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Understanding the Key SEO Checklist for New Websites

seo-checklist-webfootA new website has many problems to overcome. First, everybody else is way ahead of you, so you are going to have a mountain to climb just to get noticed. Second of all, there is the issue of SEO and simply not appearing anywhere on the radar. You may have even sat and thought about your potential budget, and yet there are often fears that it will not be enough to make a difference.

So, how do you deal with this situation without getting too depressed about it all?

Well, for us, the first port of call has to be establishing the appropriate SEO checklist for a brand new website. Yes, we just believe that there should be a number of different things that you do to really jump start your SEO campaign even though it may potentially be some time before you notice any difference in your rankings.

  1. Set Up Google Analytics.

To kick things off, we strongly recommend setting up Google Analytics. This is where you will be able to look at all kinds of useful information connected to traffic and also conversion rates. This can be done even before your website is fully launched, so if there is a landing page, then get it added so you can get to grips with the data that you will then be receiving.

  1. Google Search Console Verification.

Google search console is a completely free tool, so as it is going to cost you nothing then there is no reason for you to not go and sign up to it. By doing so, you will then be able to see how the different search engines actually view your website allowing you to then tweak your SEO campaigns in order to be viewed in a more favorable light.

  1. Make Sure Your Website is Mobile Friendly.

Google is pushing mobile friendly websites, and if you are unsure as to whether or not your website is fine, then you might want to check out their mobile friendly test. This is available via the webmaster tools on Google, so you are going to need to sign up there and run your site. It will let you know if there are any issues that you then need to tackle before Google penalizes you.

  1. Check Out Your Page Speed.

Page speed is not only a huge factor when it comes to SEO, but also in the way that people view your website with there being a reluctance to hang around while something loads. This means the bounce rate for your website can be high, so it makes sense to counteract this as much as possible. For this, look at using Google Page Speed Insights via their developer tools, and you are going to ideally want to have something rated at 80+.

  1. Get to Grips with Your Keyword Analysis.

Keywords remain a huge part of any SEO campaign, so you need to make sure that you understand the role played by keyword analysis before you go any further. Search for niches, use Google Keyword Planner, and even check out the likes of Quora and Wikipedia for additional ideas of keywords. Also, remember to check the competition as this can determine the phrases that you will be aiming for due to the potential costs that will be involved.

  1. Learn About Title Tags.

Even with all of the different changes to the search algorithm, one of the things that Google still loves has to be the title tag. With this, you need to include the keyword to really make it count, but at the same time it still has to make sense and relate to what comes below or else you lose the power that it held over the page.

  1. Think About Outbound Links.

Outbound links are huge when it comes to SEO, but at the same time there is a very real need for you to be aware that the type of links and where they point to are just as important. You want to focus on authority websites as much as possible as you get more ‘juice’ in return for those links, so don’t fall into the trap of just linking out to anywhere or you could be wasting your time.

  1. Study the Backlinks of Your Competitor.

Finally, backlinks are important as they do largely determine where you appear on those search engine pages. However, you can be clever and spend some time studying the backlinks that your competitors have managed to accumulate allowing you to know the number, and also where they are pointing to. This information will then prove to be useful in any SEO strategy as you will know what you are up against in order to then beat them.

There are a whole host of different options and things that a new website should be prepared to do as part of their SEO campaign. However, there are certainly enough things to go on at this moment in time, and if you successfully implement them, then you can perhaps consider moving onto other areas to improve your position even further.

Constantly Playing the Google Game

If you view the world of SEO as a game, then it is one you constantly need to play thanks to Google. In fact, it has been shown that Google can make over 500 changes to the algorithm that decides the search engine rankings over the course of a single year.

Now, not every change is huge or going to completely disrupt how you rank, but subtle changes do tend to add up to something that is much bigger, and that is where the problem lies. Also, nobody knows the direction that Google will be heading in next, so staying on your toes with your SEO strategies is going to be important.

But here’s something else that makes it even more difficult than before, Google has a habit of keeping its cards close to its chest.

You could say that they are quite correct in taking this approach, but it does make our job so much harder. Often, websites will suddenly vanish from view as a result of changes to the algorithm leading to SEO experts scrambling around trying to work out what on earth is going on. However, there are times where the site will bounce back all on its own accord a short while later leading to even more head scratching than before.

At times, Google becomes your friend and warns you of a massive update coming. They also then give it names such as Panda or Penguin, but that’s only with the large scale changes and, to be honest, those are easier to handle.

So what does a website owner, or SEO expert, do in these instances? How can this entire approach by Google be counteracted?

Clearly, one approach is to follow the rules to the letter. It makes sense that if you stay well within the lines that the chances of you being caught up in small changes and them having a negative impact are slim. However, if you go up to the line to such an extent that you are positively surfing along it, then you run the very real risk of having your fingers burnt.

