Website Search Engine Optimization Checklist (SEO)
By Mailchimp | 2022
More than 5 billion Google searches happen daily, which means 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.
“SEO is free advertising for your business,” says Chris Homer, SEO Analyst at Mailchimp. “If you take steps to be sure you rank high for appropriate searches, you’ll be attracting the right audience.”
When you know what boosts your position in a search result—and what pushes down your ranking—it’s easy to design and update your site for SEO. Learn about SEO below, and then use the checklist to integrate SEO into your digital marketing strategy.
Understand search engines
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.
Expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (EAT) are among the top factors Google considers in its rankings. There are several ways to build this.
Reviews, mentions in social media, links to your content from other websites, and guest posts that backlink to your website will all help your ranking. But, don’t take a shortcut and pay firms to purchase links for you—Google doesn’t approve of this practice.
Update your profile
Build your EAT by ensuring that Google has pertinent information about your business. Use Google My Business to manage your profile so you connect with your audience on Google Search and Maps using location data.
Show Google you’re relevant
Assure Google that it can trust you as a reputable website by addressing these basic ranking elements.
- Search relevance. Google and other search engines carefully consider whether a page meets the intent of a user’s search. This means your website needs to be extremely clear about what you do and where you’re located.
- Mobile-friendliness. Google predominantly ranks mobile pages over desktop when evaluating website pages. Mailchimp allows you to preview your website as it would appear on a mobile device, so you can be sure that your site will look great on any device.
- Page-load speeds. A page should load as quickly as possible—preferably in one to 3 seconds, according to Google—to give the user a worthwhile experience with the website.
SEO checklist: How to improve your results
The good news about SEO planning is that what works for SEO also aligns with providing a positive user experience (UX) for people who visit your website. So, SEO-friendly changes equal a better site for the people you want to engage.
“SEO should be a consideration throughout every step of your website build and your marketing journey,” says Ade Lewis, Partnerships Director at Mailchimp. “It’s the number one way a consumer will find a small business.”
Review this checklist to learn about the changes and adjustments you can make to improve your SEO.
- 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, skimmable 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. This is easy to do in Mailchimp’s website builder. Simply go to the page settings and edit the SEO title to create a title tag and the SEO description to write a meta description.
- 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. Mailchimp websites are built with mobile in mind—the website builder allows you to preview your website on a mobile phone to see how it looks.
- 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. It can also help you set up your own site search tracking. You can connect to Google Analytics from your Mailchimp dashboard to monitor your traffic, see what pages are being visited the most, and what links direct visitors to your website. Here’s a guide to help you set up Google Analytics.
- 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. All websites created with Mailchimp include an SSL certificate—this encrypts data and guarantees the authenticity of a website to visitors.
Prepare to be found
When people type a query into a search engine and then make their way to your website based on the results, they’re likely to have high engagement potential. A solid website on which you layer SEO best practices will provide an experience that attracts high-potential visitors and makes them want to engage. Check out our What’s SEO article for more information on the basics of SEO.
“A good, clean website structure with relevant content that offers value and features keywords throughout will be respected by Google,” says Ade. “And that will deliver results.”