November 2, 2016

SEO checklist: 10 things every website should have

Almost every business these days has a web presence of some kind. No matter how small.

We all know how crucial it is for your business to be found online.

The good news is, it’s easier than ever to get a website up and running. But the bad news is even the most skilled developers rarely, if ever, build websites with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in mind.

Don’t kid yourself, most web developers aren’t SEO experts. So if you want people to find you online, here is a checklist of 10 things every website should have…

1. An XML Sitemap

Sitemaps directly communicate with search engines like Google and Bing, notifying them of your website’s content. This ensures your content is indexed and searchable faster.

2. A Keyword Strategy

Obviously you want your website to show up when someone types in your brand name. But what other keywords would you like to show up for? Keywords are the words or phrases  people are typing into search engines when they’re trying to find businesses like yours.

Do the research and define which phrases people are searching for when trying to find businesses like your own. Then you’ll incorporate those keywords in a variety of different places across your site.

3. Optimized URLs, title tags, meta descriptions and page content

Once you’ve clearly defined a list of target keywords, you can start working these keywords into your pages. The areas to focus on include URLs, title tags, meta descriptions and page content.

For example, if your target keyword for a page is something like, “best mexican food in Toronto”, you might want to try something like this:

URL:  www.restaurantname.com/best-mexican-food-in-toronto

Title tag: Best Mexican Food in Toronto | Restaurant Name

Meta description: Experience the best mexican food in Toronto at “Restaurant Name” located in the heart of “Location Name”.

Then you would also try to incorporate this long tail keyword into the content and titles of the page as well.

4. A custom 404 error page

This is the page that shows up when a page can’t be found. If you don’t create your own custom designed page, visitors will get a standard 404 error page that looks something like this:

This creates a lot of frustration. You haven’t given them any opportunities to navigate back to other content on your site and if you don’t encourage people to keep interacting with your site, you’ll lose them.

All sites should have a custom page apologizing for the error and redirecting them back towards other content that might interest them.

5. Analytics

Without analytics, SEO efforts are futile. You need to be able to measure and interpret Google analytics data and continually adjust your approach to satisfy your audience. SEO has changed dramatically in recent years, and unfortunately there are no more shortcuts.

You need to create a website with a truly awesome user experience if you want to rank high, and knowing what people want, and what they respond well to, is all in the numbers.

6. Inbound, outbound and cross links

Link building is one of the most critical components to any SEO strategy. Inbound links (also known as backlinks) from other respected sites signal to search engines that you too have quality content.

Outbound links and cross links show that you are adding even more value to your visitors lives by linking to other potentially helpful sources.

7. Social Follow & Share buttons

Giving people an easy way to follow you and share your content is yet another way to create more links back to your site. When people share your content it signals to search engines that your content is worth sharing. It’s like a virtual thumbs up to Google.

8. A Blog

Search engines love sites that are constantly adding fresh new content. Why? Because they know this content is more likely to be relevant and beneficial to readers than dated stagnant content. So releasing a blog either weekly or biweekly is vital.

Creating a content plan with your target keywords in mind is the best way to stay consistent with your blogging and get good results.

9. Mobile Optimization

Over half of all internet traffic is now mobile. With this shift, and the fact that search engines’ primary goal is delivering an exceptional user experience, mobile optimization is a must.

Having a responsive, fast loading site will earn you mega brownie points with search engines like Google. Not to mention it will keep people who do arrive on your site there longer and lower your bounce rates.

10. Real Value

The days of spammy black hat tactics and quick results are a thing of the past. There are no short cuts anymore, and no one size fits all approach. Google is smart, and their algorithm for determining rankings is highly sophisticated and evolving constantly. You can’t trick search engines anymore. You have to deliver real value.

This means delivering highly engaging, original and actionable content presented in a visually appealing and easy to digest way. Not so simple.

We often have clients come to us interested in SEO, and we recommend a full website re-design as part of our recommendations. This is NOT because we’re trying to get more business. It’s because you can do all the right things from a technical SEO perspective, but if your site isn’t an enjoyable experience for real live human beings, you’ll never get the results you’re looking for.

If you have any questions, or would like a Free SEO snapshot of your site, please contact us

Stephanie Miles, Director of Digital Marketing

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