Want to know if your current SEO provider is following SEO best practices? Trying to figure out if your website needs SEO in the first place?
You don’t have to be an SEO expert to tell whether your site is following SEO best practices. I have put together steps for auditing the four main concerns of SEO, and the questions to ask yourself in the process. Your answers to these questions should give you a clear idea of where your website stands, and whether you need help with your SEO.
1) Meta Data
“Meta data” gives search engines and users information about a webpage’s content, and includes a meta title, description, and keywords. Each page on your site should have its own unique meta title and meta description. Meta titles should be 65-70 characters in length and meta descriptions should be 150-160 characters. Your meta titles should read like chapters in a book, with each title describing exactly what Google will find on that page.Meta titles should be consistent and clear. An example of a title for a local car dealer’s homepage would look like this:
Nikki’s Mercedes Shop | New & Pre-Owned Mercedes Dealer | Chicago, IL
Google doesn’t use meta descriptions as ranking factors, so these should be written for users. They should briefly describe the page’s content and compel the user to click through to the page. The most common issues we see when we perform audits are meta title and descriptions that are stuffed with keywords. This is meant to “trick” Google and is not an effective SEO tactic. When evaluating the meta data on your site, ask yourself the following questions:
• Do your title tags contain keywords relevant to their pages’ topics? Are they about 60-65 characters in length?
• Do your meta description tags describe their pages? Are they naturally written and inviting to users?
• Is there an excessive amount of keywords in your titles and descriptions?
Google likes websites that consistently publish fresh, relevant content. It also likes to see links within that content. “Internal linking” refers to in-text links that send users to other pages on your website. These links should be used only where they can enhance the user’s experience. By writing for users instead of primarily for search engines, you will end up with natural, informative content that will help users move through your site. When you review your website’s content, ask yourself these questions:
• Is content well written and free of typos?
• Does your content discuss the topics that people are searching for? Does it contain links to relevant pages within the site?
• Is your content "thin" or lacking useful information?
• Is your content keyword and ad-heavy? Is phrasing unnatural or awkward as a result?
• Do colors or design "hide" keywords from users in the hopes of ranking for those words?
Backlinks are the links from other sites to yours. When we audit a client’s backlinks, we are looking at the number of links, and how many domains they’re coming from. Google likes to see links from a variety of relevant and trusted sources. So you also want to make sure you’re not linked to by sites that Google would consider “spammy.” An example of a spammy site would be a general directory requiring payment for links.
Anchor texts are just as important as link sources. Anchor texts tell Google (and users) about the content being linked to, and why it’s relevant. You can use Open Site Explorer, Majestic SEO, or the Backlink Explorer Tool within RavenTools to inspect your backlinks. When looking at your backlinks, ask yourself:
• Are your links from quality, respected web sites?
• Are anchor texts relevant, representing a good balance of branded, keyword-focused, and natural text?
• Has your site gotten many links by spamming blogs, forums, or low-quality directories?
4) Organic Search Visibility
This part of the audit involves performing searches of branded and specific terms to see how your site is showing up in Google’s search results. This helps narrow it down to the top three to four cities that are closest to the business, which I can search combined with the top keywords found in Google Trends. If the client isn’t showing up well in these searches, I’ll focus on these key terms and cities within content and off-site linking. The bottom line is that you want to make sure you’re in place to capture traffic from these searches. When searching for your brand on Google as I detailed above, ask yourself:
• Are you showing up for your business name?
• Are you showing up for keywords with your location attached?
• Are you showing up for keywords with cities showing high search interest attached?
• Does your business have profiles with accurate and consistent information elsewhere on the web? Google+? YellowPages? Is the website tied to your Google+ page using publisher tags?
Take a minute to review your answers to the questions above. As you can see, all you have to do is master a few basic concepts and search tricks in order to tell whether your website needs a fresh SEO approach. Now you’re just one quick audit away from celebrating your SEO success or firing the shady guy who’s been spamming your site with worthless links!