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The Ultimate SEO Checklist

Committing to SEO best practices is a critical component for any business looking to not only grow online, but remain highly competitive in its market. An effective SEO strategy can significantly help a website gain a higher search engine ranking that will elevate viewership and branding. The continually-evolving SEO landscape requires persistent attentiveness to strategies and practices for prime optimization, which can be a daunting task. That’s why at Dextrous, we’ve compiled the following SEO checklist to add to our resources designed to help businesses start implementing an effective SEO strategy.

Create an XML Sitemap

Search engines such as Google need to “crawl” or index a website in order to interpret and rank the content of the site, and an XML sitemap helps them to better understand the information that they find. When a search engine crawls a website, an XML sitemap helps to ensure that the search bot sees every URL available there. By creating an XML sitemap, it’s guaranteed that the engine picks up on the elements that are necessary for a high ranking, such as keywords, fresh content, and a page’s relevance in relation to other pages on the site. An XML sitemap can be generated using a variety of resource websites. The process also involves setting up a Google Webmaster account from which the sitemap will be accessed. To see if your website has an XML Sitemap, you can plug in your website and receive a free SEO website analysis here.

Conduct Keyword Research

An effective SEO strategy also depends on thorough keyword research, which heavily determines the amount of desirable traffic to individual pages. A website with words and phrases that are seldom searched for will attract minimal viewership, while a site with optimized keywords that have been naturally integrated into the content will generate higher traffic. To determine the proper keywords to include on a web page, first access a list of highly-searched keywords in the market, which can be found at a resource like Google’s Keyword Planner. Among those listed, only choose keywords that are truly relevant to the specific page. Keep the value of “long-tail” keywords in mind, as well; these more specific keywords and phrases typically attract visitors that know exactly what they want and are ready to buy. Develop fresh content. Google now places greater importance on how frequently a website publishes relevant content. Regular additions to a site’s content not only draws desired traffic from customers, but it makes search engines take notice, providing a company’s website an edge over its competitors. Fresh content can come in various forms, including blog posts, press releases, new landing pages, regular video uploads and more. Given the continually-expanding quantities of well-written content on the Web, remember that viewers won’t bother to read anything that’s not meaningful or clearly communicated.

Optimize Meta Tags

Meta tag descriptions are a form of back-end coding that can help a search engine, like Google, determine a website’s relevance and, if done incorrectly, can actually be a hindrance. Meta tags briefly describe what can be found on a website in less than 150 characters (including spaces), and will ideally contain a relevant keyword. It’s essential that a meta tag is an accurate description of what can be found on a site; if deemed inaccurate or poorly-written, the meta tag will likely be replaced by a far less engaging tag generated by the search engine. Meta tags should also be used to sell the company’s website! Use language that will drive viewership and always feature a call to action.

Create a Qualified URL

Best SEO practices emphasize that hyphens should be utilized to separate words when necessary for easier reading, and avoid spacing, overuse of underscores, and a character length exceeding 2,048. Of equal importance is a URL’s description, which should be brief, relevant, and ideally include a ranked keyword.

Provide Content of the Right Length.

Fresh content on a website is great for SEO, but if it’s too brief it may not be all that effective. The general recommendation is that each web page should have at least 250 words of quality content. Anything less usually indicates that the writing isn’t that informative or beneficial to visitors, which can limit viewership and impact branding. Brief content also limits the ability of search engines to fully understand it and pick up on ranking keywords. Web pages and blog posts have traditionally contained 300-500 words, but unless the content is too short (approximately less than 250 words), quality typically trumps quantity.

Use Social Media

Companies with strong SEO strategies understand the value of social media profiles, which can play an important role in driving rankings and enhancing reputation. Expanding your company’s social media presence in platforms that make sense for its goals (WebiMax is happy to show you which social platforms make the most sense for your marketing dollars) and promote links and content that are both shareable and of substance. When a link or post from a social media site is shared, its visibility to search engines like Google increases. Search engines also see frequently-shared links as a sign of a website’s credibility and popularity, resulting in a higher ranking. Social media platforms can also serve as another medium for associating ranked keywords with the company’s website. Are you posting fresh social content across all relevant profiles?

Manage Local Profiles

One of the best ways to reach a targeted audience is to optimize for local viewership. This involves optimizing a current page or creating additional pages that are specifically intended for customers in the local area (or in some cases, near each store location). Local profiles include key NAP information (name, address and phone), which search engines are able to easily crawl; they should also include locally relevant content, a Google + page for each location, and a way for customers to leave reviews to help boost ratings.

Build the Brand Through Linking

Link building—which demonstrates relationships between pages—should always be brand-oriented. This means that rather than focusing on the number of links that a company can publish on the Web to drive its ranking, it should concentrate on how each piece of content that is published will enhance the company’s brand and reputation. Thanks to newly patented algorithms like Panda, Google now tends to value quality of links more highly than the sheer quantity of them. Use relevant links from other websites to market the brand and boost traffic.

