If you’re starting a new business or trying to breathe new life into an existing one, getting a new website launched is a critical part of your marketing plan. There have never been more options available for designing new websites than you will find today. There are online website builders as well as more digital marketing agencies than you can shake a stick at all over the country and the world.
If you’re not going the professional digital marketing agency route for your site, you’ll need to have a new website SEO checklist on hand. This will cover some of the critical steps you need to take to avoid any pitfalls that may keep you from getting to the top of search engines under search terms that will bring you quality traffic. While SEO is truly an ongoing project that is never really finished, we believe the points below are a decent place to begin for an SEO checklist that will get your website off to a solid start.
1. Do Keyword Research
It’s hard for us to overstate the importance of keyword research as an integral part of any SEO checklist. After all, At the core of this research is uncovering what words are typed into search engines by people who are looking for what you have to offer. This research must be one of the first steps in any new website SEO checklist because it determines what words you’ll want to use in your page titles, meta tags and the main content of each page of your site.
Your quest for what search terms would be best to focus on needs to be tempered by an appreciation for the reality of your situation. A new website launched in 2020 is going to be starting at the bottom in any industry compared to established brands. Companies that have been in business for years or even a couple decades have quite a head start on building up trust and authority with shoppers and search engines.
One smart SEO strategy we recommend is for you to research what are known as long-tail keywords. For example, if you are selling socks, it would take you forever to get high up on the first page of Google under such a short-tail keyword as “socks.” You will have better luck focusing on something like “white breathable socks for men.” We realize that each of these longer, more specific keywords will be searched by far fewer people than their more general counterparts. The trick is to have your various webpages rank well under many such long-tail keywords to compensate for this.
2. Pick the Right Domain Name
The domain name of your website will be a factor for search engines when they determine where to rank it. Try to choose a name that’s relevant to what you offer and is easy for potential customers to remember. As an added boost, try to put a primary keyword in it but only if doing so makes sense. We can point you to a good list of tools online that you can use to help you come up with a good domain name.
3. Use Page URLs That Boost Your SEO
Once you have the domain name for your website, you’ll still need a specific URL address for each individual webpage on it. Each one of these should tell search engines and users alike what the webpage is about. For example, if your main URL is www.footwear.com, then the URL for the webpage listing your selection of boots might be www.footwear.com/boots. If you can include a keyword that is a primary focus for that page, then we definitely recommend doing so.
4. Pick a Good Website Hosting Company
When it comes to finding a hosting company for your website, you’ll have to consider critical factors such as uptime and speed. We don’t want you to run into the following scenario. Someone sees your listing on a search engine results page and clicks on it, but they get an error message instead of your website. Alternatively, your site might load for them, but it takes an eternity to do so. Realize that in our short-attention-span world, anything approaching a double-digit number of seconds might be considered “an eternity” by many web users. In such cases, you just lost a potential customer because there’s plenty of other choices on the internet.
Getting set up with a reliable hosting service is imperative. There are many reputable companies to choose from with a variety of options for various budgets. Generally, the more you pay the more storage space and bandwidth you’ll get. Also, check to see if any email accounts or an SSL certificate are included and at what price.
5. Go With a Responsive Web Design
Ever since the “Mobilegeddon” Google algorithm update hit in 2015, incorporating mobile-friendliness into website designs has not been optional for good SEO. Of course, not having a web design that renders and works as well on phones and tablets as it does on desktops would be impractical regardless of search engine algorithm updates. As of 2018, phones accounted for 52.2 percent of worldwide internet traffic. Even if you promote your website by other means, imagine all the sales you’d be losing out on if your website didn’t work well on the devices being used by over half of your potential customer base.
6. Have One or Two Main Keywords for Each Webpage
Just as there have been updates to enhance the importance of mobile users, there have been many that have increased the importance of having high-quality content. One of the results has been that keyword stuffing is now a no-no that the Google algorithm will penalize you for. In addition, webpages that are highly focused on only one or two subjects also tend to convert better.
