18 SEO Factors That Can Boost Your Search Engine Rankings and Drive More Sales
Have you conducted an SEO audit of your website recently to determine if it is properly structured to capture more business from people searching online for the products or services you offer? Here’s a handy SEO checklist to help you analyze your website’s optimization and identify areas that need to be fixed or improved.
Most local business websites we have audited are missing a number of key SEO factors. A website that is not properly optimized is at risk of losing business and sales opportunities to competing companies whose websites are better optimized and therefore getting found more easily online by their target clientele.
When evaluating how to improve a website’s SEO so it can outrank competing businesses online, here are the factors we look at:
1. SEO Title Tags
A website’s title tags help Google know what your pages are about – making them one of the most important SEO factors for any website. It’s not unusual to see websites built on Godaddy, Wix or other “DIY” website builders with title tags like you see below:
Clearly, a page title of “Home Page” provides no clues to Google as to the type of business or the areas served by the business — and therefore will not rank highly in Google search results. Compare that website title to this example:
Peak Roofing Contractors | Northern Virginia Roofing | Award Winning Residential and Commercial Exterior Services
As you can see, the Peak Roofing Contractors page title clearly and concisely tells Google (a) what kind of company this is (roofing contractor) and (b) the area this company serves (Northern Virginia). Because it has a well structured page title, this roofing company is more likely to get found online and receive calls and inquiries from potential customers actively searching for a trustworthy roofing contractor that can replace or repair their residential or commercial roof in the Northern Virginia area.
When auditing a website’s title tags, we want to see:
- Unique title tags on all pages
- Well-researched keywords (i.e. keywords with strong search volume)
- Concisely written title tags that are not over-optimized
- Appropriate length — 50-65 characters
2. SEO Meta Descriptions
The meta description is the text that shows up below the page title in Google’s search results. Meta descriptions don’t directly impact Google rankings, but they can attract the attention needed to get more clicks from people finding you on Google.
When reviewing meta descriptions we want to see:
- Unique meta descriptions on all pages
- Relevant, engaging and well-written copy
- Appropriate length — 100-155 characters
3. Header Tags (h1, h2, h3)
Headers are the visible headlines on the page. Headlines on the page should include relevant keywords, but also be written thoughtfully and intentionally to drive conversion.
When reviewing header tags we want to see:
- Headers included on all webpages. (Many websites are missing headlines – which help readers scan the page content quickly and locate the key information they are seeking.)
- Relevant keywords in headers
4. Optimized Website Copy
Most local business websites we have reviewed have poorly written content. Google favors content-rich websites that clearly answer all the questions a website visitor might have about a business’ products and/or services, and clearly direct the visitor on what to do next to fulfill their intent – whether it be to book a call, schedule an appointment, make a purchase, or request further information.
The content on each web page should be focused on a single topic or search query. The copy should incorporate relevant keywords in a natural and conversational way — without “stuffing” keywords into the copy solely to “game” Google bots. In other words, website copy should be written for humans – not for search engines.
When reviewing website copy we want to see:
- A minimum of 300-500 words per web page. Home pages ideally will have 1000 words or more of copy.
- Copy that answers the website visitor’s questions and satisfies the searcher’s intent.
- Unique content that is not found on other websites.
5. Website Structure
“Website structure” means having a separate page dedicated to each core keyword/topic you want to rank for in Google. Google wants to show the most relevant webpage for any given search query. Web pages that focus on a single core keyword will rank more easily in Google. See below for an example of a Plumbing/Electrical/HVAC website that is structured to focus on a single service keyword on every web page:
When reviewing website structure we want to see:
- Separate pages for each major product/service/topic you want to be found for online
- Pages that are logically integrated into the website’s linking architecture
Canonicalization simply means that each web page loads with only one URL format. Your website should not be loading at both https://www.website.com and https://website.com because Google will deem them to be 2 distinct websites. You don’t want to confuse Google. You want to establish only 1 URL as the authoritative website for your business in Google’s eyes.
It’s also important to let Google know which page you want to rank if there are multiple URL versions of the same page — an especially important consideration for e-commerce websites.
Use the rel=”canonical” tag to specify the canonical URL you want to rank in Google.
When evaluating a website’s canonicalization we check to see if:
- Your website loads with both “www” and without “www” (bad), or does one version automatically forward to the other (good)?
- Your homepage loads at just 1 URL location (good) or does it also load at /index.html or /index.php, etc (bad)?
- For e-commerce websites, do you have rel=”canonical” tags in place?
7. URL Structure
URLs (i.e., the clickable links to individual web pages) should be brief, descriptive and include keywords when possible. When evaluating URLs we want to see:
- Short and simple URLs
- Relevant keywords in each URL
8. Image Optimization
Images should also be given descriptive file names and alt tags that tell search engines what each image is portraying.
