Do you want your business to be number one? Of course you do. Growing your business is all about raising brand awareness, , and beating out your competitors. Getting to the top begins with search engine rankings. There are so many factors to consider when optimizing your website. From H1 tags to producing quality content to monitoring and tracking your progress – where do you even begin? Lucky for you we have a checklist of our SEO best practices to get you started!
SEO Best Practices Checklist Guide
The core of SEO is target keywords. These are words that you want to come up for when users type their search into Google. Target keywords should be relevant to your business or brand but should not be too broad. You can use resources like Google Adwords Keyword Planner to help generate a list of potential target keywords. Look for keywords that have low competition but relatively high search volume. These will deliver the best results.
Monthly search volume is important here. If you search for a word and the search volume only shows a dash, it means that Google does not have sufficient data on this keyword. It may be searched a few times a month but not enough for Google to have historical data. If you really want to show up for a keyword that does not have any monthly search data, go ahead and optimize your site for it but choose additional keywords as well. This way when someone does search for this keyword that does not have any search volume you are almost guaranteed to show up for it (that is if no one else is ranking for it too).
You will then need to do some keyword research to see if your site can actually rank for the keywords you have selected. Check out the competition before you do the work of optimizing your site. Search your words in Google to see who is ranking and how strong their website is.
Once you have your keywords down, where do you put them on your site?
- H1 tags
If you are unfamiliar with HTML, you may not know what an H1 tag is or where to find it on your site. There are six heading tags H1 through H6 that are used to define hierarchy on your pages with your H1 tag being the most important. SEO best practices say you should have an H1 tag on every page of your site. This H1 tag should be your target keyword – nothing more, nothing less. Using an H1 tag helps Google know what your page is about so make sure the target keyword you are using makes sense for the rest of your page.
If your target keyword is “social media marketing” and the rest of your page is about ranking for local SEO, there’s a disconnect for search engines as well as human users. Make sure you are optimizing the correct page for the correct keyword.
How can you find out if your page has an H1 tag just by looking at it? You can use a free service called SEOquake to quickly diagnose your pages. For the social media marketing services page on LYFE’s website we can see that there’s only one H1 tag – “Social Media Marketing Services”. This word is our target keyword and it is relevant to the rest of the page.
The title of your site is what shows up in Google search results. This is usually your business name plus one of your best target keywords. You can format titles with colons :, pipes | or dashes -. SEO best practices say your title should be between 10 and 70 characters in order to generate the best results. Avoid using generic descriptions for your pages like “Home” and instead use unique descriptions for each page. Each page should have a different title that makes sense for that page and includes the target keyword for that page. Do not overdo it with keywords. Putting a keyword once in your title will suffice.
- Meta Descriptions
A meta description also shows in Google’s search results. It is a short description of 160-300 characters that includes your target keywords as well as informs the searcher what your page is about. SEO best practices for your meta description include having your target keyword as close to the beginning as possible and avoiding keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing is any time you add keywords unnecessarily to the point where your content no longer makes sense to the reader or the search engines. Try not to be redundant. Your meta description should flow like any other content on your site.
When writing your meta description it is helpful to use words words that will entice potential customers to click on your site. Words like “help” and “increase” are attractive words and can help increase traffic.
SEO Best Practices Pro Tip: If your meta description is too long, Google will cut it off or decide what they want to show so make sure your description is short, sweet and to the point but also includes that target keyword!
Did you see how the keyword “social media management company” was in both the title and the meta description? If you have one target keyword per page on your site this is one of those SEO best practices that some businesses miss. Make sure that keyword is included in your title and your meta description. This word should also be the H1 tag on your page. Congruence is key here.
For title and meta descriptions you will want to avoid excessive punctuation and capitalization. Including exclamation points can cause search engines to view your page as spammy.
- Alt Text
Alt text or alt tags are used to describe images on your site. Google can’t physically see the photos on your site but can pick up on these tags so that the search engine can get a better idea of what your page is about and be able to properly index your site. Your image alt tags should be descriptive and include keywords. But be careful not to stuff keywords into your descriptions.
Alt text looks like this on the backend of your site.
The alt text for this image is “Social Media Management Company.” This same description is also used in the image name. If you are using a site like WordPress, you can easily add alt text descriptions in the media section. If your site is in HTML you will have to manually go in and add alt text, which can get tricky. Let a professional do this if you do not have experience with HTML.
