Before I do any SEO I go through a list of checks prior to doing SEO, which many of you will call an SEO checklist. This is something that a number of people have asked me for recently so I’ve decided to do this as my latest blog post.
Any SEO expert will know in their head what things to check but for SEO beginners, this is the ideal checklist to work from.
Website hosting is important, if for example I want to rank well in the UK then it is much better to have a UK based hosting company. People will argue that server location is not that important and I’m not claiming it’s a major ranking signal but this can be the difference between position 1 and position 2.
Personally, I think it’s more of a ranking signal than people give it credit for as I’ve tried and tested this and have seen enough to ensure that I check website hosting first on my SEO checklist.
Make sure you get Google Analytics installed, this is a FREE tool that will allow you to monitor pretty much everything you have to with your websites visitors. This will allow you to see what pages people go to, what keywords they used to get to your website and many other bits of information which will help you refine your overall SEO campaign. The data you can get from Analytics is really important so get this installed on your website right away.
Google Search Console/ Webmaster Tools
Google Search Console is another FREE tool that you want to link to your Google Analytics. This tool will help you monitor your website, letting you know if Google can access your content, you can remove content you don’t want included in the search results. This tool will also alert you to any problems with your website, e.g manual action being taken, crawl errors and security and malware issues.
Sitemap Creation and Submission
Creating a sitemap of your website is easy, there is many tools out there that do this for you or you can manually make one. This is basically a map you submit to Google which you submit to Google via the Search Console and this will show Google all of the pages you have on your website. To be fair Google will crawl and index pretty much everything anyway but a sitemap is helpful. If you want to rank well and for things to happen at a reasonable speed then you will want Google to have easy access.
Google Maps Business Listing
You will see that many people appear on Google Maps when you Google a search term in an area, this is called a Google Business Listing. A Google Business Listing will allow you to enter all of your business details and Google will send out a verification code to your place of work to verify you are actually there.
Having a Google Business Listing is a good way to get good local SEO rankings but be aware it is not as easy as just submitting a listing and you will come up top on the local search results. You have competition so they have all done this too.
A full website audit is important, there are many tools out there that are both FREE and paid. You can make your own choice on what ones to use. You want to be checking the website from broken links, images and that type of thing as Google isn’t likely to rank a website well that has a load of broken links and images. A website audit will also flag up other issues such as missing meta data, duplicate title tags and many other things that you will want to fix.
This is where the real SEO work starts, you will want to get yourself a list of keywords that you will be initially targeting, don’t go for too many at once. I use a tool called Serpstat but there are many others on the marketing that do similar. You can go and get a FREE Serpstat account if you go over to the right-hand side of this post and click their banner. This will show you how many times a keyword is searched for. You want to be targeting keywords that do get searched so use this tool properly to make sure you have some decent keywords to begin the SEO with.
Now you have a set of keywords that you wish to target, you will need to work out whether you need to add more pages to your website to target the keywords you have come up with. Remember you can’t be found for a keyword if it is not on your website and targeted properly. So ensure you have pages for all your products or services that you want to rank well for.
You also have to ensure all meta data is set up properly too, for SEO to work efficiently you need to ensure that both the onsite and offsite SEO are set up properly. Not doing it will result in poor rankings.
Content is king – you will see this all over the internet however, one major problem we have is those people who see content is king and then just go and steal someone else’s. Duplicate content results in your page not being indexed by Google. Believe it or not Google is clever enough to detect that, I’ve heard many people in the past say I only copied a little bit and redone the rest of it. In reality, they changed a few words and 80% of the content was like for like with the person who originally wrote the content.
You also want to ensure that you don’t only have 3 lines of content on your page that is supposed to rank well. A web page doesn’t have to be an exact amount of words to rank well but there has to be some substance in the content. It’s good to have content that is varied in length and that’s natural but do try and do more than 300 words in most cases. Some people write thousands of words, that can be overkill as people get bored very quickly when looking for a product or service. So be straight to the point and list all important points within the text to ensure the customer gets what they are looking for whether it’s information on a service or a product.
Image Alt Text
Google can’t read an image so it can’t see what the image is, all it can do is crawl the source code and the Alt text that is on the back end of your website. Calling something image 1, or my.jpg isn’t telling Google what that image is. Make sure you tag your images properly so that Google can use this information to determine what your image is about. This isn’t a major ranking factor but all these small things can make the difference.
Website Mobile Friendly
Ensure that your website is mobile friendly as this can have an impact on sales etc, with more than 50% of people using mobile devices & tablets it is likely that many of the visitors to your website will be using these devices. It’s important that your website is well laid out and easy to navigate for those people using mobile devices.
If your website doesn’t pass the mobile friendly checker then get onto your website designer to ensure that this is in place.
Link Building always has been a very important part of any SEO strategy and remains so in 2016. That doesn’t mean go and grab any old link you can. People tend to go out and get links on hundreds of directories and other meaningless websites. Quality and relevance is important not quantity. So try and ensure that you get as many links from high authority websites that are semi-relevant to your niche.
I will be doing a blog on link building specifically which you can find here. But the social bookmarking, or spamming directories with your listing is something that worked well in 2006. Because people used and abused that method Google no longer passes any weight to that type of tactic.