The Quick and Dirty SEO Checklist

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I need to tell you a big secret. Even if you’re not a writer, you need a blog or online portal. No matter what you do, or what your business does, a website makes it all easier. It’s a central element of your marketing strategy. You can connect and engage with your customers. You can strengthen those relationships.

You can even use a website to help you find a job. Create an online portfolio or resume. Hiring and HR managers love those.

But here’s the thing: no matter how great it looks, no matter how wonderful your content or experience or work samples, it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans if no one sees it. But how do you get them to your virtual door?

Well, you could simply give people your URL and instruct or ask them to go there. That can work sometimes. You might link to your website from your social media accounts. That can work, too. But both of those assume you already have their attention in some way (they already follow you on social media, or you’ve included the web address in the cover letter you sent to someone regarding an open position).

But that’s not all you should do. Get that website up, and then tweak your search engine optimization (or SEO). This will increase the “visibility” of your website when someone does a related search on Google or Bing (or any other search engine). The better your SEO, the more likely you and your website will pop up when someone searches for a related keyword (your product or service, or the industry you want to work in).

To be honest, some of it is complicated and difficult to do well. But other things might only require a little research and elbow grease on your part. Can you handle that? Even if you think you don’t “get” SEO, even if you think it’s above you, there are at least three things that anyone can do in 15 minutes or less to improve their own on-page SEO.

Got 15 minutes to invest in your business or career? Of course you do.

1. Permalinks

This is an easy one, and should take less than a minute to complete. Permalinks are the permanent links (get it?) to a particular webpage or blog entry. The web address appearing at the top of your browser.

If you’re using WordPress or something similar, the permalinks appear as a series of random numbers, letters, and symbols by default. This does nothing to help your SEO. But one simple change can help.

Under SETTINGS on your dashboard (along the left) you’ll see an option for PERMALINKS. Click on that and you’re given a few different choices for them. The best choice is the POST NAME option. Select that one, and save the changes. Done! Every post will now be linked according to its title, which makes it much easier for people to find.

How does this help? By creating a permalink based on the post name, and ensuring that the name itself uses a useful keyword (more on that in a moment), this small adjustment will help your overall ranking. The search engines understand (at least a bit better) what the page is about and how it might be useful to other people. And it’s so easy.

2. On-Page SEO Factors

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This shouldn’t take more than ten minutes. Keywords. How important are they? The short answer? Very. The longer answer? Not as important as they once were, but still necessary. Every post, every webpage, should have a keyword or two that you’re going to target. Identify it before you write anything at all. If you’re looking for a job as a chemical engineer, than your homepage would likely target "chemical engineer". Once you have a keyword, include it in the following places:

  1. Article Heading. Your keyword(s) needs to appear as an exact match in the heading of the page.
  2. Page Title. Again, you want an exact match to your target keyword.ExactMatch.
  3. Page URL. Your web address (permalink). You can see what it will be at the top of the post editor. You can even edit it right there. Make sure it includes an exact keyword match.
  4. You want your keyword to appear multiple times in the body of your text. How many is open to debate. In the past, unscrupulous writers could simply “stuff” the keyword in an unnatural number of times. That no longer works, and will likely get penalized by Google (which negatively affects your ranking). Instead, go fornatural repetition somewhere in the 1-3% range, meaning your keyword should be 1-3% of your total word count. This is in no way a steadfast rule. Just a simple suggestion based on user experience and best practices. If you’re writing about hamburgers, you would expect the word “hamburger” to appear many times in the text, right? Likewise, whenever possible, you should include your keyword in sub-headings appearing in the text. You are using sub-headings, aren’t you? They break a large block of text into smaller, more scannable chunks. Use them. Make them H2 or H3.
  5. Meta Description. This is the brief (roughly 150 characters) description you write to summarize what a post is about. You need to include – say it with me – an exact match to your keyword.

You want to make it abundantly clear to Google, Bing, and Yahoo! the subject of your post. Crystal clear. Your keyword(s) – appearing in these ways – will do that.

Now, here’s the good news. That may all seem like a lot to remember. And it is. But there are plenty of good plugins that can help. The best is WordPress SEO by Joost. Once installed, you’ll find a handy reminder beneath the post editor. It allows you to fill in the keyword information, and it will check that everything is present and matches up.

3. Social Media Connections

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You’ll need five minutes or less here. Links and shares are important, too. Are you making it easy for people to like and share your content? Jetpack for WordPress is the simplest way to do this. We want to add sharing buttons at the bottom (and maybe at the top, too) of each post. Activate the SHARING feature in Jetpack, and then go to SETTINGS and SHARING to configure. Follow the instructions…you essentially just drag and drop the social media platforms you want to include. At a minimum, you should provide buttons for Facebook, Twitter, and possibly Google+.

You could also go the plugin route. Many people use the Digg Digg floating bar to assist in sharing their content. This plugin provides a floating menu of share buttons – usually along the left side – that scrolls down the page as the reader does. Pretty slick.

And don’t forget to promote your posts on your own social media platforms, too. Your Facebook page. Your Twitter feed. Your Google+ page. Once again, Jetpack makes it easy to do so. You may have already noticed this when adding your sharing buttons. If you return to SETTINGS and SHARING, you’ll see something called PUBLICIZE at the top. By clicking the CONNECT button beside each platform, you can link your blog/website to your social media profiles. After that, every time you publish something, it will automatically be shared to your accounts. Set it and forget it.

SEO can be complicated, and it does include much more than what appears here. But these three things will give you a solid foundation, and a better understanding on how it all works. And you’ve only invested about fifteen minutes. Whether you’re using a website to attract customers, generate leads, and market your business, or you’re using it to better promote yourself as a qualified applicant and potential employee, better SEO can get you better traffic. And more traffic is always good (except on the freeway).  

What’s your experience with SEO? What do you do to help people find your website? Leave your thoughts in the comments below...