Whether you’re creating a website for the first time or you’re looking to increase the SEO or “Search Engine Optimization” of an existing website, it can be tough to wrap your head around all of the boxes you need to check.
That’s where this SEO checklist comes in! It has the steps needed to help people easily find your website online.
TIP: For a more in-depth explanation of SEO and how to implement the actual steps of this checklist, take a look at our Beginner’s Guide to SEO!
Before your website goes live, there are plenty of things you can implement on both the back-end and the front-end to make sure search engines will see it the way you want.
Add a site title – The title of your website is usually going to be the name of your business or what your website is about. For example, the title of our website is simply “SocialSurge Marketing”. Most of the pages on your website will have your title, so try and keep this under 60 characters.
Add a site description – All websites should have a short (50-300 character) description of what their website is about. This is the text your visitors will see under the title in search results.
Add your location – If you’re a local business, you should be able to add your location into the backend of your website. This helps search engines get a better understanding of where you are located. It’s also good to add your location throughout your website. For example, putting it in the footer and the contact page.
Add SEO descriptions – Similar to a site title, each page has its own description that should be specific to the individual pages. They should be around 50-300 characters.
Check title formats – By default, the way your pages and titles are going to be formatted are usually not ideal. For example, you’ll see a lot of websites out there that will have the site title first on every single page. What you want is the actual page title first, since the beginning of a page title holds the most weight on SEO influence.
Check URL formats – By default, the way your new page URLs are generated are usually pretty SEO unfriendly. You should make sure that when you add new pages, posts, and media, that they automatically are similar to the page title, instead of being something like “/post-jan%31-2020”.
Check URLs – Not only do you want to make sure that the default setting for new URLs makes sense, but you want to make sure that all of your URLs are similar to your title and describe your website’s content.
Create a custom 404 page – You’ll want to make sure that your 404 page will be on-brand with the rest of your website and will navigate website visitors who have run into a broken link back to popular parts of your website.
Social Media – Make sure you have your social media page links throughout your website. It encourages people to go engage with you and share your content!
SSL – You’ll want to make sure that you have an SSL, or “secure sockets layer” on your domain name, but that it is also active. Sites without SSL can be penalized.
Here is what we recommend as soon as your website goes live:
Set up a Google My Business page – If you don’t already have a Google My Business page set up, now is the time. This is one of the most important things you can do if you are a local business that has a brick and mortar location and if you service clients in a specific area. Here’s a guide we created to help you set up your Google My Business page.
Verify your site with Google Search Console – Once you verify your site with Google, you can manage your site’s presence in Google search results and monitor how your visitors are finding your site.
Request that Google indexes your site – Especially when you first launch, you’ll want to make sure that Google knows your website exists. Note – Google will eventually do this on its own, but requesting Google to crawl your website can help speed up the process.
Connect Google Analytics – You’re able to track visitors, how they use your website, where they’re from, and a bunch of other useful information after you connect Google Analytics to your website.
Social Media tracking – Even if you don’t plan on ever running social media ads, we recommend that you still add the tracking codes that social media platforms give you to the header of your website. For example, Facebook and their Facebook Pixel.
Even after you launch your site, there is plenty to maintain as you add new content and edit existing content. Plus, search engines are constantly changing their algorithms, so it’s a never-ending battle!
Follow Google Analytics – If you listen, Google Analytics will tell you how to improve your website. If visitors seem to stay on one page longer than another, think about why and make changes to improve!
Stay up to date – Google is constantly changing and improving how they crawl and analyze web pages. Making sure to stay up to date on the latest news from Google will give you a better understanding of what you should be focusing on. I like to follow Moz and HubSpot for my marketing and SEO news.
Website maintenance – As your website evolves, you’ll notice that there is a lot that needs to be done such as making sure broken links are fixed, redirecting links, and improving your SEO. We like to recommend making SEO changes in waves so you are able to track what has been and what has not been working.
Add content! – One way to show search engines that your website is healthy and maintained is to add a blog or just new pieces of content in general.
SEO Best Practices
As you start to build your site, create new content, and try and improve your SEO, keep the following in mind:
Think about the user – Google has become smart enough to realize what is valuable for the user, and what is a strategy to try and fool them. Google can actually penalize you if you don’t play by their rules, and that brings up our next point.
Avoid Black Hat tactics – Black Hat SEO is pretty much trying to fool Google and go against their rules. There have been businesses that have been ruined by trying this, so we recommend avoiding Black Hat tactics at all costs.
Make your site easy to navigate – If your visitors can more easily navigate your website, Google will take note and reward your site because of it.
Make your content easily digestible – The easier it is to read your content, the better. Make sure there are headers, lists, your content is bolded and it is broken down into sections that make it easy to read.
Add alt text to images – Alt text is search engines’ way of reading and indexing what the images are on your web pages.
Link your content – Adding links to your text and images to other websites, but also your other pages, is a good sign to search engines.
Note: If you notice a dip in your web page’s rankings right after you try and optimize them, this is normal. There are fluctuations that can happen when you’re making changes to your website, but if the lower rankings stay after an extended time (we usually recommend a couple of weeks), then there may be a negative impact that you made that you should address.