You see, it’s unusual for Google to drastically change direction to such an extent that the majority of websites would then be affected. That would just be bad news for them and would cause such an uproar that they dare not risk it. That’s why they tend to tip toe around making small changes here and there which, over the course of a year and hundreds of changes, does add up to something substantial.

The idea is that, by taking this approach, Google allows people to make the changes gradually leading to smaller dips in rankings that can then easily be recovered. Now, this isn’t a post praising the virtues of Google, far from it, because hundreds of changes over the course of a year is a bit too much to keep track of, but it is an attempt to stress that things may not be as bad as you initially thought.

Staying Ahead of the Game.

For us, the key is in staying ahead of the game and, admittedly, that is not always as easy as you would like to think. However, having a clear strategy in place for your SEO and the future success of your website does make life easier as does having a Plan B, C, and even D.

Your approach to SEO has to be flexible to accommodate those changes that could occur at any point. If you are too rigid, then any movement is going to throw you into a quandary as you wonder what to do next and desperately attempt to avoid having to scrap your entire approach and start anew.

You must accept that changes will occur. The sooner you do that, then the easier it becomes to deal with them. Know that they will often happen without any prior knowledge, which is why you need to monitor things on a regular basis and drop the idea that your plan today will still be the perfect plan this time next year, it won’t.

Dealing with Google and SEO is indeed a dance. It’s a dance where Google leads and you are trying to avoid standing on their toes so they don’t go into a mood and send you back to the sidelines. The best thing that you can do is to become an expert dancer, or hire the services of someone who knows how to keep pace with them and stay in line with the rules. Anything else just puts your entire website at risk and Google will not think twice about punishing you, which would be a huge shame.

Launching Your Website is a Key Moment

website launchIt’s not exactly rocket science to know that launching your website is going to prove to be a key moment, but even though this is obvious, it’s still amazing how many people do it wrong.

Now, you are probably sitting there wondering how you can go wrong with this kind of thing. Surely you just put the website live and that’s it?

Well, if you do believe that, then you are one of the many people that have just been missing out on the main point.

In order to get to this point, you need to have jumped through various hoops and got over a range of obstacles before you are in the position to launch your website. Thankfully, there are various tools that will often prove to be rather useful with all of this, so if you are at that point of getting ready to launch your site, then this could be an interesting post.

Now, we are going to also skip past a few of the early stages such as getting the correct domain name and hosting, because those are common sense and you will have already done that. Instead, we are talking about taking things further and to the point where you are ready to unveil your master creation to the world.

After all, you want the great reveal to go well and not to just sink without a trace, don’t you?

The Key Tools to Move Forward.

As we said, we are skipping the hosting and domain name stuff, but we are going to jump right in just after that particular point and start with an SSL Certificate.

An SSL Certificate is going to help encrypt various aspects of your website and users are well aware that it gives them some added security, which is something that they love. You will see the padlock and the domain name starting with https rather than http as a sign that it does indeed have this certificate.

It used to be the case that it cost you money for this certificate, but that changed in late 2015 where it’s now free. As it costs you nothing, there’s no reason for you to not have it and some hosting companies provide it anyway, so you might not even have to do anything extra. However, the confidence it gives your users in visiting your website is well worth double checking.

Monitoring Tools.

If you thought that you put your website live and then that’s it, then think again. Instead, things can go wrong at any point even if it’s not your fault, and yet, you might not even be aware of it and, as a result, will be missing out on potential clients or customers.

That’s why we do recommend that you take full advantage of website monitoring tools that do this automatically and report back to you. They run constantly, so even if you are asleep then you can rest assured that this software is keeping a close eye on things. You will then be made aware of any issues when you log back on and can then take the appropriate action.

Error Tracking.

Even though you may have tested your website to the point of exhaustion, that doesn’t mean that you will have potentially caught all of the bugs and errors. That’s why it may be worth your while investing in error tracking tools that will let you know when users have encountered a problem.

This is important because you want to rectify those errors as quickly as possible since that user may have just decided to go elsewhere thanks to their bad experience. You don’t want that situation to replicate itself time and time again, do you?

There are several tools out there that can do this job, but do just double check how much they charge before signing up.

Web Analytics.

Finally, there are web analytics tools and we strongly recommend that you use them. They are going to provide you with so much information on how people are using your website allowing you to then make the appropriate changes in order to improve usability and reduce bounce rates.

Now, even if you are unsure as to what the different stats are telling you, it will at least put you in the picture of where people are coming from, what they are looking at, how they are getting there, and so many other rather useful snippets of information. It will also make it easier for you to create a marketing plan that will work all because of the details from these tools.

