Search engine optimisation is big business and everyone wants their site to appear on the first page of google’s search results or even in the first few positions. But I’m here to tell you that – unfortunately – it’s not going to magically happen on its own. It takes time to see results when you improve your seo on your website.
Yes, you can plonk your site on the inter webs and Google will eventually start to crawl and index your pages, but I think we all know, that’s not enough. You need to put in some effort, and at the very least follow some foundational basics of good seo.
Now let me say up front, that I am no seo expert but I have spent a lot of time over the years immersed in websites and I include best practice when it comes to seo when I’m designing and building websites for my clients. I also recently undertook some keyword research for a friend’s website, thinking it would be a piece of cake. Let me just say that it has given me a new respect for seo experts and their knowledge, and the depth they go into when looking at keyword research, let alone all the other factors that are part of good seo. So, based on my best practice knowledge and my recent research, here is my seo basics checklist.
Before we dive in there, it’s important to realise that seo shouldn’t be a separate thing that you only start to think about after your website is built. You’ll get a lot more benefit from your seo efforts afterwards, if you take time to consider seo before the site is built and implement best practice into your website design. Have a read of this article for an overview of what makes a great website that includes some seo knowledge. But for now, let’s get to the checklist. I’ve also included a few handy tools at the end that will help you with your seo.
How to improve your seo on your website.
Skip straight to:
- Choose a good platform
- Good user experience
- Good content
- Do you keyword research
- Good code
- H1 tags
- Alt tags on images
- Site security – Use https
- Avoid duplicate content
- Include internal & external links, & backlinks
- Set up a Google Search Console account
- Good seo plugin
- Have social media
- Improve site speed
1. Choose a good platform
Whatever platform you use to build your website, you want to make sure that it has a good robust out of the box search engine friendly system and WordPress is definitely one of those systems. Don’t take my word for it. See what Desiree Johnson, content specialist at Bluehost, has to say about WordPress:
“The WordPress source code includes all the coding and structures for a generic WordPress site that can be customized in a multitude of ways, and that coding includes elements that directly support SEO. WordPress is written largely in PHP, but it also incorporates proper HTML markup, so that WordPress sites can be easily understood and crawled by a variety of search engines.
The WordPress core also includes multiple options for optimizing images for searches, such as ALT tags and descriptions, and its content editor also supports the creation of complex, long-form text with preset title and heading tags. From the basic WordPress admin dashboard, users can also set keyword-rich permalink structures and create an optimized meta description as well as incorporate a variety of social sharing SEO tools into each post and page.”
Straight out of the box, WordPress is set up to let you enter your seo keywords and meta data on each page and post. But of course, being WordPress, you have access to a massive library of plugins (extra software) that include some of the best seo plugins that let you go nuts optimising your site for seo.
2. Good user experience
Anything that increases your bounce rate is going to negatively impact your seo. Why is that bad? Well it means that a user is coming to your page, but then leaving really quickly. Lot’s of things can contribute to a high bounce rate, but poor user experience is a big one, especially since Google states in its mission statement that :
“Our mission is to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
If the information on your website isn’t useful then people will soon stop coming to your website. What are some things that make for good user experience?
- Your navigation is clear and easy to understand. ie: a user should be able to guess what’s going to be on a page from the title of your menu links.
- Your content should be easy to read. ie: avoid long paragraphs of text and break up wordy sections with dot points, headings and spaces between paragraphs.
- Make sure your page load speed isn’t too slow.
- Don’t clutter your pages with too many colours and fonts and other elements. Keep it clean so people can easily find what they’re looking for.
- Make sure important elements like contact details or checkout buttons aren’t hidden amongst text or hard to notice.
Put yourself in the person who will be using your website. You want them to have a great experience while they are on your site.
A permalink is the url location of your webpages.
