If your business has a website, you have probably heard something about the importance of content and search engine optimization, or SEO. Content includes all the words, images and videos on your site. This definition may be expanded to include your site’s metadata, which is usually invisible to human visitors but is indexed by search engines, such as Google. Optimizing for search engines is the practice of creating content that shows up at the top of Internet search results.
In the context of SEO, Google is very important because it is one of the most popular search engines in the world and so it sets the standard for the Internet search industry. Panda is Google’s name for an algorithm that ranks web pages based on the quality of their content. Of course, because the Panda algorithm is an automated program and not a human, it bases its estimation of quality on some secret combination of factors that a robot can analyze.
SEO is far from dead. However, approaches to optimization are constantly changing to keep up with the ranking methods of top search engines. In the past, it was relatively easy to appear high in search results based on keywords and backlinks, but Panda has shaken things up by focusing on quality. You do still need to optimize your site for search, and you do still need to use keywords, but you must ensure that your content is high-quality, not just strings of keywords or boilerplate text. Even though Google is keeping the exact formula a secret, there are some specific, quality-related elements that you should look for during your SEO and content audit.
The New Oxford American Dictionary defines the word “audit” as “a systematic review or assessment of something.” So, when you audit your website for content, you will be examining each page to check for quality issues, and making notes about where you need to improve. It is important that you complete the audit before going in to make corrections. Do your inspection, record what you find, then go over your findings and create a systematic improvement plan.
If you have a small website, with perhaps fewer than 100 pages, you can do the SEO audit yourself, with a spreadsheet. If you have a larger site, you will probably want to use a commercially-available web-crawl tool to gather the information. If you are going with the spreadsheet idea, you’ll need to create fields for each page’s URL, title, word count and meta description. If you use images in your content, record the metadata or alt text for each image, too. If you want to go a little deeper, open up an analytics program and record each page’s bounce rate, page rank and any other information you wish to analyze.
Now that you have all of the site’s SEO information in front of you, it’s time to start looking for patterns. If you find that a lot of your text is repeated on different pages throughout your site, you’ll want to change that. Instead of deleting pages or paragraphs, though, make a note to rewrite the content so that you have some variety while remaining relevant to your intended audience. If you find any grammatical or typographical errors, make editing those sections a top priority. Another thing to look for is a variety of keywords. If you know that certain words or phrases are very important to your customers, yet you don’t have any pages featuring on those topics, make a note to improve your SEO by creating content that those keywords.
Content auditing is something you should do at least once per year. The first time you do it, you will probably find a lot of room for improvement. If so, just concentrate on the areas that will have the biggest impact. Next year’s audit can revolve around smaller details if necessary. Above all, keep creating and sharing high-quality content as you grow your business.