Annual Website SEO Checkup
Website Review & Search Engine Optimization Priorities
Revised January 24, 2019
Originally Published January 2, 2008
To get the best return on investment for the company's web presence, (making sure the website provides as much value as possible to the business, employees, and consumers), it's imperative to take time to reflect on the website goals and objectives.
Website reflection should happen no less than a minimum of once a year as a business grows and adapts to constantly changing times and technologies.
The most successful websites are reviewed more often, if not monthly; but preferably no less than quarterly or semi-annually.
Just like a term paper or proposal has at least minor revisions each time it's reviewed, so a website will have room for improvement with each inspection.
When reviewing, it's important to ask employees and customers for input, and make note where changes can be made to improve customer/employee use, understanding, navigation, keyword, content usage, and CTA's (calls to action).
An optimized website that focuses on consumer needs, convenience, and usability, (and similar related aspects) will intrinsically have more success in search results versus websites that fail to properly optimize and manage online consumer usability.
The following checklist reviews some of the most important, yet basic areas of website customer usability and search engine optimization:
- Clean Code
- Keyword Usage & Content
- Regularly Updated Content
- Consumer Usability / Mobile-Friendly (Responsive)
- Cross-Browser Compatibility
- Social Media & External Links
- Resource Library
- Using Proper Tags
Clean code is the first step, and foundation for correct, SEO (Search Engine Optimization); it all starts with the code.
Search engines place heavy emphasis on the cleanliness of website code for three important reasons:
- Just like a home must be built on a stable foundation, so a website must be built using clean code for true search engine optimization.
- Just as properly coded websites are easier for 3rd party programmers to understand and manipulate, so "clean coded" websites are easier for browsers to read and load. The cleaner the code, the more likely the website is to run and function on a wide-variety of browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, Safari, Chrome, etc) without issue.
- Clean code also helps to improve a website's keyword ratio in relation to code. The higher the keyword ratio (the number of keywords versus the amount of code to generate the page) the better the ranking. The less code that can be used to accomplish the same task while remaining cross-browser compatible, the better.
Websites that are ONLY "best optimized for Internet Explorer (IE)" are likely to get a lower ranking in search engines versus sites that run in Firefox, Safari, Google Chrome, AND Internet Explorer.
Often, template programs (like WordPress, Joomla, Drupal or other "boxed/template websites") will utilize a great deal of extraneous code to accomplish the same goal that an expert programmer, or well developed CMS (Content Management System) could accomplish in a single line of code using style sheets and CSS.
Since poor, extraneous code detracts from the meaningful value of website content, search engines often give a lower ranking to websites with extraneous code, and a lower keyword ratio.
The goal of any search engine, (whether Google, Bing or another), is to provide their search customers with accurate and relevant results.
For a website to come up first in a search for the keyword phrase:
"custom italian made clothing"
The individual keywords themselves (custom, italian, clothing, etc), and other "related" keywords and phrases (apparel, shirts, dresses, pants, shoes, belts, cotton, buttons, hand-stitched, men, women, etc) must be used throughout the website content.
PLEASE NOTE: It is considered "black hat tricks" (not acceptable and should be avoided) to simply list the keywords over and over with no apparent meaning. Such practices can actually get a website banned from search results altogether.
Instead, keep the usage of words and phrases flowing naturally. Envision describing the product or services to a customer as one might over the phone. Be detailed, and avoid nondescript words such as "this" or "it" or "that".
Just as content is the most important factor, the age of the website's content is another top factor to successful websites getting top ranking in search results. Keeping a website up-to-date and constantly adding new relevant, and fresh content is imperative to proper search engine optimization, and customer usability.
Search engines prefer to give top ranking to more recent and relevant results for customer searches, versus old, stale content that has not been updated in weeks, months or years.
Therefore, a website with information from a year or more ago will not be considered as relevant as information from a website that was updated earlier today, yesterday, last week, or even last month.
Focusing on consumer convenience & usability is arguably tied as one of the most important factors when it comes to developing a successfully optimized website for either search engines, or customers.
- Google now considers whether a website is mobile-friendly (responsive) as a main factor in search results, and is putting mobile-friendly website content first.
- A successful website should welcome the consumer with easy to understand navigation, graphics and information.
- A prosperous website will be convenient and easy for consumers to find needed information, checkout, or request additional information as required without difficulty.
