As an SEO company, we know that maintaining or building an online reputation is no easy task. But with some extra effort, dedication, and a thirst for knowledge, you can climb the website ranks in no time. Follow these SEO tasks to stay organized and productive as you blast off toward the first page of Google.
Opt for a Friendly Content Management System (CMS)
If you’re starting from the ground-up, an ideal CMS will be one that makes your life easier. Although the idiom “to each their own” comes to mind, we strongly recommend investing in a WordPress platform—it’s built for both amateur and professional developers, and there are about a bazillion plugins to poke around within the WordPress repository.
One such plugin we suggest using is the Yoast SEO add-on, which will make it simpler to build pages with correct keyword optimization and meta lengths, etc. Other exceptionally helpful add-ons might aid in speedier load times (caching), conversions (contact forms), backing up data or integrating Google Analytics code across the site.
Run an SEO Audit
If you’re not starting with a new site, an SEO audit should be the first and final task you’ll complete. It’s important to know where your site stands before making changes. While it might sport an incredible UI, if your site missed leg day at the gym, there might be underlying issues causing missed opportunities.
You can use Webmaster Tools to manually identify many technical problems, including 404 pages, long load times, and duplicate content. You can also utilize a free audit tool like seoptimer.com, pay for similar services, or hire a team of SEO experts to identify your site’s weak spots.
Link & Register Your Site
Your site, whether optimized fully or not, should be registered with your analytics and PPC accounts, as well as with Google Webmaster Tools. Having the ability to track your failures and successes is pretty important, wouldn’t you agree?
Choose Core Topics (and Keywords)
We’re still in the era where keywords make an enormous impact on organic traffic, so it’s important to conduct thorough research before building, setting up, and writing content for your site. But you should consider optimizing thoughtfully, too, rather than throwing duplicate core keywords on all your pages. It’s all about topical content optimization now.
Although there are some great tools out there to identify ideal keywords, Google’s Keyword Planner is still the most dynamic, robust, and downright useful (even with its AdWords restrictions). Discover your main core topics, then find the long-tail and semantic keywords/keyword phrases that relate to each desired page you’ll write about. This page structure and hierarchy should be followed closely to avoid issues with duplicate content or title tags.
Here’s a helpful tip: Use your main keyword in your H1 title, URL, and meta. Incorporate a handful of relevant (sub-core) keywords throughout the content to anchor it in context. And, for the sake of simplicity, try and focus on the low-volume keywords before pushing into big-boy territory; with SEO tasks like this, it’s best to work up to the deep end rather than diving in from the highest platform.
Max Out Your Metadata
Rather than pulling directly from your H1 and first patch of content, you can manually create metadata to tell search engines what your page should be about. But there are restrictions.
Per the latest Google changes, your meta titles should be no more than 600 pixels in length—this equates to anywhere from 55 to 75 characters, depending on their individual width—and meta descriptions should stretch to 157 characters. Going over these limits shrinks your metadata by adding those irritating ellipses to SERP results, which is a no-no. Use this SERP emulator tool to create metadata you can be proud of.
As for recommendations, it’s best to stick with your brand’s tone when creating meta descriptions, while also aiming to include a geographic location, call to action, and unique core keyword. For your meta title, you should include your core keyword and company name, as well as a sub-core keyword if possible, separating them with colons or pipes (e.g. “Essential SEO Task List | SEO Audit | Opportunity Max Digital Marketing”).
Write Unique Titles for Each Page
Duplication is a dirty word in the digital marketing world, and we should do away with any such filth before it gets out of hand.
In Google Webmaster Tools, look through the HTML Improvements section for any Duplicate Title Tags. Record those instances. (We recommend using a spreadsheet to organize these, adding future pages to this sheet as they’re created.)
Once you’ve identified the troublesome pages, it’s time to correct them. Choose a core keyword and insert it into the page’s H1 and meta title as creatively as you’d like. Check Webmaster Tools in a few days to see if your changes have taken hold.
SEO tasks like optimizing your site never ends (*cough* snippets *cough*), but ensuring your page titles are different and unique from any other within your domain is a one-time deal when done correctly.
Banish Duplicate Content from Whence It Came!
While we’re on the topic of duplication, it’s in your best interest to ensure each piece of content on your site is unique. Check for duplicate site content at copyscape.com. If you find some, you have three options:
- Let it be. There’s reward in risk, right? (The answer is: No, don’t do this.)
- Delete identical pages and re-write the copy for one or both.
- Insert a canonical tag on just one of those pages. This signals that the tagged page is the preferred page, and all others are not.
Read more about adding canonical tags to duplicate content on Google’s support page.
First Comes Crawling
Crawl errors happen to the best of us—sometimes they’re not even our fault—but they should still be monitored. To find out how your site is being crawled, enter good old Webmaster Tools.
Some crawl errors are caused by your DNS (Domain Name System), which is likely because of your host. Contact your provider if this is the cause, asking if they’re experiencing issues and ensuring that 404 error codes are properly set up.
You can also use the “Fetch as Google” tool to manually crawl each link, though this can be time-consuming and likely won’t correct server-side errors. It will, however, allow you to see if Google can see and navigate your site at all, which eliminates the assumption that your host is the cause of the issue.
