Here is a down and dirty checklist I compiled a while back. Feel free to use it when you audit your own websites. Enjoy!
- Add brief descriptions to the alt attribute of image tags. The attribute should describe the image, not be a summary of the article.
- Use H1, H2, and H3 for titles and headings. Ensure the main body content is immediately after the H1, with no breadcrumbs or navigation in between.
- Create a relevant HTML title for every page. Using the actual article title that appears on the page is a good idea.
- Use style sheets as much as possible to keep the page size low.
- Use brief and relevant meta tags (keywords and descriptions) to provide a backup for the description that appears in search engine listings.
- Don’t fill the meta tags with words that don’t appear in the content of the page. The exception to this is to put common misspellings in the meta tags.
- Don’t repeat meta tag content on every page. The content should be specific to the page.
- Create separate sites rather than making a site a sub-site of a larger one.
- Do not make every visit to a URL unique by appending a session ID or something similar.
- Create a site map. This is as much for users as for search engines as it can serve as a gateway to deep content.
- Don’t link to redirects. Better to link directly to the destination page.
Images, Flash, Video
- Avoid creating images that contain only text (i.e. if an image contains just text, consider using HTML instead.)
- Ensure all images are named appropriately, have alt tags and are placed near text that is relevant to the image.
- Don’t put content in Flash movies. Better to have the content outside of the Flash and in the HTML.
- Provide transcripts for video or audio interviews.
Copy and Content
- Create a title that uses words that describe the main theme of the article.
- Use headings and sub-headings that describe the main theme of the copy that follows.
- Don’t automatically swap out repeated words and phrases in favor of less common words and phrases.
- Post all content on the web site including newsletters.
- Keep all special content such as Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving specials on-line.
- Don’t use pop-up windows for content. If pop-ups are necessary, provide an alternative link to the same page that isn’t a pop-up.
- Don’t remove content from a web site.
- Ensure all content—in particular, old content—has a link pointing to it. Use a sitemap or archive list page if necessary.
- Allow search engines to view forum discussions. This is free content.
- Update the content as often as possible. Search engines like frequently updated sites and will visit more frequently.
- Don’t worry about writing articles that are too long. The longer the better when it comes to SEO.
- Use link text that is relevant to the destination page. Avoid creating links that read “click here” or “read more”.
- Don’t create links out of entire sentences.
- Don’t fill the page footer with links to other sites. Better to keep the list short.
- Cross-link between pages in the web site.
- Link to external sites.
- Encourage external sites to link to specific content. Many sites are open to sharing links.
More SEM and SEO Tips
- Decide what search phrases you want to target. Use a tool such as the Google keywords suggestion tool to see what search phrases are popular, and optimize your site for these. You can optimize for any number of phrases; a bigger site can target a greater range of phrases.
- Clean up URLs. No capital letters, no spaces, no special characters. Separate each word with a “-” dash. Make sure each URL accurately describes the page.
- Remove query strings from URLs. No question marks in your URLs.
- Redirect the non-www version of your site. When you enter domain.com into the browser, it should redirect you to www.domain.com using an SEO friendly 301 redirection.
- Make sure you don’t link to “index.htm” or “index.php”. Instead, link to “/”.
- Remove frames from your site.
- Ensure the title is different on every page of the site.
- If your main navigation is flash or image based, ask yourself if it can be done using CSS. If it can, do it.
- If using CSS styled text for navigation is unthinkable, then add text-based footer navigation on every page.
- Add a Google XML sitemap, even if it’s just a simple list of all the URLs on your site. Submit this to Google through the Google Sitemaps program or Google Webmaster Tools.
- Is your website tables-based? Consider a cleaner CSS-based layout for your site.
- Have you got a website statistics program installed? Do you know how to access it, and do you check it regularly? If not, discover Google Analytics.
- Do you know where your website currently sits for your main phrases? If not, check Google, the localized version of Google (e.g. google.co.nz,) Yahoo and MSN. Remember: few visitors will search past page three.
- Check the optimization of each page. Pick one search phrase that is relevant to the content on the page. Ensure the page contains the phrase in the title, H1 heading, twice in the meta description, twice in the opening paragraph, and also in the URL if possible.
- Have good content? SEO will be much harder if you don’t have plenty of original text content, to engage in more time writing good content.
- Check the source order of your page. Good source code will have the page content as close to the top of the HTML document as possible, and the least important elements such as sidebars and footers last. If you can get the content above the main navigation, great.
- Action all recommendations that it makes, such as fixing broken links. Look carefully at the list of URLs, and make sure they are clean (no spaces, capitals, etc.)
- Check the search engines to see how well indexed your site is. If the search engines have indexed pages that have since been moved or deleted, setup a 301 redirect to redirect all traffic that these pages generate (or lose it).
- If you are a local “bricks and mortar” business, make sure you use your town / city / country on every page, in the title if possible, and in close proximity to your chosen search phrase.