goffgrafix.com website design and programming

Search Engine Optimization Checklist

For organic search results.

KEYWORD RESEARCH - Step 1, brainstorming
Website Goals
Define what your website is "selling", what is the focus of the website. Does it sell goods online, promote a cause, disseminate information.
Target Market (who is going to be using your product?)
What is your target market? Is it specific to a geographical location? Is it international, state, metro or town specific?
What are your target market's interests and fears? What problems will your product or service or website solve?
What sort of questions does your target market pose at discussion forums?
How does your target market explain their problems?
What are their opinions about existing products and services that attempt to solve their problems?
If you get an email from a prospective customer, what words do they use to express their problems?
Is there industry jargon associated with your target market?
NOTES Keep a list of the topics and problems that your target market talks about, because this could be great subject matter to write about on your website as a vehicle to get those keyword phrases on your site.
Competitor Websites
List the websites that you believe are your competitors. What keywords do they use in their URL and title tags? What keywords are used in the headings on their website pages? (Click here for example of URL, Titles and Headings)
NOTES Look at what other products or services your competitors have on their websites. Are they giving things away? running contests? Jot down some of their strategies that you feel might benefit your website as well.
When you type in what you believe are your main keywords, what are the top 10 sites that come up? What keywords are in their URL and title tags? What keywords are used in the headings on their website pages? Using http://www.opensiteexplorer.org/, what keywords are in anchor text from links to their website? Another great tool you could use to find the anchor text of your competitors' backlinks is SEO SPYGLASS.
Using PPC Web Spy, what are the keywords that the sponsored listings that show up on your search results page optimizing for?
Summary - List all of the keyword phrases gathered in the brainstorming exercises above.
NOTES Try to keep your keyword search phrases between 2 and 5 words in length
KEYWORD RESEARCH - Step 2, analyzing
(Narrowing down - finding the keywords that people are searching for, that have less competition)
List keywords from the brainstorming session above that you feel are the most relevant for your business.
Using google's adwords keyword tool, type in your keyword selection and note the adword competition, the global search numbers and the local search numbers. Also, make a note of what the search result numbers are when you do a search in yahoo using allintitle: before the keyword phrase.
Narrow down your keyword selection to those keywords that have decent search numbers, but lower allintitle competition and adword competition numbers.
NOTES There is software that can streamline this process: Market Samurai and Web CEO's keyword tool for example.
Website Structure (Webmaster task list)
Make sure the javascript and css code are in external files
Make sure that the domain resolves to either www.domainname.com or domainname.com, not both
Make sure that the site's development address resolves to either www.domainname.com or domainname.com
Make sure that the site's home page is resolving to the domain name www.domainname.com or domainname.com and not to domainname.com/index.html
If the project is a site redesign, make sure that old page URLs redirect to the new page URLs with 301 redirects
Make sure the navigation is done with text links and css, and when possible, include keywords in the navigation
Make sure google analytics is correctly installed. (Also, filter out the site owner's home and work IPs as well as the web designer. Make sure the account is set up under an email that is a business email, preferably, google@yourwebsite.com and not set up under an employee's personal email or your web designer's or SEO company's google account.)
Make sure the HTML and the CSS code of the site templates validate (http://validator.w3.org/)
Make sure the site URL's are search engine friendly (try to keep parameters to under 2, and depth of URL to no more than 4)
Use keywords for file names wherever possible
Look at the home page with SEO Browser and make sure that there is text for the search engines to read and links to navigate. http://www.seo-browser.com/index.php
Make sure there is an HTML site map linked to from the home page
Make sure that flash elements don't inhibit the ability for the search engines to crawl the site
Make sure that any javascript elements won't be misconstrued as spamming or cloaking
Make sure an XML site map is generated and submitted to google.com and yahoo.com
Make sure a robots.txt file is in place directing search engine spiders away from pages and directories which are not relevant or which generate duplicate content (such as dynamic inquiry forms or script directories)
Common SEO Spider pitfalls are: Input Forms, Session ID's in URL, Pages Restricted by Cookies, Frames and Logins
Page file size should be no more than 150 kilobytes (before images, CSS and other attachments)
Make sure there are no more than 100 unique links per page
Meta Tags and Page Content

Create a unique title tag for each page. The title tag should contain no more than 70 characters and should contain one or two keyword phrases. Start the title tag with the key word phrase that is most relevant for the page. Avoid words that aren't keywords (like and, or, the). Your business name does NOT need to be in every single title tag.

Create a unique meta description for each page. The meta description is what the search engines show in their list of results under your link, so make sure it contains keywords and is enticing. It should not be more than 155 characters long.

Although, at this time, the keywords are not part of the SEO algorithm, it would be a good idea to place 3 to 4 relevant keyword phrases that have to do with the page.