For these reasons, we recommend that you focus the content on each webpage around one or at most two primary keywords. Make these keywords unique from those you’re targeting on your other webpages.
7. Optimize Your Tags
Without getting too bogged down in terminology, there are a number of what are known as “tags” in “website speak” that you should pay attention to when it comes to search engine optimization. Below are a few of the ones we want you to make sure to have right on your new website.
- Title Tags – Including a title tag for every page on your website is not optional. The text within this tag comprises the topmost words that someone sees about your website on a search engine results page (SERP). This is one place that Google looks to determine what your webpage is about, so you should try to use a keyword in it. Only about 50 to 60 characters of your title tag text will appear in search results so keep it short.
- Meta Description – The meta description for each webpage is the text that appears beneath both your page title and your URL in a search engine results listing. We recommend that you use the primary keyword of a page here because any words that the user included in their search will show up in bold in this description. This is your chance to sell the person on clicking on your listing, so tell them how you’ll offer them value relative to what they’re looking for.
- Image Tags – These are known as image alt text or alt tags. Basically, they are words for images that describe what the image is to search engines. They’ll also display in place of the image if it doesn’t load and can be used by screenreaders. For these reasons, use text that precisely describes the image while also being a keyword that is applicable to the image. This tip can also be applied to the file name that you choose for an image. Image names and alt tags help you optimize for image search, which opens up a whole new world of search traffic.
8. Ensure Your Webpages Load Quickly
Google notices when plenty of people quickly abandon your website after they just clicked onto it from a search results page. Needless to say, they don’t see this as a positive when considering where it should be ranked. Page load speed is one big culprit for people abandoning your website.
We already mentioned one handling for speeding up page load times and that is using a reputable web hosting service. Assuming you’ve handled this step wisely, what do you do if your webpages still load slowly? The problem will be in your website’s design or coding or both.
Make sure that pages aren’t bogged down with too many images, videos or other content that takes a while to load. Also, do what you can to reduce the size of such files. If your website will only display a particular image at a certain size, then make sure the image is no bigger than that size by resizing it. Additionally, we suggest using programs that compress images to shrink the file size and load time even more.
Beyond efficient coding, compressed images and a quality hosting service, look to your page designs. Make sure they use sufficient white space and are not cluttered. Fortunately, when it comes to overall web design, less cluttered pages are more pleasing to the eye, focus the reader on the important content and load faster.
9. Create High-Quality Content
Google’s algorithm updates over the years have boosted the importance of various SEO criteria, and one of these is content. People will hang around longer and click through to more pages on a website that provides value by answering their questions or solving their problems. The good news for you is that this also boosts your authority and credibility with visitors to your site and makes them more likely to buy from you.
One central strategy on our new website SEO checklist is to ensure your site has a blog page. This is the perfect place for high-quality content, and regularly updating it with fresh content is another search ranking criterion. Blog posts can also give you plenty of material to post on your social media channels and other online venues.
10. Start Planning Your Off-Page SEO Now
The above tips and strategies are a good start to get your new website off on the right foot with SEO in mind. Most of these are concerned with on-page optimization, however, but there is also the matter of off-page optimization.
Essentially, off-page SEO encompasses the interaction of the rest of the internet with your website. Backlinks are a prime example of this. These are links on other websites that take people who click on them to your site. Examples of these would be a listing for your business in a local business directory, a page on your local Better Business Bureau website, Google My Business or a Yelp listing where people could leave reviews for your company. Links back to your site from your social media platform accounts would also be included in this.
It makes sense for search engines to include this in ranking websites. It would seem fishy if, outside of a company’s own website, no mention of it existed anywhere else on the web. Also, when it comes to backlinks, quality matters. You want to focus on getting listings with links in them on reputable websites that will have more traffic than yours. Finally, it will help your conversion rates if you set up separate landing pages for each listing, page or ad that you have for your website on other sites. Tie them to the subject of the ad or listing they are clicking on, so this page will quickly provide them with the information they need.