SEO is complex. The parts work together: On Page and Off Page, at the highest level; title tags and social media mentions at the micro level. It can be daunting to confront an SEO audit and then make a plan of attack for your search engine optimization project. Here are some quick thoughts about how to conduct an SEO audit and what to do first, second, third, etc.
Make a Business Value Proposition
Make sure that you know what your business sells (a product, a service, or something else); whom it sells to (your buyer personas), and what’s unique about it all (your unique selling proposition or USP). This is basic marketing stuff; it’s the prequel to effective SEO. Also think thru your sales funnel or customer journey. How will that prospective customer move from the general needs (“educational” searches) to the final steps (“transactional” or “reputational” searches)?
Obviously, to succeed at SEO you gotta know your keyword targets. Do your keyword research, and make an organized keyword worksheet. At this point, I’d also quickly toggle down to this interrelated tasks –
- Identify allies and enemies at your company. Sometimes (unfortunately), the web design team is actively hostile to SEO. They think that they “own” the website and refuse to get it into alignment with SEO best practices (usually because SEO favors lots of heavy, keyword text and graphic designers want everything to look clean like an iPhone). Identify your content writers and content producers.
- Get control of the digital assets –
- WordPress logins and passwords.
- Back everything up!
- Google Search Console logins and passwords.
- Google My Business logins and passwords (if you’re a local business); Yelp login and passwords and any other key directories in your industry.
- Google Analytics set up.
On Page Audit
Conduct an On Page Audit, specifically –
- Footer on every page that is SEO friendly.
- Landing pages for critical keywords.
- Homepage SEO optimization.
- Blog optimization.
Here, as throughout, do the EASY things first. FIX your TITLE tags, for example, before diving deep into blogging. Make sure every page has a unique, accurate, and compelling META DESCRIPTION. FIX the landing pages you DO HAVE before you create the ones you do NOT have, etc. Focus on high ROI, easy to-dos before you get “lost in the weeds.”
Make sure your Google-friendly files exist – your robots.txt file, your XML sitemap, your HTML sitemap. Make sure that the website is fast and mobile-friendly.
Off Page Audit
Toggle immediately to the Off Page aspects of SEO. It’s no use to have a wonderfully optimized On Page SEO site if the Off Page is weak, so –
- Create a link audit. Who links to you? Who links to your competitors? Where are the easy link opportunities? Reverse engineer your competitors and their link strategies.
- Create a review audit. If reviews matter to your business (usually because you’re local), audit your competition and your own reviews. Who has the most reviews in your industry? How do you think they are encouraging them? You can be sure that the successful companies are doing something pro-active to get reviews, whatever the TOS may or may not say. What’s going to be your own review strategy?
- Audit your social media accounts for SEO. Make sure that you have Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc., set up for your company and start to a) post content, and b) get followers. Google increasingly looks to social signals, so get those social ducks in a row.
Throughout, remember Voltaire: “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” Don’t try to brainstorm a PERFECT link-building system. Get going on a GOOD one, now and a.s.a.p. Don’t brainstorm a PERFECT social media system; get going on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram now. Seek perfection latter on, but right now get the SEO machine going….
Longer term, think of more anchor link-building activities such as creating “link-bait” posts or “evergreen” content. Consider creating en eBook via Amazon KDP. Look for eBook templates such as those from Hubspot. Consider how your “bait” is going to interact with your email marketing efforts. The point of your website may be to get an email sign up; the point of an email sign up may be to become a sales lead.
Content is king, jack, queen, and the deuce of hearts. What’s your content marketing strategy? Specifically, start blogging – I recommend four blog posts per month to start. Keep it simple stupid (KISS). Think Captain Kirk and Captain’s log for easy blog posts; you’re not writing the next great American novel. You’re writing a four paragraph SEO-friendly blog.
Consider your press release strategy and sign up for Newswire. I recommend two SEO-friendly press releases per month, both posted to your blog and syndicated via Newswire.
Metrics: Measure Once and Cut Twice
At the beginning, set your KPIs. Usually, you want either a sale (e-commerce) or a sales lead (inquiry). Work backwards from that to other KPIs, such as:
Keyword > Rank on Google > Get the Click > Get the Web Traffic > Get the Conversion
Measure each element of the equation above. What’s working? What’s not? What can you fix and how? Break things down into manageable parts, and take a task and work on it one-by-one. Everything is related to everything else, but you can’t work on everything at once. So today’s it’s optimizing TITLE tags, and tomorrow it’s auditing available directories in your industry. Break it down into the pieces while at the same time understanding the “Big Picture” of your search engine optimization strategy.
Look for External Opportunities
Once your SEO is rocking and rolling, you’ll go back constantly to “tune” your efforts. Maybe it’s better content marketing. Maybe it’s creating new landing pages. Maybe it’s a more aggressive link-building strategy. Then go to look at external opportunities – which may be:
- Google Ads. Perhaps high value terms are worth ads on Google; perhaps you’ll never rank for short tail phrases, so run ads on those high value, targeted short tails. But consider where advertising can be used to supplement your SEO. It’s not SEO vs. Ads, after all it’s SEO AND ADS.
- Remarketing. Remarketing is yet another advertising opportunity. Perhaps you use SEO to get them to your website and then remarketing to show them ads again and again. Start to broaden your horizon beyond mere SEO to advertising strategies like remarketing on Google or Facebook.
- Look for social media opportunities. Social is a different way for customers to learn about you and trust you. Investigate Instagram. Will Facebook work for your business? Don’t just do SEO. Look at other ways of reaching customers online.
In summary, “never stop learning.” That means, never stop learning from your own website and your own SEO efforts. But also never stop learning form the industry. Read the key SEO blogs (available on my Dashboard). Attend the key SEO conferences. Read books. Watch YouTube videos. Attend industry webinars. Stay up-to-speed on SEO.