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A Checklist for Optimizing Your Website for Search Engines

by Rania Kort

 

While many people know that they need to optimize their site, many website owners do not know what they need to do to ensure their website is properly optimized. Here is a brief list that will help you get started and will also ensure that your website is conforming to some basic onsite small business SEO practices.

1. Use a Proper Title for Your Web Pages

The title that you assign to each page of your website is one of the factors that search engines use when crawling your site. Make sure that you not only incorporate your keywords into the page titles, but also make sure that each one properly describes the content on the page. The title tag is the first (usually click-able) phrase you see on the search result used by the search engines. 

2. Update the "Description" and "Keyword" Meta Tags

The two important meta tags you need to know about are the description tag and the keyword tag.  The description tag is a description of your website in 3 of 4 sentences that the search engines use when reading your site and also use it to display partially in the results.  The keyword tag lists the keywords you have selected for that page and should be keywords that are also used in your content.  This information can typically be updated through your Content Management System. 

3. Make Sure Your Content is Optimized

Focus more on quality content and less on getting all of your keywords into your content.  You should be able to naturally incorporate the keywords where they belong without making the sentence sound forced. While keywords are definitely important to include in your content, using them too often can make your website appear spammy to the search engines – and can therefore affect your ranking negatively.

This doesn’t mean that you have to meticulously calculate keyword density every time you sit down to write content – it just means that you should try to write content that appeals to both your visitors and the search engines.

4. Format Your Headings and Sub Headings

Search engines read the headings on your page and place value on their relevance. Review the headings on each page and make sure to format your main heading and subheadings as Heading 1 <h1 Tag> and and heading 2 <h2 Tag> respectively.   From the SEO onpage optimization perspective, <h1> is the most important header tag. You should make sure that you place your most important keyword in the <h1> header tag at the top of the page. You should only have one h1 tag per page.<h2> header tag is next in hierarchy and can be thought of as a sub-heading. You can have several <h2> tags below <h1> tag but not above. You are advised to place your 2nd most important keywords in the <h2> header tag. <h3> <h4>, <h5> and <h6> header tags do not carry weight to search engines.

5. Optimize your Internal Links

The internal linking structure of your site is also another factor that search engines use in ranking. There are three types of internal links: anchor text links that take you to a specific section on a page, hyperlinking words within your content and page menu links that take you to different pages on your site. Linking to related content within your pages helps the search engines crawl and rank your site better and makes it easier for your visitors to navigate and find information that interests them. 

6. Give Your Images Titles and Descriptions

In addition to making sure that images on your site have descriptions, you should also incorporate small business SEO when you create the ALT tags and file names of the images. By doing so, you will give yourself a greater chance of showing up in search results for images.

7. Create a Site Map and Submit it to the Search Engines

Having a site map is another important small business SEO step because your sitemap makes navigation easy, and tells the search engine spiders what your site is about. Additionally, a sitemap also helps make sure the search engines are notified of any changes that you have made. You should also manually submit the XML version of your sitemap to the search engines as well. Some Content Management Systems create the XML version automatically.  If not, you can have your web master create it and submit it for you.
 

8. Embed Analytics Code

In addition to making sure that you complete all the above tips, you should also embed code on your website that will enable you to analyze your website visitor activity. While this isn’t technically an onsite small business SEO technique, it will help you optimize your site further by showing you important information on how many visitors are coming to your website, how long they're staying, where they are navigating on your site and where they are coming from.  Google Analytics provides you with a free tool to monitor activity on your site.  If you are not already using a traffic monitoring tool, you should set up an account and follow the directions to embed the code on your site.

You can increase your ranking significantly by incorporating the results that you receive from Analytics because they can show you how effective your current keywords are. If you aren’t receiving good results with the keywords that you have chosen, consider modifying your content to reflect the terms that people are using to find your site.

There are other areas to address to optimize your site, some of which are more technical in nature. However, the tips provided above are a good inital checklist to use to get started.

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