Essential SEO Checklist
We all know how important SEO is for driving traffic to your website. But figuring out what to do can be overwhelming. We have determined the essential SEO checklist for to get your website seen.
1. Yoast SEO Plugin
For WordPress, we recommend the Yoast SEO Plugin for our clients and we use it on our website. It’s #1 for a reason. The plugin walks you through every step, taking all of the mystery out of what your website needs. It’s easy to use and will be an essential tool in getting your website ranked properly.
2. Create a sitemap and set up Google Analytics
Sitemaps tell search engines where to find the important content on your website. Yoast will help you do this! Next, set up Google Analytics. Google Analytics is a free tool from Google. It lets you see how many people visit your website and how they interact with it. To install it, sign up and paste the supplied tracking code into your website (easier than it sounds). Read this guide (or watch this video, for non‐Wordpress users) for more information.
3. Use short, descriptive URL’s
Pages with shorter URLs rank better, don’t sacrifice descriptiveness for length. Your URLs should offer some insight into what the user should expect when they click through to the page. The URL should tie in with your focus keyword, which we’ll talk about next.
4. Focus keyword
Yoast will give the spot to add a focus keyword. This is one of the biggest ways you can tell search engines what your page is about. The keyword, which can be a short phrase needs to be researched and based on what people would actually search for to find this page. The balance between being general enough to make sense and specific enough to stand out is a balance that takes research and time. There are SEO tools to help with this research, but the general rule of thumb for the keyword is to have those words be included in the page title, image alt tags and descriptions, image titles, url and in the meta description.
5. Meta descriptions
Meta descriptions are like the short pitch and reassurance that what the user is searching for can be found on your website. This should include the focus keyword, but also should include some other key indicators of the page’s content so users know exactly what to expect by going to the page. A general meta description is completely fine for general website pages (such as home and about), but blog pages should all have their own specific meta description giving an overview of the post.
6. Alt tags
Alt text (alternative text) describes an image. It’s what the browser displays to users with screen readers. Browsers also display alt text if there’s a problem rendering images. Here’s Google’s advice: “Google uses alt text along with computer vision algorithms and the contents of the page to understand the subject matter of the image. When choosing alt text, focus on creating useful, information‐rich content that uses keywords appropriately and is in context of the content of the page. Avoid filling alt attributes with keywords (keyword stuffing) as it results in a negative user experience and may cause your website to be seen as spam.”
7. Internal and external links
Webpages with links rank higher than those without. Don’t be afraid to link to other web pages, just make sure you link to high‐quality, relevant stuff. You also want to include relevant internal links. Besides being great for SEO, it keeps people on your website. Whenever you publish something new, make an effort to add internal links from relevant places on existing pages. Internal links can be related blog posts, a product you sell or a project you mentioned. For instance – in this post, we included external links to further resources from Yoast and Google Analytics and internally related blog posts on SEO and WordPress.
This is another way the Yoast plugin will help you. The plugin conducts a readability analysis on each page to guide you towards simplified and easy to understand content. This will not only help with your search ranking, but it means that when people get to your website they’ll be more likely to engage. Yoast uses the following checks:
- Transition words: ‘Most importantly’, ‘because’, ‘therefore’, or ‘besides that’ are examples of transition words. Using these words improves the flow of your article as they provide hints to the reader about what is coming next.
- Sentence beginnings: Consecutive sentences starting with the same word causes repetition for the reader, so mix up your sentences to keep your page readable.
- Paragraph length: Long paragraphs makes your text look daunting as it becomes just one block of text. Break it up, use shorter paragraphs and insert subheadings.
- Sentence length: If your sentences are too long – over 20 words – people might lose track of your point. Often, readers have to jump back a few words to find out what you mean. Try to keep the number of words in a sentence in check.
- Passive voice: Using a lot of passive voice in your text makes it appear distant, and your message will be less clear. Sentences become wordy and hard to grasp because of the sentence structure. An active voice is always preferred.
9. Title tags
Use title tags. They will help break up your content, but more importantly they will help search engines know what each page is talking about. The top H1 tag should include the focus keyword. You can use as many H1 tags throughout your content as you’d like or use the H2, H3, etc tags for more organizational structure.
Quality over quantity. Content should be adding value, so don’t plagiarize and don’t duplicate your own content all over your website. Figure out where something makes sense and keep it there. Duplicating content won’t help your SEO. Additionally, as we mentioned in our blog post on blogging, good blog content needs to be around 300-1000 words.
There is so much more you can do with SEO to improve your website’s traffic, but these are the essentials. If you have an Ecommerce website, we’ve also broken down our top five SEO tips for Ecommerce here.