In the digital age, a website's visibility on search engines can make or break its success. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is not just a buzzword; it's a crucial part of web design and development. This comprehensive checklist will guide you through creating an SEO-friendly website, ensuring your site not only ranks well in search results but also provides a great user experience.

Plan Website Structure (For New Sites)

  1. Depth of the Site Structure
    The architecture of your website plays a pivotal role in SEO. Ideally, important pages should be no more than two or three clicks away from the homepage. This structure ensures that search engines can easily find and index these pages. For larger websites, it's crucial to avoid deep nesting of pages, as this can hinder their visibility in search engine crawls.

  2. Keyword Optimization for Top-Level Pages
    Your top-level pages, like category pages, have the potential to rank well in search engines. Optimize these pages with relevant keywords that have a good search volume. This doesn't mean stuffing keywords but integrating them naturally into your content, titles, and meta descriptions.

  3. Internal Links
    Internal links are not just pathways for your visitors; they also guide search engines through your site. They can signal to search engines which pages are important, based on how you link to them. Ensure your most important pages are linked directly from your main navigation or homepage.

Set Up Essential SEO Tools

  1. Google Search Console
    Google Search Console is an invaluable tool for any website owner. It helps you monitor your site's presence in Google search results. Setting it up is straightforward: verify your website ownership and you can start monitoring your site's performance, identify issues, and even see which keywords bring traffic to your site.

  2. Bing Webmaster Tools
    While Google dominates search, Bing still holds a significant market share. Bing Webmaster Tools can provide insights into your site's performance on Bing. The setup process is similar to Google Search Console and offers unique tools like SEO reports and keyword research.

  3. Ahrefs Webmaster Tools
    Ahrefs offers a suite of tools to analyze your website and track your rankings. It's particularly useful for backlink analysis, which is a key factor in SEO. By setting up Ahrefs, you can monitor your site's backlinks, see which keywords you rank for, and get insights into improving your SEO.

Technical SEO Essentials

  • Create and Submit a Sitemap
    A sitemap is a roadmap of your website that helps search engines navigate and index your content. Creating a sitemap and submitting it through Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools ensures that search engines can more easily crawl your site.

  • Create a Robots.txt File
    The robots.txt file tells search engines which parts of your site to crawl and which to ignore. It's essential for controlling the crawl traffic and ensuring that search engines focus on your most important content.

  • Ensure Website Indexability
    Your website needs to be fully indexable to appear in search results. Use tools like Google Search Console to check for any indexability issues, such as blocked pages or crawl errors.

  • Single Domain Accessibility
    Consistency is key in SEO. Ensure your website is accessible through only one domain. This means choosing between www and non-www versions of your site and ensuring one redirects to the other to avoid duplicate content issues.

Make Your Website Delightful to Use

  • Ensure Mobile-Friendliness
    In today's mobile-first world, having a mobile-friendly website is non-negotiable. Use responsive design to ensure your site looks and works well on all devices. Google's Mobile-Friendly Test can help you check how well your site performs on mobile.
  • Improve Site Load Speed
    Site speed is a crucial factor for both user experience and SEO. Use tools like Google's PageSpeed Insights to analyze your site's performance and follow the recommendations to improve load times. This can include optimizing images, leveraging browser caching, and reducing server response time.

  • Implement HTTPS
    Security is a top priority for both users and search engines. Migrate your site to HTTPS to encrypt data and improve trustworthiness. This not only protects your users' data but also can give a slight boost to your SEO.

  • Avoid Intrusive Interstitials
    Pop-ups and intrusive interstitials can harm the user experience, especially on mobile devices. While they can be useful for promotions or newsletters, ensure they are not obstructing the main content and are easy to dismiss.

Make Your Website Search-Focused

  • Choose the Right Keywords
    Keyword research is the foundation of SEO. Identify keywords that are relevant to your business and have a good balance of search volume and competition. Tools like Google Keyword Planner and Ahrefs can help in this process.
  • Create Valuable and Engaging Content
    Content is king in the world of SEO. Ensure your content is not only interesting but also provides value to your audience. This can include blog posts, how-to guides, infographics, and videos.
  • Optimize Title and Description Tags
    Your title and meta description tags are crucial for click-through rates in search results. Make them descriptive, engaging, and include your target keywords. Keep titles under 60 characters and descriptions around 155 characters.
  • Implement Schema Markup
    Schema markup helps search engines understand the context of your content. This can lead to richer search results and improved click-through rates. Use schema for reviews, products, articles, and more.
  • Use Short and Descriptive URLs
    URLs should be easy to read and understand. Keep them short, use hyphens to separate words, and include keywords where relevant.
  • Link to Relevant Resources
    External linking to authoritative and relevant sources can boost your site's credibility. Don't be afraid to link out where it adds value to your content.
  • Optimize Images
    Image optimization is crucial for site speed and accessibility. Use descriptive file names, compress images, and always include alt text.
  • Add Internal Links
    Internal linking helps spread link equity throughout your site and can improve the SEO of individual pages. Link to relevant content within your site where it makes sense.

Final Thoughts Creating an SEO-friendly website is a continuous process that involves both technical expertise and a deep understanding of your audience. By following this checklist, you're setting a strong foundation for your website's success in search engines. Remember, SEO is not a one-time task but an ongoing strategy that evolves with your business and the digital landscape. If your webmaster isn't following the steps above with your site, please get in touch with us; we'll be happy to help get your site on-track.