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Melinda Le

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Basic 15-Point SEO Checklist for New Websites

Launching a brand new website can be tricky; here are some fantastic onsite SEO tips to help you hit the ground running

From social networking through to online shopping and business transactions, it’s safe to say that the Australian online landscape is rapidly growing and always evolving. Unless you’re somehow immune to the FOMO (fear of missing out) syndrome many businesses struggle with, it is essential that your brand’s online presence is en pointe.

It doesn’t matter how cheap your prices are or how personalised your service is, if you’re nowhere to be found on Google and not getting seen online by your relevant target market, you’re not maximising the potential of the internet as a sales channel. According to Margin Media, Google currently owns 93.65% of the market share for Australian search engines; as one of Australia’s leading search engine optimisation companies, we’re here to give you some on-page SEO tips to help you lay the groundwork for your new website.

To make it even simpler, we’ve split our 15-point SEO audit checklist into two main sections – content and technical. These are the top issues we reckon you need to thoroughly address prior to launching your new website.

15-step seo checklist

Some content basics

1. Research relevant keywords and segments that will bring the right customers to your site

Find out which words and phrases your audience is using when they’re searching for their product or service need. To try it out, have a look at the Google Keyword Planner tool, it generates ideas and groups of keywords based on your product or service.

Please remember that the Keyword Planner tool is only a guide, don’t get carried away targeting over-competitive, broad terms just for the high traffic number. High traffic does not equate to quality traffic or relevant leads – more isn’t always better.

2. Create unique title tags and meta-descriptions that reflect the on-page content

Title tags and meta-descriptions are the key fields which show up when your page is found in search engine results.

Based on your target keywords, write a concise title tag that sums up what your page is about. With the meta-description, you can afford to be more descriptive about the page’s services or products and include an enticing call-to-action, to ensure customers will click through. Make sure you keep to the character limit – use this snippet optimisation tool to prevent your description from getting cut off.

3. Optimise heading tags for easy reading

Whether your page is being read by Google or by a customer, headings give your content structure and meaning, while breaking up bulks of content for readability.

Use your primary target keywords in the <h1> heading tag and your longer-tail keywords in <h2> headings.  Think of the <h1> as a newspaper headline and <h2> headings as the sub-headings.

newspaper headlines

4. Write non-spammy, useful content with your customers in mind

Keywords will help you publish content that’s on the right path, but make sure you’re writing content with your target audience in mind and avoid keyword stuffing at all costs! Focus on what your readers need when they click on to your site, offer them a solution and describe the benefits and unique selling points you can provide. Make sure you give your audience a clear call-to-action, whether that’s contacting you for a quote or downloading a brochure.

5. Steer well clear of duplicate content

Google values websites with useful and unique content. A common SEO problem, duplicate content can lead to your site being slapped with a nasty penalty – check Copyscape to see how you’re faring.

Whether it’s copied from another website or they’ve copied your content, make sure the content is re-written. Don’t be discouraged, think of it as a chance to revamp your content and add up-to-date information!

6. Logical internal linking

Create a user-friendly experience by linking to other pages across your site where it makes sense. This helps users to navigate your site to other relevant pages they might interested in and keep them lingering on your site for longer, rather than simply exiting.

7. Use alt tags for images

Google can’t read images which is why it’s important to add alt tags to images on your site, especially for e-commerce websites and if you’re using images for visual linking purposes. Alt tags will act as a short description of what the image is about and you can also use target keywords if relevant.

Now on to the technical stuff

8. Make sure you create search-engine friendly URLs

Just like headings, it’s ideal to have descriptive URLs that include the main keywords, rather than a long string of obscure characters and numbers that make no sense. For example, if the page is about doona covers under the bedding section, you can try something along the lines of http://domainname.com.au/bedding/doona-covers. NOT http://domainname.com.au/128976342678235678-abcd.

9. Set up and verify Google Analytics to help measure your SEO campaign effectiveness

There’s no point getting down and dirty in the SEO jungle if you’re not going to measure the effectiveness of your efforts. When you set up and verify your Google Analytics account, you’ll be able to see and capitalise on information around how many new visits you’re getting month on month, your most popular pages, seasonal traffic changes and more!

google analytics on screen

10. Goal tracking setup

Once you’ve set up your Analytics account, don’t forget to implement goal tracking so you can stay on top of your site’s conversions and see how well your site is performing against your objectives. Whether this is setting up a goal URL such as filling out a contact form or making a purchase on an e-commerce site, this gives you great insight into your top performing pages and an overview of the journey the user takes to reach that end-goal.

11. Register the new website in Google Webmaster Tools

This is an essential step for submitting new URLs and getting indexed by Google, alongside other search engines. Not to mention in-depth information and diagnostics  to help you optimise your site properly including but not limited to, who’s linking to your site, popular search terms, red-light issues that need urgent fixing such as crawl errors and indexing problems.

12. 301 Redirect old pages

If you’ve got an existing site and are in the process of building or launching a brand new site, you need to keep track of URL structural changes. Redirect old pages to the closest matching URLs on your new site in order to create a better user experience.

13. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly

It doesn’t matter if you have an awesome website with lots of cool stuff if users can’t navigate your website properly when they’re browsing on their mobile device, whether it be a tablet or smartphone. Desktop traffic will slowly be overcome by mobile traffic which is why you need to ensure your website is mobile-ready.

mobile-friendly website

14. Create an XML sitemap and make sure the site navigation is logical and simple

Sitemaps for search engines is just like maps for tourists, it contains every important page on your website, ensuring that when Google crawls your site, it won’t miss a thing.

As for us humans, clear and easy-to-follow site navigation is essential in creating a user-friendly experience and preventing potential sales leads from leaving the site. Make it easy for your visitors to explore your site, get more information, buy a product and conveniently contact you for quotes or enquiries.

15. Enhance page speeds for optimal performance

In case you haven’t cottoned onto the “I need it right here, right now” trend, most web users are pretty impatient when it comes to websites with sluggish load speeds, which leads to them giving up and abruptly clicking off your site – that’s a potential sale or lead lost.

Whether your images are too large or there’s too much white space in your website’s coding, make sure you used Google’s official speed test to diagnose any issues.

Boy, we hope that wasn’t too intense, let’s wrap it up!

thumbs up

So there you have it, if you’ve persevered through that whole spiel, here’s a big thumbs up! By no means will our 15-step SEO checklist ensure your new website will be ranking number 1 within a few hours of launching, it’s just some groundwork to get you started and give you a solid foundation to work on.

We hope that was helpful but if all that SEO talk has only gotten you more confused, never fear for roi.com.au is here! With a great range of SEO services and more, we’d love to hear from you – contact us on 1300 650 274 today.

Have a different opinion, found the article useful or have some extra tips to share? Be sure to share this article or leave us a comment below. Let the games begin.