Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an extremely important matter for digital marketers. Today, marketing-savvy business owners can also be found tinkering with SEO concepts, all in an effort to get more visitors on their web pages. SEO basics have largely remained the same as we edge towards the end of the first quarter of 2018. There is still link building, keyword research, fixing broken links and the other usual suspects. But some of these aspects have undergone nuanced changes that have an impact on your SEO rankings. Your competition might also have picked up thing or two about SEO in 2018, which could be giving you a harder time. Hence, it is wise to revisit your SEO strategies in 2018 now. We have prepared a checklist that helps you quickly evaluate how you are doing with your SEO and which areas need work.
The SEO Audit Checklist
1. Find out your strategic objectives – Before delving into activity towards SEO, it is vital to know what you plan to achieve with SEO. This thing that you have set out to achieve through SEO, must have a timeline and be measurable and be challenging enough to push your team and yet be realistic. For example, ‘We want to increase our visitors by 15% by the second quarter of 2018’ is one such objective. A clear objective helps you stay focused on the target and helps you evaluate any SEO initiative objectively, without being biased.
2. Do a keyword analysis – This is SEO 101 but ever so important today. You must identify a set of keywords (the number of keywords targeted should be something you can work with) that you want to capture. You need to challenge yourself (like in point 1) but you should be realistic in your goals. Shorter keywords would have been under the hold of possibly bigger players in your domain who have spent years building their backlinks. Everyone wants to see a David beat Goliath. But it is better to go gradual in SEO than end up with strategies that don’t work. Hence, take up keywords (longer keywords are also fine) that you want to target.
3. Identify poorly performing blogs and pages – Based on your identified keywords, find out which one of you blogs are doing poorly. You can use the good old Google Analytics to get an idea about the number of visitors, the bounce rate and the amount of time spent on the pages. These are the pages and blogs that you already have that can be made better, without needing to reinvest in new content.
4. Promote the poorly performing content – Inject the poorly doing content with a new dose of promotions. You can start by sharing those articles on social media with the relevant hash-tags. You can build backlinks as well from some of the relevant blogs of your competitors. A good way to pull in leads through this content is to offer solutions to problems posed on forums on LinkedIn and Facebook and suggest your pages that is like a soft sell.
5. Perform a technical analysis – The poor content uplifting gives you good initial results to help get a buy-in from your stakeholders. The next thing to do is to do a technical analysis on the website. Find out how much time does it take for your pages to load. If you find that it is not satisfactory, you can use some CMS plugins or Compressor.io to change things there. You should also examine if two of your pages are competing for the same keyword (this leads you to be ranked lower). There is also the redirect chain that needs to be prevented and elimination of duplicate content. You also need to check the mobile friendliness of your website (a very important aspect for 2018 indeed) through the Google mobile friendly checker. All this clears the ground at the basics and helps you progress the next thing on your plate.
6. Perform an experience analysis – The next thing is to know if the user experience offered is at par with the standard today. Effective metrics here include the bounce rate and exit rates on pages. It also helps to ask around in the community for tips on what they think needs work. You will be surprised at the simplicity and yet, the efficacy of some of the suggestions. Minor user experience changes can usually be done inexpensively. At this stage, you should also consider the content experience apart from the user experience. A good idea here is to have authoritative content written out by experts in the field. Trustworthy content has always a way of finding the right visitors.
7. Identify competition and their strategies – There is no SEO checklist that is complete without looking at what the competition does. A thorough competition analysis includes finding out the competition’s pages that come up for your targeted keywords. You should also find out the metrics for them, that you unearthed for your own web pages, like the loading time or the technology stack employed. You may even want to pick up information like what plugins they are using or how they are building their backlinks.
8. Analyze your links – This is once again SEO 101. Link analysis is a part of almost any staple SEO checklist. The very first thing to check is the relevancy of your backlinks. While it is not possible to be a cent percent relevant, but the majority of backlinks posted should be relevant. It is also important to check for the presence of different kinds of backlinks (diversity) which is useful for SEO. If your backlinks are of different types like contextual links, links posted on forums, blog comments, footer links etc. then that helps. It is also important that these backlinks go to deep pages within your site, so that the entire website gets covered and not just the main pages. This helps you in ranking better with the help of backlinks.
9. Apply everything, use tools if necessary – The last step here is to take all the information you have gathered about your site’s poorly performing pages, your competition, your backlinks, your broken links, your redirect chains and put it to use. You should also consider SEO tools like Ahrefs or Majestic for link analysis. You can employ SEMRush to find out your organic traffic score. There is obviously Google Analytics to do the basic analysis of your web page metrics. The idea here is to give the SEO tools out there a try and decide upon which one to use, based on your experience.
With these nine comprehensive steps, your SEO ranking should start climbing up the way it should. These steps would give you a great head-start and a good leverage over your competition. The rest of course, is the power and quality of your content that will truly decide who gets the visitor’s attention, once the SEO playing field is largely leveled.
Abhishek Mohanty is a marketing specialist at ReportGarden, a marketing agency software for management and reporting. Follow him on Twitter: @abhishek_mohnty.