In recent years the phrase ‘do you own research’ has gotten a bit of a bad name in certain corners of the internet. When searching online you don’t have to look very far before finding contrasting opinions, data and facts – which can lead to information overload in the digital world.
There are over 1.9 billion websites online, so knowing where to start researching your industry and analysing the performance of your website can sometimes be half the battle.
The thing we love about digital marketing is you can’t hide from the data, whether it’s good or needs improving. There’s a wide range of tools which are available for all businesses and aspiring SEO professionals to use. They all share different insights into your website, competitor’s performance, and opportunities for growth in your industry.
The aim of this guide is to show you how you can analyse your own website to give you direction for your SEO improvements and arm yourself with the essential information you need to know to help form an effective SEO plan for your business.
What makes an effective SEO strategy?
To understand what makes an effective SEO strategy you first need an idea of the core elements of your site which you need to improve. From here you can then go and assess your website’s current performance in Google.
This can be broken down into three core areas:
Technical SEO – Sometimes known as on-page SEO, this relates to the performance of your website and how well it can be crawled by Google. The more it’s crawled the quicker your rankings will rise, with the right tactics. This covers elements like page load times for Core Web Vitals, sitemaps to ensure Google can read all pages on your site, information architecture and metadata which are all read by Google to decide what keywords you should be ranking for.
Website content – This is an essential part of this mix as it fundamentally communicates who you are, what you do and why you have the right product or service to solve someone’s pain. When adding tactics like frequently asked questions (and structured data markup) you can directly understand and answer users intent when they’re searching for solutions that you offer. Ensuring your blog is up to date is a key part of not only letting Google know you’re up to date but gives users a reason to want to come back to your website… you’ve got to ask yourself how often do you read the same book twice? Rarely. So why would users keep coming back to your website if the content doesn’t change.
Link building to increase website authority – Finally your website also needs to be as strong and trusted as the competitors in your industry. This is naturally achieved by building links to your website over time, in places like local directories and relevant industry article websites. When done incorrectly, links can harm your website’s performance, so it’s important to know what you’re doing. Not sure? Just ask!
Although there are other considerations such as traffic behaviour on your site, when you understand these core SEO factors you can then look to start measuring your performance and shape the next steps of your SEO plan.
How do I do an SEO audit on my website?
You don’t have to summon the SEO Gods or leave a microchip under your pillow overnight. Luckily there’s a range of clever SEO software you can use to analyse your website strengths and weaknesses with search engines.
In the list below we have included some of the tools we use to analyse your website as part of our free SEO audit, along with secret sauce of the manual factors we also check, but we can’t give it all away!
AhRefs – An SEO tool which reviews elements like your keyword rankings, backlink profile and the best performing pages where you should focus your optimisation efforts.
SEM Rush – An SEO tool also focusses on technical elements and content in your website. This allows you to run ‘crawls’ on your website to pick up on indexing errors which can be discouraging Google from visiting. This includes aspects like broken links (404 pages) and pages with low levels of content.
Hotjar – Heat mapping platforms measure user behaviour, either through heat maps of individual pages or via video flows. Watching how specific users engage with your website can inform areas that are hot (where most people click) and areas that aren’t so hot (meaning improvement is needed).
InSites – a tool which is great for providing a 360 degree overview of where you currently stand, factoring in 50 SEO and wider checks like Google My Business (now known as Google Business Profile). Some of the above data can be on the technical side, so this provides a wide range of data in an easily digestible way.
Now for the bad news. Unfortunately, nearly all these platforms are paid services, although some do offer free trials or free versions.
Nibblr is a fantastic mini version of InSites which is worth checking out to give you an initial top-level analysis. We can also provide you with all of this data as part of our no obligation SEO audit.
How to create content for Search Engine Optimisation
Planning your SEO content is another essential measure you should be taking when considering your overall strategy. Your blog is one of your most important parts of your website, for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, Google uses your blog as a measure of how frequently you’re engaging with your website. It’s not practical or relevant to be changing the copy on your service pages every 5 minutes unless what you’re offering frequently needs updating.
Therefore, your blog is where the action happens. This should be updated regularly with articles based on your target keywords and directly answering the questions your customers are asking.
In addition to this, your blog articles are also important for your link building strategy. Google loves it when you build links to your blogs as they see this as you trying to guide users to the most helpful pages in your website, not just your more sales focused pages. Over time they reward this with better rankings.
Why you need a SEO content calendar for your blog
One of the main challenges with blog writing is finding something interesting and topical to write about within your industry, every few weeks throughout the year. Creating a content calendar is an effective way to do this, planning out what you’ll be writing about to make things easier in the long run.
