Evaluating Your Website’s SEO
In a previous post, I discussed the reasons that a small business might consider investing in search engine optimization. Essentially, if you want more traffic to your website (and presumably then, more customers), you want to be sure that potential customers can find you online. One way of making sure they can find you is through SEO.
In this post, I want to start with the basics for SMBs. Even if you’re planning to outsource your SEO work, it’s important to understand what things might be done on your behalf.
But First: If You Got the Traffic, Would It Do You Any Good?
Ranking well and getting more traffic isn’t going to be helpful if you have a website that visitors can’t use or that doesn’t seem trustworthy.
So the first step, if you already have a website, is to take a good hard look at where you stand now. Look at your website honestly, and ask yourself how it compares to others, both in your industry and not. As Dan Gorgone notes in his excellent post on usability questions, “Success can hinge on your site’s ability to do what it’s supposed to: help users accomplish their goals.”
Be brutal in your evaluation. SMBs frequently have invested either money or energy (or both) into getting their sites online, and it can sometimes be hard to be objective. If you feel you may be in that position, take Dan’s advice to read Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug, and follow that up with some real usability testing.
You want to be sure that the traffic you generate from your SEO efforts actually converts into new customers, so if you decide a redesign is in order you should start with that. (Incidentally, a redesign is often a particularly good time to start optimizing, because it gives you the opportunity to rethink everything about your site – from the architecture to the content – with SEO baked in.)
If you hire an SEO firm to assist you, I’d expect them to do at least a basic usability analysis. However, I’d recommend that even if they do, you should participate in this step to keep yourself informed.
Evaluate Your Website’s SEO
Professional website audits can get pretty complicated, so if you hire a “traditional” SEO firm to do it for you, be prepared for a lot of information. However, it is possible to get at least the basic information on your own without drowning in suggestions you don’t even understand.
One of the easiest ways is to use Website Grader, a free tool from HubSpot. Simply enter your site URL (www.yourdomain.com), the URLs of a few competitors (optional), and your email address. HubSpot evaluates a variety of elements about your site (and your competitors, if you chose to enter them) and assigns a numeric “grade.” The grade is on a scale of 0 to 100 and compares your site to the nearly 4 million other sites that have been graded. Don’t be alarmed if the grade is low, because the report also shows you specific areas for improvement.
Some of those improvements might require the assistance of your web designer/developer, but for the most part, they aren’t particularly difficult to implement.
The report is broken down into four sections:
- Content – With good reason, HubSpot puts a lot of emphasis on content, particularly blogs, but this section also shows how many pages are indexed by Google and the readability level of your content.
- Optimize – This section analyzes several factors related to the site itself (e.g., metadata, alt tags, domain age) as well as links coming in to your site.
- Promote – Twitter is the main focus of this section. (In my opinion, that’s a shortfall of the Website Grader, since Twitter is not the only social media site that can impact rankings.)
- Convert – Once you get visitors to your site, you want them to take some action; the Convert section shows you how many people signed up for your RSS feed (if you have one) and how many people subscribed to your email list.
- Analyze – The final section summarizes some of the important data points, giving you a quick snapshot of where you stand.
Some Drawbacks Of The Report
While the Website Grader is a useful starting point, it does have limitations. For instance, while it will evaluate the home page and a few interior pages, it won’t cover every page on your site.
It’s also using a standard grading algorithm, regardless of what industry you’re in or what kind of site you have. For instance, photography sites are naturally image-heavy, but the Grader would likely recommend reducing the number of images on the page.
The Grader includes some data points that will most likely be unfamiliar to an SMB (e.g., Moz Rank), but don’t let that put you off. The Website Grader is a good place to start an evaluation of your site. It shows you quickly which things you should focus on to improve your rankings.
In the next few posts, I’ll be reviewing further some of the elements from the Website Grader and giving you some actionable advice on how to identify which keywords you want to optimize for.
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