Create Descriptive Alt Tags

An Alt tag is a brief description of an image on a web page. While not intended to be visible to viewers, alt tags will appear if an image has trouble loading or is used by software that reads text aloud. Perhaps most importantly, an alt tag is the only way a search engine can recognize the content of a picture. When a search engine understands that an image features specific content, it can then rank the picture on an image-based search engine, like Google Images.

Write Strong Heading Tags

Each page of a website should include a heading (H1) tag, which is essentially the title that viewers will see at the top of a web page. As with meta descriptions, heading tags should be informative, concise, and possibly contain a keyword or phrase. Heading tags should aim for both ranking (via a keyword) and user experience. Remember that rankings aren’t just driven by search engine crawls, but also by actual viewer traffic. A site that prioritizes user experience, even in the smallest of ways (like with an H1 tag) will likely see positive results.

Use the Power of the Press

A press release is a highly effective means of improving SEO and, if lucrative, will result in a greater online presence via mentions in published news articles, etc. As long as a press release is truly worthy of publication (i.e., a company is making an announcement about an accomplishment, new location, new service, etc.), its release can be facilitated by a third party public relations firm and made available to a number of news outlets. It’s also wise to create a “News” or “Press Release” page on a website where releases can be archived.

Add Images, Videos, Podcasts, Infographics and More

As with social media, the more that visitors are engaged with a website and share its posted content, the stronger SEO ranking the site will have and, in turn, the stronger the company’s sales. This means that even though content may be regularly updated, fresh content is more effective if presented in diverse formats. Consider posting videos, podcasts, images, Infographics, Buzzfeed articles and more to drive traffic and demonstrate versatility in content creation. While blog posts are effective, diversifying content lets customers know that their level of engagement is valued.

Check for Broken Links

Search engines like Google tend to view duplicate content as a sign a company is trying to “cheat” its way to the top of the rankings through quantity, rather than quality. Duplicate content also makes it challenging for search engines to discern which version of the content should be ranked for query results. Be sure to review each page on the website for repeating content to avoid penalization.

Monitor Web Analytics

Search engine optimization is an ongoing process that requires frequent evaluation and adjustment. Successful SEO depends on the assessment of web analytics. Ask the following questions: In the last week, has Web traffic increased? How many times was a link shared on social media? Were any meta descriptions replaced? Have overall ranking improved? Website analytics should be reviewed on a weekly basis and can be compiled using a third-party SEO service or professional software.

Free SEO Tools Compiled by Dextrous

WebsiteAnalysis.com – WebsiteAnalysis.com is a comprehensive analysis tool that assesses your website’s most important metrics. This SEO analysis allows you to learn what your strengths and weaknesses are and provides actionable data that you can use to improve your site. The report offers detailed Web analytics, including visibility on search engines and popularity on social media, in addition to other central site performance metrics detailed in the list below. You can visit the site to begin your comprehensive analysis and receive your free report.

Other details you can expect to receive from the report are as follows:

  • 3rd-Party Ratings – Ratings from other authorities, including Google and Moz
  • Social Media – Assessment of the key social media platforms found on the website
  • Keywords – Search engine rankings for specific keywords
  • Onsite – Summary of technical elements that can directly impact search engine rankings
  • Back Links – List of backlinks that point to the website and an analysis of their authority
  • Performance – Assessment of page load times and any issues that may be slowing the site down

The PDF Report includes these additional details:

  • Crawl Summary – Our Analysis Tool crawls up to 200 pages of the website and identifies any issues that can impede rankings
  • Tag Cloud – A summary of the most common keywords
  • Back Links – A comprehensive profile of the links pointing toward the website and an evaluation of their authority

CompetitiveAnalysis – Competitive Analysisis an SEO tool similar to WebsiteAnalysis.com, but we created it to offer comprehensive information and quality website metrics from your competitors. This complete analysis tool helps businesses to better understand their online competition so that they can be proactive in making improvements. In addition to offering detailed Web analytics, we have partnered with Dun & Bradstreet to provide in-depth corporate data on rival companies, including their proprietary Data Depth Indicator rankings. This information can be combined with the website reporting from WebsiteAnalysis.com for a full assessment of how you are doing on the Web and who you are up against. Thus, our SEO tool offers details ranging from rankings and social media exposure to link profile metrics and competitor corporate data. Visit this analysis tool to get your competitor assessment underway.

Google Analytics – Google Analytics compiles statistical data about your website, videos, social media sites, and applications and tracks where your Web traffic is coming from. It also measures conversions and sales. This SEO tool shows you how visitors interact with your pages, as well as how they get there and what devices they are using. With this information, you can make the necessary changes to your pages and marketing strategies in order to increase user friendliness and better attract and retain customers.

Google Webmaster Tools (WMT) – Google WMT helps you to increase your site pages’ visibility on Google. The tool provides webmasters with data and diagnostics regarding their indexing status, sitemap, site speed, keyword rankings, and backlink profile. It also offers resources to give you a better understanding of how Google crawls and indexes the site.?

