Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your website content to help maximize its performance in search engines and reach more users. Search engines like Google have developed highly complex algorithms that determine whether your website is relevant to what people are searching for.
In order for your website to be found in relevant searches, there are some steps that you need to take to ensure it is optimized and indexed properly. These steps can make it easier for the search engines’ bots to read and understand the data on your page.
Before you get started, there are a couple of notes to keep in mind:
- No single technique or rule will make or break your SEO efforts. Instead, address as many considerations as time/budget permits.
- SEO efforts are never complete. It all depends on how much time, effort, or cost you want to invest- and what the value is of the return on your efforts.
- Brand new websites may take some time to appear prominently in search results. This is because search engines take time to find out whether your website is a reliable, authoritative source.
- Don’t stress about being the “#1 spot” in search results. Google has a complex algorithm that decides how they rank search results - and the order of rankings can vary based on a user’s location, device, or time of day.
- If someone promises or claims to “guarantee” top-of-page or front-page rankings, be wary. There are no promises in SEO given the volume of variation that exists.
Whether you are in the process of building a new website or already have one, following our SEO check list below are your key to building a successful SEO foundation for your site.
1. Perform keyword research
Before you optimize your website, you need to figure out what your target audience is and what they are looking for. To find out, you will want to perform keyword research to see exactly what search terms people use to find websites like yours.
There are many free tools that allow you to perform keyword research on your own. Google’s Keyword Planner shows you the average monthly search volume for certain search terms and keywords. You can also narrow down your search to specific geographic areas. If you decide to use Google Keyword Planner, you will need to log in using a Google AdWords account. If you don’t have one, they will make you create one - you can skip the “billing” section, it is not required to use the Keyword Planner.
In addition to taking note of more generic keywords with high search volume, you will also want to make sure you find plenty of long-tail keywords. These are very specific keywords and search terms that - while generally having low search volume - are very important because you know exactly what the searcher is looking for. For example, many people search for “Restaurants in New York”, but fewer people may search for “Restaurants in New York with Saturday happy hour” - if you are a restaurant that offers happy hour on Saturdays, then you will have a much easier time targeting those customers. If you find a long-tail keyword that relates to your website or business, then you will want to target it on your website.
2. Write keyword-rich content
Once you have completed keyword research, you will want to use your findings to help craft the content of your website’s pages - including your home page, about page, or service/product pages.
When writing content, don’t forget that you’re writing for people in mind, not the search engine bots. You should try to include as many search terms as long as it reads naturally. If you overdo it, then your content will sound robotic and awkward. In addition, dragging and dropping too many keywords on a page is a frowned-upon practice known as “keyword stuffing” and search engines may penalize your site for it.
3. Optimize your website’s metadata
Your website’s metadata are hidden sections of your website that helps search engine bots find out what the pages and images of your site are all about. With our platform, we make it easy to optimize your metadata without needing to use any coding.
You can modify your website’s Meta Title and Meta Description in the SEO & Sharing section of each page when editing within the Content view of your site. You can update your image metadata by using your site’s image editing tools.
- Meta Title - Usually a maximum of 70 characters, this should include a brief summary of what the page is about. Your Meta Title is the blue clickable text that appears in search results, so you will want something attention-grabbing.
- Meta Description - This is where you will want to go into a little more detail about the content of your page and your website as a whole. With roughly 250 characters to work with, you have more opportunities to write a description full of keywords and search terms. Remember, it should read naturally. This is the black text that shows up under the Meta Title in search engine results.
- Image Alt Text - Since the search engine bots cannot see pictures, your image alt text helps describe your image to them. This is another good opportunity to add keywords. Users can sometimes see your alt text when they hover their mouse over the picture, in which the alt text appears in a little white box.
4. Set up Google Analytics
Google Analytics provides you with a detailed look at how your website is performing and is the best way to see whether your SEO efforts are having positive effects. You can see how many users viewed your site, where they found your website, and how they interacted with your pages.
You will want to set up a Google Analytics account and link it with your website. It can take a couple of days for data to populate. Once your account is up and running, you will want to bookmark our guide on how to read your Google Analytics reports. You can use your report’s data to see what’s working and how you can refine your SEO strategy in the future.
5. Submit your sitemap in Google Search Console
Once you are completed optimizing your website, you will need to submit your sitemap to Google. Otherwise, it may take months for Google to even find your website or recognize any changes you have made. To do so, you will need to set up a free Google Search Console profile and submit your sitemap.
- Follow these steps to set up your Google Search Console profile. If you have connected Google Analytics to your site, then it will auto-verify. If not, then you can follow the steps in the article to add a verification code on your website.
- Once your Search Console profile is verified, follow these steps to submit your sitemap. It can take up to a couple of weeks to fully crawl and render your site, but it usually takes around 1-2 days.
Any time that you update the content of your website, you will want to re-submit your sitemap using the above steps to ensure that Google can crawl your new changes.
6. Redirect legacy URLs
If you have an existing website, don't give up on all of that ranking power you've built up! A permanent 301 redirect will pass on the majority of your former page’s SEO value to your new site. The stronger the rankings for the older URL, the faster you can improve your search rankings on the new site by creating legacy URL redirects. Here is how you can use our legacy URL tool.
If you have a brand new website, you will not have to worry about this - yet. If you change your page title, then the URL string for that page will change to reflect the new title. If someone still has access to your old URL, for example, if they bookmarked the page or if their browser auto-fills for them, then they may come across a 404 error message instead of their desired page. To prevent this from happening, you will want to redirect the old URL to the new one using the legacy URL tool.
How to continue your SEO efforts
If you have completed the above steps, then you have built a solid foundation for a properly-optimized website. However, it does not make it complete. There are many additional steps that you should take to help your website’s SEO to perform to its full potential.
Start a blog
Creating regular blog posts are an easy way to bring unique, keyword-rich content on your website. Your blog posts should contain keyword-rich terms that may help elevate the page’s relevance to readers and search engines. Blog titles should be engaging and contain at least one solid keyword/keyword phrase.
Search engines favor sites that are consistently updated. By adding regular blog posts to your website, you are showing the search engines that your site is updated often. In addition, a blog is a good way to attract other websites to point links toward your site, a practice known as link building. If you write engaging, unique content, then other people may cite it or link to it, which search engines take into account when determining your site’s authority.
Take control of your local listing presence
In addition to the SEO on your website itself, there are some off-page factors that can also determine how search engines view your site. Search engines are constantly crawling the internet to gain more information about your website and business. Search engines will crawl your business listings on third-party sites like Yelp and YellowPages - and if those sites have inaccurate data, it can hurt your credibility in the eyes of the search bots.
When promoting a business, it is important that your business listings display NAP consistency (NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone number). Learn more about how to achieve NAP consistency and how to improve your business’ local listing presence.
Promote on social media
Social media, when used properly, can be a great referral source for a website/business to help generate traction and visibility, regardless of its current standings. Social media posts should always engage the viewer to respond, like/comment/share, or visit an article or page.