SEO Checklist

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Local business owners want often want totalk about an SEO checklist for new sites that aren’t ranking yet. Many say “I’ve created a new website, I want to make sure that I am doing all the right things in the right order that I’ve got everything setup and my website is not yet ranking. What are the things that I should be doing? Maybe somethings that I shouldn’t be doing” and I wanted to create a brief checklist with this Whiteboard Friday. If we find this useful, maybe we’ll expand it to even more stuff with it in the future. Let’s run through.

You got a new site that you’ve just launched. You are setting things up for success. What do you need to worry about? First off, accessibility. What I mean by this is users and search engines both need to be able to reach all of the pages, all of the content that you’ve created on your website in easy ways. You need to make sure you don’t have any sort of dumb mistakes that can harm your SEO. These are the things like 404 and 500 errors and 302 instead of 301, duplicate content, missing title tags, thin content where there is not much material on the page that search engines to grab onto, maybe for users as well. Two tools that are great for this, first off Google Webmaster Tools which is completely free. You can register at google.com/webmasters and is very useful when you are looking at a new site and we sort of build a bunch of features in there that we wish Google Webmaster Tools kept track off but they don’t and some of those features are included in the Archseer App including things like 302 for example, something content stuff. That can be quite helpful.

I pick a probably awful keyword for anyone to be targeting, no search volume, just bad choice in general but right we want to be looking at is does this have good search volume, right? Some users actually search for them and you might not be able to target high value terms because you are also looking for low difficulty when you are first launching a site, right. You don’t want to necessarily shoot for them and maybe you are doing your homepage or some branded page, some product page, but for the things that you know you want to target and you want to work on early short term, right, maybe some content that you’ve got, some of those feature pages for the product or service you are offering and you think yourself, I’m not going to be able to target which is easier. You could look at search volume, the relevance to the website, please by all means make sure that you have something that is relevant, that is actually pulling in searches you care about and low difficulty. If you got that taken care of, you got your keyword targeting.

Content quality and value. If you have a bunch of users come in to this page and they think to themselves, this doesn’t really answer my query or maybe this answers one portion of it, but I wish there was more detail here, more video, more images, maybe a nice graphic that explain somethings. A data set. Some references to where they got this information. Not just a bunch of blocks of text. Maybe I’m looking for something that describes the process, something that explains it fully. If you can do that, if you can build something remarkable where all of this people change from huh, huh, what’s this? To oh, you know what, instead it’s I’m happy. I also am happy. This page makes me so happy. Yeah, I’m going to stick my tongue out. If you can get that level of enjoyment and satisfaction from your users with the quality of the content that you produce, you are going to do much better in the search engines and search engines have got some really sophisticated algorithms that look at true quality and value. You can see Google gotten so much better about putting really good stuff in results. Even sometimes when it doesn’t have a lot of links or it is not doing hardcore cue targeting, when it is great stuff, they are doing a good job of ranking it.

Next up, design quality, user experience and usability. This is tough unless you have a professional designer, you have a professional design background, you almost certainly need to hire someone or go with a very simple basic design that it is very user friendly, that you know when you survey your friends, survey people in your industry, survey people in your company, survey people in your ecosystem, that they go, yeah, this looks really good. I’m very happy with the design. Maybe I’m only giving it a 6 out of 10 in terms of beauty but an 8 out of 10 in terms of usability. I understand the content on this site. It is easy for me to find things and they flow. There is really no point in ranking unless you are nailing these two because you are not going to get many more customers. People are just going to be frustrated by the website. There is a few tools you can use on the web to test this app, 5 Second Test, Feedback Army, Silver Back app, all of these are potentially useful for checking the usability or experience of the site.

Social account setup. Because social and SEO are coming together like never before, right. Google is showing plus ones and things that people share by default in the search engine rankings being and showing all the stuff that has been shared on Facebook and they are putting it above the rest of the content. Really, really, pays to be in social and social signals help search engines better understand or better rank things as well as having this nice second order effect on user and usage data, on branding, on the impact of people seeing those sites through social sharing and potentially linking to them. Social account setup at the very least you probably want to have these four Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus, right? All of those have got, Google Plus is only about 25 million but it is very, growing very fast.

LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook are all over a 150 million users right now. I think Twitter is at 200 million and Facebook is at 750 million. At least have your pages setup for those, make sure the account experience is the same across of using the same photos, same branding, same descriptions, people get a good sense when they see you in the social world and you probably want to start setting something up to be monitoring and tracking this. You may want to sign up for something like a Betley. I use to really recommend Post Strength but unfortunately they don’t track Facebook since Google bought them anymore. It is a little more frustrating. The Archseer Web App will start to track this for you pretty soon and once you’ve got those social account setup, you can feel good about sharing the content that you are producing through those social accounts, finding connections, building up in that world and spending the appropriate amount of time there depending on the value your feeling back from that.

Next up, link building and this is where I know a lot of people get sort of the wrong, of to the wrong start and it is incredibly hard to recover. Actually, I just got an email in my inbox before we started doing Whiteboard Friday from someone who had started a new website and he is like, I got these 300 links and now I’m not ranking anymore, I was doing great last week for the first 6 weeks I have been ranking great and I started to just a quick look at the back and I went no, I think you know this person really went down the route I’m going to get a bunch of low quality easy to acquire links and for a new site in particular, it is so dangerous because Google is just really on top of throwing people out of the index or penalizing them very heavily when their link profile looks really scummy and when you don’t have any trustworthy quality signals to boost you up, that is when low quality links can hurt the most.

