When one is asked to do SEO on a website, be it for a client or your own blog, it can be a bit tricky to decide where to start. You know the saying, “the first step to solving a problem is recognising that there is one”. The problem is, how do you know there is a problem? Well your online sales could have noticeably decreased, or your usual commentors are no longer as vocal as before? Is there something going on that you do not know about. And if this for a client, there is a lot at stake here, assuming you know enough about SEO to understand the risks involved. The best way to get started is to know where you are in the process, and how far/difficult the journey will be. Lets help by showing you how to get a map for that very journey.
Recapping Search Engine Optimisation
SEO is the practice of making a website as compliant as possible with the criteria set out by Search Engines. As most of internet users go through Search Engines to find what they are looking for, having your website show up in those searches is very important if you are going to reach potential customers. How this criteria is set out is fundamental to this practice. Google being the most popular Search Engine in the world, has a known 200 points to its criteria, these are called Ranking Factors. Satisfying these Ranking Factors will mean that Google sees your website as being more worthy of being shown in the relevant search queries by users compared to websites that do not. Knowing this, we can now shift to trying to understand the specifics of the Ranking Factors that our current website is satisfying, and which need your attention. One great way to do this, is to use Web Analytics Tools.
What are Web Analytics Tools?
Web Analytics tools are online services that specialise in gathering specific data on particular websites. You feed them a domain name and they will spit out results of how that particular domain is performing, with respect to certain ranking factors used by Search Engines. Using these powerful tools, we can get detailed information about our website, and how it is probably being seen by Search Engines. Using RavenTools as the example for this article, we will discuss the pros and cons of these web analytics tools. A tool like Raven is fairly straightforward, present the domain name, and after some time it displays the results of your websites performance in the different ranking criteria. Understanding the criteria is the best way to fully benefit from this service. Another positive thing about this tool is the ability to generate a report on these findings, which will be your road map to achieving better SEO results.
What kind of Information?
One big positive about these tools is that they have forged themselves a reputation for accurate findings. This is probably the result of tons of research into what and how Search Engines treat websites that look and behave in a particular way. Raven looks at nearly everything with regards to your domain, from images, to the types of code involves in the site, to its layout, meta-tags etc. It even incorporates factors from other ranking tools like Moz, which also has a sparkling reputation. Moreover, it gives you the ability to incorporate Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), as well as Google Analytics, to give you the best possible amount of information. But now that you have this report, what happens next?
What is an SEO Audit?
An SEO audit is the first step in any SEO practise. This involves first understanding your client, their goals, etc. Then you look at the website and its performance. This is where the previous two paragraphs come into play. The SEO report from e.g. Raven, will probably contain a bundle of information that doesnt’t make much sense at first, but a bit of Googling (yes, ironic!) can shed some valuable light on the matter. But how do you use it?
Drawing your Conclusions
Depending on how the website performs in certain areas will give you an indication of which areas need your attention and refinement the most. Take for example, a website that is running a wordpress system, and is performing quite well in most areas, but is somehow throwing out thousands of Errors from its images. Go and look into those errors and see what they say. Often this can be solved by providing the images with missing Alt text, or simply running them through an Optimisation tool (reducing their size, but not their quality). Sometimes the problem will be trickier to figure out, but do not fear. This is all part of the process.
SEO is not an exact science, it involves a large amount of trial and error – and most importantly, patience. Take the report as honest, work to implement the changes necessary in the problematic areas, and eventually you will get the results you are looking for. Rest assured, that the elbow grease will pay off.