SEO Audit Checklist: Why Aren’t You Ranking Number 1?
SEO (search engine optimization) is undergoing rapid changes as Google rolls out new updates, and it can be tough to stay ahead of the power curve. However, the basics remain the same as they always were. Before you start chasing the latest SEO tricks, take time out to audit your existing SEO. Tweaking the basics can have a dramatic impact on boosting your rankings. Follow this SEO audit checklist to find out what you need to change to rank first.
The core of your SEO rankings is your website content. Ensuring that it is of high quality, properly tagged, and well integrated should form the basis of your SEO improvement plan.
- Title Tags: A title tag is a short snippet of text that describes your webpage in search results. This is where you need to convince both Google and the human searcher that your page is relevant and useful, so every word needs to count. Make sure that each page has its own unique title tag that includes your target keyword phrase for that page.
- Meta Descriptions: A meta description is the text that appears below the title tag in search results. Although it does not affect the Google algorithm directly, it is what entices a prospect to click on your page. The click through rate, in turn, does affect your Google rankings. Think of the meta description as a short ad of approximately 150 to 160 characters. It should be unique and descriptive, and include your target keyword.
- H1 Tags: Think of the H1 tag as the webpage’s headline, or the title of a paper. It is usually the first piece of information a prospect sees when she visits that page. It should be clear and concise, and contain some variation of your keyword phrase. This will convince the reader that she has reached a useful page that is worth reading.
- Webpage Copy: In the old days of SEO, keyword-stuffing was rampant. The idea was that it didn’t really matter what the copy looked like, because it would rank highly as long as the keyword was inserted all over the place. Naturally, this led to a lot of poor quality junk pages. Google revamped its algorithm to combat this practice, and today, high-quality copy is essential. Long-form content of at least 500 words, written in a natural way that is easy to read, is an absolute requirement. Polish your copy, ask others to read it and make comments, and then polish it again. Make sure it is the best it can be.
- Duplicate Content: If a webpage is duplicated, Google will only rank one of the pages. That’s why it’s important to create unique, original copy for each page. To ensure you do not have duplicate pages on your site, use an online tool such as Siteliner or Copyscape.
- Image ALT Tags: An ALT tag describes an image to a prospect who cannot view it. More importantly for SEO, it also allows Google to understand the image. Use 5 to 15 words, including one of your target keywords, to clearly state what is in the photo.
- Blogging and Social Media: Increasingly, integrating a blog and social media into your webpage can improve your rankings. These items let Google know that your website is regularly maintained. They also improve your chances of receiving link-backs from other sites. To be effective, however, you need to stay on top of both the blog and the social media presence, creating frequent, high-quality new content. Make sure your webpages have links to your blog and your social media accounts, possibly in the header or footer, and provide a way for readers to share your blog articles on their social media.
- Separate Webpages: A very common mistake that business owners make is trying to optimize one webpage for multiple keywords. Create a separate, well-optimized page for each core keyword, making sure that each page follows all of the best practices for SEO.
Local SEO, or optimizing your webpages for your local area, is absolutely essential for many types of businesses. If you provide a hands-on service or sell products of local interest, local SEO is essential to improving your rankings.
- Claim and Complete a Google+ Local Page: This will get you ranked in the map-based results that appear in the upper right corner of the Google results page. Make sure your contact information is entirely accurate, and ask your current customers to write reviews.
- Webpage Contact Information: Review your contact information on each webpage. Every instance should match precisely, and they should all match what you have listed on your Google+ Local Page. This gives Google confidence your information is accurate and up-to-date, and deserves to be listed in their results.
- Citation Consistency and Schema Markup: Citations are mentions of your name, address and phone number on other websites like directories and blog posts. Over time it is easy for outdated or erroneous information to appear, which can negatively impact your local rankings. Moz Local is a great tool to check if your citations are 100 percent consistent across the Web. Schema markup is a type of code, available at Schema.org, that helps search engines understand the data on a webpage. Using it on your contact information can help Google find important information to display in the search results.
Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to optimizing your website, but it all starts with the basics outlined above. Focus on making your website content and local SEO the best they can be, and you should see a dramatic jump in your rankings.
Would you like more SEO tips? I created a simple checklist that walks you through specific actions you can take to improve your rankings and traffic. Click here to get my SEO Checklist.
Phil is Founder and COO of Main Street ROI. Phil leads the company’s operations and is primary creator of Main Street ROI’s marketing training programs. He is an expert in search engine marketing, website analytics, and sales funnel optimization. Phil’s marketing thought leadership has been published on Forbes.com, Inc.com, MSN.com, and many other major business media outlets.
Phil earned his Master of Engineering Management degree from Thayer School of Engineering and Tuck School of Business and his Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Engineering degrees from Dartmouth College. While attending Dartmouth, Phil started every game on the varsity football team as the defensive safety.