Wordpress is great for this as they let you choose the permalink settings when you first set up your website. Whichever choice you make, you want to avoid ever having permalinks that are just a series of numbers and letters because permalinks will appear in google search results and you can bet your butt that no one is searching for swelldigitalspace.com/dy37w9)&jdsshfkg.
Some will say to try and use keywords in your permalink to improve your seo, but this is difficult to do well. The last thing you want is a permalink for your About page that is mybusiness.com/beautysalonsperth. Most of the time you’ll be using mybusiness.com/about.
4. Good content
Again, this harks back to Google’s mission statement. Your content needs to be ‘organised, universally accessible and useful’.
This means you content must be readable, understandable and well structured, so make sure you use proper headings and sub-headings to organise your content into logical sections.
Another factor here is to make sure you have enough content. Google seems to reward pages with content of more than 500 words. It’s always possible to have this much content on every page, which is why blog posts are a great and vital addition to your website because most people can write a decent blog 0post with at least 500 words.
Choose a platform that has a good track record for responsive design (ie; not Wix. There I said it!) That means that your website should look and function just as well on a phone and a tablet, as it does on a desktop computer. Just because the screen is smaller user experience should never be compromised. In 2022 I am still surprised to come across websites that aren’t responsive. If you want to improve your seo on your website, then responsive design is a MUST! There is no excuse people!
Again, going back to google’s mission statement. The more accessible your website is, then it’s likely that the higher Google will rank it. So put your alt tags on your images, provide alternatives to mouse clicks if possible, don’t use crazy font colour contrasts, have alternate text scripts available for videos. Don’t have flashing graphics and it’s best not to have videos that start playing automatically. The general rule of thumb is make sure you can always hand over control to the user. Let them decide what they want to see and use.
7. Do your keyword research
Keyword research will let you find out what words people are using to search for websites in your industry and you can then use those words in the content on your web pages, in your meta data, and it will help you structure your site urls and landing pages to make the best use of your keywords. There’s a lot to know about keyword research such as how competitive each keyword is and a whole range of other factors that an seo expert can help you with.
8. Good code
This isn’t something you may necessarily have a lot of control over, but it’s good to know. If there are errors in the code for your website, then Google will not be happy. This brings us back to WordPress as a good choice because it has great code built in. This includes any custom code that your web developer may add to the website for you and why it’s so important to use a good web dev who knows how to write good, clean, correct code.
9. H1 tags
Heading tags are html code that let search engines know how important certain sentences are. Just like when you’re writing a document in Word, you assign the heading as an H1, then sub-headings as H2 and so on. H1 tags will have more importance than paragraph text for example. But that doesn’t mean you can go and label all your text with H1 tags! Every page should have one and ONLY one H1 tag. The remaining tags should be used hierarchically – this helps give context to the content for Google.
10. Alt tags on images
I mentioned alt tags up in accessibility, but it deserves its own section.
What are alt tags? An Alt tag is essentially an alternative way of understanding an image – instead of understanding the image visually, the alt tag text helps people with visual impairments to understand the image with words. The screen reader software used by many visually impaired people to browse the internet, reads out the alt tag text to them – so the alt tag text needs to contain – you guessed it – a description of the image. But don’t worry, you don’t need to write an essay, just enough so that the purpose and visual tone of the image is relayed. Check out this link from the Web Accessibility Initiative to see how and when you should use the alt tag text.
The added benefit of filling out your alt tags is that you can often include your seo keywords. But again, they must be used in context and used in a way that wont confuse the person listening to a description of the image. Be considerate.
11. Site security – Use https
The more secure a site, the less likely it is to get hacked and messed with. And Google is not going to look kindly on sites that are a mess for its users. So use https.
All website urls begin with http, which is short for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol and is the system used to transfer data from a server to your computer. The ‘s’ at the end of most urls now, stands for ‘Secure’ and indicates that the site has an SSL certificate. This means its data transfer protocol is encrypted and therefore secure.
