Whether you have a brand new website or you’re just looking to improve your organic presence in search results, there are a few tips that can help you get started in the right direction.

Before you Start SEO

Knowing the keywords you want to rank for and what keywords are worth putting effort towards should be the root of any SEO efforts you put forward. Spending time doing detailed keyword research should be the first thing on your to-do list. You should also have an arsenal of tools that can assist you in your research. Relying on just one tool could mean missing out on some important keyword data.

Here are some great free keyword research tools. There are a lot of paid tools as well if you’re serious about your SEO endeavor:

The best keywords to target are ones that have a lot of people searching them and a low number or results. These are high opportunity keywords and would be worth spending time trying to rank for them.

Get Your On Page SEO Right

Heading Tags
Any page of content on your website should have some basic formatting. One important thing to consider is the heading tags (H Tags) on the page. These tags not only make it easier for people browsing your website to find what they are looking for, but it gives search engines a good indicator of what that page might be about. Each page should have one h1 tag, which should always have the keyword or phrase in it that you are trying to rank for. In a blog post, this would usually be the title.

If you have enough content on the page, you should also have some h2 and h3 tags. All H Tags on your page should have you main keyword or keyword variation in them to ensure you are sending the right signals to the search engine spiders crawling your site.

Meta Tags
Even though meta tags may not seem that important because they aren’t directly front facing on your website, they play a big part in sending the right signals to search engines as well as enticing potential visitors to click on your website in SERPs (search engine results pages). There are two main meta tags you should focus on. You should never have duplicates of any of your meta tags.

  • Title Tag
    This is important for both SEO and user experience. It’s a short description of what your page is about. For users, this title shows up in their browser tab and will also be saved if they bookmark your site. For SEO purposes, this is what shows up as the clickable link in SERPs. It’s extremely important to have your keyword or phrase in the title tag to send the right signals to search engines. A good rule of thumb is to keep your titles under 55 characters.
  • Meta Description
    This doesn’t have as much of a ranking influence as the title tag, but it’s still important. If you don’t set a meta description, search engines will auto fill this space in the SERPs with content from the page it thinks is relevant. The meta description is your first opportunity to try and get potential visitors to click on your site over others in search results, almost like a sales pitch. A bit longer than a title tag, you have up to 160 characters to try to get someone to click on your link.

ALT Tags
Similar to meta tags, ALT Tags are for images. Make sure any image on your site has an ALT tag. This is a great opportunity to get some more keywords on your page if it makes sense, but DON’T SPAM. Make sure your ALT tag actually describes your images. ALT Tags also allow people who are visually impaired to know what the images on your page represent, which is another reason to only have ALT tags that make sense.

Make sure your site is technically sound when it comes to SEO

301 Redirects
When you delete a page on your website or update your URL structure for some reason, you need to make sure you put in the proper redirects. The most common redirect you will probably come across is a 301 redirect. If someone types in a URL or follows a link to a page that no longer exists, you want to make sure you have a 301 Redirect set up to take them to a relevant page if possible. If not, at least send them to your home page to avoid them getting a 404 error. Having 301 redirects in place will also tell search engines that if they are looking to a certain URL, to go to the new URL you have set up instead. It is extremely important to set up proper 301s if you are redoing your site. Most of the time you will probably be updating site structure as well and you could run into a lot of 404 errors if you don’t prepare ahead of time.

Fix Broken Links
Make sure all the links on your website work. This goes for both internal and external links. If you get rid of a page on your site, be sure to set up a 301 redirect or else anywhere on your site that links to that page will need to have the hyperlink changed to a new page. Having links that go to a 404 page are no good. Every month or so, it is a good idea to check your external links as well. If you link to an outside page and that site or webpage gets removed for any reason, you will be sending your traffic to a 404 page, which is bad for SEO and bad for user experience. Your users may not trust other links on your website.

Ongoing SEO Tips

Publish Content
Set up a content plan. The easiest way to do this is to start a company blog. Be sure to fill it with relevant content about your company, the industry you work in, and anything else your potential customers might find useful. There are two important reasons to stick to a schedule. One, so that you are continually adding pages to your site. This gives search engine spiders a reason to return to your site to index new content. The other reason is for your customers. If you publish content that your customers love on a regular basis, they will keep coming back to check for new, interesting content they can use.

Be sure to write your own content that is unique and original. Copying content from other websites is a big no-no. Search engines look for duplicate content, and will most likely not index your page if they think you copied it from another site on the web.

Check Everything
It may seem like when you go though and add your meta tags, check your links and make sure your on-page SEO is set, you’re good. Not the case. You should go back monthly and make sure everything is in place. If people are adding new pages or new links on a regular basis, you want to make sure you have all of your SEO best practices in place.

2016 SEO checklist