More than 5 million Google searches happen daily according to MailChimp. Search engine optimization (SEO)—adjusting your website to boost the amount of quality traffic that comes to it—is an essential part of connecting with your audience.
Search engines like Google and others use formulas, called algorithms, to determine what sites to serve up in response to a search. While search engines update their algorithms regularly, there are plenty of predictable ways they’ll assess your site. Here’s a good a good checklist of things you can do to boost your search ranking and increase audience engagement:
- Feature relevant keywords. Keywords are words or phrases that people type into search engines to find something. All areas of your website—including page names, headlines, site copy, image captions, page descriptions, and URLs—need to include keywords in a natural way that doesn’t sound too forced. Since people search with specific needs in mind, your keywords should be “long tail,” meaning descriptive and narrowly focused. For example, “wedding photography Newport RI” will work better than just “professional photography.” Specific keywords will bring in less traffic overall but ranking for more detailed searches will result in a higher conversion rate.
- Have a clean site structure. Make sure your website is organized in a way that makes it easy for users and search engines to travel through your site and find what they’re looking for. Internal links from one page to another within your site should provide content that educates your visitor, answers a question about what you offer, or engages them in some other valuable way. Internal links give Google more clues about what your website is about, so it can send relevant visitors your way.
- Feature substantial content. Create website content that’s relevant to your top keywords and hefty enough to be valuable. While punchy, skim-able content is great, keep in mind that Google wants content that solves the search intent, so pages with fewer than 200 words will not be highly ranked. If you want to add meat to your copy, be sure each page solves a problem, answers a question, or moves a visitor forward in their journey through your site.
- Use relevant title tags. A title tag or page tag is the “headline” for a page when it appears in search engine results pages (SERP). The words or phrases in your title tags should be specific and descriptive. Think, “Learn How to Paint Landscapes and Portraits” instead of “Painting Class.” Combining this with the meta description—a longer blurb in search results that says more about what your content provides—encourages users to click through to your website. Title tags also appear in your visitors’ web browser tabs and in social media when your content is shared.
- Add alt tags. An alt tag is a text description of an image. It serves 3 important purposes. Search engines can’t interpret images, so alt tags help them identify and rank these pieces of content, improving your SEO. They also help website visitors when an image doesn’t display properly on their screen or load quickly by providing a clue about what image they should be seeing. Last, and definitely not least, alt tags are easy for screen readers to decipher, so they help with web accessibility. Alt tags should be short and descriptive—think, “paddle board on lake with smiling boy” or “chocolate cake with vanilla frosting and strawberry.”
- Optimize for mobile. Google prioritizes mobile websites, so making sure your website is mobile friendly is critical. This means providing a visually pleasing and easy-to-use experience no matter what device someone is visiting from. Mobile sites also must load quickly on a 3G connection, render properly on any sized screen, have well-spaced site elements that users can easily tap on to take action, and feature content that’s entirely visible without having to scroll left or right.
- Enable fast load times. Ideally your pages should load in under 2 seconds—less than 3 is a must. If they do, it’ll improve your search rankings. There are several things that can slow down your load time, including issues with your content management system (CMS), poorly written code, low bandwidth that can’t handle your traffic volume, or numerous large images on a page. Use Google PageSpeed Insights to test how quickly your website is loading. Be sure you host your website on a platform that enables fast load times.
- Install Google Search Console and Analytics. Google Search Console will help you see if Google is finding and indexing all of the pages on your website to highlight places you can improve performance.
- Make sure your website and URL are secure. Google considers HTTPS encryption a top priority and will show a security warning in search results if a website is not HTTPs encrypted. Work with a website builder that makes security a priority.
Source: Website Search Engine Optimization Checklist. https://mailchimp.com/resources/website-search-engine-optimization-checklist/