Setting up a website for your business and optimising it for search engine performance is a key step in the marketing process of 2018 – here’s the SEO checklist for 2018 to help your business thrive.
Here’s the thing about search engine optimization (SEO) – it’s constantly changing. This list will have to be updated by the time 2019 rolls around, as Google and other search engines update their algorithms. So your SEO checklist could look very different month to month.
That said, many of the key tactics that traditional SEO practice makes use of still ring true to this day. Some have become obsolete of course, with many new benchmarks being introduced. But, if you can nail some of the key SEO tactics, your traffic can be boosted by as much as 300%.
Improving your website’s SEO performance is not a simple thing to achieve, however. There are many facets to the process, usually separated into the following two categories:
- On Page
While there are further breakdowns within these two categories, these should be the essentials of your SEO checklist. What’s going on under the hood of my website and what can users see that affects it? These are the key questions.
Marketing experts’ views differ on which of these is more important, but the general consensus is that if your website is to perform well SEO-wise, it needs a solid technical base to get picked up by Google.
So, what are the most important things to have on your SEO checklist in 2018?
Technical SEO Checklist
Google Search Console
Google Search Console should be one of the primary tools you use in order to measure how your site is performing in terms of search rankings. It’s designed to help you track your site’s performance in Google search, using a variety of features, including keyword recommendations and error detection.
A staple of the digital age for traffic tracking. Google Analytics measures how much traffic you get, where you get it from and how much of that comes from search engine results. You can track what content and pages on your site attract the most visitors, and what your visitors are searching for the most. This allows you to tailor content in the future based on what your previous performance shows.
Your content may well be great, but if your website suffers from a lot of downtime people may not see it. Google will punish sites which have a low uptime record, so whatever backend issues are causing downtime need to be addressed before you make a dent in any first page search results.
The way we browse the internet nowadays has undergone a major shift in recent years. More people browse via mobile devices than desktops now than ever before. Depending on what your website offers, you may be more likely to have more desktop visitors, but the overall trend is moving towards mobile these days.
As a result, Google is more likely to rank your content higher if it is optimized for mobile. As with most search engine algorithms these days, Google wants to reward people in accordance with what people want to see – with mobile becoming a major part of this.
Slow website = frustrated users = frustrated Google. You don’t want to upset users and you certainly don’t want to upset Google. A famous statement from Amazon claims that the company would lose around $1.6bn in revenue if there were a one second delay in its page speed. If your site takes an age to load then you will take an age to get any organic search traffic. Using a tool like PageSpeed Insights allows you to track page speed and see what you can do to decrease it.
Secure site with HTTPS
HTTPS secures the connection to the website you are visiting. That’s what the little lock means at the beginning of the address bar in your browser. Google announced in 2014 that the use of HTTPS would become a ranking signal in order to encourage increased security of web pages.
Identify Crawl Errors
Google uses things called ‘spiders’ to crawl websites in order to make decisions on how search results correlate with search terms. A ‘crawl error’ means that Google has trouble viewing a page on your site, so you’re going to want to get that fixed up. You can check for errors like this via Google Search Console.
Fix broken links
There are lots of free tools available which can scan your site for broken links, which will damage your rankings. DeadLinkChecker is one of those.
Most website platforms have this built in or have plugins/add-ons that will create a dynamic sitemap that stays in sync with the pages on your site. At worst, you should at least have a static one that you can generate through a number of free tools.
On Page SEO checklist
The content you put out there is going to have a significant bearing on where your page ranks – and choosing relevant keywords is a massive part of that. It’s necessary to have a deep understanding of what potential visitors to your site are looking for when they use search engines. There are lots of tools which can help you understand this better – and then your content should be based on relevant keywords to your industry.
Keep these short and snappy – and include the focus keyword to maximize effect. The URL is an opportunity to present a clean structure with relevant keywords and information about what content the page contains.
Compress and optimize images
As mentioned above, improving page speed is of utmost importance. A part of that is trimming down any unnecessary files, which can be done successfully by compressing images and other media do that the page loads quicker.
Direct your visitors away from your site, you say? Once upon a time website owners would have been horrified at any advice to bring visitors to external sites, but Google values content which provides useful information – even if it links externally. Users will be happy as well as they won’t just think you’re pushing your own content all the time.
That said, there’s a fair chance a lot of the content on your website or blog is on similar issues and topics. Keeping visitors on your site and reducing your bounce rate shows your content is genuinely interesting and that could lead to high traffic and even conversions. You’ll be able to do this by linking to relevant content on your site.
In depth topics
Research has shown that longform posts are more likely to please Google’s spiders. The general consensus is that posts should aim for anything above 1000 words will suffice. So it’s important to go into detail with your on page content, visitors will be appreciate it – so long as it’s relevant.
If you have a WordPress site, and around 30% of the internet does, installing a plugin to measure how well your SEO performance is beneficial. For example, Yoast will offer simple recommendations on how to optimize content so it is more likely to rank.
Meta descriptions are important in getting users to click through from the search engine results page to your website. They should use keywords wisely, but more importantly they should include a compelling description on which a user would want to click on.
Use keywords in headings
It’s common knowledge that keeping up a healthy keyword density will aid in helping you to rank for your target terms. In addition to that, if you can include keywords in the headings you use within the content body (also known as H2 tags) Google will recognise this and boost your position.
Image alt text
Alt tags and descriptions are intended to describe the appearance and purpose of an image on the page. These are what will appear if an image doesn’t load properly, so you want to make sure they accurately represent the image.
Following on from Google’s policy of rewarding content which satisfies browsers, there’s not many people nowadays who are happy to wade through a long list of black text on a white page. Images, videos, infographics are all visually appealing and will help your SEO ranking.
Whilst not directly related to how Google ranks its pages, visitors are more likely to stay on your page if it uses easy to understand English, particularly if you get traffic from various parts of the globe.
While this list is by no means exhaustive, it contains much of the essential and widely-regarded tips on how to boost rankings for your pages on Google and other search engines. SEO should only be one strand of your marketing strategy, but following these tips is guaranteed to lead to an increase in traffic to your site.
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