How to optimize a website for Google? That is the magic question when it comes to figuring out the ways of bringing massive amounts of traffic to your website.
If you are a website owner or blogger, I’m sure your ultimate goal is to learn how to get more traffic to your website and have your website pages and posts showing up high in the search engine results pages (SERPS), and then hopefully making it to position number 1 on page 1.
Besides trying to use paid advertising to bring traffic to your site, one of the easiest and free ways to do this is through search engine optimization or SEO.
One of the things you should do to every page or post that you publish, is a SEO website checklist to give you the best opportunity to get on the first page of Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Unfortunately, there is no way to absolutely guarantee that your page will land on the front page, but there are some basic things that you can do to optimize your website so you can work your way to the top.
Doing search engine optimization is about doing small and simple tweaks here and there to make your pages more user-friendly, easier for the search engines to understand, and to bring more free organic search traffic to your website.
Remember that your content should be structured in a way that is simple to navigate and easy on the eyes for your customer, which will bring an overall better experience for the user.
It doesn’t matter if you have a brand new website that isn’t ranked yet, or an authority website that has been around for years, basic SEO optimization should apply to every website who wants to be seen and visited more often.
After you publish a new article for your website, you will submit your website pages to the Google, Bing, and Yahoo for indexing. Your pages will eventually be “crawled” by what they call spiders and bots, and these algorithms are looking for specific information from your page to decide where in the search engines your article or blog post will be found.
Obviously, to bring you the highest amount of traffic to your website, you want to eventually hit page one of the search engine results page or SERP.
So doing a thorough SEO checklist of each post that you write is a necessary part of optimizing your website for the best possible rankings in the SERPS.
SEO Optimization Checklist
When you are writing an article centered around a specific keyword, there are a few places you should your target keyword to your article.
It’s not a good idea to just plastering your keyword all over the place thinking the more times your keyword comes up on the page, the better chance you will have at higher rankings. In fact, it is quite the opposite and can hurt your rankings.
- Title Tag
- Meta Description
- URL Structure
- H1, H2, H3 Headline Tags
- Content Creation
- Internal and External Links
- Image Alt Tag and File Name
Here is a short video on “How to Rank In 2018,” but it is still relevant today in 2019.
One of the most important part of SEO is making use of the title tag. This title’s main object is to show people and the search engines what the website or article is all about, in the shortest way possible.
This title tag is what will be displayed as a “snippet” in the search engine results page (SERPS). Since the title tag is usually the first thing that a visitor will see when they come to a search results page, so you want your title to stand out among others by enticing someone to click on your link instead of a competing website.
Preferably, you want to use your main targeted keyword at the beginning of the title, but remember you are writing to a human and if it doesn’t make sense to have it at the front of the title, just make sure it is somewhere in the title. Also, every page or post that you publish should have its own unique title that is different from every other post on your site.
When you are creating your title, using a primary keyword and a secondary keyword that is separated by a hyphen can stand out apart from other competing websites.
If you have done your keyword research and you decide that you want to target “On-Page SEO,” an example could be something similar to this: “Your Simple On-Page SEO Checklist.”
Most search engines will only display up to 60 characters in the search results, so it is best to keep it short and sweet or you risk your title not showing up completely in the search results.
If you are using a SEO plugin like Yoast or All-In-One SEO, there will be a counter to keep track of how many characters you currently have in the title. If for some reason you don’t choose to fill in the meta title of the post, the title will be filled in automatically by the SEO plugin by using the title of your page or post.
Title Tag Summary:
- Find a compelling low competition keyword to use in your title
- Separate keyword phrases with a hyphen
- Avoid using duplicate title tags
- Don’t use more than 60 characters per title
The examples of both the title tag and meta description below is assuming you are using WordPress for your Content Management System. You will find this field at the bottom of every page or post that you are creating.
What you enter into the meta description field is also very important too as it can increase the amount of traffic and clicks that you receive. While the meta description doesn’t have much to do with your rankings on the search engines, but still has two main purposes.
- It will tell the search engines exactly what the content of your article is about
- It shows people what content they can expect to find in your article, when it is displayed on the search results page.
Even though the meta description is not really tied to your placement with the search engines, it is what your audience will see when your web page shows up in the search results.