Make sure that the page content contains HEADING tags that have keywords in them.
<h1>Most important</h2>
<h2>Second most important</h2>
<h3>Third most important</h3>
Make sure that KEYWORD RICH CONTENT is towards the top of your web page
Put some keywords within the content in <b> or <strong> tags
Make sure internal hyperlinks contain keywords in the anchor text.
<a href="link.html" title="keyword">keyword in anchor text</a>

Make sure all images have valid ALT tags, and where possible have the file name be a keyword.
<img src="keyword.jpg" alt="keyword" />

NOTES Make sure copy is not over stuffed with keywords. It should be in short, easy to read segments and well structured with headings, paragraphs and balloted lists.
NOTES If you are using a content management system and WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) text editor, make sure that you are NOT using the heading tags for graphic design decisions. Use formatting tags ONLY to indicate to the browser or search engines what type of content is between them. Avoid using too many of the formatting icons (background color, font color, font family etc..) because these will add lots of extra code to the page and make it harder for the search engines to crawl. If you want to change the way the content on your pages LOOKS, talk to your web designer about adjusting the global CSS styles. (view text editor tutorials here)
Back Links
Look at top sites in the google search results for the keywords that you are optimizing for. Run them through seo spyglass or siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com to see what sites are linking to them
ANAYLZE: Analyze the sites linking to your competition. Look at their google page rank and whether their content is relevant to your site. Explore whether you could also get them to link to your site. (Avoid having links from pages with google page ranks less than 2 or 3, make sure sites linking to you are relevant to your site's topic.)
NOTES Make sure to add links back to your site incrementally. If you suddenly have thousands of links to your site added within a week, the search engines might think you are spamming. Also, have links go to different pages on your website, not all to one page.
ANCHOR TEXT: Make sure sites linking to you use your keywords in the anchor text of the link. Try to get links to internal pages on your site and not just to your home page. Ex lore the sites that currently link to you and approach them about changing the anchor text to contain your keywords.
NOTES Make sure you don't have duplicate anchor text from all of your incoming links. Google sees this as spamming.
BLOGS AND FORUMS: Look at blogs and forums that have to do with your niche and participate in them, either by commenting, entering a discussion or asking to be a guest blogger. Market Samurai has a great tool for finding the forums and blogs that target your keywords. Make sure the link in your signature has anchor text that contains your keywords.
NOTES Often blogs and forums have signature links set as nofollow links. Don't avoid commenting on these blogs and forums because if you become a respected contributor, they may offer to have you be a moderator or a guest blogger, but you should look also to comment on blogs that have dofollow links. Seo-traffic-guide.de offers a free tool for finding dofollow blogs. http://www.seo-traffic-guide.de/
LOCAL BUSINESS DIRECTORIES: Explore local listing directories such as yahoo.com directories or your local online yellow pages to see about linking to your business
LOCAL NEWS MEDIA: See about submitting press releases to your local papers with business updates - they often have a local business column or town columns.
SOCIAL MEDIA: Create a facebook business page, twitter account and youtube.com account and submit relevant content to them. Also join friendfeed.com and LinkedIn.com and Ping.fm. Use ping.fm to broadcast to all your social media through one interface when appropriate.
ARTICLES: Create articles that are relevant to your niche and submit them to article sites such as squidoo.com, absoluteastronomy.com, suite101.com, ezinearticles.com, articlesbase.com, buzzle.com, hubpages.com, artists-online.net (articles about artists and the creative process)
DMOZ: Submit website to relevant category in www.dmoz.org
YAHOO COMMERCIAL DIRECTORY PAID LISTING: Consider whether to submit site to yahoo's directory ($299/year)
RECIPROCAL LINKS: Avoid linking to websites that are not going to bring value to your customers, but explore having some reciprocal link relationships where if you link to them, they will link back to you. Make sure that your site's backlinks are not exclusively reciprocal links.
MEMBERSHIP SITES: Explore membership directories that offer online listings such as your local chamber of commerce
GOOGLE PRODUCTS: Where appropriate use google rich snippets and google location and product feeds
.EDU and .GOV Sites: Explore strategies to get links to your site from .edu and .gov sites. These links are given more stature in the search engines.
On Site Maintenance
Keep adding relevant content to the website through blog posts and new pages. Depending upon the site niche, create a schedule to add content weekly or monthly. Address your customer's concerns and offer them solutions through your content.
Study the google analytics stats monthly and make key word adjustments on critical pages
Make sure that the site does not contain broken links (http://validator.w3.org/checklink/)
LINK BAIT: Strategize topics for articles or content on your site that will entice people to link to those pages.
If you have file names that have changed on your site (not a good idea unless absolutely necessary), make sure that 301 redirects have been created to direct traffic from the old URL to the new
Off Site Maintenance
Create strategy and schedule for submitting posts to facebook and twitter
Add new relevant articles to article directories
Upload relevant video to youtube.com (and embed in blog posts on site)
Continue to analyze competitor site backlinks and explore getting them to link to your site
Continued Education
Subscribe to SEO blogs and services to stay abreast of the dos and don'ts.
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