You have a beautiful website. Your boss is impressed and shows all your clients whenever he has a chance.
But does that actually translate into hits or sales? Are people outside of your office finding your website, more importantly, are they clicking through and looking around?
Have you looked at your website objectively, in the same way a search engine algorithm would?
What Are You Looking For?
Whether you are going the automated route (which also will take into consideration any recent changes with search engine algorithms, so is the more preferable option), or a manual route, there are a few things you will want to check.
Working out how visible your website is involves:
- seeing where it comes up in search rankings for different keywords (including the company name),
- seeing where you find links directing traffic to the website (and the quality of those links),
- and what the click through rate is on these links,
- as well as the click through rate on search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo and Duck Duck Go.
Most search engines have analytics that can help you find this data for the individual search engine e.g. https://www.bing.com/toolbox/webmaster.
Then it is just a matter of collating all the data into an infographic so you can explain what it all means.
Looking at the code of your website, does each page have a useful title, are there alternative descriptions for images, is there a description for each page, what is the layout like, have you got a good number of headings and balanced with text?
If you are doing this using printed out copies of your website you will need to make note of these changes that need to be made.
What size are your images? Do they load quickly, and in the right space? Are they mobile friendly?
Looking at the code, how are your images named? Do you have visual descriptions for the blind?
How fast does your page load? Is there a different speed on different browsers, and check again on mobile.
Different tools are also available (like here), but you will need to collate the results.
Of course, this is just part of what you are looking for when you start to evaluate a website for its SEO effectiveness.
You also want to compare your website to your competitors, looking at much the same things.
How To Evaluate Your Website
There are a few ways that you can look at your website objectively to see where errors are and where improvements can be made.
The easiest way is going to be SEO reporting using Raven Tools.
Reporting tools will evaluate both your code and your front facing site. And they will provide you with a good overview of what tweaks can be made to improve your rankings on a search engine.
The other way is to manually go through your site yourself. The easiest option will likely be to print out each page, and each associated page of code and start to analyse.
Some of this data may also be found on your servers analytics program with information relating to
- unique hits,
- page views,
- keyword searches that resulted in discovery of your website, and
- error messages or broken links.
Checking Out The Competition
When you are looking at how well your business is doing online, it doesn’t really matter if certain sites come ahead of yours – unless they are your active competitors.
Having the governments tax department as the first ranked link in a search for “how to do a tax return” is probably to your advantage if you are a tax accountant.
However, having the accounting firm from down the street come up ahead of you is a problem.
Particularly if their search results show a more exciting title than just their corporate name, and an enticing description.
The question becomes, how do you monitor what your competition is doing, and ensure that you are always ahead of them on the rankings?
If you are going to avoid using tools like above to automate the process, then you can use a variety of analytic tools to help you get the data. This way, you can analyse it yourself and then collate the data manually at the end.
Each of the search engines allows some from of ranking analysis for comparing sites.
Although you may need to use more than one of these tools to get an accurate representation.
Obviously your first step to analysing the competition is to work out the top 5-10 direct competitors.
Depending on what line of work your business specialises in these may be local, national or international.
If you are strictly online with a worldwide focus you may need to go straight to the next step. This way you can find who your top competitors in the online world are.
And bear in mind that this may change each month depending on their own SEO expertise and development.
Step two is to work out what are the top ten keywords for your business. Here it is a good idea to look to your website analytics and see what terms people are using in order to discover you.
People new to SEO often misjudge where their keyword focus should be. For an accounting firm the obvious keywords might be: income tax, accounting, accountant, IRS, file my tax return.
However, less useful would be terms like ‘money’ or ‘cheque’.
When you are looking at your competitor’s website,
Have they got similar headings to you; do they use keywords in a stronger sentence?
Which do you think Google would prefer “call our income tax accountants for help to file your tax return” or “Call us to file your return”?
Keywords or Keyword phrases?
Since the days of “Ask Jeeves” (see here for the history), people have used close to complete sentences to find the information they need.
Although search engines allow Boolean searches, very few people use them. So, you need to try and look at the entire phrase rather than simply the keyword.
Where each keyword is placed and the context in which it is used is as important, if not more so, than the actual keyword itself. Choose wisely.