Search engine optimization (SEO) can seem complicated, but by organizing into manageable pieces, you’ll improve website performance to reach your traffic and sales goals. First, compile benchmarks to determine your site’s current performance level.
Benchmarks include organic site rankings on major search engines, the number of indexed pages, the number of quality inbound links, and the level of conversion your website produces.
How does your website rank?
Make a list of five to 10 keywords or phrases you think prospects, clients or customers would use to find your site. Then, conduct searches on Google, Yahoo and MSN using each word or phrase to see where your site places in the organic results. Keep a log and record the following information as a guide for SEO improvement:
- On what results page was your site ranked for each keyword?
- What page was ranked (e.g.-home page, a secondary page, an article)? Make note if more than one page is ranked.
- On what page were your top competitors ranked for the same keywords?
- What competitive pages were ranked?
As you browse the rankings, make notes on how the top ranked website listings are different than your own. For instance, do the top sites have concise descriptions about the company, product or service while your listing does not? Assemble as much information as possible to help you gain a better understanding of rankings and how to improve your own over time.
How many pages are indexed?
Before your site can be found through search engines, it must be indexed. Robots, the software search engines use to gather web content, constantly feed the databases with information about websites. When your web pages are included in a search engine database, it has been indexed and increases your chances of showing up in search engine results.
Find out whether your website is indexed and what individual pages are indexed:
- Go to Google.com and type site:yoururl.com in the search box. Use your website address after the colon.
- Go to Bing.com and repeat the process.
- Go to Yahoo.com at http://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com and type your web address in the box at the top of the page.
Each inquiry will show whether your site has been indexed. To find out if individual pages are indexed, use the URL for pages other than your home page. For example, www.yoururl.com/products.
Make a note of your findings as part of your benchmark information. If your site is new and has been registered with these search engines, it can take two or more months for indexing. If your site has been around a while and not showing up in the indexes, it’s time to register your site with Google, Yahoo and MSN.
How many inbound links are there?
One way search engines determine how high your website should rank in search results is by the number of quality inbound links. These are links to your site from other websites.
Find out how many inbound links you have and record your findings as a benchmark:
- Go to Google.com and type link:http://www.yoururl.com. Use your web address in place of yoururl.com. You can also do this for individual pages by including the page title. For example, www.yoururl.com/products.
- Go to Yahoo at http://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com and type in your website address. In addition to listing indexed pages, an inlinks button will appear. Click to see what sites are connecting yours.
Does your website produce conversions?
Online conversion means the actions taken by web visitors and how well the actions match the goals you’ve set for your site. Conversions include online sales, downloads or requests for information. Your conversions will be specific to how you expect your website to perform when visitors arrive.
What information, either statistical or anecdotal, do you have about how well the website is contributing to your goals? Do you have a way to track website conversions? If you have any information, write it down for your benchmark. If you don’t have any information, don’t despair. Today’s a good day to figure out how to track and measure your website performance.
What did you find?
Review all the information you collected and draw some conclusions. Is the site doing well in some areas and not others? Were there any surprises? How are you stacking up to your competition?
Now that you have basic information and a starting point, spend a little time thinking about how well your findings match your expectations for your site. Your next step will be developing an SEO improvement plan.