So you have got a business website, or are just about to launch one. Good work! But a website without traffic is basically useless. That’s where a basic SEO checklist can help.
There are a number of ways to get traffic to your website, including:
- Word of mouth
- Linked to from other websites and social media
- Search engines
There are separate strategies for each of these traffic sources, however here we will just talk about improving your chances of getting traffic from the search engines, by making changes to on-page SEO.
On-page SEO is making changes to your website with the aim of making it rank better in the search engines. If you rank higher for relevant search terms, you are more likely to receive more targeted traffic. This is not to be confused with off-page SEO, which primarily looks at creating links and brand awareness focusing on sources other than your own website.
Whether you are looking to update your existing web pages, or are publishing new content, it’s a good idea to focus on the on-page SEO points below to help your website be regarded more favourably by the search engines.
Make sure that you have spent some time on each of the On-Page SEO checklist points below, as this is a good starting point to get your website ranking better:
- Keyword Research
- Keyword Usage
- Spelling and Grammar
- Duplicate Content
- Website Structure/Layout
- Google Analytics
- Google Search Console
- SEO Plugin
- Webpage Load Speed
- Mobile-Friendly Website
On-Page SEO Checklist Tasks
On-page SEO can be quite in-depth, but ensuring your website has the basics outlined in this download covered is a very good start.
If you have your own existing website, you can do a lot of these checks yourself, even if you are not very technically minded, and at least get an idea of where your website is at.
A lot of on-page SEO is about providing a good user experience to visitors to your website. Google monitors website traffic and its behaviour, so ensuring that your website provides a good user experience can lead to better search engine rankings.
Think about your own experience – if you go to a website that is not laid out well, contains vague or low-quality or misleading information, takes a long time to load, or looks unprofessional, you will not spend much time on the site. And if Google recognises this, then why would they rank this site well?
By building a website that performs well and contains good quality information, You will be providing visitors with a good user experience and it will help to position your business as a trusted source in your area of expertise.
So if you are not sure what to do to get your website ranking better, a great place to start is to ensure that you have spent the time to check the following SEO checklist points…
For any content you publish on your website, it is a good idea to do some keyword research on the industry. This goes for existing content that you have already published, which you can update to include more appropriate keywords, as well as content you are about to publish.
Not all keywords are equal. You probably don’t want to focus on using keywords that do not have any search traffic. Likewise, you may not want to focus on keywords that have millions of searches, as these may also be very hard to rank for.
Depending on the age and authority of your existing website, you may be able to target more competitive keywords. However, if you are just starting out, you may wish to target longer keywords (ie. Long-tail keywords), as you may have a better chance to rank for these. Have a look at this post for more information on long-tail vs. short-tail keywords.
There are many variations of keywords that users are typing into the search engines that you may never have thought of. One of the easiest ways to get ideas, as well as check traffic volume, is to use the Google Keyword Planner. Simply sign up for an account if you don’t already have one, and enter your industry and services to get an idea of some of the best keywords to use.
Once you have an idea of the best keywords for your industry and location, you want to use these throughout your website. However, you want to be careful not to overdo it when it comes to using keywords.
There are no hard-and-fast rules, but generally, keep the usage to below 1%, or possibly use each keyword 2 or 3 times per page.
You also want to target certain keywords on each page. For instance, if you are in the pet niche, you may want to use and target similar words like –
- Dog toys
- Pet toys
- Chewable toys
- Puppy toys
… on a page. You would not want to talk about dog toys and cat vaccinations on the same page.
Use these keywords in the following areas:
- Headings and sub-headings
- Image alt text and file names
- Meta title / description – also make these enticing and correct lengths
- First / last paragraphs
Check Spelling and Grammar
If your website has lots of spelling and grammar mistakes, it does convey a very professional image and does not give visitors a good user experience. Anyone visiting a website that they feel does not convey the level of professionalism they require is highly likely to move on to the next website that does.
There are many tools that can assist with checking spelling and grammar. One handy tool that we use is Grammarly. It also has a Chrome extension that will pick up errors as you type them into your blog page, as well as any other place on the internet.
Google is all about providing a good user experience. One of the ways that they achieve this is by providing useful, informative, and relevant search engine results. If your website just copies information from other sources, this is not adding any value or useful information to their search results, so why would they rank you highly?
There are quite a few tools that you can use to check for duplicate content. One such tool is Copyscape. Simply enter the text or the URL of a page, and it will check for instances of duplicate content.
