There’s a lot of technical jargon and gobs of mumbo jumbo to keep track of when it comes to getting discovered and staying relevant on the web. We’re a generous group of marketers at Bonsai Media Group and we want to give you a leg up and a headstart with our thorough and complete SEO checklist. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, and our checklist allows you to compare your website to our list in order to make adjustments and changes for the best chance of customers finding you as the solution to their problem.
If you still feel lost after evaluating these steps, reach out to Bonsai because these are the things we’re good at. The strategies, terminology, and methods are what get us going. There are five areas to consider when comparing your website to our SEO checklist: set up, research, technical, on-page, and off-page.
1. Set-Up: What Tools Can Do For You
There are a number of ways Google can help you be visible to customers. Google Analytics is the gold standard for data collection. It informs as to how customers interact and use your website. Key optimization includes creating a filtered view that removes spam and bot traffic. It creates content groupings which is great for helping you understand what to do with the data. Think of it as a 30,000-foot view. With Google Analytics, you can set up goals and it will show how you’ve achieved or missed the goal.
The Google Search Console is another tool that tracks site performance in the search results along with some details on how Google crawlers are reading your site. Bing also has a similar tool that reveals the same information.
To generate more local traffic to your business, the tool Google My Business allows you to claim your business listing and allows you to display a local map pack. Google My Business also gives you a nice rich snippet that easily allows searchers to learn about and contact your business.
The final tool within the Google SEO tools is the Google Tag Manager. This allows the user to quickly add snippets of code to the site without having to edit the site’s code each time. You can also use Google Tag Manager to configure your site’s Google Analytics.
2. Research: Hunting Down the Facts
Researching and knowing your own business teaches you how your business converts. Depending on what products or services you offer and the conversion journey—the top, middle, and bottom—your customer takes reveals the conversion actions from your site. Keyword research is essential in truly understanding the customer journey in terms of what and how your customers are searching for the solution you offer. Keyword research examines the customer journey, the keyword clusters, and data, as well as the search engine results page (SERP) landscape. SERP would take into consideration whether your site is informational, commercial, retail, or local, generating important keywords from that data.
Competitive research examines your competition’s websites and analyzes: what keywords is the competition ranking for, what companies dominate the search results, what type of content is on their site, and what authority their site holds. Keyword mapping plans where on your site each keyword should go. Visualizing the site’s architecture and mapping the keywords to the relevant page(s) as well as identifying content gaps on your site ensures a more relevant website with expanded, integrated reach.
3. Technical: Behind the Curtain
The technical piece of your website takes a bit of learning to know and understand, but it’s where the magic happens. A sitemap acts as a road map when Google crawls your site. It allows them to see the canonical URLs of each page. A canonical URL prevents duplicate content issues by specifying the “preferred” rendition of your website. Submit your sitemap to the Google Search Console and check that all the important SEO pages are crawl-able. Robots.txt allows you to dictate which pages and files on your site are crawl-able by Google.
All pages on your site should be HTTPS (assuring your visitors that their info is secure), but make sure only one site is being indexed by Google and all other variations are 301 redirected. Make that series within the canonical instructions of your site. Within the Google Search Console Google is able to identify and fix crawl errors. It is able to crawl all intended pages, so any 301 or 302 redirects can be identified and fixed.
Site speed is another technical aspect worth analyzing. The goal is less than three seconds. To achieve that optimize images by inspecting file size, display size, using a content delivery network (CDN) and NextGen Images as well as lazy loading which reduces page weight allowing for faster loading time. Server response times can make your site speed quicker with minification (removing all unnecessary characters from the original code), enabling browser caching, and fixing up redirects.
Customers have no patience for internal and external broken links, which should be tended to as soon as they are discovered. Customers also expect seamless transitions from computer to mobile so your website’s mobile responsiveness is important. Make sure that your website loads and can be easily used by the mobile user.
Optimized site architecture limits the page depth of the important pages to only three if possible, each page being easy to find with intuitive navigational aspects. URL structure should also be optimized based on the site architecture. Landing page keywords should be used in URLs if possible and the URLs themselves should be as short as possible. Hyphens and underscore signs should not be used within an optimized URL. The last piece of the technical aspect of your site is to consider using structured data where applicable.
4. On-Page: What You See is What You Get
It’s not just the code that needs to be on point, but the actual words, headings, and titles on the page that need their own care and consideration. Make sure the SEO title is optimized by limiting the characters to 60. The keywords should ideally be at the front of the title rather than the back, and each title should be unique and each page should have a title. Each of these small SEO adjustments go far for customer experience.
The SEO Meta Description should also be optimized. Depending on the pixel length of characters, the character limit for this description should be 150-160. Every description should be unique and should include a primary keyword for each page, as well as each page, should have its own description.
The heading structure of your website should be optimized as well. All main titles should be the H1 heading. There should only be one per page, and each title should include a primary keyword. The H2 heading should have supporting keywords and variations of keywords, and the page structure should be properly sectioned with these SEO headings.
You should get picky about content. Only the best content should live on the site. Multiple pages about similar topics should be built into content hubs, and there should be enough variation that your site doesn’t keyword cannibalize itself if your scope is too narrow or the same keywords are used over and over. Overusing keywords (aka keyword stuffing) is possible and signals that you may be trying to cheat the ranking system - not good. Make sure your site content is up to date. Your site will be considered irrelevant immediately if five-month-old information is the featured content.
Images should be optimized by each file name being named with keywords. Alt tags are used to improve accessibility and strengthen the on-page SEO. Internal links should be considered too. Supporting content of the main SEO pages should be directly linked to the main SEO page. Use a variety of anchor texts that relate to the target keywords, and use internal links to spread the authority to SEO landing pages, both in navigational and contextual ways. Make sure there are no broken internal links.
5. Off-Page: I Spy
Backlinking is monitoring site mentions and claiming unlinked site mentions. Monitoring your site’s backlink profile allows you to fix broken backlinks, and monitoring your competitors' links allows you to identify new potential backlinks to go after. An easy way to start is to optimize your profile on Google My Business as well as letting aggregators collect your web content, but also manually creating citations will continue to illuminate your online visibility.
Chances are, from our SEO checklist, you now have your work cut out for you. This is worthy work, much of it just time and not cost, to make your website stand out among the rest. This process allows your website to work for you instead of the other way around. There could be parts of this list that are right up your alley, and others you need to hire out. Bonsai Digital Marketing is ready to help you make the shift from a mediocre website to one that pulls in loyal customers, new business, visibility, and traffic on the web.