As you may know, today is April 15th, the last day to submit your taxes without an extension. During this time, we all take stock of our finances and investments and hope we can escape without paying too much money out of pocket. Some of the more organized of us must hunt around to find all the necessary paperwork to complete this mandated submission, but it is also a time of reflection and goal setting for next year. If we were not forced to submit taxes and take stock of our own finances, would we ever get around to it? Let this be a lesson in how to manage your website as well. You should not just take an introspective look once a year, but peek into the inner workings of your SEO as often as you can.
Finding a Pulse
The problem with SEO audits is that there is no deadline to submit them. There is no government mandated website review and we often see people come to us for an audit only after there has been a problem with the site. This in turn creates a very real problem of baseline metrics: we don’t know what your site was like before you came to us, before you were hit with a penalty, before you incorrectly navigated your subdomains, or before you copied all of those press releases onto your blog. See, we can’t go back in time and try to understand what the problem is without a little help from you explaining what you’ve changed recently.
Imagine going to the doctor’s office and having your vitals taken. You have a fever and elevated blood pressure but there is no expectation of what normal vitals might be, so they simply send you home. Having a temperature of 101 degrees tells the doctor nothing unless he knows that a normal body temperature is somewhere around 98 degrees.
Any good audit done on your website will use data and metrics to highlight problem areas on your site. Unfortunately, metrics are a tricky thing to understand and often they only tell you half of the story. As an example, Google Webmaster Tools provides you with some great data about how often the bots are crawling your site and how many pages they are crawling each time they are there.
However, you can only see 3 months worth of data. If you come to us two and a half months after you first noticed a problem, there is the potential that we might miss some important clues from that data because we can’t see that 3 months ago, the bots were taking an extremely long time to crawl your site. Now we only see now that there are fewer pages indexed. If you have an audit done often, or even house your data, you can see the issues a little more clearly and safely test your changes with a control period for comparison.
You want your site to rank well so you’ve done keyword research, added 500 pages of new content, and made your meta titles a healthy 70 characters. As time goes by, there is a shift in how people find information online and your keyword research becomes outdated (a la Hummingbird). Your content is thin, keyword stuffed and new content is never added or refreshed. Your meta titles are suddenly missing a hefty 20 characters in the SERPs. Remember: SEO is not a “one time” thing. It is an ever evolving process that should be incorporated into the entirety of the website and should be taken into account each time the site is updated. If you are auditing your site once a quarter, you can spot trends in the keyword research you are doing and discover possible seasonal keywords you were missing out on previously, allowing you to update and beef up your content with each new season.
You can review your backlinks for spam and update your disavow list as you go through each quarter. Isn’t it so much easier to review 20 new links than 500 at a time? You can also keep better tabs on your competition’s strategies they are using to rank well and possibly create a counter strategy of your own, which is again made easier if you can see how your competition changes over time. Having that baseline for the competition is as important as having a baseline for your own site.
How can you outrank your competition if you don’t know which terms you are even competing on? Regularly looking into your analytics and SEO practices will also help you to deduce problems more quickly, resulting in less down time from issues and hence more potential sales.
Why You Should Care
SEO is not a trend, a one-off service or a simple package purchase. In order to have the best website possible, time should be spent developing a relationship with whoever will be conducting the audit and speaking in depth about what you want out of your site and its history. By doing so, you will be able to update your site quickly and efficiently should Google decide to do something unexpected (like change the length of page titles). While it is not advised to “chase” Google or try to game the search results, it is still a wise idea to be understanding of the environment in which you are trying to rank. Using the tax analogy, receiving a manual penalty is like being audited by the IRS: they can see everything you’ve done and now you need to fess up and find the mistake. Whether you forgot to claim something crucial or simply hired a bad accountant, it can be chalked up to human error. With practice however, you can learn to avoid those common mistakes. It can be costly to find, costly to fix and result in some major headaches along the way. Luckily for you, it can most likely be avoided if you enlist the right help often enough.
For the health of your website, this entails staying fairly up to date on what is happening in the online world so that you can clearly communicate with your SEO expert what you are happy or unhappy with on your site and why you feel that way. You know what is best for your business and we know how to help your website achieve some of those goals so building a partnership and continually auditing a site can produce a swift and exceptional site that is worthy of ranking in the search results.