Optimizing a website for search engines is no longer optional. You have to make sure that your websites are optimized if you want to be found by your customers. Despite SEO being essential, most business owners are still struggling with implementing website optimization correctly. You don't have to be one of them.
You might be trying to figure out how to make sure your new site is set up correctly, or you could be fighting to improve your search rank because you aren't seeing the performance you want.
Either way, it's time to cut through some of the noise.
In this article, I'm going to give you a single checklist that you can use to work through the most important aspects of your website's optimization.
All of my tips are organized into two main categories so it's easy to follow. I'll show you what I use when I'm implementing SEO for our clients and our own website.
You'll learn about:
- Technical SEO - We'll talk about the back-end components that are crucial to have in place for a solid search engine optimization strategy.
- On-page SEO - Next, we'll discuss some of the on-page elements that help with search engine ranking as well as user experience.
Let's dive in and I'll show you how to optimize your site.
Your robots.txt file tells search engines about the pages on your site. It lets the search engine know what it should be indexing as well as what parts of the site it should not be indexing.
If you were using a CMS system such as WordPress, it will control a lot of information that exists in your robots.txt file. By default, it will block access to areas of your sites such as the back end administration interface.
If you are not using a CMS system, then you will want to take a few extra steps to make sure that this file:
- is accurate
- properly validates inside of Google Search Console
- validates in Bing Webmaster Tools
- doesn't accidentally block important content from being indexed.
If you own more than just your main website, it's important for you to know how your other domain is used. If you own them but they're not being used for anything, there's nothing for you to worry about.
However, if you are redirecting your extra domains to your primary website, then you want to make sure that the redirects are set up properly. They should be set up as a 301 redirect to let Google know that you are permanently redirecting from one domain to another.
https://myshortname.com might redirect to https://myfullcompanynamethatislong.com
Setting this up incorrectly could cause issues with your search engine indexing. It might pick up that you have duplicate content between two different sites or be confused over which domain is the primary one.
If your site takes more than 3 seconds to load, more than half of your visitors will leave. This means that for every second of agony spent waiting on your site to load, you're losing conversions and profits.
Because a search engine is completely focused on the user's experience, they will reward sites that load quickly with better search ranking. Likewise, sites that load slowly will not see as high of a search rank.
Google's PageSpeed Insights is a great resource for testing your speed and learning what you can improve.
Using a CMS system such as WordPress or
It's also important to consider that your user will be visiting your site from a variety of different devices. Their experience needs to be optimized for small screens, medium screens, and desktop screens.
Google also factors in your mobile optimization. Sites that are mobile-optimized will appear higher in search results from mobile phones.
You can use Google's Mobile-Friendly Test to check your site and see if it will pass. You also want to make sure that you do as much user experience (UX) and quality assurance (QA) testing as possible to get a feel for whether your mobile optimization truly works across a variety of different devices.
While you're building out your website it's important for you to create well-designed and helpful 404 pages. This page is displayed when someone tries to visit a link on your site and the link is no longer active or cannot be found.
If you don't have this page set up properly you can lose a visitor.
You should Include:
- helpful links
- site search functionality
- Contact options for a user that has become lost on your site
Having a secure site is very important. Many search engine such as Google will actually penalize your search rank if you do not have an SSL certificate installed on your site.
Users are also less likely to trust the information on your site if they see the insecure website notices that browsers display when the sites are not secured with an SSL certificate.
This is especially important if your website is processing any kind of user or payment information. For example, if you have a contact form or a credit card payment form on your site, you want to be sure to implement an SSL certificate.
Contact the company that is hosting your website and they will be able to help you if you are not sure how to implement an SSL.
Keywords & Topics
Before you begin building content for your website, you need to consider the various topics and information that you want to present. Put yourself in your customers shoes. When they turn to Google with questions, what will they be typing in? Take a look at the services that you provide and what you want to be known as an authority for in your niche.
From there, you can do keyword research or broad research on your target audience. Learn the topics and phrases that your audience will use.
You can use tools such as Neil Patel's Ubersuggest to help fine-tune keyword research and phrases.
Essentially, you need to know the terms that matter, add them to your content, and then implement more of the on-page techniques that we're going to talk about next.
An effective page title is about more than just implementing a title tag. It needs to be relevant and unique to each page of your site. You do need to follow some simple best practices such as trying to keep your titles under 60 characters and no more than 80.
Your title should help communicate the promise that your content is going to deliver on. For example, if you title your page "About Us," it should include information about the company as well as the people that work there.
You should also incorporate some of the keywords and topic phrases that we talked about above. Then when you include the title on the page make sure that you use an H1 heading tag. This communicates to Google that this is the most important information on the page and clearly explains what the page is about.
Just like your overall page title, headings are important for identifying important information throughout your pages. Google and users will add more weight to heading tags. Visually they are typically larger, may be in a different font, or may be a heavier weight.
Heading tags decrease in urgency as you go down. There should only ever be one H1 tag on a page and that one is used for the title.
H2 is for items of secondary importance. While there may be more than one on a page, you should consider using these sparingly. Not every item on the page is going to be secondary in importance to the title and H1 tag.
Below that you have H3, H4, H5, H6. These tags follow the same logic. H6 is used for items that are less relevant to the overall topic of the page than H3 tags are.
Be mindful that the heading tags are used for more than just the visual elements of the page. They delineate different sections of content and help search engines and users navigate your content effectively and easily.
There are many different opinions and formulas for how your body text should be written. They involve sentence length, word complexity, sentences per paragraph, appropriate use of white space, bullet points, and other visual elements.
The important thing to remember is what the pages overall topic and keywords are as well as making sure that your copy is easily readable by the user.
You need to ensure that your writing is natural and doesn't appear as though it is trying to gain favor with the search engines. For example, you do not want to stuff your keyword into every other sentence throughout the entire page to try to improve your rank for that keyword. Google actually calls this strategy "keyword stuffing" and will penalize your search engine rank if you do it.
It's important for you to include alt attributes on all of your images on your page. It helps the search engines understand what the images on your page are about. This can help drive more traffic from Google image search as well as lend more credibility to the content on your page.
This is another great opportunity to work your keywords into your page. But it also does more than that. If you have a user with a visual impairment they may be using a screen reader. In those situations, they are not able to see the images on your page. Instead, the software explains the image to them. It does this by reading the alt text and meta information on the image. Because of this, you want to do more than just stuff your keywords in. You should consider using text that clearly explains what is happening in the image.
For example, simply stating "blue flower" might not be enough of a descriptor for somebody who doesn't have a comprehension of what blue is. Instead consider using something like "bright blue flower," or "vibrant blue flower". This is more descriptive for somebody that is using screen readers.