The Ultimate SEO Keyword Checklist
When I first entered into the SEO world, I was a contracted blog writer given very direct instructions that were so formulaic that I could write blogs in my sleep. “Here’s your keyword. Use that keyword in the title and subheadlines. Use it in the first paragraph. 5 x in the body. Once in the conclusion.”
Same keyword exactly throughout the entire blog.
This practice, as many of us know now, is obsolete. Search engine algorithms were rewritten to read web pages more intrinsically, more organically. This formula stopped working, and can now actually hurt your ranking with search engines. The fact remains, however, there must be some sort of formula behind gaining more traction with search engines and reaching your ideal web users, and while it does have structure, it requires thought, dedication, and a lot of trial-and-error.
Here’s our ultimate SEO Keyword Checklist, compiled from most basic SEO practices all the way to the most recent findings that could nab you a new spot on the first page of Google.
How’s your URL?
One of the first items to address with SEO is a fundamental one – your choice in URLs. Search engines will index every page based on domain, use of dashes, and any related keywords. Our best solution is to come up with a URL convention that easily segments your web pages by topics and uses actual keywords. You’ll thank yourself later.
Make it speedy
Another item that may alternately affect ranking is your page speed. Google started ranking sites based on overall site speed (and subsequently page speed) and now it’s a significant factor. As search engine spiders crawl your site, if the data loads slowly, they’re going to have less information to formulate results. In addition, it’s a factor considered in overall rankings. Slow page load speed will also alternately affect your site analytics, such as bounce rate, and could prevent users from converting on your products or services out of impatience. Sorry not sorry.
It’s all in the research
Don’t underestimate the power of research. With the onslaught of keyword ranking importance, there are a ton of keyword tools that will analyze your competitors, offer you insight into varieties of related keywords, and categorize them for your PPC campaigns. Don’t forget to do basic Search Engine Result Page checks (SERPs) as well. This involves researching related keywords and comparing your terms with others using those on the first few pages. Once you have a good list, you can use them to write blogs, case studies, e-books, web content, landing pages, and even determine marketing campaigns based on a single keyword phrase. The more time you spend on this, the better.
You’re so meta
I must mention the importance, even still, in ensuring that the title and meta description sections of your website are given attention. Make sure they have a variety of naturally implemented keywords, make sure they’re catchy, and maybe even throw some regional keywords in as well—and don’t forget to ensure that they meet character length criteria.
Content rules. (It really does!) While there are a lot of visuals on websites these days – animation, graphics, videos, banners – don’t forget that just having simple text on each page (and adding a nice sprinkling of keywords within that text) is a silent salesperson for you. Solid content ensures that behind the graphics, images, and overall site design, search engines have a rich wealth of words to review on your site. These words (especially keywords) help the search engines to better reach users who are searching for your products or services.
See it to believe it
On the flip side, when you do have visuals on your website, adding keywords and descriptive text to the title and alternative text will improve your search engine rankings. Think of it this way, if someone searches images on Google, if your image is titled, “IMG0321.jpg” you’ll never be found. The alt text is significantly more important, and using simple phrases like “New York mid-century apartment” might lead a searcher right to your site just based on a simple phrase.
Link it up yo
A simple approach, and one that continues to have an effect on SERPs, is the elusive link. While outbound links are often a hot topic (you should always be careful when using them, I do agree) it’s still beneficial to link keyword phrases within your content when it’s natural and organic. It gives them a little authoritative boost when being crawled.
Think out of the box
This may be a comprehensive list, but there are a lot of other innovative trendy things you can research in the SEO world, so don’t limit your tactics! Depending on your business type, schema and rich snippets can put you directly at the top of a search result. For example, Wikipedia has a robust schema that is both helpful for the searcher as well as effective in nabbing the top spot:
Other options are rich snippets and a variety of ways to format content (such as bulleted lists, metrics, image captions, etc). You are the authority in your industry, researching new ways to gain recognition and determining how it will fit is entirely up to you—so go find something new and try it!
This can be a touchy subject. In a nutshell, semantic search (given a variety of different names) is a query or search that produces meaningful results whether the results actually have exact keyword terms or not. While still a pretty hot topic among SEO circles, optimizing for semantic search results, in my opinion, creates a more diverse, organic piece of content. Semantic search results will not focus at all on keywords or even longtail keyword phrases (which, I know, negates everything else in this article), but it pulls in terms based on an overall understanding of topics to give the searcher what they want rather than just matching exact keywords. Ultimately, if you are following all the practices above, but also still writing your content with clarity in voice, diverse titles and content rather than keyword stuffing, you’ll have a great chance at reaching semantic search terms.
Lather, rinse, repeat
I wasn’t going to say which of these was the most important but I changed my mind. The single most important item in this list is #10. The best way to commit SEO murder is to think that you’ve done everything you can and it’s essentially on “default.” Algorithms change on a regular basis. People in the industry are always finding new ways to make SEO better. So, once you’ve gone through this checklist once, jot down 6 months on your calendar and take another look. Search engines are becoming increasingly savvy, they know when content is outdated. They know when you’re using poor SEO practices. Your rankings could also dip when existing keywords you’re using aren’t effective because the terms are oversaturated by competitors. In fact, revamping old blog posts has become one great way to gain new traction. So, whatever you do from this list or any other, make sure you come back to it and refresh on a 6-12 month cadence.
That’s a look at how we think you can use keywords to increase your search engine rankings. If you’re interested in learning more about keywords and SEO, feel free to reach out. Our team would be happy to help you strategically use keywords and improve your search engine rankings!