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SEO Checklist for Basic Website Optimization

How to improve your website’s SEO, boost your search ranking, and increase audience engagement.

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.

What is website optimization?

If you want to generate as much traffic as possible, you need to think carefully about search engine optimization, which is the process of customizing your website to meet the needs of search engines.

If you make your website more attractive to search engines, you can significantly increase your search results rankings. The vast majority of people are going to click on something at the top of the page. That is where you want your website to land. That is where SEO website optimization tools can be helpful.

Web optimization can also help you increase your conversion rate optimization by targeting the right website visitors. With the best SEO website optimization tools, you can figure out what your target audience types in the search box when they are looking for products and services you sell. Then, through the process of SEO optimization, you can generate more traffic, increase your conversion rate, and generate more revenue.

Because there are lots of websites out there following the same playbook, you need to think carefully about how you can separate yourself from the crowd. What do you need to do if you want to maximize your website's performance?

The benefits of web optimization

Even though it can take a lot of work for you to optimize your website to meet the needs of search engines, there are several significant benefits you will enjoy.

Some of the biggest benefits of going through the process of search engine optimization for your website include:

1. Generating more traffic for your website

Of course, one of the biggest benefits of running a strong SEO campaign is that you can generate more traffic. If you do not optimize your website, you may have a difficult time getting your website to land on the first page of search results for specific words and phrases.

Without a strong website optimization strategy, you will have a difficult time landing at the top of the list. Optimize your website for mobile page speed if you want to maximize the results of your SEO campaign. That way, you will have more website visitors, which will translate into more leaves.

2. Boost brand awareness

Another major benefit of having a strong SEO campaign is that you can increase your brand visibility and brand awareness. Even if people do not click on your link every time, they will immediately associate your name with your industry. That is because people will see your website just about everywhere.

With more brand awareness, you will have an easier time generating more quality traffic. That way, you will have an easier time converting them into paying customers. Brand visibility is incredibly important. If you want to boost your brand visibility and brand awareness, you may want to learn more about how to write SEO optimized content. That way, you can make a positive impression on those who visit your website.

3. Improve the experience of your users

Getting people to visit your website is only half the battle. You need to make sure they have a positive experience once they get there. If you go through the process of web optimization, you will make it much easier for people to find the information they are looking for. First, your website will load quickly. That will immediately make your website more relevant because nobody wants to visit a slow website.

Second, you will improve the architecture of your website. That is important for making it as easy as possible for people to find what they are looking for. Finally, if you want people to purchase items directly from your website, you need to make the checkout process easier as well. All of these steps will dramatically improve the user experience, optimizing your website. You may also want to take a look at 5 tips to increase website traffic.

4. Provide more relevant content

When you go through the process of search engine optimization, you will also take a look at your content to make sure it is as relevant as possible. Of course, you want your content to be relevant to the needs of your users, and that is particularly important for local SEO.

Furthermore, you need to update your content from time to time if you want to maximize the results of your search engine optimization strategies. When you update that content, you will automatically make sure it is relevant to the needs of your target market.

By providing more relevant content, you will make it easier for search engines to categorize your website, and you will have an easier time keeping the attention of your target market.

5. Make your website easier to index

Search engines do not have eyes. They will have a difficult time categorizing your website if you do not make it as obvious as possible for them. When you go through the process of search engine optimization, you will improve your website architecture.

What that means is that you will make it easier for search engine crawlers to figure out what your website is about. When your website is placed in the correct category, you can get your website in front of the right people.

6. Boost your conversion rate

Even though website optimization can help you generate more traffic, it will also help you generate the right type of traffic. That means that you can increase your conversion rate.

It can take a long time to run an effective search engine optimization strategy, and it might require a significant monetary investment as well. That is why you need to maximize the ROI by increasing your conversion rate. Having a strong search engine optimization campaign can help you do exactly that.

7. Increase web accessibility compliance

Finally, you will also have to pay attention to your web accessibility compliance. What this means is that you need to make it as easy as possible for everyone, even if they have a disability, to access the information on your website. From time to time, you will need to audit your website to make sure you are in compliance, and that compliance can help you avoid penalties and sanctions.

4 steps to optimize your website

1. 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.

2. Generate visibility

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.

3. 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.

4. 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 (SERPs). 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.

Website optimization tools

If you want to get the most out of your website, you need to use website optimization tools that can help you. There are plenty of options available, and you need to find the right tools to meet your needs. Some of the top options to consider include:

1. Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO is one of the most popular website optimization tools available. It is easy to use, will help you make sure you have plenty of images and videos, and can help you improve your website architecture. It will also track your keyword density for you to make sure you are using the right terms in the right spots. If you use WordPress to build your website, there is a convenient plug-in you may want to take advantage of.

2. Google Analytics

Google Analytics is also a very important website optimization tool. Given that the vast majority of search engine traffic still comes from Google, it makes sense that you should figure out how Google interprets your website. Google Analytics can help you review certain components of your website to figure out how you rank for certain terms and phrases. You can also use it to keep track of your SEO campaign to figure out what is working and what is not.

3. Hotjar

If you want to improve the performance of your website, you need to understand the user experience. That is where Hotjar can help you. This is a powerful tool that can help you track the online behavior of your visitor. One of the biggest advantages of using this tool is called heatmaps. You can figure out where your visitors are spending the majority of their time, which can help you figure out what traffic is working well and what is not.

4. Semrush

One of the most popular website optimization tools on the market today is called Semrush. This is a comprehensive digital marketing platform that can help you handle everything from search engine optimization to content marketing. It can even help you improve your social media marketing, which you can use to drive more traffic to your website. There are both free and premium versions of this tool available, so you need to figure out what works best for your needs.

5. Moz Pro

You might also want to take a closer look at Moz, which provides you with access to a variety of digital marketing tools. There are some free tools that can help you with your search engine optimization campaign, but you may want to invest in the premium options if you want to get the most out of Moz. You can collect lots of reliable data, use analytical tools to measure the performance of your search engine optimization campaign, and take advantage of advanced APIs to help you make nuanced changes to your website that can dramatically improve the performance of your digital marketing campaign.

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.

“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.”

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