What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short, is the process of setting up your website so search engines will naturally pick up on certain keywords on your business’s website. In return, your website will be indexed in search results for different relevant phrases containing your keywords.
Analyze your current search engine rankings to use as a reference point to base your website’s current SEO status of off, then track your results over a period of time (at least one month). You can use Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Moz for this. It’s also very important to check out your website’s competition, seeing their metrics and what keywords that are trying to rank for is crucial in developing your own SEO strategy.
1.) Canonicalize your website to one URL.
You should only have one browsable URL on your website, preferably HTTPS without the WWW. You have to list in Google Search Console all the different addresses that COULD be used to access your website. The other links should 301 redirect to the main URL that is indexed by search engines.
2.) Does the website have a Robots Meta tag or Robots.txt file?
The robots meta tag instructs search engines how to crawl individual pages on a website. These are usually located in the <head> of each page’s code. Websites should also have a Robots.txt file, which shows search engines how to crawl your entire website.
3.) Does the website have a sitemap?
Your website should have a visual, or public sitemap. This shows your users a general overview of all the pages on your website… think index in a book. You also need an XML sitemap, which shows search engines what pages to crawl and index. This is usually located on the root of the domain
4.) What is the website’s current page speed?
5.) What are the keywords being used? Is the location included?
Every page on your website should be ranking for a different keyword. Your targeted primary keyword, this is the one that is included most in your content, headings, meta, and URL should only be used once, however you can use secondary keywords interchangeably throughout your site. Your location should be included in order to make the website rank better in local searches – this also helps your visitors properly identify exactly where you are located.
6.) Are the keywords included on the website’s images?
Images should have the proper ALT and title tags, which is good for SEO and accessibility. The ALT tag is used by screen readers, the browsers used by blind and visually impaired people, to tell them what is on the image. The title attribute is shown as a tooltip when you hover over the element. Before you upload any files to your web server, you should make sure you have a relevant file name. Instead of DSC10059.jpg you write Primary-Keyword-Secondary-Keyword.jpg or something that properly describes the image.
7.) Does the website have all the required page titles and meta descriptions?
Every page should include a short description (less than 155 characters) of the website with the primary/secondary/location keywords included. The page title is also very important, it’s what people see first in search results and on social media. Make sure you have an engaging “clickbait” title while still including all of your keywords. That being said, please do not fall victim to keyword cannibalism, this is when multiple pages are trying to rank for the same keyword. This can happen unintentionally, due to poorly setup pagination or taxonomies from a content management system. Your pages start competing with each other for the same search results space, which is not good for achieving that top position in Google. You can also try canoticalizing your URL’s to route to the main one you want to rank for.
7.) Are you using properly optimized H1-H6 tags?
These heading tabs, labeled H1 (Heading 1) through H6 (Heading 6) not only provide a visual hierarchy for your page’s content by breaking up your text into small, readable chunks but also provides valuable SEO keyword juice that improves your overall rankings. The most important heading to optimize is the <h1> tag since this is the biggest visually, it holds the most weight when bots crawl your page. Make sure you include your primary keyword in the H1 tag, followed by your secondary and location keywords in descending heading tag order. Once you get past the <h3> tags you don’t have to worry about keyword usage as much.
8.) Have the images on the site been optimized?
The overall image file size should be under 1MB (smaller the better as long as you are not sacrificing file size for image quality). Every time you load a website, your internet browser has to download all of the images on the page. It is best to minimize the load times by having the smallest file size possible, this can be done using Photoshop (or other software), or an online plugin such as Imagify, or WP Smush Pro. Essentially you have to strip the image of all the extra metadata that is included in the file (such as camera and location information), anything that the human eye cannot see should be removed. Content management systems such as WordPress will automatically create different sizes of your images, but that being said you should make sure the image’s resolution is big enough to be viewed on a large monitor but small enough to download quickly on a mobile device.
9.) Make sure there is no duplicate content or thin content.
Websites should have unique content on every page. Search Engine’s like Google do not like seeing the same content on multiple pages and will rank your website lower in search results. Menus, footers, sidebars, and other necessary website information are okay, but any kind of content, whether it be text or images, should be used only once. On the opposite side of the spectrum, you should not have any kind of thin content on the page. It is best practice to have at least 900 words on a page to properly rank for your keywords, this also makes sure the content is relevant for the topic.
10.) How is the internal linking structure setup?
You should be able to easily access all of the pages of a website from its top menu (excluding certain landing pages and promotion offers). The footer is also another great place to help guide your users to commonly used links. The main goal is to provide a hierarchal link map for search engine bots to crawl, and to have every page link to each other. A great way to utilize this would be to add breadcrumbs to your website, which is essentially the trail the user had to take to get to that page. Say someone is buying a product on your website. They started from the home page, then went to your categories page, clicked on a category, then found your product. Beyond the SEO benefits of having all of the related links on the page, this also helps provide your users with an easy to use navigation system for your website.
Home > Categories -> Category Page -> Product Page
11.) How many backlinks are there and what is the quality?
You should have as many incoming links from as many different unique route domains as possible, these are called backlinks. By having websites link back to yours, like when a blog features one of your articles, you generate link juice which Google and other search engines use to rank you higher in search engine results. Keep in mind, the backlinks relevancy to your website’s content, and it’s domain authority are major factors that contribute to your overall search engine rankings. Do not fall victim to black hat SEO techniques that involve link farms that try to scam Google’s algorithms, your website will eventually become blacklisted, which is very hard to recover from. Spread good link karma, always properly link back and give credit to the content you are sharing on your website and social media.
12.) Is Schema Markup being used?
Schema Markup is the search engine vocabulary that is added to HTML to help search engines read and index your website. This is the open source microdata language that enables search engines to better understand the content on your website’s pages. You can also use Schema Markup to enhance the rich snippets that show up under the page title, by adding site links, ratings, pricing, contact information, and more.
13.) Did your website pass mobile site validation?
It is crucial that your website looks great on every device, and that it passes Google’s Mobile Site Validation test. More and more people are accessing websites on the go from their phones and tablets, so Google penalizing websites that don’t fit certain criteria that enables you to access content fast and easy.
14.) Have Google crawl your site for any last minute errors
After you have performed all of the above steps, submit your sitemap for review using Google Search Console, so you can resolve any last minute changes you may have to make, which includes fixing broken links and 404 errors.
These are improvements that can be made to your website to drive more traffic, improve conversations, lower your bounce rate, and keep your website more secure.
SSL Certificate (HTTPS)
Having an SSL certificate installed on your website ensures that the data being sent and received between the server and your visitors is encrypted (over HTTPS), so prying eyes cannot have access to what you are doing online. Google has not only started ranking websites higher that load over HTTPS, but now they penalize your website and display “NOT SECURE” in the URL bar on your internet browser if you do not have an SSL Certificate properly installed.
Content Delivery Network (CDN)
Security and Reporting
Make sure your website is free of any kind of malware or spam if a search engine notices this during their crawl they will automatically blacklist you from their search results. It is also important to set up and receive detailed monthly reports of your SEO progress, so you can quickly address and fix issues that may arise. It’s also important to keep a tab on your competition to make sure you are consistently outranking them.