Searching the internet for a complete SEO Checklist can be a grueling. Everybody has different advice. We have spent the last couple weeks gathering up information and making a start to finish (spoiler alert - your job is never "finished") guide to setting up your web site in a search engine friendly manner.
1. Keyword Research -Keyword research is the first step in succeeding with SEO. You can use Raven Tools for this, or simply go on to Google AdWords and use their keyword tool. Basically, you input words or and see how they rank in global and local search markets. You can also look at other exisiting web sites and see which terms and phrases are searched to lead people back to that particular site.
2. Purchase Domain - Purchase a domain through a hosting service. Having the keyword in your URL is a big plus. Having the keyword as the first word in your domain is even better.
3. Install WordPress - Once domain and hosting is set, install WordPress from the dashboard of your hosting cpanel. If your hosting company does not have WordPress built in, you can download a zip file from WordPress.org and install it manually. There are other Content Management Systems you can use, but WordPress is the most popular and the most SEO friendly.
4. Choose Theme - WordPress offers hundreds of thousands of free themes to choose from. If you can't find what you are looking for, you can look at premium themes and pay anywhere from $20 to $100 per theme. Or, you can use the default TwentyEleven theme and customize with plugins and CSS modification.
5. Add Essential SEO Plugins
a. Jetpack – This essential plugin supercharges your self-hosted WordPress site with the awesome cloud power of WordPress.com. It is automatically installed with WordPress. Jetpack includes many great features such as Social Sharing, Daily Statistics and Analytics and Mobile Integration. You don't have to use Jetpack, but it will save lots of time.
b. SEO by Yoast – This is the ultimate SEO plugin. Essentially, this plugin gives you a template for each page and post on your site where you can designate keywords or phases. SEO by Yoast then grades your content and lets you know what you need to do to make your content more compliant and searchable. This is also where you create meta titles and descritions.
c. Quick Cache – The best plugin for keeping your site running smoothly and quickly.
d. Do Follow – This one is optional – but can help get more comments and interaction on your site. Basically, this plugin allows search engines to count links that other people have put on your site (99% of the time these links are in User comments)
e. Akismet (spam blocker) – This plugin also comes preinstalled. Once you get an Akismet key, this plugin will push all SPAM to a SPAM folder. You can set it too delete automatically.
6. Add content - This is an ongoing process – First create your pages and categories, then create your posts. Your posts (or blog) should be created with some type of regularity (once, twice a week, daily) Create interesting posts – Don't just regurgitate other information from around the web. It is important to create interesting content that people actually want to read. The key is to get people coming back to your blog, or better yet, subscribing to your RSS feed so they are notified whenever you add new content to your website.
7. Determine Keywords/phrases for posts/pages – Use the keyword research tool to determine the best searchable terms related to the content on your respective post/page. If you are writing on a popular topic, SEO by Yoast will give you a list of the most popular options via a dropdown menu.
8. Fill out SEO by Yoast on each post/pagea. Enter keywords and Follow SEO by Yoast prompts until circle turns green.
9. Install Google Analytics – Submit your web address to Google Analytics. You will have to install a tracking code to prove the site is yours. Copy and paste the code into the header section of your php editor.
10. Register with Alexa Ratings – Submit your site to Alexa.com. Again you will be asked to install a tracking code. The easiest method is to cut and paste the code into the Alexa section on the front page of the SEO by Yoast dashboard.
11. Register with Google Webmaster Tools – You can confirm your Google Webmaster Tools account by matching up with your Google Analytics account, so make sure you are signed into GA when submitting to Web Tools. At this point, you will be asked to submit a sitemap. You can do this by going to Sitemap on your SEO menu and copy and pasting the sitemap address to Google Webmaster tools. This will Check for design flaws and Check for 404's, 302's etc.
12. Submit site with Submit Express (will prompt for Google, Yahoo, Bing) – This is the quickest and easiest way to get your site submitted into search engine directories so they can be indexed and found. You have to submit manually to Google, Yahoo and Bing, but this will prompt you through the process.
13. Social Media Integration– Now that you have a fully functioning web site – you need to share it with the world. Social Media is a great place to start. If you do nothing else, build a page and interact on the top 5 social media sites.
14. Google+ - This is supposedly the next big thing. Because it's Google – you should believe this statement. The new “New” big thing is Page Author Rank. This is why you see pictures of post authors at the top of the search results when you Google something.
15. Register with DMOZ (open listing service) - Google looks highly on this peer-reviewed directory, and obtaining a listing should help your search engine presence. Unfortunately, it takes forever to get listed in here (some sites have reported over a two year waiting time) But once you are in there, you have a high quality Backlink!
16. Backlink Building - Install SEOmoz toolbar (for pagerank and link counters) – SEOmoz has all types of great tools, but this one is essential. It is the quickest way to see all the vital SEO info for any website. Focus on High Page Ranked posts with Related Content. Using the tool bar, search for pages that have related content and show a high page rank. (4 or better) You can link to any website even if it doesn't have a page rank, but Google looks more favorably upon links from high ranked pages. Try for .GOV and .EDU links – These sites usually have high page ranks, but even if they don't, Google still gives them more authority because they are trusted sites. Look for DO Follow links (use highlight nofollow links on toolbar) – There are two types of websites on the internet – NOFollow and DOFollow. When you get a backlink from a NOFollow website, Google does not count it as much as a link from a DOFollow site. In fact, it only counts it as a link; not a link from a high ranked page. Facebook is a NOFollow – Twitter is a DOFollow. Comment on posts using Openid or Discus – If the site is not a WordPress site (although some WordPress sites don't have comment forms) you will need an account with Openid or Disqus. Both are free.
Healthy mix of DO Follow and NO Follow – If you find a site that is a NOFollow but allows you to leave a comment – leave a comment. For one, Google likes when your link building looks natural. If you have nothing but DOFollow Links, Google thinks you are trying to manipulate the system (because you are!) If you have a healthy mix, Google thinks that you are an active blogger (which is what you want to be!) In addition to this, it takes less then a minute for a site to change from a NOFollow to a DOFollow site. So if you have a ton of links from a high ranking NOFollow site that all of a sudden changes to a DOFollow site, well you get the idea. Use a back link checker to see which links are registering – Once you have spent some time on your link building campaign, you will want to see what links are being counted and what links are not. There are plenty of free backlink checkers online. This is the heart of Search Engine Optimization. Reliable, Trustworty backlinks. If you have great content and a large social network, this shouldn't be too hard. If not, you really have to work to get those backlinks!
Well that about does it for our SEO Checklist. Please leave any questions or comments about what we have missed. Search Engine Optimization is not an exact science and the parameters are changing all the time. The best way to stay ahead of the curb is to read as much information as you can find and then put it into play. See you at the top of Google~