Most businesses nowadays understand the importance of search engine optimisation, or SEO. If you have your own website – which practically every business does these days – then you want customers, existing and potential, to be able to find you online.
Although the likes of Amazon and social media giants like Facebook have been making inroads in recent years, search engines, and Google in particular, are still the most popular route people use to look for goods and services they want online. The problem for businesses is, search engines represent a very crowded and competitive marketplace. Google, Bing, Yahoo! Search and others index billions of web pages, including those of all your competitors.
So getting your page noticed when someone types in a search term relevant to your business is a major battle. In effect, you need your web pages to appear in the top five search results, as any lower than that and you are very unlikely to get anyone clicking through to your site. Those top spots are all important, and that’s why you need to play the optimisation game.
Rules of the game
In essence, SEO is the art of dressing up your website so the search engine algorithms (or ‘bots’ as we like to call them) notice your pages first, like what they see and stick them right at the top of the search results. Simple?
Well, not really. Businesses aren’t helped by the fact that Google and the rest are constantly changing their search algorithms, effectively changing the rules of the game. They’re not doing this just to be awkward. What the boffins at Google are trying to do is perfect their bots to ensure that the results they show are as relevant as possible to what the user was trying to find. It’s all about making search better, in other words. It is just hard for those looking to keep their businesses visible in search results to keep up.
When search engines came along, web pages were judged on keywords and links and not much else, making SEO a fairly straightforward business. Now, pages are judged on a whole list of factors – quality and relevance of content, how user-friendly it is, how popular your pages happen to be on social media, even the ‘implicit intention’ behind the content we post (judged by an AI-powered bot, and intended to stop companies being too pushy in their sales tactics).
In addition, pages are no longer evaluated in their own right. They are judged in the context of an entire website. Which means, even if you have a perfectly presented web page containing information that is precisely relevant to what the user is looking for, you risk not achieving those high search rankings if the rest of your site is filled with low quality, irrelevant content, the navigation is poor, and no one follows you on social media.
A whole-site view
That is why SEO Audits are becoming more and more essential to any business that wants to keep up its game in search engine optimisation.
An SEO Audit takes a whole-site view of how your digital platform is performing in search. It will look at every detail that is relevant to search optimisation, including the content, the code, the navigation, accessibility and layout on different devices, how your well your pages are tagged and optimised for specific search terms and how much ‘use’ your site gets (traffic, backlinks, posts on social media and so on). It will carry out a statistical analysis of performance in these different areas, including how well your pages will ‘index’ (rank or show up in search result) for different search terms. And then, ultimately, it will make recommendations for improvement, matching areas where your site is underperforming to issues identified in the evaluation.
An SEO Site Audit is a fairly involved, technical process. But a good way to think of it is looking at your web site from the perspective of a search bot, and judging how appealing it looks in all the different areas search bots take into consideration. It can therefore be seen as a foundation point for all SEO activity, and is something that should be undertaken on a regular basis – as a minimum every year, or every time you make major changes to your site design and content, or every time you hear Google has updated its search algorithms.
Freelance SEO is a specialist Essex-based SEO and digital marketing agency.