Everyone has that laundry list of items that goes by the way side to make room for bigger and more seemingly important tasks. But sometimes, that list is composed of items that will make up the foundation for those more important tasks. Sure, grocery shopping doesn’t seem THAT important, but what are you going to do when you open the fridge at 8 p.m. and only moldy cheese and flat soda stare back at you?
For all the SEO experts in the world, there is where a strategy comes in handy. Take an hour to sit down and prioritize your workload and remember that the basics can make or break your approach. This list will help you get on the right track, whether you’re starting from scratch, or diving headfirst into an ongoing client’s SEO.
1. First things first, start with domain resolution. Does your domain resolve to one domain or many? Does it use www or non-www? If your site uses the non-www version, and doesn’t 301 redirect for its www and pagename versions, Google now thinks it has two sites.
2. Sitemaps. Does your site have one? Is it submitted to Webmaster Tools? Do you update it regularly or after you add new content? If you don’t have a sitemap, your site will still get indexed, but this map tells Google where all indexable pages are located, so it’s imperative that you routinely update yours.
3. Robots.txt File: Google informs us that “while Google won’t crawl or index the content of pages blocked by robots.txt, we may still index URLs if we find them on other pages on the web. As a result, the URL of the page, and potentially, other publicly avail/able information such as anchor text in links to the site can appear in Google search results.”
Robots.txt files are meant to prevent crawling and indexing on site content, not indexing of page information and won’t block your pages from being found.
4. Google hates duplicate content so be sure to check your site thoroughly. Just because your content is 100% original, doesn’t mean that someone out there hasn’t scraped your site or stolen some of your work. Copyscape is a quick and easy way to check for duplicate content and you can even search by specific page.
5. Site Crawls are extremely important and will provide you with a complete site-wide analysis (Screaming Frog is my recommended tool) and help you answer questions such as:
- How many of your links are broken? This includes links coming into your site, going out, images, etc.
- Are your redirects working properly?
- Are your meta descriptions too short? Too long? Duplicate?
- Same goes for your title tags – keep them concise and to the point. Cut out unnecessary words (as if, a, an) if you can
- Anchor text format
- Alt text
Screaming Frog will crawl your entire site and categorize it ranging from response codes, page titles and meta descriptions to H1s & H2s, as well as the character count for applicable categories.
6. Page speed: This may be something that tends to be overlooked, but page speed is incredibly important. Google has a page speed tool and assigns ratings to each page so be sure to check your analytics values. Users are likely to abandon a page when the download takes anywhere from above a second to 4 seconds and rankings almost always improve when their page score is above a 90, so be sure you’re keeping tabs on your page speed.
7. Content, content, and more content. I’m sure we’ve all heard the phrase “content is king” and anyone who doesn’t believe it will find out the hard way. Make sure your content is informative, UNIQUE, relevant, and updated on a daily schedule. Don’t keep up events for the month of June on your site when August is in full swing. Ask yourself if you were visiting the site, would you want to read what you’re posting? If you’re finding that you’d be bored out of your mind or confused by the lack of relevancy, start over with a new approach.
Helpful tip: be sure your content is no longer than 600-700 words!
8. Canonicalization: Going hand in hand with content, let’s talk about your canonical tags. These are important because they tell Google that the content you’ve posted is indeed yours and that any duplicate pages on your site are really copies of an original page. As of right now, this is the only way that Google can be told who owns what content.
9. Usability in a blink: Will users be able to navigate their way around your page without getting confused and giving up? It’s been said that you have less than 3 milliseconds to establish trust with users and about the same amount of time for them to establish what your site is all about.
Highlight the most important site paths and ask yourself simple questions like does this make my site better for search engines? Does this inform users? Does this improve my site functionality? Do some standard housekeeping around your site and chances are your site visits will increase.
10. Google Analytics & Webmaster Tools. No matter what, set up Google Analytics right away. Setting up Google and Bing Webmaster Tools is a cinch when you use your Analytics login information to verify and complete the setup. Having information like the number of site crawl errors, how many pages are being indexed, and what queries are used to find your site will be incredibly useful to you throughout the duration of your SEO efforts. Do yourself a favor and check Webmaster Tools and Analytics as often as you can, even if that’s every day. You won’t regret it.
If you take the time to factor these 10 steps into your SEO approach, you’ll find yourself with a strong foundation that will help you optimize a website’s presence, position, health, and authority. SEO offers very little instant gratification, but if you implement the above strategies, you’ll slowly but surely begin to see the results you’ve been aiming for and can continue down the road to SEO glory. What are some of your favorite tips for your site’s SEO?