With the correct research you can find a mix of topics focusing on wider external factors within your industry. For example, if you’re a car garage autumn is a good time to push winter vehicle checks or car servicing – as the weather changes.
As part of your research, you may also want to consider:
- Industry news and developments in legislation
- Industry events or approaching conferences
- Seasonal changes and industry busy periods
- Product feedback and reviews
- Competitor based research
The frequency of this research depends on the pace of your industry. For example, an accountant may need to be doing much more research, so they can keep up to date with the financial markets. We usually recommend doing this on a quarterly basis for most industries.
Using a tool like Answer The Public – you can understand what questions people are searching that are related to your products and services. This is a great place to start when thinking of what to say.
Creating customer personas & target audiences
During this process it’s also critical to take into consideration the demographics of the target customers you’re trying to engage with via your blog content. Creating detailed user personas allows you to ensure you’re shaping your blog topics around them, increasing your conversion rates and the number of people contacting your business via your website.
There’s a lot that goes into creating detailed customer or user personas and we usually do this at the start of your project through a full workshop. However, if you want to start building your own customer personas then here’s some areas to start thinking about:
- Job title (if you’re targeting B2B)
- Age & demographics
- Personal interests
- Pressures on them in their role or situation
- Pain points or problem they need to fix
You can download a great template to get started on your own personas here.
Real time content
Whilst a plan is important, it’s also important to bear in mind the fast-changing world we live in. With the invention of the 24-hour news cycle, you’re only ever a matter of seconds away from the latest current affairs and specific industry news relevant to your business.
If something big happens you need to factor this into your content strategy and work this around your ongoing content that you already have planned out. Integrity is key though, so don’t try and force irrelevant news stories into your content strategy as this will only alienate your potential customers over time. This is often referred to as ‘Newsjacking’.
Understanding traffic behaviour with Google Analytics
The final factor to consider as part of your SEO plan is how your current website traffic is engaging with your website. This is primarily done through Google Analytics and the data this generates, allowing you to pinpoint areas for improvement.
There is, literally, pages of information you can extract from Google Analytics, depending on what you’re trying to learn about your users. However, to help shape your SEO efforts you should pay attention to these metrics:
Bounce rates – Page bounce rates can indicate where your layout or content isn’t engaging your audience. If this is too high, then something isn’t right.
Time on page – If this is too low then it can suggest you need to make some content improvements. Features like videos embedded in your web pages are a great way to increase this.
Total page views per user – Again, if this number is low then your site isn’t driving traffic deeper into your website and towards pages where they are likely to make enquiries. This is particularly true if your traffic is entering your site via a blog article ranking in Google.
Conversion rates – You can also analyse you conversion rates on a page by page basis, to see if there are any which are driving less enquiries than expected. If you’re not tracking your conversions you can read more about this in our related article.
If your website currently has limited traffic then you can focus your research on your search engine performance and content strategy, broken down earlier in this guide.
Should I use heat mapping software?
We use heat mapping software on all of our projects as it helps us visualise website issues with clients. Think of heat mapping as an additional layer of behavioural data, which can support what the numbers in your Google Analytics account are telling you.
For example, you can run heat mapping on the pages which you’ve identified as the lower performing in your website via your Google Analytics data. This additional information then allows you to work out if your page is poorly designed or has weak content – through seeing the ‘hotspots’ on your page (or lack of).
You can also use heat mapping to follow your user journeys across different pages in your website. This is particularly useful for eCommerce businesses who may be experiencing low conversion rates and high cart abandonment during the checkout process.
How to turn your SEO plan into a profitable SEO strategy
Once armed with the information you need and you’ve got a plan of action, the next step is to get going with your SEO efforts or alternatively to use this insight to help shape your project with a professional SEO agency.
With either approach consistency is key. You need to make sure that you’re fixing and managing crawl issues, building links and creating content on a weekly basis. This is because SEO is organic targeting and all about looking natural in the eyes of Google, which builds long lasting keyword rankings over time.
We strongly recommend that you set aside specific resource to implement these tasks, otherwise it can take a longer timescale to see they results you’ve broken down as part of your initial SEO planning.
If you’re busy with the day to day running of your business, then it may be worth partnering with a SEO agency to help you implement this work. Knowledge is power though, so even if you do outsource your project, you’re in a better position to make sure that your agency is focusing on the best tactics for you.
Following the research steps in this guide and using the tools outlined can help you achieve this objective. If you have any questions, please book a free consultation with a member of our team.