SEO checklist: simple steps to rank higher in Google

Say you create the most amazing strawberry jam.

You put your work of art in an empty jar without a label and shut it tight.

You know precisely what you've made and what's in that jar.

But what about a stranger?

Without a label, that stranger has nothing to go on. There's no way to know what's in that jar.

SEO is all about labeling your jar (website) so that a stranger (Google and visitors) knows what's in it.

And the better you label, the more those strangers will use your website.

In this article, I'll be going over a couple of tips you can implement straight away to optimize your website. I'll use the example of a photographer specializing in Real Estate Photography to make it more tangible.

Before we begin

SEO is all about finding that balance between pleasing your target audience and pleasing Google.

It's tempting to lose yourself in all types of technical tricks when you're optimizing your page for SEO. But remember: your website is for your target audience first.

Never implement any (of these) SEO tips and tricks if you have even the slightest suspicion that they'll hurt your user's experience.

So, with that out of the way. Let's get optimizing!

Tip 1. Choose a keyword

The first step to getting found is to decide for what you want your page to be found. If you don't know, how are you going to optimize your page?

In other words: you need to find a keyword.

To decide on a keyword, you could try any of the following techniques:

  1. Take a look at your competitors. What are they doing on their website? What words come up in their website's title, description, content, headings, images, etc.?
  2. Open up google.com, type in the words you think are relevant (for example: "Real estate photographer"), but don't press enter. Google will give you suggestions. These are indicators that people often search those terms.
    A screenshot of Google.com using the Google suggestions feature

Some tips

  1. Decide on the main keyword you want to focus.
  2. Search for that keyword on Google and scroll down to the bottom of the page. You'll see a list of related keywords. When optimizing your content, you can use these so you don't endlessly repeat your main keyword.

Example

Our photographer is specialized in Real Estate Photography. She did some research through Google and took a look at competitors. She decides she wants to be found for "Real Estate Photographer".

Tip 2. Add your keyword in the title tag

A screenshot of a Google search result with the title and meta description highlighted

Like every book has a title, so should every page on your website.

The title tag is a piece of HTML code that allows you to give a web page a title. This title is shown in the browser title bar and on Google's search results page.

If you are using a CMS system (For example, WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, etc.) or a website created by us, this tag is automatically added to your site's code. You can change the title's text in the settings of your page.

To optimize your page, you should add your keyword to the title. Why?

  1. Google will better understand what your page is about. This makes sure your page shows up for your chosen keyword.
  2. There's a bigger chance that people who see your website in the search results will click through to your website ("What I searched for is in their title so it's probably a relevant option").

Some tips

  1. Add your keyword to the front of your title (i.e., "Real Estate Photographer Expert Antwerp").
  2. Keep your title short. Preferably around 50-60 characters max (Your title will be trimmed in Google's search results if it's longer).
  3. Don't stuff your title with keywords and synonyms. Google will see this as spam.
  4. Make sure it describes what the page is about.

Example

Our photographer decides on the title "Real Estate Photographer Antwerp".

  • This title uses the keyword.
  • It describes what the page is about.
  • It adds a local search word "Antwerp" which can help in ranking better in local search results (for example, someone looking for a real estate photographer in the Antwerp region).

Tip 3. Write a compelling meta description

A screenshot of a Google search result with the title and meta description highlighted

Like the title, the meta description is not visible on your page, but it is visible on Google's search result page.

The meta description is important for the same reasons the title tag is important:

  1. It gives Google more context of what your page is all about. Which in turn allows Google to show your website in relevant search results.
  2. It provides extra information to potential visitors so they can decide whether or not to click through to your website.

To optimize your meta description, add your keyword in a natural, organic way as far to the front of the description as possible. Make sure your text invites potential visitors to click through to your website.

Some tips

  1. Add your keyword to the front of your description (i.e., "Real Estate Photographer Expert located in Antwerp [...]").
  2. Keep your meta description between 50–160 characters (Your description will be trimmed in Google's search results when it's longer).
  3. The main task of your description is to accurately describe what your visitors will get when they click through to your website.
  4. Don't stuff your description with your keyword and synonyms.

