website designer geek with a pencil

SEO checklist

for non-techies

Think of SEO before you start to build your website

How to plan SEO before you start building your website? What are the important checkpoints after it has been launched? We write about both.

Note: 'Level of importance' indicators are estimates, based on our subjective opinion. Other professionals may think it different. They also may vary based on the nature of your business and your priorities.


1. Before you start to build a new website think of the following:

Copywriting

Level of importance:

Copywriting is NOT just about nice words. Your content has to be useful, engaging and professional. Never ever write something just because you think of SEO. Your content has to be written in a natural tone of voice. It's always strongly recommended to ask a professional copywriter. Be prepared to help your copywriter to 'learn' your business as much as possible. Even a professional copywriter needs your help.

Advice: Write a brief version of all your most important topics in a separate file and give them to your copywriter.

modern symbols of copywriting

Content structure

Level of importance:

When you plan your content, think about your potential website visitors. Although the need for having a clear structure sounds obvious, it's not an easy job to create one. The structure has to be logical. All your pages has to be within three clicks from your home page. Your readers should have a clear vision of your content structure easily.

Advice: Grab a piece of paper and jot down all topics what your website may contain. Don't forget to prioritise your topics.

pages, structure and connections

Readability

Level of importance:

Readability contains a bit of everything: Web design, font size, number of words, number of sentences, etc. Formatting is also important. Use titles appropriately with the aim of helping your readers to 'skim' the page easily. Search engines are quite good at recognising how easy-to-read your content is.

It's also vital in terms of so-called 'dwelling time'. If your readability score is high, your visitors will stay longer on your website. Don't forget: The higher engagement level your visitors have, the higher scores your website gets from search engines.

Advice: Test your readability level using our Text Readability tool. Try to reach a score of at least 50/100.

badly and well formatted demo pages

Good technical foundations

Level of importance:

This is a controversial topic. It has strings to web design and web development too. One thing is sure: Design is important but not everything. If your website is nice but slow, you may struggle with SEO later on. There are issues which could be fixed easily after the website has been launched but others could cause problems.

Advice: Ask your chosen web designer to show a few website references which either have a good speed score or have a good search position. Having both at the same time is the best.

single puzzle piece will fit in its place

Mobile friendly design

Level of importance:

Responsive or mobile-friendly? Well, it's not the same. A responsive website is not always 100% mobile friendly. Font size, tap targets, wording, speed, content structure, formatting... A lot of different issues add together how mobile friendly your website will be. More and more 'trendy' design solutions are developed with the aim of being more mobile-friendly. Don't forget: This is what Google also suggests.

Advice: Keep in mind that more than 52% of website visits are on mobile devices.

colourful cartoon-style mobile phone

Planning URLs & 'slugs'

Level of importance:

Just take a look at the top of your browser now. You will see 'seo/seo-checklist' words after our main URL (which is 'addmonte.co.uk'). 'Slug' is the part of the URL. Every single page on a website have a unique slug, which identifies that particular page. A meaningful URL (or slug) gives a good hint to search engines what your page is about. And it also helps website visitors because they will feel more confident if they see they are on a required web page. Just imagine: Several years ago URLs like 'www.yourdomain.com/data?id=423657' were quite common. It helped neither people nor search engines.

Advice: Always consult with your web designer / web developer about the structure of your topics. In case of brochure websites it's not crucial but websites which contain more than approx. 10-12 pages it's vital.

cartoon-style laptop

2. After your website has been launched, check the following:

Meta Titles

Level of importance:

Meta titles are shown in the tab of your browser and when your website appears in search engines, meta title is shown first.

It's important to have them for two reasons:
1. It tells the search engine what that particular page is about.
2. Helps the website visitor to see the topic of your page.

Typically Google shows 50-60 character of your title. Why there's no accurate length? Because number of characters doesn't matter. It's the length of the title (in pixels) what counts.

Advice: Write unique titles for each page. Keep it around 50-60 characters. Make it concise and compelling.

Difficulty:

difficulty level 1

ToDo: If you have any kind of CMS (Content Management System) you could access to your content. Depending on what system your website is based on, meta title field could be found at different sections. If you don't find it, ask your web developer. Alternatively, you could ask your developer to do it for you.

Technically it's easy, However, it could be time consuming. Bear in mind that you have to write the wording.

