Our #SearchSecret7 campaign is a series of blog posts aimed at partner agencies wanting to get to grips with search marketing, and offer it as an new service. This week, we look at the SEO checks you should make on an existing website to maximise its potential within the search engines.
First up, it’s worth saying that it’s best to establish a comprehensive search strategy when a site is being designed and developed. But for a variety of reasons, that doesn’t always happen. Perhaps you’re a web agency that’s been asked to refresh a site with new branding, and the client has asked you to look at traffic volumes. Or maybe a PR agency that’s been handed a newly created campaign microsite by the client, only to find it’s not getting any hits.
We’ve put together the following checklist of questions to ask which helps to establish whether the correct SEO foundations are in place.
The questions on these lists are not relevant to each and every client, so it’s not necessary to go through everything line by line. But they will be a good indicator if there is room for improvement. It goes without saying that we can help you if that is the case!
SEO checklist fundamentals
- Is Google Analytics in place? Analytics data shows how much traffic is coming from search engines and how well the website is performing.
- Has the Google Search Console been set up? This allows Google to communicate any issues they find and provides additional insight on performance.
- Has Google Tag Manager been set up? This enables you to quickly and easily use marketing code snippets or pixels on a website without having to modify the main code of the site.
- If on WordPress, has Yoast SEO been installed? This is a plugin that helps you create SEO-friendly content on the site.
Keywords and copy
- Has keyword research been done? Refer to our “PR’s guide to SEO” for our favourite keyword tools. Stick to one keyword per page for best effect.
- Have keywords been added to title tags? That’s the larger, clickable text that appears above the URL in the search engine results.
- Is the keyword included in the URL? This won’t always be advisable as research shows shorter URLs tend to rank higher than long ones, but it’s worth seeing if any keywords feature.
- Is the keyword included in the meta description? That’s the snippet of text that summarises the page and appears underneath the URL on search engine results.
- Is the keyword included in the H1 tag? That’s the bit of text that stands out most on a page – typically the title of a post.
- Is the keyword used within the page copy?
- Are there synonyms included within the copy? If the keyword is “photo albums”, then using “picture albums” as anchor text as well as “photo albums” will be beneficial. Good news for the user experience as well as SEO.
- Do images include descriptive ALT tags? They’re the text alternative that search engines use to know what an image is showing.
- Does the page link to other pages on the site with SEO-friendly anchor text? Google will look at the language used, so ensure it is relevant to the page being linked to.
Speed, sitemaps and the Google Search console
- Are there crawl errors, duplicate content errors or missing titles? The Google Search console can provide information on these.
- Is the site mobile-friendly? If the site can’t adapt to difference screen sizes and shapes, this will impact usability.
- Is speed an issue? It takes an average of 19 seconds to load a page on a 3G network. But 50% of users will abandon a website if it doesn’t load within 3 seconds. Compressing images is often a good place to start if pages are taking a long time to load.
- Is there an XML sitemap? Submitting an XML sitemap to the Google Search Console will help search engines understand the structure of the site.
- Is there a robots.txt file? Alongside the XML sitemap, this enables the website owner to control the way a search engine crawls and indexes the site. It also needs to be submitted to the Google Search Console.
- Have you looked at competitors’ link profiles? Check Moz’s Link Explorer to find out where successful competitors get their most authoritative links, and where the client may gain similar links.
What’s coming next?
Our #SearchSecret7 series continues next week when we’ll be looking at targeting, the small budget secret weapon.
Meanwhile, check out our other posts in the #SearchSecret7 series:
Follow #SearchSecret7 and stay tuned.