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SEO Checklist, 6 Essentials for Improving Search Performance

by | 04/26/16 | SEO

Website Visibility: Will Qualified Visitors Find You?

In today’s digital world, your website is your most precious asset.  Aside from representing your company’s brand identity, done well, it is the foundation from which your leads will be generated and your customers acquired.  A critical element of a successful website is:  traffic.  In order for your site to achieve its objectives, it must attract visitors.  There are many different methods of attracting visitors to your site, but one of the most powerful and effective methods is organic search engine optimization (SEO).  According to Search Engine Watch, over 70% of all web traffic is driven by organic search.  It is therefore crucial that SEO be a focal point of your website design process, ensuring that all site architecture, structural elements, and content are in place. If the web design firm you are interviewing doesn’t discuss how you will attract visitors to your site, or how they will help you develop an effective content strategy, keep looking.

A word of warning.  Search Engine Optimization is a highly competitive game.  Your “opportunity” for ranking well depends largely on the competitiveness of your niche and target keywords.  In other words, how many other pages are optimized for the same keywords/topics that you are trying to rank for.  The more people fighting for page one, the more difficult this approach will be.  That being said, every website should be optimized for search using best practices, outlined below.

1) Quality Content

Search engines are getting smarter every day.  Google’s ultimate goal is to return search results that are fresh, high quality and relevant to the query that is being placed.  Google now knows how to understand your intent, not only your written language.  Search algorithms incorporate past online behavior to determine and deliver content that matches what searchers are really looking for, regardless of “how” they say it.  Therefore, when creating content on your site, although keywords are still important, focus on delivering useful, valuable, and focused information to the reader based on their goals, needs, and challenges; serve the visitor first, the search engine, second.  Delivering high quality content that truly engages readers is by far the most important contributor to good SEO results and website success, in general.

2) Keyword Research

Using the right keywords on your site is a crucial element in determining how well or poorly your site will perform on search.  Choosing the most effective keywords will ensure that you are attracting qualified visitors to your site who will be most likely to convert to customers.  The process of identifying which keywords will deliver the most value can be accomplished in multiple ways.  Google’s Keyword planner is a solid tool that will yield positive results.  Marketing automation software tools like HubSpot and Marketo also offer effective keyword research tools.  It is also possible to apply DIY methods to identify the best keywords to your site.  How relevant is the keyword to the content on your site?  Will searchers find precisely what they are looking for on your site after using these keywords?  Search the keyword in Google and Bing to get a pulse on the competitive landscape of the term(s) and what kind of investment it will take to rank highly.  Regardless of your research method, choosing your keywords wisely can make or break your site in search.

3) Responsive Web Design

Depending on which source you site, mobile devices now generate 55%-60% of all online traffic, and these numbers are only growing.  As a result, Google has included responsive design (mobile-friendly sites) as an important factor in its mobile algorithms. Google wants to deliver the best user experience to visitors, so it logically follows that if you’re searching on a mobile device, it makes sense to return results that are mobile-friendly.  Google now places desktop only sites as low ranking alternatives on mobile search.  You can test your website on the Google mobile-friendly test here.

4) Usability

As mentioned above, Google rewards sites that deliver the best user experience to visitors.  Make sure that your site is accessible, clear, intuitive, and focused on solving your visitor’s problems.  Use easy to understand language and not industry jargon.  From a technical standpoint, it is also important that your pages load quickly. Scale your high resolution images and graphics so they are optimized for the web. A smooth and seamless UX will go a long way in helping your site achieve better organic search results.

5) Links

Inbound, internal and external links still play a role in SEO performance, but take caution:  things are not how they once were.  Gone are the days of link farms and shoving in as many links as possible in order to appease the search engines.  Links are useful insofar as they add to the user experience and inform the reader.  If a link makes sense in the context of the page, put it in. Internal links can lead to further engagement with your site and external links can lead to increased authority by referencing your sources.  Inbound links still continue to play a role as Google considers inbound links as “recommendations” for your site.  But they only consider these ethical if the sites linking to yours are of high quality and relevant to your subject matter.  Do be careful not to overdo inbound, onsite or outbound links.

6) Infrastructure

In order to achieve the best SEO performance possible, your site must be built, technically structured and tagged accordingly.  The short list of onsite technical elements that are most important include:

  • properly structured URLs
  • optimized title tags and meta descriptions (make sure each page on your site is optimized for unique keywords relevant to the page)
  • user friendly navigation (breadcrumbs and sitemaps)
  • proper text formatting (h1, h2, bold, etc),
  • alt tags for images

If you are building a WordPress website, installing an SEO plugin like YOAST can help you understand how well-optimized your page is and offer suggestions on how to improve your page.


Attracting visitors to your site is the first and most important step in beginning the process of acquiring customers and growing revenue.  Sound SEO implementation is the fundamental method to achieve this goal.  Be sure the web design firm you choose addresses these strategies from the outset of your project.  They should not be an afterthought.  Substantive, quality content, keyword research, responsive design, positive user experience, careful and strategic use of links, and solid infrastructure are all important elements to your website design success.  Good Luck!

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