Meta keywords

Level of importance:

Meta keywords are visible in the source code only. Several years ago keywords played a very important role in SEO, because meta keywords were strong ranking factors. Its importance shrunk a lot. Google stated it doesn't make any positive impact on rankings. It's used by other search engines (Yahoo, Bing, etc.). Given that approx. 90% of people use Google, it's not really important.

Advice: Add unique keywords and keyphrases to your pages, separated by commas.

Difficulty:

difficulty level 1

ToDo: Do the same as described above: Depending on what system your website is based on, meta keyword field could be found at different sections. If you don't find it, ask your web developer. Alternatively, you could ask your developer to do it for you.

Technically it's easy, too.

Meta description

Level of importance:

Meta description are shown
1. in the source code of the website, 2. in the list of search results.

Bear in mind: Search engines won't show your meta description if they think it's not relevant enough, but will show a section of your content instead. It's quite unpredictable, depends on Google.

Advice: Avoid duplicates. Write unique, concise and compelling meta descriptions for each single page.

Difficulty:

difficulty level 1

ToDo: Take you time to think through what to write. Don't be lazy... According to our experience, this is what website owners don't do. It might seem quite an improductive job, but it really worth it.

Technically it's really easy - but boring. We've given 2/5 for difficulty, because although you don't need any technical skills to do it, but it does require writing skills.

H1, H2, H3 tags

Level of importance:

H tags are design to format content. Apart from formatting it has another useful role too: They gives a nice and logical structure to your page. Just as for humans, so for search engines they help to ‘digest’ the content.

Let’s think of any book or newspaper: We are more likely to read more if it’s nicely formatted and easy on the eye.

Given that readability is another important SEO facto, your page should be easy-to-skim and easily legible.

Advice: Use only one H1 tag in one page. Use it mostly close to the top of the page. It’s worth considering to use a keyword in H1 tag, but always write in a natural tone of voice. Bear in mind: A title on the page isn’t necessarily ‘H’ tag just because it looks like an ‘H’ tag. It should be ‘H’ tag technically too, not just visually.

Difficulty:

difficulty level 1

ToDo: The best is when you write your content with proper formatting right from the beginning. Even if you did so, it’s strongly recommended to read all your pages as if you were just a visitor on your website. Check if your content is nice, easy-to-read and have enough empty space. It’s in connection with web design.

Minify CSS and JS files

Level of importance:

It’s a technical issue. In some cases it can be resolved be techies, but according to our experience it’s much faster and more effective to ask a professional. Good technical foundations are important because even if it can be done after the website has gone live, in some cases it’s not easy.

Advice: Just make sure if it's done properly. Why is it important? Because it has an impact on website speed, as such, on SEO as well.

Difficulty:

difficulty level 1

ToDo: Check your website with this tool and look for ‘Minify JavaScript’, ‘Minify CSS’, ‘Minify HTML’ rows. If you see green colours in ‘grade’ column (showing around 90% or higher), your CSS and JS files are minified.

Image optimisation

Level of importance:

Heads up: File size (in kilobytes) doesn’t show the image size (in pixels).

Image optimisation is a complex issue: Images could and should be optimised in terms of

  • physical size (pixel)
  • reducing the size of the file (kilobytes) by ‘cleaning’ the file.

It’s the web designer’s responsibility to use images properly. For the business owner it’s not always obvious how images are used.

Why is it important? Because unnecessarily large images could slow down your website, causing a negative impact on your SEO scores.

Difficulty:

difficulty level 1

ToDo: Check your website with this website, look for “Optimize Images” section.

It’s not always possible to have all images optimised because you could have images on your site from other websites (eg. Facebook).

Image 'alt' attributes

Level of importance:

The ‘alt’ attribute is is a small bit of HTML code to specify alternative text (alt text) that is to be shown when the image cannot be rendered for any reason.

“The alt attribute is used by 'screen reader' software so that a person who is listening to the content of a webpage (for instance, a person who is blind) can interact with this element. Every image should have an alt attribute to be accessible.”
Wikipedia

Difficulty:

difficulty level 1

ToDo: Use Chrome browser and install Lighthouse plugin to check if your site’s images have alt attributes. (There are many other tools as well, but this one is a free, quick and easy solution.)

GZIP compression

Level of importance:

This is a simple issue, but needs professional help if it’s not set up. Using GZIP compression your web server sends a (technically) compressed version of your website to the visitor's computer. It just makes your website faster.

