You’re about to wrap up work on a new website, and it feels great… for the most part. Sure, the design looks great, the calls-to-action are bold and beautiful, and the copy is incredibly engaging. So, what could be missing?
When you get to the end (or near the end) of your web design project, it’s important to assess the SEO situation.
Before your site goes live you want a website truly optimized for search. It’s better to do the work now than find six months down the road that no one’s visiting your site because the right work wasn’t done upfront.
Step 1: Domain Check
If your site is quickly approaching launch, then you’ve most likely purchased a domain already. Regardless of where you are in the process, do a quick check of your domain’s history. You can use tools like Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine or WHOIS Search. The latter you’ll have to pay for, but it may be worth the cost in case there’s a negative history associated with the domain that may, in turn, affect your new site’s reputation.
Step 2: Host Check
Again, this may be another step that you’ve already completed if you’re far along in the development process, but it’s still worth a quick glance back. The reason? Because an unreliable web host whose servers go down often, subsequently compromising your site’s availability, could seriously affect your site’s SEO. Do your research and be sure the one you’ve signed up with doesn’t have any major complaints against it or ongoing up-time issues. Check out WPEngine.
Step 3: HTTPS Security
If you haven’t seen it yet, Google updated Chrome browsers earlier this year to notify visitors when they’ve reached an insecure website. In Google’s eyes, the “insecure” label no longer just belongs to hacked websites or ones with mixed content. Any website running on HTTP that accepts sensitive customer information is now unsecure. Rather than frighten visitors off with that warning in your address bar, get an SSL certificate and HTTPS for your site.
Step 4: SEO-Friendly Theme
There are many WordPress themes that claim to be SEO-friendly simply because they integrate with SEO plugins. Do yourself a favor, however, and check into the actual performance of the theme. A truly SEO-friendly theme will be responsive, clean-coded, fast-to-load, and feature a modern design. Check out Avada.
Step 5: Keyword Research
Ideally, all keyword research for your site’s content and metadata was completed before any copy was written. Even if it wasn’t, there’s no time like the present to get this done. You can use tools like Google’s Keyword Planner to identify which keywords work best for your site. They should be relevant, memorable, and less competitive if you want to improve your chances of getting found for them.
Step 6: Page Optimization
Once you have your keywords selected, you’ll want to optimize all of your content around them. In other words, use the keywords enough where it’s easy for visitors and search engines to determine what each page is about. Typically, you’ll want to use one focus keyword per page. While it’s okay to infuse a few secondary keywords within there as well, you’ll notice that SEO plugins (in step nine below) generally want you to designate one official keyword per page or post.
Step 7: Tag Inclusion
On-page tags (as opposed to blog post tags for categorization) should be used to establish hierarchy, increase readability through easy scanning, and convey a clear indication of what your content is about.
Step 8: Permalink Fix
The default permalink structure in WordPress is not great. Website URL + truncated post or page name = SEO perfection. The focus keyword should also appear in the truncated page name.
Step 9: SEO Plugin
Here is where you can start thinking about an SEO plugin. The Yoast plugin can help you boost your PageRank and drive more traffic to your site with simple configuration. Once you’ve got the plugin installed on your site, run an SEO analysis scan and get feedback on how to improve your search results. With Yoast, you can also set up sitemaps, connect to Search Console, customize metadata, and more.
Step 10: Image Assignment
Each page of your WordPress site should have at least one image on it. Once you’ve selected and uploaded your image, use the metadata fields to add alt text (if you want the image to be found in search as well). If you can tie your page’s focus keyword into the alt tag, that’s even better. Then set a featured image for each page so that, when your content is shared on social media (a search ranking factor), it has an engaging image attached to it.