Going DIY for SEO? Your questions, answered by a Melbourne SEO agency.

Digital360 on 4 May 2017

Search engine optimisation is the well-known method of boosting a business's visibility in organic (unpaid) search rankings. The complex algorithms used in search engines like Google and Bing consider hundreds of factors – from the content of the page, links, engagement, metadata and site structure.

Improving your website's performance in search results is more a science than an art – at least that's the way we see it here at our Melbourne SEO agency. We've boiled down some of the key factors into this simple SEO checklist to help businesses get started.

1. Preparing your SEO audit

1.1 Review common SEO definitions

Check out this SEO glossary for a list of important terms.

1.2 Getting together what you'll need

To start, you'll need access to your CMS and server. You'll need to know what CMS your working with, as well as the details of your hosting provider. If you don't know this information, contact the website development company who created your website.

1.3 Allocating time and resources

The time and resources you'll need will depend on the level of detail of your SEO audit and the size of your site. If you only want to check a small list of items, such as website content and links, you'll only need a few hours for a small site. Large sites or highly-detailed SEO audits will take much longer.

1.4 Free SEO audit tools

  • Google Analytics – The standard in website analytics for monitoring and tracking SEO performance.
  • Google Search Console (formally 'Google Webmaster Tools') – A free tool that can identify issues with your site, such as broken links and indexing errors.
  • Screaming Frog – A 'spider' tool which crawls and analyses your website data, including content and links.

2. Starting your SEO audit

2.1 Check and install analytics and tracking

2.2 Check page speed

  • Your site should not take more than a second or two to load. While Google's ranking algorithm considers page speed, a slow speed will also increase visitor bounce rate. Try a service called Pingdom to assess and grade the speed of your site.

2.3 Check SSL certificates

  • An SSL certificate is important to secure transactions on your site. Your website will be considered more trustworthy by search engines and browsers with this layer of security.

2.4 Check online business reviews

  • Remove or respond to negative reviews. Any negative reviews could be seen in search engine results, reducing the click-through rate to your website. Respond to negative reviews to rectify any issues or misunderstandings. Any suspicious negative reviews could be from competitors. Flag these.

2.5 Review Google My Business and social media accounts

  • Google My Business is your business information submitted to Google. It's an important SEO element, as visitors see information about your business straight from search results (in an element called the 'Knowledge Panel').
  • Keep it up to date with your business hours, location, contact information. Use quality imagery on your site and Google+ page. This will ensure that any images used in the Knowledge Panel are relevant and of high-quality.
  • Make sure that your social media accounts are linked to Google My Business. This completes the Knowledge Panel with all the relevant information about your business.

2.6 Check mobile-responsiveness

  • Is your site optimised for mobile devices? Mobile responsiveness is an extremely important part of SEO. Google now indexes websites 'mobile-first', meaning your website may not even rank for mobile devices if the mobile experience isn't up to scratch. Use a free tool by Google Search Console to check your site's mobile-friendliness.

3. Auditing site structure (technical SEO)

  • Review your page hierarchy. Not only may some pages appear hidden to search engines, but they may also be hidden from users. Make sure your site has a logical structure in the sitemap.
  • Add an XML sitemap. Normally, search engines will index your site automatically. However, in some cases, certain pages can be missed. Adding an XML sitemap file to your site means search engines are likely to index your entire site.

4. Auditing SEO content and internal links (on-page SEO)

4.1 Page content

  • Is there enough content? Most pages should have more than 150 words at a minimum. Product and services pages should be around 500-800 words.
  • Is the content broken up using headers, bullet points and imagery? Structuring content for readability improves the ability for search engines to understand the content of the page.
  • Does the content read well and make sense? Content is one of the most important ranking factors. High quality content should be well written and have a good readability score.
  • Is there alt-text and descriptions for images? This helps search engines understand the non-text content. Images can be better indexed and used in rich snippets and the Knowledge Panel in search engine results.
  • Is there enough original content on the page? Best practice SEO uses a minimal amount of duplicate content, while plagiarised content could have very detrimental effects on SEO performance. Use a service like Copyscape to scan for plagiarised content.

4.2 Keywords

  • Have you identified target keywords for the page? Often the target keyword will be the product or service. But analysing search data will match your product with the language of potential customers. The AdWords Keyword Planner tool is a good place to start finding this search data.
  • Do the keywords appear on the page enough (or too much)? Keywords need to appear evenly throughout the page at a reasonable density (ideally 2-3%). Use this keyword analyser tool to analyse text or a URL.
  • Are there stuffed keywords on the page? A 'stuffed' keyword is any keyword in the text that appears unnatural. Stuffing a page with keywords can dramatically harm rankings or even risk picking up a Google penalty.
  • Are keywords in the headings? Where possible, include the target keywords in prominent parts on the page, such as headings. This signals to search engines (and users) what the content of the page will be about.

4.3 Metadata, descriptions and title tags

  • Does the page have unique meta descriptions? While meta descriptions do not have a direct effect on page ranking, they do improve click-through rates in search engine results. That means more clicks and more traffic to the page.
  • Are title tags optimised? Title tags should be short but informative and contain the target keyword. Titles too long will be cut off in search engine results.

4.4 Internal links

  • Do links appear on the page? Make sure that your on-page hyperlinks point to related products, services or topics. However, excessive linking is could be damaging, while too many redundant links will diminish any SEO benefit.
  • Does 'anchor text' cover keywords? Anchor text is the text on a hyperlink. This reveals contextual information to both users and search engines about the linking page.
  • Are any links broken? Use a tool like Google Search Console or Screaming Frog to undercover any 'broken links' – links that do not point to an existing page.

4.5 Redirects

  • Make sure broken links are set up with redirects. A redirect is forwarding one URL to another URL. Using redirects, users will land on the correct page and search engines will understand that the page has moved permanently. A '301' redirect is a permanent redirect that is the most suitable for SEO.

5. Auditing backlinks (off-site SEO)

5.1 Link profile

  • Assess your link profile. Your backlink profile measures the overall strength of links pointing to your website. Most links need to be coming from reputable, authoritative sources related to your business or industry.
  • Set up monitors and alerts. Be sure to protect your business from low quality links pointing to your site by setting up email alerts from Google Search Console.

5.2 Remove low quality links

  • Identify low quality or spam links. Use services such as Majestic, Moz and SEMrush to check links, their quality and traffic volumes to their domain. Low quality 'spammy' links with no value to your site need to be removed as soon as possible.
  • Report and disavow spam links. As a first step, report spam to Google. As an extra precaution, update your website’s disavowed links list with the suspicious links.

6. Find an SEO consultant (optional)

Optimising these factors and more will improve your business's ranking in search engine results. But to see large improvements in SEO performance, you may want to hire the services of an SEO agency. An SEO agency can help optimise technical factors, as well as develop and implement an on-going SEO strategy.

Talk to our specialist team for SEO agency services in Melbourne. We can guide you through our approach and how we can grow your business.