The SEO Plan Checklist That All Associations Need to Use

SEO Plan Checklist When launching your website, or even updating your current website, it’s important to have an SEO plan checklist handy that serves as a reminder of what needs to be done to make your digital presence a success. Whether it’s connecting Google Tag Manager or submitting your website to the Google Search Console, having an SEO plan checklist in place helps make the entire process more straightforward and will hopefully drive more potential members to your website.

We compiled everything on the list below using our own internal best practices that we use for every client website. Some steps may or may not be applicable to your website setup, for instance the analytics platform that you chose, but these recommendations can be applied independently of your prior choices. Remember, it's also important to consider a website maintenance plan if these steps begin to feel overwhelming.

So, let’s begin with the ones that we feel are the most important, but are often missed:

  • Secure your website using SSL
  • Spend the time doing keyword research for your page titles and page descriptions
  • Create and properly configure your sitemap
  • Submit your sitemap to the search engines via Webmaster Tools or Search Consoles
  • Set up your analytics
  • Realize that PDF versions of your blog posts will count as duplicative content if they use the same text

Basic SEO Plan Checklist Items

Set up your analytics
Make sure to set up your analytics correctly. It’s a must-have for your website and by properly setting things up you will be able to track how much traffic you’re getting, which pages are the most popular, what your users are spending the most time on, along with other important marketing metrics. Here’s a link to Google Analytics, which we use on all of our websites.

Create and properly configure your sitemap
Make sure to have a sitemap ready when you submit your website to the search engines. Sitemaps are always in XML format, and you can use a dynamic sitemap generator here to assist you. Google only indexes your first 500 pages, so it’s important to only include URLs in your sitemap that are your most important and what your visitors want to see.

Submit your site to the search engines via Webmaster Tools or Search Consoles
Make sure to let the search engines know you have a website by submitting your site to Google via the Google Search Console, to Bing via Bing’s Webmaster Tools and to other search engines that direct traffic to your website.

Ensure that your CMS is SEO friendly
Most of our clients pick a CMS (Content Management Systems) because their industry peers often pick a CMS. They soon find out most enterprise level systems are bad at generating SEO friendly code. We also notice that many of them offer primitive and often outdated SEO plugins that are never updated even though you’re paying tens-of-thousands of dollars for CMS updates. We recommend WordPress as one of our CMS choices for our clients because it’s built for proper SEO and has plenty of SEO tools that are regularly updated (go Yoast!).

Make sure your site is responsive
It should deliver a consistent user experience across all devices. A responsive site also takes advantage of recent algorithm changes in search engine results by promoting a mobile-first approach. Websites that are not responsive are also now penalized in Google, which can greatly affect your rankings.

Secure your website using SSL
Having a secure website ensures that your members are interacting with a secure connection between them and the website. A SSL certificate will make your website secure for things such as logins, personal information and member data. Being secure is imperative due to recent changes in algorithms that penalize non-secure sites. Don’t be outranked over a minuscule step that often takes just a couple of minutes to implement.

Set a proper robots.txt file
The robots.txt file on your server instructs the search engines on how to crawl your website and which sections to leave alone. A proper robots.txt file and a sitemap XML file should work hand-in-hand to ensure that member protected pages or even the help desk information for your CMS are not part of your search results.

Find broken links and set proper redirects
At DJG, we use Screaming Frog to find broken links. Once you find broken links you can then export them out to a spreadsheet that provides key information about which URL is broken and on what page. Broken links are often the #1 reason why a website has poor SEO.

Check your server and where you host your site
Do you know who hosts your website? Is your site running slow constantly? It’s important to choose a host for your website based on both the technology that they offer and also where they are located. We often recommend that hosting is near where your members are so that the site loads quickly for them. Some hosts offer a CDN option where they can mirror your site in a few locations around the world. We have found most associations don’t take advantage of this option because they simply don’t know it’s available.

Claim your association socially
Claim your association on all social networks, even Google Plus (while it lasts). This step helps connect your website to other widely used social platforms that will then begin showing up in your search results.

On-Page SEO Plan Checklist Items

Spend the time doing keyword research for your page titles, page descriptions, and ALT tags
Understanding what your audience is looking for often drives marketing efforts towards a greater (and quicker) success. Spending the time doing keyword research is a valuable step in ensuring that what you’re writing about has the best chance of getting read. We recommend using tools such as SEMRush, SerpStat, KWFinder, KeywordTool.io. Also check out deals on AppSumo.com for SEO / keyword related tools which can save money through lifetime packages.

Getting your keywords in your URLs
Placing keywords in the URLs, used to access your web pages, are a great indicator of SEO success. Research has shown that keywords included in shorter URLs rank higher than longer ones. Beware–the search engines know if you’re stuffing keywords if they are not implemented in the content itself.

Set proper title, description, and alt tags within your content
Limit your page titles to roughly 65 words and, using your keyword research, you will want to start your title with a keyword.

Limit your page descriptions to around 155 characters or less.

Write proper ALT tags, tags that are placed within your image’s page code, for all images and remember that search engines can read text but cannot understand your images. Make sure to include the keyword that you’re using in your page in the ALT tag for all of your images.

Use proper header tags and internal links
Make sure you use header tags properly, also known as H1 H2 H3 H4 tags, to mark up your content as if it were an outline. Header tags are used to prioritize levels of content, so there should only be one H1. Multiple H2’s and H3’s are allowed.

  • H1 - Title of page
    • H2 - Subheading for a section within the content
      • H3 - Subheading within an H2 subheaded section within the content
    • H2 - Subheading for a section within the content
      • H3 - Subheading within an H2 subheaded section within the content

Internal links are also important to ensure the search engines understand the content you have built on your website. Internal links also help connect other pages to pages that may not be part of your primary menu structure.

Realize that PDF versions of your blog posts will count as duplicate content if they use the same text
Most of the issues we run into with a client’s SEO is that they include a separate PDF download of a blog post and then post it on the same page or other pages as their article. While this was popular back in the 90’s, recent algorithm changes have impacted search results by identifying this as duplicative. PDFs are now readable by search engines, meaning that the same content that they just read on your blog is the same thing they’re going to read in your PDFs. The search engines mark these pages as having duplicative content and are therefore penalized.

Off-Page SEO Plan Checklist Items

Create consistent and high-quality content
Writing natural (non-keyword stuffed) content is essential to any SEO off-page optimization plan.  If you want people to keep coming back to your site or linking back to your site, you have to give them a reason to return.  Quality content is (obviously) subjective, but a few reminders to consider when writing are:

  • Content length must be more than 300 words
  • Use a readability tool to determine what age level or profession your content appears to be written for
  • Proof. Proof. Proof. Errors can reflect poorly on your brand
  • Have an extra set of eyes review your content
  • Focus on the SEO keywords part last or else you may experience writers block

Focus on your internal linking
Internal linking can not only benefit your overall user experience, but it helps the search engines build a network (or outline) of your entire site. Focus your internal linking strategies on pages that share a similar keyword or semantic phrase. This then helps the search engines connect pages together and can then offer them up as related pages within a users search results.

Takeaways

We use the steps listed above to enhance the SEO health of our clients. SEO isn’t just about the basics, it’s about writing natural and keyword-optimized content that delivers to the right users who are eager to read it. You want to be both basic and technically impeccable which will have your association appear superior to the competition.

Try the above steps and let us know how you’re implementing your SEO plan for your association.

TLDR

When launching your website, or even updating your current website, it’s important to have an SEO plan checklist handy that serves as a reminder of what needs to be done to make your digital presence a success.

We build and craft content - image of a woman looking up at David James Group content

We build craft and curate content.

Scroll to Top