It could be meaningless to be on the 1st page of Google, Bing, or Yahoo, if nobody clicks through to your site, because the description doesn’t catch someones attention and doesn’t tell them what your website is about.
This description will show below the meta title in the SERPS and it is best to keep your description at 160 characters or fewer. Just like the meta title, there is another character counter which displays your character count to help keep you below the 160 max.
Also, keep in mind that just because you enter your own description, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Google will display it on the search results page. They can always choose to use their own description instead of yours, which might be more relevant to the actual term that was searched for.
Again, if you don’t enter a description in the box, and you have your SEO plugin set to auto generate, it will automatically enter the description for you. Many times this will be from the first 160 characters of your page or post.
Meta Description Summary:
- Avoid duplicate meta descriptions
- Do not use more than 160 characters per description
- Write an enticing headline to catch the user’s attention
A well-thought-out permalink with your main keyword included makes it clear for both the visitor and the search engines to know exactly what your page is all about, while keeping it as simple as possible.
In terms of overall ranking, some experts argue for and against the need to put your keyword in the permalink of the URL to enhance your rankings.
While the permalink is important for the user in determining the relevance of your destination page, having the main keyword in the URL doesn’t have a whole lot of effect on your overall ranking.
So putting your keyword in your URL definitely doesn’t hurt, but you shouldn’t go out of your way to add it if it just doesn’t work.
You want to avoid using numbers or special characters in the structure of the permalink. When you need to separate words, use a hyphen instead of a comma or brackets, and try to keep your permalink between three and five words if it is possible.
An example of a confusing and no so good URL has a bunch of numbers and letters and gives your readers absolutely no clue what they are about to click on, or a URL that they would never remember.
A confusing URL could look something like this: https://mywebsite.com//index.php?id_sezione=360&sid=3a5ebc944f41daa6f849f730f1.
Always consider using a URL description that is more appealing and easier for the user to understand. Something that will make sense and give them an idea of what the page is about when they click on its link.
An example of a much better URL would be something like: https://mywebsite.com/easy-seo-checklist.
- Keep Your URL between 3 and 5 words or a phrase that people will remember
- Avoid using special characters and use a hyphen to seperate words
- Add your keyword to the URL so the user has a clear idea what the page is about
Search Engine Results Snippet
Below is just an example of what your snippet would look like once it shows up in the search results. This was automatically generated after you enter the title tag, meta description, along with your unique URL.
H1 Tag For The Headline & H2, H3 For Sub-Headings
Don’t be confused with a title description and your headline, they are not the same thing. But just like your title tag, you need to also put your keyword into the headline of your article.
Even though the title tag and headline can be different and they do not have to match exactly, it is important that they are similar to each other. If your website shows up in the SERPS with a catchy title, and then someone clicks through to your website and the headline is completely different, you risk them bouncing from your site.
As you are constructing your articles for your website, you will have several sub-headings that separate topics throughout your page, but this is the ONLY place where you should use a H1 tag.
On most CMS platforms like WordPress, the tile tag will automatically default to a H1 tag when you create your page or post so you don’t need to worry about changing it yourself.
Using more than one H1 tag on a web page, can also show up as an error in
Google search console, and Bing webmaster tools, which can also hurt your SEO rankings.
As you write your posts, you will have various page breaks and sub-headings. These section descriptions should be H2 or H3 tags.
Tags & Headline Summary:
- Use only one H1 tag per post
- Try to use your main keyword towards the beginning of the headline
- Use H2 & H3 tags for page breaks and to separate topics
In that past, publishing posts with about 500 words was good enough for the search engines, but that has since changed. Now it is recommended that you use between 1000 and 1500 words per post, and even 2000 would even be better.
It is always better to write an article with lots of interesting information, instead of a shorter post that doesn’t offer your audience much useful information.
As far as your keyword is concerned, besides using the keyword in the places we discussed above, you want to have your keyword preferably somewhere in the 1st paragraph of the page, somewhere in the middle, and then towards the end of the page.
Avoid the dreaded keyword stuffing technique, because people and the search engines won’t like it, and it will hurt your rankings. That doesn’t mean you can’t use the keyword more than that. Just keep in mind that you are writing to humans, so just write what comes naturally.
Keep your paragraphs relatively short with about three sentences each. Not many things will make a reader leave your site than coming across one big wall of text. The last thing you want your audience to do is make an appointment with an eye doctor after trying to read one of your pages.
