) post it on Facebook. Automation on Facebook will produce less organic reach.
- Engage with Your Followers – Whether that's commenting on blog posts relevant to your site or your own posts for that matter – comment. Engage with the people in your market wherever they are.
Patience is Key!
Expecting results in 30, 60, even 90 days to be found organically (e.g. free) is not guaranteed. In fact, anyone that gives you any kind of guarantee is most likely not practicing the search engine best practices and is more interested in lining their bank account with your money than helping you. A lot of work goes on behind the scenes with SEO. SEO is a commitment to growing your business like any other marketing channel. It also has the most potential reward for your company's website.
SEO is critical to any website success. Companies that don't do it are apt to fail. Companies that do it are destined to surpass their competition. When your competition is doing it, they are doing it to drive traffic away from your business and into theirs. Therefore, you are doing it. You should be more aggressive, follow all the latest best practices, and work harder than they do. No company gets rewarded for sitting and waiting for the search engines to find them. Contact the search engines and get them to notice you and see that change! SEO is a lot of work but the reward it will bring your business is worth every amount of effort you do.