Your website should provide a good user experience to visitors. That means anyone coming to your site should be able to find the information they are after quickly and easily. To ensure this, your website should:
- Be easy to navigate
- Have easy-to-find internal links to important information
- Have external links to authoritative sites to add value and assist visitors
- Be mobile-friendly (more information on this below)
- Display correctly on different browsers
- Be fast loading (more information on this below)
- Use appropriate font style, size, and colour
- Use heading and sub-headings effectively
- Use white space and images effectively
- Have contact details displayed prominently
All the information on the website should be easy to find. If it takes numerous clicks to find something, visitors will get frustrated and move on to the next website (ie. Your competition).
It’s a good idea to have an SEO plugin installed. There are quite a few in the WordPress Plugin Repository. However, our favourites are:
Yoast & AIOSEO have been around for ages, are still being updated, and are well regarded. Rank Math is a bit newer on the scene but is very popular.
They help with setting up the SEO of your site, including specifying the:
- Meta title – This is what Google displays at the top of each of its search results. This can be the same as the page title but does not have to be.
- Meta description – This is the description that you would like Google to display in its search results.
Both of these have limits on the length, so it is good to not make them too long, otherwise, they will be truncated.
It is important to only have one SEO plugin installed, otherwise, it can cause confusion.
Google Analytics (GA) is a free tool that measures visitor stats on your website. Ensure you have GA installed (the above plugins can assist with this). Without it (or some similar stats reporting tool), how do you know how many people are coming, what they are looking at, what they are interested in, what needs improvement, etc.
By analysing your stats, you are able to understand visitor behaviour, as well as make changes and monitor the performance to enhance user experience.
Google monitors things such as the number of time visitors spend on each page, how many pages each visitor to your site views, as well as many other things. It can then adjust your rankings based on this, so you always want to work towards improving your stats so that Google will know that visitors to your site are having a good user experience, which will give you a better chance of ranking higher.
Check out this post for more information on what to look for when analysing GA stats.
Google Search Console
It is a good idea to connect your site to Google Search Console (aka. Google Webmaster Tools). Google will then do a thorough check of your site, after which it will highlight issues affecting your website, which may also affect your rankings.
Connecting to Google Search Console, and analysing the stats can be a bit technical, but it’s worth it if you are wanting to ensure you are getting the most out of your website.
It is good to ensure that a Sitemap is installed. A Sitemap tells the search engines the structure of your website, making it super-easy for them to find and index all the pages on your site.
Some SEO plugins can create a Sitemap (including the Yoast SEO plugin above) – otherwise, you can install a plugin like Google XML Sitemaps.
Once you have created a Sitemap, go to Google Search Console and tell Google where it is, so that your website can be properly indexed.
Webpage Load Speed
An important part of providing a good user experience to visitors of your website is ensuring that it loads quickly. There are many reasons why your website may load slower than you might expect, so it is good to periodically check its performance.
Once again, it can be quite technical to analyse the report and fix the problems. However, running the reports is easy, and if there are issues, it will be quite easy to tell. If this is the case, and you are not comfortable fixing the issues yourself, you can always get help.
Check out this post for more information on using tools to test the page load speed of your website.
Check Your Website Is Mobile-Friendly
We have all been to websites that do not display well on a mobile device… and it is never a good experience. With more and more people using the internet on mobile devices, it is more important than ever to ensure that your website works well on all devices.
Also, Google is now using this as a ranking factor. If your website is not mobile-friendly, it can be penalised in the search engine rankings.
Checking to see if your website is mobile-friendly is relatively easy. You can use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to check for yourself.
However, updating a website to be mobile-friendly is sometimes a little tricky. One of the easiest ways is to update its theme, but this can have its own challenges. You can read more about mobile-friendly website design here.
Run a malware scan. Use a plugin like Wordfence or Sucuri Security to make sure that your small business website hasn’t been infected by malware.
Google can also find some malware issues on your site (which you can be notified about if you have your website connected to Google Search Console), but it is good to try to find and fix the issue before Google finds out about it, so that they do not penalise you.
Securing your website is of critical importance, but there are some relatively simple steps you can take to make your site secure. Things you need to consider include always using strong passwords, being careful what you access using public Wi-Fi hotspots, always keeping virus scanning software up-to-date, etc.
With regards to your website, in addition to the above, it is also advisable to have a security system in place. We use and recommend Wordfence. They have a free option whereby you install a plugin that implements things such as restricting access attempts, running security scans, adding firewall protection, and notifying you of outstanding core/theme/plugin updates, plus many other features.
If you are in the planning stages or currently getting your new website built, it is a good idea to ensure these SEO checklist points are covered from the start. It is easier to include and allow for these points at the beginning rather than come along at a later date and update the site structure as well as every page and post on your site.
This is not intended to be an exhaustive SEO checklist… However, by using the resources in this download, you will be setting your website up so that it will serve your business well for years to come.