Another positive impact on search engine ranking is the use of bullet points in your content. Bullet points will put an emphasis on topics for the user and let the search engines know important parts of the web page.
Finally, there are two things that are related to content creation.
1) Quality Of The Content: The visitor of your website and your potential customer wants to be able to easily read and navigate through your website. If there are lots of punctuation or grammar mistakes, or your website is loaded with annoying ads and images, they probably won’t stick around for long.
Do your best to make your website as visually appealing to your visitors as you possibly can.
2) Quantity Of The Content: It might seem odd, but Google, Bing, and Yahoo really doesn’t care how appealing to the eye that your website is to a visitor. The algorithms are looking for certain pieces of information to rank your website for specific keywords, and one of the factors that they look for is the quantity of content and how often new pages or posts are added.
That doesn’t mean to just start filling your website with a bunch of nonsense just for the sake of adding more content. Even though the search engines are always looking for new and updated material, pages without relevant information is not going to do you much good.
Content Creation Summary:
- Avoid a large wall of text. Try to keep paragraphs to no more than three or four sentences each.
- Avoid at all cost the urge to “stuff” your keyword all over the place
- Aim for at least 1000-2000 words per post. The more the better.
- Make sure your content is of good quality and easy to read.
- Write your content naturally as you are speaking directly to your visitors
- Create content and publish. Repeat. Then create more content and publish. Repeat!
Internal & External Links
Making use of some internal and external links within the body of your content will usually outrank other websites that don’t have any links at all.
Internal linking is used to point to another one of your pages on your website, and allows users’ to easily navigate through your website and it tells the search engines that the destination page is relevant for your keyword and topic.
As far as external links go, don’t be afraid to link out to another website because the search engines like to see an external link on each page too. Just make sure that the site that your are linking to has high-quality and relevant information that will help your reader.
If you don’t know of a particular website you would like to link to, find a related article in Wikipedia and link to that particular page.
As a reminder, when I use an internal link, I want to keep the user on my website, so I do not open a new tab for the linking page. However, when I am sending someone to another page by way of an external link, I will have that page open on a new tab in the browser. I just want to avoid that customer from completing bouncing from my website.
- Have at least one external link on every page
- Create a spider web by linking your pages to each other
- Open in a new tab for external links
- Use good keyword anchor texts for internal linking. As an example: Use internal linking text “Best SEO practices”, instead of “Click Here”
Image Alt Text, Title & File Name
I’m sure you are using images on each one of your pages, and if you’re not, it should start being a standard practice going forward.
Having images can help in a few different ways. Not only do they make your web page more interesting to your visitors by visually showing them what your page is about, they also make it easier for the search engines to know what your website is about too.
If you are inserting images into your pages and posts, that’s great. But if you are just inserting your images without using filling in the alt tag, you are not optimizing your photos to its full potential.
Often times, screen readers are used for people that are visually impaired and have trouble seeing images on a website. This screen reader will read out what the image is about, and make your image more accessible to them. Also, for times when your image won’t load for some reason, the alt text will allow you to provide useful information to your readers.
Google uses computer vision algorithms along with the content of the web page to determine what the image is about, and can also help your own images show up in the “image search results” of Google.
So, it really doesn’t make sense why some publishers don’t take an extra few seconds to use their target keyword in the alt text, or don’t even use the alt tag description at all.
When adding your alt text, focus on using your keyword around a short interesting description and avoid the dreaded keyword stuffing. Google doesn’t like this and can make your page look like spam which will hurt your rankings.
For example, if you had a picture of a “basketball player dunking the ball”, go ahead and use that actual description as your alt text. Don’t just say “basketball player.” Let your audience visualize your image, even if they can’t see it.
The same goes for the file name of your image too. Try to keep it short and sweet. Google will also use the file name to determine the relevance of the image. It is always better to have a file name like “basket-ball-dunk.jpg, ” rather than just IMG00001.jpg.
Alt Tag & File Name Summary
- Use your keyword on every image alt tag on your site, but don’t overuse your keyword
- Use a description that will help the visually impaired know what the image is about
- Give your image a name instead of the computer generated file name to make the image more SEO friendly
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If I have missed anything or you would like to add something, feel free to leave your questions or comments below. I would love to hear from you.