- Copy with keywords
In order for a page on your site to rank you will need to have good copy that is relevant and includes your target keywords. The more text you have on your pages, the better your chances of ranking will be. This content needs to be useful to your potential customers or anyone else who is viewing your site. Google wants to rank pages that have high engagement so the longer you can keep users on your site, the better. You can view the amount of time visitors spend on each page of your site in Google Analytics if you have it set up.
SEO Best Practices Pro Tip: Add your keyword “above the fold” or to the first paragraph on your page so that users and search engines will see if before they even scroll. The most important words go towards the top of your page so make sure to include your target keyword here as well.
- Frequently Updated copy
It’s not enough to just have copy on your site. Search engines are constantly crawling looking for sites that are current. If you haven’t updated your site in 10 years, Google may think that your content is now irrelevant. You do not have to totally revamp your site every other month. Add some additional copy here and there or maybe an additional page every so often. This will keep search engines coming back to your site to see what’s new. Perform these SEO best practices if you want to maintain your rankings.
One way to keep your content fresh is to blog! Blogs double as a way to move you up in rankings as well as to engage with your customers. SEO best practices for blogging include writing longer blogs. This allows you to include your keyword more times. Say if you wrote a 250 word blog. You would probably only be able to include your keyword about 3-5 times whereas if you write a 2000 word blog you can include over 10 times. Do not put keywords where they don’t make sense. This goes for blogs and any copy that is on your site. Google will punish your site for keyword stuffing. Although this is a minor offence, Google may move your site down in rankings. Other punishments include treating your site as spam or even blacklisting it.
Backlinking is a great way to improve your rankings. There are two types of backlinks, no-follow links and do-follow links. No-follow links are exactly what they sounds like. They tell search engines not to follow them. No-follow links are not necessarily bad for your site but they do not have an effect on your websites rank. Do-follow links will help your rankings as they allow search engines to follow them. Both of these links help sites build trust on the web because it’s essentially one website endorsing another website.
SEO Best Practices Pro Tip: Try and acquire backlinks from relevant sites that have a higher domain authority than you do. This will increase your chances of ranking. Search engines want to give users relevant information that is also perceived by other sites as quality content. If you are associated with a site that search engines view as reputable, then your site will also be seen as a valuable source of information.
- Internal links
Internal links are links to pages on your site from other pages on your site. They serve several purposes including helping users easily navigate your site, creating a hierarchy for search engines, and distributing page authority throughout your site. Helping potential customers navigate your site will increase engagement and get more eyes on more pages of your site.
Search engines also need help finding all of the pages on your site. Internal links help them to create a map of all of your pages and how they work together to provide useful information. Page authority is a number 1-100 given to each page on your site. The higher your page authority the more important it is to search engines and the greater your ability to rank. If you want each page on your site to rank for a specific target keyword you will want to distribute your authority evenly between pages. Make sure that when you link to other pages on your site that they are relevant and make sense in your copy.
One argument that’s been going on for sometime now is your footer links. Will adding footer links internally help your rankings or not? Some believe that it’s a good way to make sure that all key pages are linked and crawled. While other marketers think that doing so will only result for the pages to be devalued or ignored by Google. So what should you do for your website then? We’d say it depends on your website’s size. Usually, websites with several internal links include them in their footer and still rank in search engines.
SEO Best Practices Pro Tip: If you have a blog page (which you should!) we suggest linking back to older, but relevant, posts in your newer posts. This way people will easily be able to find your old blog posts instead of clicking through tons of blog pages.
- Responsive Design
How many times have you landed on a website that was not mobile friendly? You probably quickly became frustrated when trying to view content. The cons outweigh the pros of having a website that is not responsive. Google now penalizes sites for not being mobile friendly which can affect your rankings. You can also lose customers who are shopping on their mobile devices or tablets. If your site is difficult to navigate on mobile, customers will leave to find a more user friendly site.
SEO Best Practices Pro Tip: Not sure if your site is mobile friendly? Double check it on different devices like tablets, iPhones and Android phones. If you need to redesign your site to be optimized for mobile, let our web design specialists know!