These are just the basic things that we recommend when you are going to be launching your website although there are others such as file storage and the ability to create emailing lists and send out bulk emails to those individuals. However, just launching your website without putting any kind of thought into it is just not an option at all and by doing this, you are just increasing your chances of things becoming a failure.

Consider and Understand the Importance of an SSL Certificate

Your website security is important to you as well as your visitors. In today’s world of cyber-security, adding an SSL Certificate to your website can help protect you, protect your visitors, build trust, and as a little bonus – give you a little SEO rankings bump.

What is an SSL Certificate?

An SSL (Secure Socket Layer) encrypts data to allow secure connections from a web server to a browser. The SSL helps to keep prying eyes from seeing the conversation between you and the website you would be doing business with. In the past, an SSL was commonly needed to protect credit card information, social security numbers, bank accounts, and any other personal sensitive information. It is always expected that any online store, bank, job application, or doctor’s online patient forms have the well-known green lock displayed next the website URL.

But there is nothing sensitive on my website. Why do I need an SSL?

There are added benefits to an SSL Certificate, as they are becoming more popular in today’s web. Customer experience is vital to any company. By adding an SSL to your website, are you building immediate trust with your potential clients. The moment someone visits a website that is proudly displaying the secure lock next to their URL, the visitor can see that you not only take your site and your security seriously, but you also value theirs.

Google recognizes the need for more vigilant cyber security and have started giving increased SEO rankings to those that are utilizing the tool. Google SEO standards are another can of worms, and this one step may not launch you from page 7 to #1, but using this tool that improves your site security and gives you a little boost in SEO is an easy win-win situation.

Here at Webfoot, we utilize the SSL certificate for many reasons, and we encourage everyone to do the same. We will soon require all clients hosting with Webfoot to have an SSL on their website.

Why You Need to Opt for Responsive Web Design

It would be wrong to suggest that ‘responsive web design’ is a buzz term because it has now been around for two years and ever since Google made a huge shift towards mobile and tablet usage. However, there are still various websites that just do not incorporate this into its design and that, in this day and age, is a major sin.

Now, just for those few that may still be unaware as to what this means, it’s basically design that can be viewed on any device and the design will fit their screen. This was a huge change when it came out because prior to that, people with access to the Internet via their phones were left with having to scroll all over the page simply because things just wouldn’t fit.

That has all changed now, and there are a number of reasons as to why this approach has to be adopted by you for your very own website.

It Helps Your SEO.

Anything that is beneficial to your SEO attempts has to be adopted by you especially when you consider that Google changed things so that your website would be downgraded in search results via tablets and smartphones.

If your site uses this responsive web design, then your organic search traffic should increase as you will surpass those websites that are competition to you but where they have not adopted this approach at this time. Considering the difference that just a few places can make to the traffic you receive, this is something that is well worth thinking about.

It Increases Your Market.

Another reason is that it is going to increase your market as you are no longer excluding people simply because of the device that they are using.

Who would stay on a website via their smartphone when all they see are a jumble of words and images that just don’t make sense. There is no chance that they will stay there on your website and attempt to scroll around when there are various websites offering the same thing and a more pleasant viewing experience.

Considering that it’s getting to the point where the majority of traffic is going to be from tablets or smartphones, then ignoring it reduces your market and can you afford to do that?

It Boosts Sharing.

At the same time, the fact that your website becomes accessible to anybody, no matter the viewing device, is going to increase the chances of your content being shared since nobody is excluded. Also, using this design is going to save you money in the long-term. There’s no longer any need to have one website for laptops and another one for mobile devices as it’s all built into the same thing.

This then means that your completed site can be live in a shorter period of time as there is only the one set of rules, images, and content to deal with.

It Improves Usability.

Usability is one of the main things that is going to either make or break your website because if it’s not good enough, then people will go elsewhere.

This is something that responsive web design excels at simply because it takes everybody into consideration and provides them with the exact same experience no matter their device. Exclusion is the complete opposite of usability and that’s something worth keeping in mind when you are thinking about the design aspect.

Just think about your own feelings when you go to a website with your smartphone, as there’s a pretty good chance you have done this, and how you react when things are just not working out the way you thought.

What do you do?

The chances are you become fed up and click off onto another website, so why would you not then make sure that your own website is not doing the same thing for other people?

It’s not even as if it costs you a huge sum of money to have this design incorporated. It’s all second nature since it was introduced two years ago and it’s largely just assumed that this has to be included in the design brief.

Responsive web design was, at one point, seen as a potential passing fad, but it is certainly here to stay. If your website does not have this kind of design, then it’s about time you put in the effort and got things changed. You will reap the rewards of doing so in next to no time and this alone will have made it all worth your while.

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