Every web host should be able to offer the basic free ssl certificate. A free one is sufficient for most websites. You can purchase a paid SSL certificate if you prefer – just know that they provide the same level of encryption as a free one, but you will get additional benefits such as insurance if you site is hacked and money is stolen from you, and you’ll also be able to add a security shield logo to your site which helps with customer trust and confidence.
12. Don’t use duplicate content
This comes back to writing good content and particularly making sure that you don’t have double-ups of pages that have the same content. Google wont know which one to rank higher and so will rank them both lower.
13. Include lots of internal and external links and have backlinks
It’s important to include links to both external web pages (pages on other websites) and internal web pages (other pages within in your own website) because they help to increase the authority of your website, which in turn means Google will love it that little bit more. It’s an additional indicator to Google that your website is providing useful, well structure and robust content.
You also want to try and get other websites to link back to pages on your website. A good start is to provide great content so people will want to refer to your website. You can also simply find all the directories that are relevant for your industry and list your website on them. If you really want to get serious with your backlinks, then it would pay to go to an seo professional as they have a whole lot of strategies up their sleeves for this.
Just be sure that the websites you link to are good quality, reputable websites and will therefore have good domain authority. (you want the domain authority to be over 50 ideally). If you want to learn more about domain authority, check out this article by Rock Content.
14. Set up a Search Console account
Most people know that you should set up a google analytics account so that you can keep track of a whole range of data around how and who is using your site. But it’s also beneficial to set up a Google Search Console Account, which enables you to keep track of and be notified of any issues that might be impacting your search engine rankings and helps you to improve your seo.
15. Good seo plugin
Installing an seo plugin on your website in my opinion is vital. Yoast and Rank Math are the best choices for WordPress and both are super easy to setup and have very easy to follow instructions on how to add your keyword data to each page of your website. They both use a traffic light format letting you know whether your efforts are great (green light), need improvement (orange light) or there is something that needs immediate attention (red light). There’s no guessing at how you go about fixing your data, both these plugins tell you exactly what you need to do.
Both of these plugins can also link up to your Google Analytics and Google Search Console accounts so that you can monitor your data directly from your website, both let you add schema markup to your content which is an extra layer of goodness for Google because it tells Google the context of your content.
I personally prefer Rank Math because they have a few extra features built in and I find their user interface cleaner and easier to follow.
16. Have social media
Although Google doesn’t seem to actually rank a site any higher if it has social media links, social media platforms are in themselves mini search engines and people regularly search facebook for businesses. What’s more, the bigger your social media presence, the bigger the opportunity to drive people to your website which in turn will help your overall seo if people are staying on your site.
17. Improve site speed.
Site speed is a big one when it comes to improve your seo and it’s important that your page loading speed is as fast as it can be. Unfortunately, it can be quite tricky to get your page load score to optimum levels, ideally as close to 100 as possible, but at the very least over 50.
Factors affecting site speed are varied and many. A quick list includes:
- Image sizes – make sure you images are as small as possible, preferably under 200kb.
- Caching – use a good caching plugin which reduces time to go and retrieve data from the server for repeat requests.
- Content Delivery Network – using a CDN helps to spread the data load retrieval across the many data centers around the globe.
- Lazy loading – lazy loading plugins mean that the image isn’t loaded until it comes into view on the browser. This prevents the browser trying to load every single image on a page all at once.
Any site speed optimisation plugin worth it’s salt will do all or most of these things. Some good ones are:
- Siteground Optimizer – available free if you have Siteground hosting.
- WP Rocket
- WP Super Cache
- WP Smush It
Some handy tools
Online Image Compression Sites – to reduce the size of your images.
Domain Authority Checkers
- Semrush. – will need to sign up for a free account.
- Website Seo Checker – free checker. Look for the first number in the table under ‘DA’.
If you’ve had your website built by a professional then most of the things on this list should have been taken care of, though it’s always good to check.
So there you have it, an seo checklist for your website to give you the best chance of working your up the search engine results pages.