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The New and Improved SEO Checklist for 2016

Search Engine Optimization consultant touching SEO button on whi

Search engine optimization (SEO) best practices change so frequently, it can be difficult to know where to start. To help keep track of the necessary steps to a well-optimized site, the mRELEVANCE SEO team has created a checklist for you to follow when implementing a successful SEO strategy for your business. Before we get to the fundamentals, there are few best practices that every good SEO strategy should be using in 2016:

  1. Search engine optimization begins with your website itself, and mobile is more important than ever in 2016. Websites should be fully responsive and mobile-friendly. The site also needs to be engaging and user-friendly. Search engines rank sites based on whether searchers will have a good experience and find the information they are looking for, so be sure to keep track of number of page visits and bounce rate to see where the visitors’ experience can be improved.
  2. Quality content is more important than ever. Your website should provide interesting, useful content to readers on an ongoing basis – we recommend blogging at least weekly, if not daily. Search engines can determine the intention behind a search query and show results that will answer the question most effectively for the searcher. Creating relevant content that answers a question or contributes a new perspective to the online community will help improve search engine rankings.
  3. Keywords are still important, but not in quite the same way. Google can now determine the meaning from the semantics and context of a website’s content. You no longer have to fit an exact keyword phrase into all the content on the site in order for Google to understand what it means. Using synonyms and breaking up phrases is more natural, and this also provides a better experience for site visitors. Keyword strategies should implement categories that define your business’ core products and services. For example, a bakery that offers lessons could use “freshly baked cakes,” “homemade cookies,” “baking classes” and variations of these keywords to tell search engines exactly what they offer to their customers.

The 2016 SEO Checklist:

  1. Set up Google Analytics: Add the Google Analytics tracking code to your website to measure traffic, demographics, page views, and other important metrics. Create goals to keep track of how well your website converts visits to leads and engagement.
  2. Google Webmaster Tools: Connect your website to Google Webmaster Tools to alert you to crawl errors, keep track of search terms and rankings, and other useful tools such as the robots.txt tester.
  3. Sitemap: Create an XML sitemap and submit it to Google Webmaster Tools.
  4. Create a Robots.txt file: Create a robots.txt file and test it using Google Webmaster Tools.
  5. WordPress SEO by YOAST: If you’re using WordPress, be sure to install YOAST or a similar SEO plugin to integrate with Google Analytics and optimize your blog.
  6. Check page speed: Use Google PageSpeed Insights to measure how fast your website loads and see recommendations for increasing its speed on mobile and desktop.
  7. Run a website audit: Use Screaming Frog to find broken links and crawl errors, or SEMrush to find other errors such as broken links, missing title tags, and duplicate content.
  8. Choose your keywords: Choose your keyword categories for your main products and services and develop a list of relevant keywords and synonyms. Narrow the list down using tools like Google Keyword Planner to determine keyword difficulty and competition and develop a strategy to target your main keyword categories.
  9. Title Tags: Write unique title tags for all main pages. Be sure they are 65 characters or less so they don’t get cut off in search results and include your keywords. Check your other pages if you are using a template for duplicate tags or mistakes.
  10. Meta Descriptions: Write unique meta descriptions for all of your pages. This is your chance to write a mini Tweet-like ad to get searchers to click on your site, so don’t let Google select random text from the page for the description. Make sure meta descriptions are 155 characters or less so they don’t get cut off in search results.
  11. Use H1 tags: Use an H1 tag on all main pages and incorporate your keywords into it. Place it before your other H tags and be sure to only use one H1 tag per page.
  12. Alt tags: Use alt tags on all your photos. Search engines can’t see photos, so be sure to tell them what the image is in your alt tag with a detailed description. However, don’t keyword stuff!
  13. URLs: Use relevant keywords and variations in your URLs. Don’t use underscores.
  14. Place relevant text on individual pages: Write copy for each of your pages to tell Google what that page is about. Have at least 100 words per page. Use synonyms for your main keywords and use natural sounding language.
  15. Redirect duplicate content: Use 301 redirects to fix any duplicate content that may be penalizing your site.
  16. Create a content calendar: Use your keywords to determine relevant topics to your business that will interest and inform your audience. Publish new content regularly and share it on your social media profiles including Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
  17. Use a Headline Analyzer: Use a headline analyzer tool to create interesting headlines and titles and analyze them for SEO friendliness.
  18. Use video: Create visually compelling and unique videos and optimize their descriptions and titles.
  19. Content Length: Content with 1,000 to 1,500 words ranks better on Google in 2016. Aim for at least 500 words in your blog posts. The longer, the better.
  20. Include images: Use at least one image in each of your blog posts. Don’t forget the alt tag! Hint – humans like to look at pretty pictures!
  21. Internal linking: Link to other relevant blog posts and pages within your website to increase pageviews and time on site.
  22. External linking: Link to relevant content outside your website and use relevant anchor text. 2016 best practices say don’t use keywords for anchor text, but a phrase relevant to the external site.
  23. Competitive analysis: Run a competitive analysis to determine where competitors are linking and who is linking to them. Check out this guide to competitive backlink analysis by Moz.
  24. Potential links: When you’ve discovered where your competitors are getting their links, create a list of potential relevant link opportunities so you can begin link building. Don’t buy links! Search engines penalize paid backlinks to your website.
  25. Citations: Use Moz Local to review online directory listings for accuracy. Claim and update as many listings as possible. Make sure your listings are identical across all directories.

If you cross off all the items on this SEO checklist, you’ll be off to an excellent start and greatly increase your chances of ranking higher on search engines. However, a successful SEO strategy is an ongoing effort and requires a considerable amount of time and dedication. Let us know if the team at mRELEVANCE can help your business be more effective and successful online.