Another reason for crawling errors is due to a corrupt or invalid robots.txt file. Inspect your file to verify its contents are accurate—hint: ask your website architects or developers for help—and mark it as “fixed.” Fetch as Google until you’ve corrected the issue, or contact a Google rep.
Other causes of site errors or issues include soft 404s (a page does not exist, yet still returns a “page not found” error), and “access denied” or “not found” error messages. All issues should be inspected and marked as fixed to clear the Search Console error log and complete this SEO task.
Your inbound links give your site credence, enabling them to rise on the results pages. So keep an eye on who is linking to you, and how they’re doing it. Any seemingly “unnatural” backlink should be investigated, judged, and sentenced to be disavowed or allowed.
Fix Broken Links with 301 or 302 Errors
Sometimes a backlink will push to a nonexistent page on your site, which will likely result in a soft 404 error. Rather than loading this error, redirect those URLs to another using 301 or 302 tags.
A 301 Redirect is the friendliest and simplest way to pass your users onto another page from an inbound link. It also tells crawlers that this is a permanent redirection so any applicable backlink authority (or “link juice”) will join it for the ride.
302 pages work in a similar, albeit typically more temporary manner, telling search engines that this redirection is not permanent.
While monitoring your backlinks, it’s important to consider broken links as the most important and fixable action to take. Use a tool or service like those at screamingfrog.co.uk to organize and update these links.
Don’t Forget the Images
As an SEO copywriter, I leave graphics and images to the pros; it’s a way to funnel out the unnecessary noise when constructing a page. Still, adding identifying markers to those images is just as essential as the words above and below them.
When search engines crawl a page, its code is assessed—they don’t read like you and me, after all—to classify which topic it falls into. By including images that have relevant titles and ALT text, you’re giving those search engine robots a reason to categorize the page as you’d like.
If you’re a WordPress user, adding ALT text to an image is simple—just double click on it. If you’re working with HTML, add an alt= tag to the image source (e.g. <img src=”https://www.bilbobagginsringdom.com/ring-goes-on-ring-goes-off.gif” alt=”My Precious”>)
Optimize for Mobile
It’s imperative that your site is mobile-ready. Otherwise, you’re missing out on about 50% of potential traffic. Don’t know if your site is ready to handle the on-the-go user? Check it at responsivetest.net.
A responsive site will adapt to a variety of screen sizes, so you only have to build one site for both audiences. But creating a functional and quick responsive site means adding scalable images and videos, setting padding and margins as percentages rather than pixels, creating an alternate menu, and adjusting other elements to be flexible with sizing.
With the introduction of AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages), Google has made it clear that mobile is where its heart is. Check www.ampproject.org and develop your own AMP site if you want to really dive into this SEO task.
Speed Up Site Load Times
A site that is slow to load results in a high bounce rate—visitors don’t have the time nor the patience to wait while there are thousands of other results for them to click on—and tells Google that you don’t care about your readers. While AMP does away with high load times, desktop sites don’t get that same luxury.
First, take a look at your site speed using Google’s own PageSpeed Tool. A score of 75 or below should be cause for concern. Here’s cnn.com’s score, for example.
As you can see, its PageSpeed score is very low. (If it weren’t for the natural authority CNN projects, this site would suffer in rank.)
If yours looks similar, start by following Google’s suggested “fixes,” focusing on minimizing file sizes and improved caching. Most times, compressing images, minifying CSS files, and setting better cache times can improve that score. Make those changes and check again in a week or so.
Branch Out & Expand Your Reach
Your business and brand image should act as a member of the online community, so make sure you’re tackling all the appropriate channels to reach your audience. Social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are essential, but so too are accounts on Yelp, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, and YouTube, to name a few. Optimize each account by adding completed profile information, site links, hours of operation, images, and videos.
Track Keyword Rankings
You should keep a record of your core (and sub-core) keyword’s SERP rankings month-to-month. Use an online tracking tool (like Moz’s Rank Tracker) or do so manually in your search engine of choice, adding the data to a spreadsheet. Considering the effect of local and semantic search, rankings may not be as important as years past, but movement up the SERP indicates that you’re on the right track.
Create Goals in Google Analytics
As a marketer, measurable metrics are your best friends. With Google Analytics, you can monitor just about any dataset for your site, including your conversion rates and goals. Depending on the business, those goals can vary in scope and size—it’s your job to determine what to track.
For instance, an SMB like a car dealership might want to set a goal for lead generation. Thus, we’d monitor and track trade-in, quote, and contact form submissions. Other businesses are about curating visitors through regular content so their goal may be more aligned with newsletter subscriptions, CTR, visitor duration, etc. Tracking goals is the first step to understanding and refining your website.
Take a N.A.P.
Like Schrödinger’s cat, your site might only exist if it can be seen. By ensuring your name, address, and phone number (N.A.P.) is accurate on all online databases, you increase your chances of living outside of the box.
Start by claiming your business on Google My Business and carefully include the same business information as what’s listed on your website. Then venture into Yahoo!, Bing, Yelp, and other mainstream directories to do the same. Once you’ve hit the major sites, look to update any that have reviews of your business next, then continue until your N.A.P. is in tip-top shape.
Hire a Pro
If the SEO world is too boisterous or nuanced for your liking, or you simply lack the time to do your business justice on the web with these SEO tasks, enlist the help of a professional Search Engine Optimization and PPC company like Opportunity Max to get you on the path toward online success.
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