When presenting an SEO Evaluation to a client I’m often asked how I got the information, specifically, where did all the data come from. I understand this question because in my days of public opinion research every singly media source from the Miami Herald to the New York Times has strict requirements on how much data is needed, where the data comes from and if the data supports the conclusions made.
Also, many small business owners want to see for themselves where they stand online, without entrusting some unknown SEO guy’s random email that “your site could be better optimized, I can do it for only $____ (enter exorbitant price).
So I want to empower people to be in control of their websites and at the very least, be able to get some unbiased information that really shows how your site is doing. – Let’s get to it!
How to Set-Up Your SEO Analysis
There are 7 steps to setting up a comprehensive site analysis. Some things can be analyzed without doing a setup, such as social media footprint and reviewing conversion optimization so here I focus on the items that require research and using tools to gather the diagnosis. Almost all of the tools are free for a trial and the initial investment of your time will be well worth your piece of mind before paying for an SEO service or hiring someone internally – and necessary if you want to do-it-yourself.
First, you want to do some research and gather a list of the keyphrases relevant to your site as well as your top competitors online. The keyphrase list is the list of words that are relevant to your business and also what people would be looking for to get to your business. You can use Google Insights and Google Adwords Keyphrase tool to find out what are the best words “keyphrases” you should be targeting.
Then you want to go to Google and find out who is already ranking for those at the top of the first page. Whoever comes up consistently for what you want to rank for is your online competitor. An important note is that online competitor could be different from your business competitor. Let’s say a bakery opens up next door to your bakery. Naturally, this is your business competitor. However, there could be a bakery in the next county that shows up for all the searches you want to show up for, so this far away bakery is actually your online competitor.
1. Compile a Keyphrase Lists
Using the keyphrase measuring tools such as Google Insights or Adwords, make a list of all relevant keyphrases that you want to rank for. Order them from most general and competitive, to most specific with the lowest competition.
– Example of a keyphrase is “yoga miami” or “miami seo”.
– The list will probably be around 75-100 keyphrases, again arranged from general & competitive to specific & not competitive.
2. Online Competitors
Do a few Google searches to see who (other than your site) is already ranking in the top positions for your targeted keyphrases. These will be the site’s “competitors” until further data can fully determine the site’s exact competitors.
Note that it is important how you do this search. You MUST open an “In Private” browsing session in Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome or Safari to get a less biased answer. This is because Google remembers your search history and will show you results tailored to that history. You will also see social results if you don’t (for instance your own Google + profile) when you actually don’t show up till page 4 – I know this from my own test.
3. Google Measuring Tools
Install (free) Google Analytics & Google Webmaster Tools. These should be fairly easy to install and some website services (like Overblog) allow you to just put in your account UA id to get Google Analytics installed. Google Webmaster you can have installed and verify through your hosting provider.
Google Analytics will tell you how many people come to your site, how they got there and what they do when they are on it. Webmaster Tools will tell you what keyphrases are ranked in Google, what the average position is, how many times your results have been shown and how many people clicked on your result.
Create a free 30-day trial account and begin a “campaign” in SEOMOZ for the domain. The set-up is guided in detail on how to add your site’s URL, keyphrases, competitors and the Google Analytics login.
This is a great service which weekly tracks your rankings, how many links your site has, any potential errors on the site (from missing data to broken links) and how well you are doing compared to your competitors. You can also set up automatic weekly, monthly and quarterly reports for this information that will be emailed to you – talk about transparency!
Use Whitespark (again, free for a trial) to identify citations (links that power google map results) available for the site. Do this by adding the most relevant and basic keyphrase for your site. (Feel free to check with me if you’re not sure.) Whitespark will identify for you your top map competitors and even allow you to submit to some of the directories right through the site, to quickly allow you to get citations.
– You need citations because Google now shows the map results first, just below the paid advertisements and you want to be at the top – of course you do!
Use Majestic SEO (this one is paid, but very important) to get link analysis for domain and top competitor. By clicking on “Link Profile Site” and adding domain vs another domain. This will tell you how many links you have and from where as well as how many links your competitor has and from where.
SEO Performance Analysis I
So now that you set all this up… what do you ask? What is the important information in an SEO analysis? Well, I’m breaking this down into 3 components and sharing the first component in this blog, the next three will be in articles to come because they’re more complicated topics. Still, this first analysis will give you good information and a valid indication of how your site is doing. Also, with what you setup, you can go back and check (or have reports sent automatically to you) to see how your site improves (hopefully!) over time.
Below I break down the analysis into the main areas of analysis and also note what tools will give you the information.
- How many keyphrases rank in the top 3 positions of Google? (SEOMOZ)
- How many keyphrases on the first page of Google? (SEOMOZ)
- How does the site perform compared to its competitors for Google Organic? For Google Local? (SEOMOZ)
- What does Majestic SEO report its referring back links are compared to its competitor?
- What does Whitespark report for the number of citations? How does it score compared to Whitespark’s identified competitors?
- What does SEOMOZ score the site compared to its competitors for links?
- How many visits did the site receive for the past two full months and the corresponding months of last year? (if already installed, if not, start tracking a full month.) (Google Analytics)
- How many visits came from search engine traffic for these months? (Google Analytics)
- Does Webmaster Tools report any errors? Is there a sitemap recognized?
- How many keyphrases show up in search results and what’s their average position? How many times were these results clicked?
I got the answers, what does this all mean?!
Now that you got all the answers you could, you’ll probably start to see what can be improved. Do you have rankings in the top 3 positions of the first page of Google? Are they for the really competitive searches? If you answer yes, you probably don’t need SEO work at this time, congratulations to you! Keep up whatever you are doing.
More than likely you will find areas of improvement in getting keyphrases to page one. Looking at how many links, citations, site errors that you have and compared to your competitors’ citations links and rankings you will find these areas of improvement.
As mentioned before, there is more granular analysis to a site’s performance, but we had to start someone didn’t we? So check back in the upcoming weeks if you want to continue on subjects such as conversion optimization, Google Local, Social Media and more …
Good luck until then!
Tools Needed & Links
- Google Insights http://www.google.com/insights/search/
- Google Adwords Keyword Tool https://adwords.google.com/o/KeywordTool
- Google Analytics: www.google.com/analytics
- Google Webmaster Tools: www.google.com/webmaster/tools
- SEOMOZ: www.seomoz.org
- Whitespark : https://accounts.whitespark.ca/sign-in#
- Majestic SEO: www.majesticseo.com