It can be hard to keep up with the SEO industry. There are periodic changes to Google’s algorithm which impact the effectiveness of various SEO techniques, creating an ever changing environment in the SEO space. It seems like every day there are new link building methods, new schema data types to markup, or new social channels impacting search results. That said, there are some foundational SEO practices that have always helped to improve search engine rankings time and time again after every Google algorithm update.
So, here is a bulletproof 6 point SEO checklist to improve your website’s search engine rankings.
1 Keyword Research
Target the most optimal search terms that your niche is searching
The foundation of every SEO campaign is its targeted keywords. You must first discover what your market is searching and then create an SEO strategy to gain visibility for your target keywords. You can use Google’s Keyword Planner for free to perform keyword research, just create a free Adwords account. You will want to select keywords which get at least 500 – 1,000 in most cases and then create website content that targets these terms.
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For tips on using your keywords on your webpages, checkout the importance of keywords in SEO, or read our complete intro to SEO for small businesses for a step by step guide to keyword research and on-site optimization.
2 Meta Titles
Include your keywords in Meta Titles and make them enticing for searchers to click
Meta Titles are a piece of Meta Data for search engines to read. They use them in search result snippets to display a link to users. So they are important for two reasons. First off they need to include your keywords and brand name; they will help you rank better for these terms. Secondly they need to be enticing for users to click and thus should appear to answer their search query. Reviewing your webpages to ensure they meet these two guidelines will help your rankings and increase click through rates (CTR) on your search snippets.
3 Meta Descriptions
Include your main keyword(s) in your Meta Descriptions
Like Meta Titles, Meta Descriptions are a piece of Meta Data that search engines use to display in search results. They appear just below the Meta Title I just discussed, and for the same two reasons need to be optimized. Follow the same two guidelines of including your targeted keywords and enticing users to want to click through to your website.
4 Page Headers
Break up your content with H1-H3 tags which contain your target keywords
Page headers are not just visible to search engines, these are the visible H1 – H6 tags or “Headers” within the body of your content on your webpages. Your pages headers should include your keywords where applicable, and for local SEO should include your city name where applicable. Reviewing these for opportunities to add your keywords, where it still reads well to users and makes sense, can help boost your rankings.
Your keywords and related terms should be used throughout your website content
If you haven’t learned the general theme yet, that is that we are including our targeted keywords throughout our website and sending positive ranking signals as we do so. We will continue to include our keywords and related keywords, where they make sense, throughout our content. Be careful not to “stuff keywords” or over use your keywords to the point where they sound unnatural. Google will read your keyword density, and if it determines that you are over optimizing your page for a keyword, you can be penalized.
Here is a great free SEO audit tool which will analyze your webpage’s keyword density. Just type in your URL and then you can see a snapshot of how many times you are using your keywords on your website.
6 Internal Links
Link Internal Related Webpages Together
Links are extremely important in SEO, they help Google crawl the web and also attribute authority to webpages. This is called Page Rank and in turn greatly affects the rankings of a webpage. It is important to link your webpages properly so that users and search engines can find all of your content and easily access it. It will also help to properly attribute your Page Rank and signal to Google which pages are the most important on your website, and thus should rank the best.
This consists of offering a clear primary navigational menu linking to all of your major landing pages including things such as product/service pages, a blog, contact page, and perhaps some sales/promotional pages. It is also very important to link related webpages on your site together. Do this by including links within the content body that are helpful to users, by offering additional information on some other related webpage. Remember to make your internal links descriptive with keywords in the anchor text linking your pages together.
Perform Periodic SEO Reviews of Your Website
There you go, a quick checklist to review your webpages for the major on-page SEO factors that will impact your search engine rankings. It is good to periodically perform keyword research, to make sure you are targeting the best current keywords for your market. (Note: Not all industries will require periodic updates to keywords.) With some fresh keyword ideas, you can then make updates to your website, simply review your major content pages and check them against the items on this list.