Getting a grip of how Google and the rest of the search engines work is not very easy to understand. Fortunately, Google has put a handy and very visual guide that provides a solid explanation of how search engines work and the importance of having a website that is optimized.
Spend some time there in order to better understand what, who, when and most importantly, why search engine optimization matters.
2. Identify your main keywords and your main competitors
This is probably the most overlooked aspect of SEO. By first understanding how google sees you and your competitors, you will get a better understanding of where you stand in the market, and hopefully some steps that you can take to have a better standing in the SERPs.
There are several sites that will rank for a given set of keywords, which may not necessarily be your competitors, such as news sites if you’re an e-commerce, resellers in you’re a manufacturer, aggregators if you’re a news site, etc. The fact that they are ranking for the same keywords as you, doesn’t mean they are necessarily direct competitors (although they may already be partnering with a direct competitor).
This analysis will tell you two very important things which you need in order to better understand how to rank better. 1) Which are your direct competitors? 2) Which are your indirect competitors (potential partners)? Once you get a grip of who’s who, you’ll be able to discriminate more easily which type of content to create, and which keywords to monitor, etc.
3. Optimize your snippets
Once you have done your keyword analysis, and have selected your target keyword along with identifying both your direct and indirect competitors, you should do a basic snippet optimization for search.
A snippet is the search result that you see anytime you make a Google search. It’s usually the 10 results that you see in the search engine results page which we’ve discussed earlier. While you are at the process of doing some competitor and keyword research, just by looking at the SERPs will give you a better understanding of how competitive a niche is, or which keywords and sites are being served for your chosen keywords.
Main Queries for a DIY SEO Audit
Here’s three simple search queries that will give you a head start when making an SEO audit yourself and when optimizing your snippets.
Do a Google search for “info:cheapseoshop.com” [without the ” ” and change cheapseoshop.com for your domain name]. This simple query should only show one result in the SERPs.
The above query will tell you a few important things.
Is your site properly indexed? If you do a “site:___” search query for your domain and don’t see any result, or you get a blank page, there’s some technical problem wrong with your site. Ask your domain or hosting company for some solutions, ask your webmaster, or run an technical SEO analysis to see what could be impeding your website to rank.
Is your title information accurate and optimized? Ideally, your title tag should be seventy characters in length in order to fully take advantage of the available SERP real space. If you only have a single word it’s not going to be enticing enough for visitors or Google. If your title is too long, it’s not optimized and could not rank as high as other optimized titles. SEOmofo offers a handy snippet optimizer.
Is your meta description correct? the same goes with your meta description. You should ideally aim for 160 to almost 230 characters on average, according to the latest Google length of snippets update. If you’re not fully using this tag, you’re wasting an opportunity to market your business for free. While SEOmofo is not yet updated in snippet length, it’s still very useful and still valid for most use cases.
Is your site version properly indexed and safe? Finally, this search query will also tell you which version of your site is indeed. It could be non-www, http, https, etc. As you can see from the image below, there are many versions to show a URL. Each depending on your setup and needs.
Do a Google search for “site:cheapseoshop.com” [without the ” ” and change cheapseoshop.com for your domain name]. This query will tell you which of your pages are currently ranking on Google. This will also show how each page is shown to potential visitors and to Google itself. From the title, URL structure and meta description, to rich snippets such as reviews, price, etc. This is the starting point that the majority of your visitors will see before landing on your website. Without considering links already pointing to your site.
Just by looking at the SERPs of your domain, as well as your direct and indirect competitors you can start to understand where are some flaws that should be tackled. You might for example find that your title tags are too long and get cut by Google’s SERPs. The same could happen to your meta descriptions. They may not be showing at all, of they may be showing some information which is not accurate. You should update all the information that’s not showing or is inaccurate.
As you can see from the image above, the site cheapseoshop.com is not properly optimized for search. As the main pages share the same meta description. Needless to say this is below optimal.
The above query will tell you how Google indexes your site in relation with other similar sites. The domain ahrefs.com is an tool for SEO, that’s closely related with the main tools such as majestic.com, moz.com, etc. There are a variety of factors that influence this results, but the main ones are domain authority/relevance to Google, and the number/relevance of backlinks pointing to your site.
If you enter related:[yourdomain].com search query and don’t see any results as the image below, it means that your domain is either new, or that it does not have enough links / information to relate your site with other domains.
This is the trickiest optimization to do, but doing the above for you and your competition will give you an overview of who’s who and where do you need to start looking next in order to rank higher and better.
While there’s not much you can do at the beginning, the query above will tell you a bit of information of what needs to be done in order to rank better.
Once you understand how search works, have done some basic competitor and keyword research, and have researched and optimized your website. You’ll be in a better position to rank higher in the SERPs.
Ideally your site will be more visible and properly indexed. While the above SEO audit may take some time, it’s very easy to do and will not cost you a penny.
Most of the mentioned tools can be used for free with certain limitations. Which should not impact most use cases.
It’s also advisable that once you have done a diy seo audit, you look for a professional that takes care of your seo and that can manage a full seo audit.
While the steps mentioned above will make a huge difference in your website optimization efforts. It’s getting harder and harder to compete in any niche, so it’s important to seek professional advice, specially if you’re in a highly competitive niche.