Processes and checklists are an important part of my daily routine. I’m a very process oriented individual. Give me a checklist and I get things done. Give me a job without a checklist and I’ll create one. Give me a job that falls outside of the routine or is difficult to put into a checklist and I’m screwed!
I like to create systems for everything that I do and SEO is no exception. While not every aspect of search engine marketing can be programmed, categorized or easily referenced, (I have a mighty team to handle that stuff!) the bulk of the work can at least be outlined into a handy check list. With no further ado, I give you…
The Best Damn On-Page Optimization Checklist, Period
Choose the core term
It all starts with keyword research. By this point we’ve already gone through the site and performed extensive core term research. You can learn more about the keyword research process by reading Keyword Research And Selection document.
Selecting which core term to optimize “next” doesn’t have to be difficult but a few things need to be considered:
- Relevance: Core term must be very relevant to the business
- Importance: How important is this core term in relation to the other yet-to-be-optimized core terms
- Audience targeting: Will this bring in highly targeted traffic in comparison to the other core terms?
- Search volume: Will this bring in solid volumes of traffic in relation to the other core terms?
Evaluate page/core term legitimacy
Here we then take a closer look at the core term/page relationship to ensure that they are a solid match. With some sites, certain pages and core terms could be interchangeable. What we want to do here is to make sure that the page being optimized for any core term is the best possible fit. We want to be sure that the keywords can fit naturally into the content and are the best words to represent the message being conveyed.
Core term/key phrase research
Now that we’ve settled the core term/page issue, we can complete the keyword research process for this core term. This process requires a great deal of research, editing, analyzing, etc. Again, the “how-to” can be found in the Keyword Research and Selection document linked above. By the end of this process we’ll have found all relevant supporting phrases and have selected fifteen or so that we’ll be optimizing into the page.
Develop / rework page content
Once all the keywords are finalized, it’s time to start working on the on-page content. It’s the role of the copywriter to develop the first round of content, working in keywords naturally. But with any written document, the first draft is rarely the last. We analyze a number of factors before moving the text to the next stage of review:
- Keyword usage: Ensuring natural flow of copy while maintaining a proper keyword balance
- Headings: Using headings that are compelling and informative
- Title tag: Create a compelling, keyword rich title for the page
- Description tag: Build a description that is both compelling and reinforces the keyword relevance of the page
- Voice: The site should use a consistent voice from page to page
- Active words: Using words that do more than inform but compel action
- Features & Benefits: Be sure to list out not just features but benefits. Bullets are great for this kind of information
- Skimming & Scanning: Make the document easy to skim and scan while giving the reader the important information as they do so
- Calls to Action: Work in textual calls that drive the visitor to the point of conversion
Text usability review
Once the text is hammered out, we then send it to a third party for a “usability review”. Their job is to look at the text from a customer standpoint and see if they can find any place where the text breaks down in the conversion process. This includes finding poorly worded sentences, titles or headings that may fail at their jobs, and ensuring that the reader absolutely knows what they are expected to do next and/or drives them to the information they came for in the first place.
Page usability review
At this stage we go ahead and add the content to a development version of the page being optimized and review the page as a whole for usability. We want to make sure the page is able to convey its purpose visually, both with images, formatting, etc. We’ll add or change things as necessary to ensure the page provides the reader with the best possible visual representation.
We also take a look at coding issues to ensure there are no potential spidering issues from malformed HTML. If we can streamline the code in any way. By reducing code bloat we can facilitate faster download times, and ensure the relevant information loads first.
Next we send the text onto the SEO to go over and analyze to ensure the page maintains proper keyword balance between titles, headings, and body content. The SEO also looks at proper usage of alt tags and does any other minor adjusting as is necessary, without destroying any of the copy flow.
The page is now ready for final approval. Whether that means sending the optimized (development) version to the client for review, or submitting it to the boss, we want to get that final stamp of approval before it goes live. Just like anything, we do expect more minor changes to be made until the page is “perfect”.
Each process mentioned above can (and does) have a checklist of it’s own. Virtually all of the details for actual SEO work has been left our as the purpose here is to focus on the overall process of optimizing a page. I am a firm believer that the process is just as important as the work being done. While it’s the details that bring success, the process ensures that no details get overlooked. In this business, overlooking any detail can result in less-than-stellar performance.