Good things to do. Start with your business contacts and your customers. They are great places to get links from. Your customers are willing to link you, awesome, get them to link you. If the contacts that you have in the business world are willing to say, hey my friend, Rand just launch a new website, boom. That is a great way of doing it. All your email contacts, your LinkedIn contacts, people that you know personally and professionally. If you can ask them, hey, would you support me by throwing a link to me on your about page or your blog roll or your list of customers or your list of vendors or whatever it is, right?

Guest post and content. This is a great way to do good sort of content positive, content production and earning links back for that. Finding trustworthy sites that have lots of RSS subscribers and are well renowned and can give you visibility in front of your audience and give you a nice link back if you can contribute positively to those. I also like high quality resource list. This would be things like the Better Business Bureau maybe that sort of falls a little in the directory world but something like a crunch base, right. If you are a startup in the technology world, you definitely need to have a crunch base listing. You might want to be on some Wikipedia list granted those are no follow but that is still OK. That is probably a good place to get some visibility. There might be industry specific list that are like, these are heavy machine production facilities in the United States, great, OK, I should be on that list, that is what I do, right.

News, media and blogs. Getting the press to cover you, getting blogs in your sphere to cover you. Finding those, emailing the editors, letting them know that you are launching this new website, that is a great time to say, hey this business is transformer, we are launching a new site, we are changing our branding, whatever it is, that is sort of a press worthy message and you can get someone to look at you. Review sites, review blogs are great for this too is they will sort of say, you got a new application, you got a new mobile service maybe we’ll link to you, that can be interesting.

Relevant social industry and app account links, right. If I can contribute something to the Google Chrome Store, right. If I contribute something to the Apple Store. If I am contributing something to a design portal or a design gallery, all of those kinds of industry stuff and accounts that you can get are likely worth submitting to or worth getting your website listed on. And then social media link acquisitions. This is obvious stuff where you spend time on Twitter, on Facebook, on LinkedIn and Google Plus, connecting with people and overtime building those relationships that will get you the links possibly through one of this other forms or just through the friendliness of them noticing and liking and enjoying your content.

That is what content marketing is all about as well. These are great ways to start, very safe ways to do link building. They are not short terms wins, right. This almost all of them requires at least some effort, some investment of your time and energy. Some creativity, some good content, some authenticity in your marketing versus a lot of the stuff that tempts people very early on. They are like, sweet, I have a new website, I need to get like 500 links as soon as possible. I’m going to try things like reciprocal link pages, right. I’m just going to put a list of reciprocal link partners, I’m going to go contact a bunch of other firms. They are all link to me and we are all link to each other, it will be a happy marriage of links. No, it’s not a wonderland.

Low quality directories, right. Search for SEO friendly directory. If it shows up on that list, chances are even in Google, right, like Google is showing you a bunch of bad stuff. Someone was asking me recently on email they said, I really need some examples of sites that have done manipulative link building. I was like, it is so easy, search for SEO friendly directory and look at who is paid to be listed in those directories. They almost all have spammy, manipulative link profiles and it is funny because you go to those and I don’t know why people don’t do this but try searching for the brand names that come up in those list. None of them rank for their own brand name. Well, why is that? Like clearly they are killing themselves with this terrible, terrible links, right? Low quality directories, you really avoid that.

Article marketing or article spinning. I talked to you about that a few weeks ago on Whiteboard Friday, also a practice. I strongly recommend you avoid especially. I know it can work. I know there is people for whom it does work but especially early on, it can just kill you. It really can get you banned or penalized of the engines and you just won’t rank anywhere if your link profile starts out spamming. Paid links is another obvious one. Forums, open forum spams, kind of go in hand, look here is a guest book that is open, I forgot to put no file. I’m going to leave a link there. Here, look its the forum that accepts registration and they don’t, they forgot to close their no follow off. Anyone can leave a link.

Even things like to do follow blogs, right, do follow blog comments. It is really risky. You just, because they are linking to bad places, a lot of the time and it is usually to manipulate people who have no intent to create something of value for the search engines. They are merely trying to manipulate their rankings and whenever you have a tactic like that it attracts people who have nasty websites and then Google looks at those and he goes, OK, they are linking to a bunch of nasty sites. I don’t want to count those links or maybe I’m even going to penalize some of the people that they are linking to. That really sucks.

Link farms, right, which is essentially setting up all this different systems of links that point to each other or cause tons of the domains that are completely artificial link for no human reason or no dishonorable human reason and are merely met to manipulate the engines. This type of stuff is very, very dangerous when you are early on. If you have already built up a good collection of these types of links, you are much safer. But you do have some risk in those first 3, 6, 9 months after you have launched a new site around doing wrong things on the link building front and getting yourself into a situation where you are penalized and we see a ton of that through Archseer Q&A, I get an email, you see it on the web all the time. Be cautious around that and hopefully this checklist will help you get your site to a nice established place and you can keep doing some great marketing and eventually win the internet. I wish you good luck with your new website.