The website checklist: 14 vital points for a quality website

The website checklist: 14 vital points for a quality website

Having a website is a good thing, having a quality website is way better. Today, I'll review 14 vital points that make a quality website, in terms of SEO, speed optimization and security.


SEO

SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” It is the process of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “editorial” or “natural” search results on search engines.

Let’s take a look at a few optimizations you can make to help your website rank higher in search engines’ results pages.

Your website is using pretty URLs

Nowadays, almost every website is using pretty URLs which include descriptive keywords of the page content. If your website doesn’t use them yet, it’s time to get your hands dirty. This handy guide can help if you’re new with URL rewriting.

Your images has proper alt attributes

The alt attribute is quite often neglected by developers and websites owners – even though it plays a role in SEO and also makes your website more accessible, for example in the case of people using a text-based browser.

Your site is using a sitemap

A sitemap is, as the name tells, a map of your site. It’s used to tell search engines which URLs it should index. Sitemaps can be generated easily using this generator. WordPress users have plenty of choice of plugins that will generate a sitemap.

Your website is using HTTPS/SSL

Google loves HTTPS websites, because they’re offering a way more secure experience to users than the HTTP protocol. Therefore, secure websites tend to rank higher than HTTP ones. Check my HTTPS guide if you need help in installing HTTPS on your site.

Your <title> tag is optimized

Located in the <head> part of a HTML document, the <title> tag is extremely important since it is displayed by most search engines in their result pages. Make sure your title is describing your page content accurately and contains keywords.

Your website is using OpenGraph

The Open Graph protocol enables any web page to become a rich object in a social graph. For instance, this is used on Facebook to allow any web page to have the same functionality as any other object on Facebook.
To turn your web pages into graph objects, you need to add basic metadata to your page, which is explained in details here.

Speed Optimization

A quality website is a fast website. Speed optimization is extremely important, since over half of your visitors are accessing your site through mobile devices. Also, a faster website will rank higher in search engines. Let’s browse what can be done to improve your website loading speed optimization.

Your images are optimized

Images represent over 60% of the average byte per content type downloaded when a web page is loaded. This is why it’s extremely important that your images are optimized if you want your website to be fast. Check out my image optimization guide for more info.

Your CSS and JS files are minified and combined

Minifying CSS/JS means removing comments, line breaks and all the other stuff which isn’t needed for your site to function properly. Combining is the action of grouping multiple files into one, and therefore making your site faster by limiting HTTP requests.
On WordPress, I recommend using the W3 Total Cache plugin for this purpose. You can also manually minify/combine your files using this tool.

Your server is fast

According to Google, you should reduce your server response time under 200ms. A great tool to check your server speed is Pingdom. I recommend Vidahost, Dreamhost, WP Engine and SiteGround as fast hosts. If you’re using WordPress, using a speed-optimized WordPress theme can definitely help making your site faster as a whole.

If you need more info about fast webhosts for WordPress, here are lists of the best managed WordPress hosting and the best WordPress hosting.

Gzip compression is activated

Check if Gzip compression is enabled on your website. If it’s not, here’s a simple tutorial on how to activate it on various webservers.

Leverage browser caching

“Leveraging” browser caching is when a webmaster has instructed browsers how their resources should be dealt with.
Here is an extensive article about the technique and how to apply it to your own website.
If you’re looking to add expire headers to external files (Like Google Analytics’ .js file, for example) you can turn to this guide I wrote a while ago.

Website Security

At last but not least, let’s review what should be done on a website to ensure proper security. Although not extensive, this list is a good start.

Your scripts are up to date

If you’re using WordPress, Magento, Prestashop or any other script/CMS, it’s vital that you keep them, as well as their dependencies, up to date.

Directory listing is disabled

By default, most web servers are allowing visitors to browse the content of a directory, which can lead to potential vulnerabilities. To protect your site, you can either upload a blank index.html file in every directory that needs to be protected against directory listing, or you can paste the following into your .htaccess file if you’re using Apache:

Options -Indexes 

Your site is protected against SQL injections

SQL injections are one of the most common attacks towards a website. Basically, a SQL injection is an attack wherein an attacker can execute malicious SQL statements that control a web application’s database server.

In case you are new to web development, there are many online resources that can help you to learn how SQL injections work and how you can protect your website from it. Alternatively, you can hire a professional. This site, for example, offers Cyber Security Jobs in the UK.

Any other tip we should include in the list? Let me know in a comment below.