SEO Check List
This list is to help webmasters new and old with the topic of search engine optimization who wish to improve their websites with search engines.
This guide isn't a list of secrets that will instantly improve your SERP position but a list of basics which I have used to improve the websites that I work with to improve their results.
I have found creating good content for your visitors and then applying SEO techniques afterwards has worked best. When you spend your time focused on finding and using search terms/words first and then writing content your site ends up looking like all the others sites that have done the same thing! Be creative and unique with your content directed at the visitor before search engines.
Some of the items in this list are of more importance to larger websites than smaller websites. A website with ten pages and search engines only index nine of those ten pages, you can feel like you did a OK job, only one page isn't index. But it is 10% not indexed! Apply the same methods for a larger website, lets say 10,000 unique pages and you are missing 1,000 pages which could be of more significance. The largest (unique pages) website that I have looked after has over 100,000 unique pages.
- SEO Item #1
- Page Title - create unique title for every page. Ensure that the title accurately represents the page. Also make sure you add your branding to the title, for example if your website/business is named 'CDE' and you use a title 'Welcome to CDE Home Page', if your visitor bookmarked/favorite your webpage they would have difficulty finding the bookmark later on as it will be sorted with all the other 'Welcome to's'. The same thing happens when you use your branding at the end of the title. The use of key words in the title is helpful, if they are appropriate!
- Title tag should describe the page content accurately
- Unique title tags for every page
- Title tag should be brief and descriptive
- SEO Item #2
- Descriptive Meta Tag - This meta tag gives a description of what the page is about to search engines. It is longer and more descriptive than the title tag. Search engines may use this tag in their search results or they could use snippets of your content. Websites with very little page content run the risk of a search engine giving a poor description for the page content when this meta tag is not used. Common mistake is creating a very long description which will not be shown in search engine results or being the same as the title.
- Summarize the page content accurately
- Unique description tags for every page
- SEO Item #3
- Webpage URLs - These are displayed in search results and making them easier to remember and read has it's benefits.
- URLs should have words, people remember words easier than numbers and search engines are analyzing the urls
- Provide one version of a URL to each webpage
- Avoid using capital letters in the URL, people expect lower case and it is easier to enter when you are using a smart phone or tablet device.
- SEO Item #4
- Easy to Navigate - This is true for both the human visitor and the search engines. Your visitors want to find the content they are looking for easily and be able to navigate back to the home page quickly. Plan out your navigation, do you have lots of products that need to be grouped? Using a breadcrumb allows visitors to navigate quickly. Include a site map for search engines and another for your visitors.
- Use text for navigation, yes the other stuff looks fancy but if your visitor can not navigate you have lost an visitor
- Ensure the hierarchy flows naturally
- Don't use the default 404 page, make it useful and guide the visitor back to your website
- SEO Item #5
- Content, Content, Content - Visitors are looking for good content, they know good content when they see it. Original content is what will create a buzz for your site and have the word-of-mouth effect. Thinking what a visitor is looking for and the search terms they would use and then applying those search terms in your content will bring you visitors. Write for the visitor, not the search engines!
- Content for visitors, not search engines
- Easy to read text, not a high grade level
- Organize your content, don't be everything to everyone on the same page
- Unique content, make it fresh, do not copy from other websites
- SEO Item #6
- Anchor Text - When creating text links, how many times have you seen 'Click Here'! Search engines are looking at the text in your anchor and the surrounding text to see if it is relevant to the link. A link with 'Fire Truck' in the anchor text and the landing page is about 'Walking/Hiking' doesn't make sense, search engines will notice this. This is a reason that link schemes/farms fail. Link with relevant pages that will be of value for your visitors.
- Write concise text that's not filled with keyword stuffing
- Have the text descriptive, be clear on what the link is for
- Make links easy to find, don't format so that they are difficult to spot, don't make the user hunt for the links
- The same consideration for outbound links should be applied to internal links
- SEO Item #7
- Images - are not just to make a page pretty. Consider the naming format of the image files, is 'image1.jpg' and 'image2.jpg' more meaningful then 'seochart.jpg' and 'boyandgirldancing.jpg'? The later has more meaning for search engines. Use the 'image alt tag' and where appropriate also use the 'image title tag'.
- Brief and descriptive files names for image files
- Meaningful 'alt tags' when images are used as links
- Don't use extremely long files names. You have seen them before, filled with keyword stuffing file names
- The same consideration for outbound links should be applied to internal links
- SEO Item #8
- Header Tags (H1, H2, H3 to H6) - Header tags present structure and dates way, way back to the early days of computers. But you will see H tags used on many websites as a design aspect which should be done with CSS instead. Every page should have a H1 at the top and then if required sub headings appropriately. Do not skip over a H tag such as having H1 then a H3.
- H tags are your outline for content
- Don't fill a page with lots of H tags! Have you ever read a book with three chapters on one page?
- SEO Item #9
- Spelling - Check your spelling! There are many free spell checking programs available. I've seen clients that have had issues because they didn't use a spell check program and a key word was copied many times through out their site with the typo wrong.
- SEO Item #10
- robots.txt and favicon.ico - robots.txt inform search engines locations/pages that you do not want to be crawled, it also informs crawlers that you do not want to crawl your site to not to (good crawlers will obey, bad crawlers will crawl what ever they can). This can reduce the amount of bandwidth you require to operate your website with. favicon.ico is that fancy little icon that some browsers use when your page is displayed or bookmarked, a benefit for branding your brand
- Don't use the robots.txt file for security with sensitive content, this just tells the bad crawlers where you don't want them to go
- SEO Item #11
- rel='nofollow' - will let search engines which links should not be follow. There are search engines that will follow this type of link so it doesn't stop the following. Benefit here where you have a website and visitors can post comments, some people will post links back to their website that have no reliance to your site or content
- Can be used to link to a site where you do not want your website reputation to be passed on to
- SEO Item #12
- Mobile Websites - Create mobile websites that meet the mobile standard. Inform search engines that there is a mobile site. Verify that search engines can crawl your mobile site.
- When running a mobile site ensure the mobile page has the same content as the non-mobile page
- Don't make the mistake of getting your site caught with what is considered cloaking
- SEO Item #13
- Promote Your Website - Promote it the right way! A new website with zero inbound links one day and two days later has 5,000 will raise suspicions to search engines. Good inbound links take time. One way I found to be very successful is to create a search engine site map and submit the site map to the major search engines. I said major search engines and I'm referring the major search engines that will bring you traffic. Gone are the days when people used multiple search engines, there's not need to submit to thousands of search engines, some sites get over a half of their web traffic from one search engine.
- Know and use social media when appropriate
- If there are websites that are related to yours, reach out to this community
- SEO Item #14
- Free Tools - There are several free tools I will use: the web server log files that are available from your hosting account; Google Webmaster Tools, several helpful pieces of information here; Google Analytics, know your web traffic and who is visiting your website; error logs or pages from your site.
- SEO Item #15
- Fads, Latest Trends, etc. - I have found that chasing the latest trends, gimmicks, must haves, etc. is not the best way to get great web position on search engines. There's been ideas like keyword stuffing text on the page and in the headers of a page; changing the text to white with a white background and the list goes on and on. These ideas can be placed in a group called 'Black Hat SEO'. They may get short term results but you may also have the site lose SERP from search engine changes like Google Panda or end up getting a Google 950 penalty!
Good SEO takes some time and planning but produces the best long term results.
Get Started with Step 1
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