Difficulty:

difficulty level 1

ToDo: Check your website on this website, and look for “GZIP compression” section.

Web server speed

Level of importance:

It’s something that will have a negative impact on your SEO scores if your web server isn’t fast enough.

You can test your web hosting server on this website.

We are proud to say that our web server speed is exceptionally quick. Visit bitcatcha.com and type ‘hosting.addmonte.co.uk’ in to the input field, than hit Enter.

Difficulty:

difficulty level 1

ToDo: For you as a client this is just something that you might be interested in. You can check it also, if you wish.

Robots.txt

Level of importance:

It’s a must. Robots.txt is a text file webmasters create to instruct web robots (typically search engine robots) how to crawl pages on the website.

It’s your webmaster’s job to create this file.

Difficulty:

difficulty level 1

ToDo: Check if your website has a robots.txt file. Type in your browser
your_website_com/robots.txt

If you see something like
‘User-agent: *
Disallow: ‘
it’s good news then, you have a robots.txt file.

XML Sitemap

Level of importance:

XML Sitemap is a file for Google to be able to easily find the most important pages and to know when they were last updated. It’s a kind of catalog of your pages, an easy-to-read map for Google. As such, it’s a must as well.

You don’t see actually this file because it’s for Google only, but you can check it. See an example here.

Difficulty:

difficulty level 1

ToDo: Type in your browser: www.your_website_com/sitemap.xml
This file may have a different URL path, so if you don’t find it, it doesn’t mean that it’s missing. Ask your web designer.

Check URLs and slugs

Level of importance:

As we wrote above, a meaningful URL (or slug) gives a good hint to search engines what your page is about. Well written slugs help a lot in your SEO positions.

It was your developer’s job to create a good URL structure and write appropriate slugs.

Advice: It's better to plan and think in advance than changing the URLs later on. Although every web designer will do his/her best, you are the expert in your business, so you have to give suggestions about meaningful URLs.

Difficulty:

difficulty level 1

ToDo: Click every single page of your website and check the URLs. Are they short? Are they ‘meaningful’? It’s recommended to avoid underscores. Hopefully it’s all okay.

Internal (and external) links

Level of importance:

Internal link leads your visitors from one page to another on your website. A good website always have internal links, 'leading' the visitors.

Example: Read more about SEO basics.

Advice: Don't be afraid of using external links pointing to other websites.

Difficulty:

difficulty level 1

ToDo: Read all your pages as if you were a visitor and look for connections between your topics. When you think you could link to a relevant sub-page of your website, go for it! Important: Don’t overdo, just be natural.

Google Analytics

Level of importance:

It’s a must. Google really appreciates if you use ‘free’ analytics and other Google tools. It’s a mutually beneficial partnership: You get data about your website visitors, and Google gets data of your clients’ behaviour through your website. Win-win. Brilliant, isn’t it?...

Difficulty:

difficulty level 1

ToDo: If you have a Wordpress site there are different plugins for Google Analytics code. In case of a custom system ask your web developer. It’s recommended to have a Google account, but if you haven’t, your developer will sort it out anyway.

HTTPS

Level of importance:

Your website should work using 'https' (so-called SSL certificate). It shows to search engines and website visitors too, that communication between the client's computer and the website is using a secure 'channel'. It has a positive impact on SEO because Google doesn’t like insecure website. Without HTTPS your website will still be indexed by Google but you definitely need using SSL.

Difficulty:

difficulty level 1

ToDo: Just check if your website has a small ‘padlock’ next to your domain.

Inbound links

Level of importance:

Why is having inbound links so important?

Search engines have to make sure somehow, that you are a prominent player in your industry. As such, the more websites write about your services or products (pointing links to your website), the more signal is sent to Google about how important your business is regarding your industry.

There are debates about ‘quality or quantity’: Is it better to have hundreds of low quality links or have just a few but high quality ones?

One thing's for sure: It’s a very long process anyway.

Advice: Don’t register your website on so-called ‘link farms’. Always write useful content that generates natural interest and - hopefully - you’ll get more and more inbound links from other websites.

Difficulty:

difficulty level 5

ToDo: Search and think. Create interesting content what your potential visitors might be interested in. Create unique functions what other websites found useful.

Summary:

All items in the list above are simplified for non-experts. We don't mean you need to know everything about basic SEO, but we do think this is a useful guide for SMEs.

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