by Matt Kuikman
(Click here to see Part One)
Alright readers, rest assured your voices have been heard. You wanted to know more about SEO; so that’s exactly what we’re going to give you. That’s why we’ve decided to publish a collection of blog posts that dive into more detail about effective SEO that you can apply towards optimizing your sites; starting with this one, which will focus on the tools you can use to audit your website. So buckle up and brace yourselves, because this is Search Engine Optimization – Part Deux!
(20th Century Fox, “Hot Shots Part Deux”)
The world of SEO can be a daunting place, especially if you’re a novice. That’s why many companies hire agencies or full time SEO specialists to take care of it for them. However, for many this may not be an affordable option, but the truth is there are a lot optimizations you can take care of on your own if just invest some time into it. But before you make any optimizations, the most important thing you can do is get your bearings straight.
In the ever changing environment that is search it’s critical to have an understanding of where you are and where your site stands. So what does this mean exactly? For starters you need to have list of all your site’s URLs and some of the key aspects of the site that you can optimize for rankings. i.e. Titles, H1 Tags, etc. However, auditing a website can be a complicated matter, especially if you have a bigger site. Fortunately there are many tools that are available to you if you know where to look. Some are free, others you’ll have to pay for, but ultimately this is the first step to make before you can begin optimizing your site.
Tools for Auditing your Website
The fastest way to audit your site is with an automated tool. One of my favorite tools is Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider. This tool will very simply crawl your site and spit out the basic SEO elements of each URL into a CSV file that you can sort through in an Excel document. There is both a free and a paid version of this tool. The free version is good up to 500 URI, but if you have a bigger site you can pay for an annual license for $125, which makes this probably one of your most affordable options to crawl a site. However for those of you with sites who have pages in the thousands to tens of thousands plus, you may find that this tool is somewhat ineffective if you don’t exclude some of the types of pages for the crawl; otherwise it may never be able to fully finish its run.
Another option that’s used by many is SEOmoz’s pro subscription. This will crawl your site weekly and give you recommendations on different aspects of pages you might need to fix based on crawl errors and warnings. The downside is this weekly crawl is not going to provide you with an all-inclusive list the way that Screaming Frog does; just pages it feels may be problematic. Either way, the goal remains the same, and that’s to take these crawls and optimize your pages so they are SEO friendly with your keywords.
Optimizing Your Site
So you’ve crawled your site, you now have heaps of excel rows and columns of data, and so what do you do next? Well if you recall from my last post, there are some key elements of a website that you can optimize to help with your rankings. Those elements are the URL, Title, H1 Headers, and Content. Your content isn’t going to show up in the crawl, so you’ll have to review it on your own to make sure it matches up appropriately with the keywords you are trying to optimize for. Also remember, the content should be for the user, not the for search engines. So while having your keyword(s) somewhere your content is important, just know that there is no set magic number or percent of content that should be keywords that’s going to work. So just include your keywords naturally and focus on it being good relevant content that people will want to share and link to.
Meta descriptions are an often overlooked element that many sites pass over. No, they don’t have much of an effect, if any, on your rankings. However, they actually can have a great deal of impact on your click through rate. You can note in the image below for Brooks Running that by including the keyword “running shoes” in the meta description it showed up in bold, the same way that it does with the title when someone searches for it. So in general, when writing your meta description try and include your keyword(s) once and to craft an informative but appealing statement that will incentivize someone to click.
Assessing Links and Competitive Comparison
So you’ve audited your site, however, the wide world of web is still a big sea. So how does your site stack up against your competitors? To get a better idea you can use tools like SEOmoz’s Opensite Explorer. This will provide you with information such as Domain Authority, Page Authority, and the number of linking sites. You can get all this information for your site, as well as for the sites of 4 competitors. Keep in mind by having a Pro Subscription, you’ll have access to more robust details.
For additional link insights you can also use Opensite Explorer to find out which sites are linking to you. This includes information like the domain and page authority of the site linking to you, as well as, the anchor text being used for those links. A great way to source links is to discover which sites are NOT linking to your site, but who are linking to competitors. Sites that link to more than one competitor are likely not going to be loyal to just one site, and therefore might be worthwhile reaching out to.
Auditing your website is just one step in the SEO process, but to truly optimize it effectively means identifying which keywords you should be targeting and examining how you and your competitors rank for those keywords. This will all be covered in our next SEO blog post where we’ll unlock the secrets behind effective keyword research.