Example

Our photographer might write something like this:

"Real Estate Photographer with over 10 years of experience both in Antwerp and abroad. Sell your real estate fast with professional photographs. Request a free quote today."

  • Added the keyword to the front.
  • Shorter than 160 characters.
  • Added a local word to the description by mentioning a city (this enlarges your chances of being found in local search results (i.e., "Real Estate Photographer Antwerp").
  • Mentions one of the most significant advantages to high-quality photographs in the real estate business (sell fast).
  • Ads a call to action ("request a free quote").

Tip 4. Use your keyword in the H1, H2, and H3 Tags

A screenshot of Wikipedia where the H1 tag is highlighted.

The visible title on a page is the H1 heading tag. In this example, it's the "Cotton Candy" text.

It's the first indication for Google what the page will be about, it gives context to the person viewing the page, and it's the first opportunity to add your keyword.

Your H1 heading tag should always be used to accurately describe what that specific page is about.

In other parts of your content, you'll use sub-headings (H2, H3, etc.) to add structure to your text. These are also great opportunities to add your keyword or synonyms.

The lower the number, the higher value Google gives it (so an H1 is more important than an H2 heading).

Some tips

  1. Choose a title that clearly explains what the page is about and uses your keyword.
  2. Every page can only have 1 H1 tag (having multiple is illogical and will confuse search engines).
  3. Add your keyword or synonyms to your H2 and H3 tags sparingly. Don't overdo it and only do it when it's logical.

Example

Our photographer decides to use "Real Estate Photographer Expert" as the H1 title tag on her homepage.

  • This title clearly explains the contents of that page.
  • The keyword is added at the front.

Next, she adds a subtitle on her page, "Why do you need a Real Estate Photographer?".

  • This mentions the keyword again.
  • It's probably a good question to answer (i.e., it's relevant content for her visitors).

Tip 5. Add your keyword and synonyms to your page content

Now we've still got to tackle the actual page's content. On your page, you'll use text to inform and persuade potential customers. That text needs to be optimized for SEO, which means adding your keyword and relevant synonyms.

Again, don't stuff your text with the exact keyword. This will lead to Google penalizing you. You can, however, use synonyms or related keywords in your text.

Some tips

  1. Try adding your keyword in the first paragraph, again as far to the front as possible. Doing this adds more weight to it.
  2. Don't overdo it. If you use too many of the same keywords ('Keyword Stuffing'), Google will think you're spamming, and you'll get penalized. Remember: your text is there to convince or inform your target audience first.
  3. Alternate between your main keyword and synonyms (i.e., "Photographer specialized in real estate").

Example

Our photographer uses Real E

Tip 6. Add descriptive alt text to your images

a smiling woman holding a camera with a nature background

An image's alt tag is read out loud when people use accessibility tools to visit your website (for example, people who don't see well) or can be read when for some reason the image doesn't load. Google also uses it as an indication of what the image is about.

The goal of an alt tag is to provide a clear description of what the image is about. Nothing more, nothing less.

Optimizing your images for SEO means adding a descriptive alt tag to all of them and, if possible, adding your keyword in their description.

Some tips

  1. Describe as accurately as possible what's happening in the image.
  2. Don't stuff the alt tag with keywords, only use the keyword when it's logical.
  3. Make sure all images on your website have an alt tag.

Example

Our photographer uses this photo of herself (see above) on her website. She could add an alt tag like: "Marie Jones, Real Estate Photographer, holding her camera while smiling.".

  • It describes what's happening in the picture.
  • It uses the focus keyword.

To summarize

  1. SEO is all about finding that balance between pleasing your target audience and pleasing Google. But in the end, it's your target audience who'll use your website so keep that in mind.
  2. The first step in begin found, is choosing a keyword. Take a look at Google suggestions or do some competitor research to find out what keywords they use.
  3. Optimize different areas of your website page by adding your main keyword and synonyms in a natural, non-spammy way.
Maarten Van Herendael

Maarten Van Herendael

Maarten is Heave's founder. His passion is to help businesses like yours do great things with a website that looks better and sells more. You can find Maarten on LinkedIn.