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SEO checklist

With such a wide range of things to consider when looking at your website’s search engine optimisation, Laurence Knopf picks out all the things you should look for to help boost your site’s performance

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The essential SEO checklist for you business


Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a misunderstood practice. Many may think it is too complicated, or that only highly technical people can optimise a website—this is not the case. There are some broad steps that can be undertaken in ensuring that a website is technically optimised to allow the Google algorithm as much freedom to explore and index your website as possible.

By following these steps, your website will be in a much better position to work within your long-term SEO campaign and online marketing as a whole.

1 – The site should be hosted in the UK, not elsewhere. UK-focused sites should look like they are UK-based—this helps associate the site to its geographic target marketplace.

2 – The IP address that the site is hosted on should not be associated with any blacklisted sites, those with illicit or illegal content, or ‘bad’ neighbourhoods. The company a site keeps is important to the overall trust from search engines.

3 – The site should have search engine friendly URLs—that can include clean text with page keywords—with no parameters, dynamic elements or session ids. Clean URLs with keywords aid your search rankings and the usability of your site. For example, instead of:

www.site.com/33343-about-us-main-content454?

a URL should look like:

www.site.com/about-us

4 – The site should allow for multilevel content categorisation and the most important content should be no more than two steps from the homepage. Logical content hierarchy makes it easier for search engines to categorise the content and makes it easier for users to navigate the content. For a print website, this might look like something like:

Homepage > Main Category > Sub Category > Content 

5 – If possible, breadcrumb navigation should be used; once again, this helps with content hierarchy and usability.

6 – A robots.txt file should be included. These files tell search engines what pages you would like them to index and which ones you do not. They are also often the place where the most fundamental SEO mistakes are made. Some caution is required as restricting the wrong pages could cripple the site.

7 – The site should have a static HTML sitemap, as well as an XML sitemap. You want to make it easy for search engines to index your site—sitemaps assist them in that goal. HTML sitemaps are for users and XML sitemaps are for search engines; the XML sitemap should submitted to Google Webmaster Tools.

8 – The use of Flash should be limited and no navigation or content should be held in Flash. Search engines do not readily index content within Flash—anything coded in this way will not feature in the search engines. Flash is often used and thought of as attractive to users, but is counterproductive to SEO. The same effects can be achieved by HTML5 instead, which is SEO-friendly.

9 – iFrames should not be used. Any content inside an iFrame will not be properly associated with the page it appears on and that content will not be given the right value by search engines.

10 – JavaScript and CSS should be held externally. Holding these code types externally means the pages have less code and load faster.
 
11 – The site should have a well-designed 404 page that contains links to the main categories. 404 pages can be dead ends for sites; if they are well designed and have links back to the main site, they will allow users to get back on track to finding their content.

12 – Images should have “alt” tags and should be saved as jpegs with keyword rich names. This gives another opportunity to add keywords to the page and to have images appear in more relevant searches.

13 – Keep page size—in terms of code—to a minimum. Pages that are light on code will load faster; this is better for users and search engines. It also ensures the focus on the written content on the page.

14 – Use the correct HTML content hierarchy on each page of the site—this includes using H1, H2, H3 tags, and so on. It allows for proper keyword use on the site and tells search engines the relative importance of the keywords on the page.

15 – Do not allow duplicate pages on your site. Many standard development practices allow for duplicate content or pages on different URLs to be created. The search engines like unique content; if there are any duplicates, the overall content will not have as much value, and this could affect keyword rankings. 

16 – The most important pages on the site should have space for at least 350 words of indexable content if possible. Search engines index all types of content but text content is the most important; if your page has too little content, how do you expect it to rank for the keywords you want to appear for?

17 – If the site is an ecommerce site, use Google Product Search. This can be one of the quickest ways to get your products in front of people who are searching for them.
 
18 – Use Microformats wherever possible. These are special ways of coding names, addresses, product details and reviews. It makes it easier for search engines to identify these elements and categorise them; anything that helps search engines will help your site.

19 – Google Analytics. Use the new asynchronous Analytics code to increase page load speed:

http://code.google.com/apis/analytics/docs/tracking/asyncTracking.html.

The use of this code also enables linking your analytics account to your Webmaster Tools account.

20 – Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster should be installed. These will help you keep tabs on the technical performance of your site and the way the search engines see them.

21 – Each page should have unique title tags, meta descriptions and meta keywords.
These page elements are the basic building blocks of on-page SEO; they are the content markers that highlight the focus of the content on the page and the keywords you are trying to optimise. 

22 – All site navigation should be in HTML. It is an easy mistake to make website navigation work through Flash or JavaScript, but it hampers the way search engines index the site.

23 – The homepage should be .co.uk/ or .com/ in all instances and never /index or any other duplicate version. So for example; www.printmonthly.co.uk  should always be the homepage of the site and not www.printmonthly.co.uk/Default.aspx.

The steps that have been outlined here are important as part of an overall SEO campaign. By ensuring your website is technically accommodating for visitors—human or software—you will stand a much better chance in ranking for your chosen search terms. Combining these steps with a website that has lots of quality content and relevant inbound links will boost your rankings—bringing in relevant traffic and more leads.

Laurence Knopf’s SEO Rescue is an expert UK SEO company working with businesses of all shapes and sizes. The team focus on helping firms to get more traffic and a higher conversion rate whilst maintaining the quality of your online business profile.


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