Search engines are constantly crawling the web looking for the best content to show to searchers. You can submit a sitemap in Google’s search console if you feel like they are not picking up on changes you have made to your site. A sitemap is a file that tells search engines about your site and how it’s organized so that they can easily crawl your pages. The easier your site is to crawl the better your chances are of moving up in search rankings.
- Optimized URLs
Your URLs need to be optimized so that Google can easily create a site map and index your site. Shorter URLs that include your target keyword are best. Let’s say that the link to your blog page looked something like this: www.website.com/aqz13kl01bd5kv. When a user lands on this page they’ll have to do some work to see what content is actually on the page and the same thing goes for search engines. If your page URL was more like this www.website.com/your-keyword-here it will be less of a headache for you, your potential customers and the search engines that are crawling your site.
SEO Best Practices Pro tip: If your page is already established and ranking do not change the URL. This can seriously mess up your rankings.
- Page speed
Have you ever navigated away from a website because one of the pages took too long to load? 40% of potential customers will leave your site if it takes 3 or more seconds to load. Page speed is not only essential to capturing sales but it is one of the signals Google uses to rank websites. If search engines see that your site is loading slowly there is potential that it will rank lower.
A result of low site speed is a high bounce rate which is a signal to search engines that your content is irrelevant. A page bounce is when a user either immediately clicks out of your site or only visits one page on your site. Users may click on to your site wait a few seconds and when nothing loads, they click back creating a bounce. Or maybe your content is not engaging enough. You can fix this problem by adding photos, videos, and reevaluating your copy to make sure your content is interesting and useful. Tracking metrics like bounce rate in a platform like Google Analytics can help you further optimize your site and get higher rankings.
SEO Best Practices Pro Tip: You can increase page speed by switching to a faster hosting or compressing images on your site.
- Google Analytics
If you could see exactly who is visiting your website, what pages they view and for how long wouldn’t you want to? Measuring your SEO growth is just as important as optimizing your site. If you fail to track and measure, there’s no way you can continue to improve. Google analytics is one of the best tools to track everything that happens on your site. You can see organic traffic that is coming to your site, identify pages that are loading too slow, and and look at how many conversions you are getting. All of these analytics can give you insight into what you should change or update on your site so that you get the most conversions possible.
Although Google is the most frequently used search engine, there are still people who use Bing as their preferred search engine. Don’t miss out on these potential customers. Most marketers are just concerned with Google but if you optimize your site for Bing as well, you’re a step ahead of your competition. Most SEO tactics are the same on Google as they are for Bing so why not kill two birds with one stone and optimize for both?
- Yoast SEO
Yoast SEO is a WordPress plugin that makes managing SEO on your site much easier. You can edit your title and meta description as well as add in your focus keywords and see a list of potential problems. Instead of going into the backend of your site and stressing about where your title and meta descriptions should go in your HTML, Yoast makes all of these things accessible and easy to edit.
SEO Best Practices Pro Tip: Every time you change your title and meta descriptions Google will have to crawl your site again to pick up on these changes. Try to write a good title and meta description so that you don’t have to make changes later on. Do not expect Google to pick up on your changes immediately – it will take some time so be patient.
- Social Media Signals
Social media can help your business climb the search results ladder by sharing content and linking to social sites on your website. Google picks on up social signals like how many times users share or like your content on social media. Increase your visibility on channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Pinterest. You can do this by adding social share buttons to your site or social follow buttons. This will increase traffic and social shares and get your ranking! Not sure which platforms your business should be on? You can find our top 10 social media sites business should be on here!
- Utilize SEM Rush
Another service you can use to track your progress is SEM Rush. This site is an SEO dashboard that provides ways to track your keyword rankings, lets you look at keyword difficulty, check out competitors keywords and so much more. Using SEM Rush allows you to physically see how you are moving up or down in rankings. It also provides you with descriptions of Google’s algorithm updates. This is super helpful because Google doesn’t actually tell you when they update their algorithm.
Did You Check Everything Off for Your Site?
There are so many benefits to having a site that is optimized for search engines. Ultimately it will help your site rank higher in search – which can lead to more conversions. If you can check all of these boxes, you’re on your way to SEO success! Want help moving up in rankings? Contact a professional at our Atlanta SEO Company today to see how you can improve your overall SEO and boost your sales!