Your Pocket-Size Checklist for On-Site SEO

SEO Checklist

The first step I take with almost any client looking to increase traffic to their site is a search engine optimization (SEO) evaluation. Part of that is making sure you’re doing everything you can ON your site to make it search-engine friendly.

Not sure you’ve got all your bases covered? Or don’t know exactly what I’m talking about? Don’t worry – here’s my quick pocket-size guide to on-site SEO:

#1 – Do you have a Sitemap?

That looks like a tech-tastic word, but don’t worry, it’s just a Google-friendly way of showing the search engines how your site is organized. If your site is new or isn’t well inter-linked, Google might not be aware of all of your content. If Google doesn’t know about it – it definitely doesn’t show up in the search engine results. Once you create it, tell Google about it via your Webmaster Tools (be sure you have Google Webmaster Tools set up first).

Easy fix: Use an XML Sitemap generator like this one or if you’re on WordPress, use this plugin to do it for you.

#2 – What do your URLs look like?

Google finds it easier to relate your page to a certain keyword search if it can find the words in your URL. A lot of product listings or blog posts are often given URLs with a bunch of random characters (dynamic URLs) instead of keyword-rich URLs like www.yourwebsite.com/category/keyword (e.g., www.toys.com/dolls/brunette-dolls)

WARNING: Be careful making URL changes to existing URLs – you need to make sure you have redirects in place as well as make sure you update all your existing internal links to the new URL. Not sure if your URLs are OK to stay as they are? Check out this post from SEOmoz.

#3 – Are you guilty of keyword stuffing?

The golden rule of good SEO is humans first, robots/search engines second. If your keyword appears 5 times in the web address and 200 times in a 600-word blog post, you’re guilty of keyword spamming. You’re not being effective for your visitor and the search engines will catch on and penalize you for it.

Good practice? Get it in the URL (naturally) if you can. Place it in the title of your page (between your <title> tags). Place it in your headline (between your <h1> tags). Use it throughout your page but the keyword (sorry, unavoidable pun :) ) here is naturally.

Curious to see if you’re guilty of keyword stuffing? Check your URLs with SEOBook’s free keyword density checker (anything above 3% should be cause for review – unless it truly is natural for your site).

But first make sure you know how to choose keywords to target for your site in the first place.

#4 – Do you have duplicate URLs for the same page?

This one confuses the heck out of Google. The SEO world uses a big word (canonical) to describe this duplicate problem. How to check for this? Google Webmaster Tools will now alert you to (limited) duplicate content. Read more about how that works in this article by Search Engine Land.

Most common issue? www vs. non-www. SEOmoz has a great run down about a lot more common duplicate issues and how to handle them here. However, unless you’re comfortable with setting up things like 301redirects, consider having a professional handle your duplicate issues for you.

#5 – Other HTML Stuff

Do you have title tags for every page? Are they a search engine-friendly length? (less than 70 characters) Do you have meta descriptions? Won’t help with ranking necessarily but they appear under your link in the search engine results and keywords do get bolded which helps with your click-through rate.

Tools like the All in One SEO Pack WordPress plugin or the Yoast SEO WordPress plugin can help you manage a lot of these elements for your site.

Correcting errors you find through this checklist can help improve your rankings once Google re-crawls your site (deep crawls done about once a month but lighter crawls done more frequently). Without any link-building campaigns! I like easy-to-fix, don’t you? :)

So, how about it? Does your site pass this pocket-size SEO test? Find any of this useful? Let me know in the comments!

Image: Rawich / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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4 Responses so far.

  1. Jenn says:

    Liz,
    Thanks for this very useful checklist! You do a great job simplifying this process.
    Best,
    Jenn

  2. Liz, this post and your newsletter entry that lured me here has kept me busy all morning evaluating and improving my website’s SEO. Thanks for these great tips!

    I especially love your suggestion to install [this week's email newsletter tip]. What a fun, new toy!

    • Liz Lockard says:

      Thanks Melanie! Glad you’re loving it! Edited out the name of the fun new toy in your comment since that was a newsletter exclusive :) Have fun with it!

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