Steps to Digital Marketing

You’ve probably heard it said before that running an effective digital marketing campaign requires the ability to manage a lot of moving parts. Simply identifying all of these parts can be a challenge in itself, and often digital marketing resources only focus on individual aspects of the process. Sometimes, it’s more helpful to take a step back for a better look at everything that’s required of your marketing campaign; that’s why we’ve compiled our comprehensive 101 steps for your digital marketing plan, featured below.

Social Media

Market across multiple social media platforms.

A social media strategy is most effective when it plays out across multiple platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and YouTube. Regardless of your own familiarity with these platforms, it’s in your best interest to manage numerous profiles, as you never know which platform your target audience utilizes the most.

Showcase consistent branding across platforms.

It’s important that the branding on each of your social media accounts be uniform; this means that spelling, contact information, profile descriptions, and to an extent, images, should be consistent in order to make your company more easily recognizable. Your profile page should also communicate a high level of professionalism; you’ll never be seen as an authority in your industry with social media profiles that feature grainy cover photos or sloppy content.

Create social media content that’s truly relevant and engaging.

This can include advertising contests, promotions, sneak peeks of new products, polls, links back to informative blog posts, etc. The idea is to find ways to not just get viewers to visit your social media page, but to engage with the content that’s on it.

Update your social media profiles frequently.

Social media profiles become obsolete when they’re left unattended for too long. The key to capturing and sustaining an audience is to make posts on a regular basis (at least 2-3 times a week for each platform).

Always respond to customer comments and inquiries.

The point of social media is to connect with others, so when a viewer asks a question or leaves a comment on your profile, always be sure to respond professionally and expediently. This communicates to your viewers that your company is both attentive and concerned about the customer experience.

Take advantage of social media marketing.

Marketing on social media platforms is becoming one of the most effective advertising methods; according to AdRoll, Facebook ads maintain click-through rates that are 8 times higher than those of traditional web ads. In other words, social media marketing works.

Optimize posts for SEO content.

This can include advertising contests, promotions, sneak peeks of new products, polls, links back to informative blog posts, etc. The idea is to find ways to not just get viewers to visit your social media page, but to engage with the content that’s on it.

Customize your Facebook URL.

Once your Facebook page has 25 likes, you have the option to change its URL to include your company name, rather than the platform’s randomly generated URL. However, note that this URL can usually only be changed once.

Be intentional with your profile descriptions.

Especially on social media platforms like Twitter, your profile’s “About” section will serve as the meta description that appears for your page. Make these social profiles descriptions both informative and enticing (and perhaps inclusive of relevant keywords) to make optimal use of them.

Create links to your social media profiles.

On your website, blog, or other online content, include “buttons” that link to your social media profiles. This will make it easy for your visitors to connect with you on social media.

Local SEO

Local SEO strategies are designed to help businesses market to a local audience, which is especially important when a business has multiple storefronts in various locations.

Define your goals.

If your company aims to reach specific local audiences (which most should, when applicable), the first step is to define your local SEO goals. Who specifically are you targeting? Will your SEO strategies vary from location to location? What benchmark will you use as a measure of success?

Conduct a local SEO audit.

A local SEO audit is an initial assessment of all of the most influential factors of an SEO campaign, and is used to identify areas of strength and weakness. A local audit would include an assessment of your Google Business page, your website and its landing page, and would analyze your local social media, local competition, and your existing citations. See how you stack up against the competition and compare your website to your competitor’s with an online free tool.

Create Google My Business pages.

No local SEO campaign is complete without the creation of local business profiles, such as those available from Google. However, be sure that you’re deleting all duplicated My Business pages, as these can result in a Google penalty, which will hurt your local rankings.

Maximize listings in local online directories.

Local online directories like Yelp! present simple and easy opportunities to build your company’s citations, which influence search engine results rankings. A citation is any mention of your company’s name, address or phone number on pages other than your own website. On these directory pages, it’s a good idea to include a link to your company’s website, too.

Be consistent with content.

As with social media profiles, consistency is integral to a successful local SEO campaign; however, in this case it is less about effective branding and more about making your business easily searchable.

Create opportunities for customers to leave reviews.

Customer reviews will encourage visitors to investigate your site and, when positive, they play a significant role in attracting conversions. Google is now featuring reviews on local SERPs; the more diverse, high-quality, and plentiful your company’s customer reviews, the more likely you’ll end up on Google’s SERP carousel at the top of a results page.

Market to a mobile audience.

Appealing to mobile users is particularly important for targeting a local audience, as approximately 80 percent of all local searches are conducted on a mobile device.

Create webpages for specific locations.

If you have three brick-and-mortar storefronts, create three distinct web pages on your website for each location. This will help better direct those that search for your company name and location to your website, while creating the opportunity for your company to offer content that is specific to each location, and therefore more useful to local customers.

Optimize content on local webpages to a local audience.

This requires conducting local keyword research. Identify which phrases potential customers in your target area search for and implement throughout the content of a local page just as you would with traditional SEO ranking keywords.

Seek out ways to earn local media coverage.

Coverage from local media is another effective way of getting your company’s name to rank high for your area; the more external sources that associate your company with a specific location, the more your local rankings will improve.

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Paid Search

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