When checking image optimization we want to see:
- Relevant, descriptive keywords in the alt tag
- Relevant, descriptive keywords in the image file name
9. Website Load Speed
Google favors websites fast-loading websites because people today are impatient and don’t want to wait for a website to load on their phone or computer.
You can check your site speed by going to: developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/
You can also check site speed at GMETRIX
10. Structured Data
Structured data refers to HTML tags used to help search engines easily identify the relevancy and meaning of website content.
If your ideal target audience is from a local area, then you want to make sure that the LocalBusiness schema for your business category and contact details and added to your website.
You can check the structured data on your website through this Google tool: search.google.com/test/rich-results
11. Contact Information
For local search engine optimization, in particular, it’s very important to have complete and accurate contact information on your website. We recommend putting the full business contact details in the footer of each page on your site.
A sitemap helps Google identify all of the pages on your website. It’s important to have an XML sitemap in place and to submit the sitemap to Google Search Console.
You can find Google instructions for how to build and submit a sitemap at the link below:
Blogs make it easy to add new content to your website. The more pages of content you have, the more opportunities you create to get found by your target clientele who are searching Google for businesses like yours.
Google also likes to see fresh content on websites. Blog content can also help potential customers trust that you are a knowledgeable, expert provider.
When reviewing blogs we want to see:
- The blog located in a separate directory (e.g. website.com/blog) or on a subdomain (e.g. blog.website.com) or on another website. We recommend locating your blog in a sub-directory of your own website.
- Regular and consistent publishing of blog articles
- Informative and engaging blog content – not just promotional content
14. Mobile Optimization
Since most people use their phones when searching for information online, Google favors websites that are easily read and navigated from mobile devices.
To check the mobile-friendliness of your own website, go to: search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly
15. Social Media Integration
Placing links to your social media accounts on your website can also help your search engine rankings. If you have not already done so, we recommend setting up accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Pinterest and any other social media platforms that make sense for your business, and then including links to your social media accounts in the header or footer of all pages of your website so they are easy to access.
- Social profiles linked to your website .. and conversely, links to your social media accounts in the footer or header section of your site.
- Social media “share” buttons on each webpage (especially blog pages)
16. Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a core tool for tracking online visits to your websites as well as conversion events such as appointments scheduled, items purchased, items downloaded, etc. We often notice that Google Analytics either isn’t installed or isn’t installed properly on a client website.
Here are some things we look for:
- Is Google Analytics installed?
- Are there any errors?
- Is conversion tracking set up?
- Is Search Console linked with Google Analytics?
17. Website Design & Usability
Website design and usability also impacts search engine rankings and conversion. Things we look for when evaluating a website’s design and usability include:
- Does your website look clean and professional?
- Does your website inspire confidence in your business?
- Is it fast and easy to find important information on your website? Is it easy to navigate?
- Are all links all links working correctly — or do you have broken links on your website?
- Does every webpage have a clear call to action that lets readers know what they need to do next to achieve their goal for visiting your website?
18. Website Security
A surprisingly large number of local business websites have not obtained an SSL certificate and therefore display a “not secure” notice next to their URL. Google penalizes websites that are not secured with an SSL certificate because today’s educated consumers understand the risks of having their private data exposed online.
Check your website to see if it shows a “not secure” message like the one you see below. If your website is flagged for not being secure, you can easily fix this problem by contacting your website host and asking them to install an SSL certificate on your website ASAP.
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Online Visibility Audit and Marketing Action Plan
Wondering how you can improve your business’ online visibility and attract more ideal clientele actively searching for your products or services?
1. Analyze all aspects of your online presence and how it compares to your top competitors,
2. Provide SEO and conversion optimization recommendations based on our audit findings, and
3. Provide a recommended digital marketing action plan designed to help you achieve your sales and revenue goals.
You can implement our digital marketing action plan yourself, or retain our services to implement some or all of the action plan for you.
We’ll analyze all 18 factors that impact your search engine rankings and
1. Provide a report showing what needs to be fixed to fully optimize your website to get you to page 1 of Google for your most important search queries (the ones people use when they are considering a purchase or ready to purchase),
2, Provide a checklist itemizing what needs to be fixed on your websie SEO that you can use as a DIY guide if you want to fix your SEO yourself,
3. Map out a content plan and site structure that will help you achieve your SEO goals,
4. Implement SEO on your website for you.
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We’ll design, build, host and manage a mobile-friendly WordPress website with all the key on-site SEO factors built-in to jumpstart your search engine rankings.