Everyone knows a person who has a car but refuses to ever look at the engine oil or even the water levels.
Deep down they know at some point their vehicle will go wrong, probably from something minor that was left to fester, but they prefer to live in perpetual automotive ignorance.
Taking the same approach with a website is equally a very bad plan. But with the new and rapidly changing topology of the web landscape, a site could run into difficulties more rapidly than you might ever imagine.
All sites should have a regular audit, at least once a year, to identify any potential weaknesses, and also to look for improvements even in those areas which seem to be fine.
There are plenty of websites and applications that offer to analyze a web location and then deliver a list of action points with regards to how the site might be improved.
What these tools generally do is look at the site, its structure and contents, then further examine search engine page rankings from the most popular engines.
By comparing the two, and possibly referring to other websites ranked higher in the same searches as the analyzed site, it is possible to produce a checklist of where the site is good and equally where it needs to be improved.
Google, Bing and Yahoo all have their own methods for ranking: some of the changes suggested will help on all search platforms, and some will be specific to just one search service.
But remember, these aren’t the only things that an audit will identify. It should also find the answers to these questions:
- Is the site mobile friendly?
- Are there any broken links on the site?
- Is the Meta information valid?
- How quickly do pages load?
- Are the graphics too large?
- How many backlinks exist?
- Do you have a schema?
- Is the URL structure too complicated?
There are many other details that should also be checked, but these represent the critical ones that must be right for a website to succeed.
A full audit should include technical analysis of the code and performance of the site with plenty of concurrent users. Furthermore, it should deliver a full internal and external link assessment, check into social media visibility, and critically, assess how the site performs on search engines.
And, once all that information has been collated, a ‘hit list’ of changes and enhancements can be created to address any issues.
The feedback loop
You did the analysis, followed the advice, but how do you know that you’ve made things better and not worse?
What you need to do is track your page rankings, and hopefully see that after all these adjustments, the page is better ranked across a range of search engines.
It’s then a matter of repeating this exercise to hone the site into an optimal state for the current business sector that the website is operating in.
This is especially important if you launch a new feature to the site, a new product range, or initiate a fresh marketing exercise – as the analysis might be one of the first indications of how this has impacted site traffic, and how it might need tweaking to make best use of the resulting higher profile.
It is also important to document all changes so that anyone new working on the site (or site content) has this information to hand. By being able to refer to this, they shouldn’t repeat past mistakes, instead building on the success already achieved.
SEO moving target
The problem with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is that it is an inherently endless, but very necessary, task.
You make some changes and elevate your place in the search results, and then one of your competitors makes similar efforts, pushing you back down again.
There are also many invisible factors that can come into play, like a highly popular piece of content you added, which can skew results or get the page to appear on more searches.
Furthermore, there are external influences that can’t be predicted, such as a breaking news story that relates to your sector, or an important mention on a high traffic site.
In the end, you must simply make the best of what web resources you have, using a decent SEO service provider to do a regular analysis and then add the required keywords and phrases to attract more traffic.
Don’t expect overnight results – instead aim to keep the numbers moving in the right direction, even if the improvement is modest.
These facilities don’t cost much to use, and they can make a big difference for a site trying to break into higher page rankings.
Those who are serious about page rankings and want to increase the number of visitors to a site need to invest in SEO – and indeed possibly contract an SEO service to manage all this, at least in the early important phases of your drive to get more online attention.