- A properly functioning website will behave similarly for consumer usability purposes whether viewed on a desktop, laptop, tablet, or smart phone. The user should not have to go through special hoops or download special software to surf the website.
- Additionally, there should be no broken links or files that fail to properly load as needed by the consumer.
Another key factor in optimizing websites for search engines is cross-platform compatibility. Search engines place a great deal of emphasis on whether or not a website will run on various platforms. The platform may be a desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone, mobile phone or Google Glasses.
A search engine's goal is to offer search results that can be accessed by anyone, anywhere regardless of how the visitor is accessing the internet.
Many web development companies may develop different websites for different platforms (one site for computers and another for smartphones or tablets). While this may be good for some industries and needs, ideally a website should be developed to responsively display on any platform whether a desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. This is referred to as Responsive Web Design (RWD).
Many users get frustrated when attempting to surf a website on a smartphone, only to be redirected to a mobile version of the website with limited features or funtionality, versus the desktop or full site.
Such platform specific web development inhibits the usability for consumers. As well, Google has been pushing for responsive design since 2016; and as of 2018 began penalizing sites that are not responsive on all platforms with one site for their "Mobile First" initiative.
Social media and other incoming directory links are an essential part of website optimization. When annually reviewing a company website, make sure to have relevant links coming to and from appropriate social media sites, and valid directory websites.
- Social media is today's word-of-mouth advertising, and is often a great source of free advertising when used properly.
- Using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Alignable (Local Business Social Network), blogs, and other social medias can often result in improved search engine ranking.
- Companies using social medias receive numerous additional benefits including:
- increased consumer conversion
- better customer satisfaction
- higher retention, and stronger loyalty
- potential for posts to go viral
- Often search engines rank websites with numerous, quality, incoming links from 3rd party social medias and directories higher than those without quality incoming links.
However, be weary of "spam directories" and irrelevant social sites. Such spam directory websites do not help to increase SEO, rarely help consumers find helpful information, and often exist simply for creating numerous, non-related links without adding value.
Resource libraries can add a powerhouse of information and content to a website, thus improving customer usability and SEO. Resources within the library section can range from:
- weekly articles on the industry in general
- to specific industry tips and gossip
- to frequently asked questions (FAQ's) regarding the business or products
- to new testimonials, case studies or project galleries
- to YouTube and other video libraries, help sections, and more
Regardless of industry, there are always numerous industry related resources that a business can improve upon and offer to online visitors. Adding such resources can greatly help increase the value of the website content as an authority on a topic, in turn helping a website receive first place ranking on related search topics.
The proper use of HEADING, TITLE, and ALT tags, as well as ANCHOR TEXT, is important to SEO:
HEADING tags are used to help search engines like Google determine the main objective of content to follow and its importance in relation to other headings on the page.
- Headers use the H tag 1-6 to signify the importance of the heading related to the page's content.
- Semantic use of HEADING tags helps optimize the content for both readers and search engines.
- HEADING tags should utilize the most important or relative keywords to the topic about to be addressed.
- HEADING tags should be descriptive and concise.
TITLE tags are used in the hidden code of a website's link to describe "where" the link will take the visitor, as well as what content to expect on the other end:
- TITLE tags should be descriptive keywords, avoiding nondescript words such as "it" or "that".
- Search engines like to see a TITLE tag with a brief one sentence description or phrase, letting the user know what will be found at the other end of the link. Such detailed descriptions reduce ambiguity and surprise, improving expectations.
ALT tags are used in images to describe what the image file is about:
- ALT tags are important because most search engines cannot see, nor recognize the subject of an image like a human can (although this may change in the near future as computers become smarter; such as Google's Lens technology that is in development.)
- All images on a website should have an ALT tag that consists of a description of the image using important keywords or phrases that accurately describe the image.
ANCHOR TEXT is the visible, readable words that are used in a link:
- ANCHOR TEXT is important for SEO because search engines look at the words/text used within a hyperlink as relative to where that link will take the visitor.
- When selecting the words/text to use as a link, it's important to choose keywords that are closely related to the information to be found on the other end of the link.
- Avoid using "click here" or other non-descript phrases for a link when possible.
Regularly reviewing and making website improvements will help any website become successful, receive top ranking in search results, and in turn increase sales and profits.
For those already receiving top ranking, regular review and improvements will help a website to maintain its high ranking in searches related to the given industry, keywords, products and services.
There's no special magic to receiving top ranking; just make sure to cover the basics, and continuously review for possible improvements and usability.
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