In this post, I’m going to explain what exactly SEO is, and how you can do Search Engine Optimization on your own website(s).
Most web development agencies offer SEO services, but usually, they barely scrape the surface of SEO and don’t keep track of how your website and keyword ranking improve over time.
I found this out the hard way and I’m constantly reminded of this when dealing with new clients. It’s how and why I got into Search Engine Optimization… But more about that in another post.
From the outside, you can never tell how much your agency actually knows about SEO. Some of them know almost nothing and don’t focus too much on it, while others outsource to individuals or companies who specialize in SEO. There are a few ways how you can see if your agency knows what they’re doing and if they are implementing good SEO on your website.
There are more than 46 tools that I will mention in this post and I cover just about everything you need to do your own search engine optimization for your website or blog. It’s a bit of a long post, so I recommend bookmarking this page so you can tackle each aspect one at a time.
What is SEO
If you want to know more about the different aspects of SEO, watch the video below of the Wizard of MOZ and SEO Rand Fishkin. (It’s rather long but gives you a good idea of what is involved with SEO)
We would take weeks if I had to show or explain how to check ALL the different aspects. But I want to help you understand SEO and give you the tools to make your website better than 90% of other sites.
Does your agency know SEO
If your website contractor isn’t checking website analytics once a week, talking SEO constantly and on top of Google updates and trends, your SEO will probably suck and you won’t get to that top page position.
Someone in the agency will need to be fully dedicated to SEO to really understand any changes Google are making. That means reading or discussing Search Engine Marketing at least 2 hours every day.
This post is just to help you assess your websites, help and have more of an idea of what you talking about when working on a website or talking to a developer.
SEO Made Simple – My House Analogy
Some of my clients know very little about SEO and websites so I always use a house analogy. Let me try and explain to you how SEO works, like I do for them.
The Basic SEO aspects are
- Usability (UI) and Practicality – Architecture
- Page Content (about, FAQ, homepage and images) – The bricks and cement
- Technical code and platform – Insulation, foundations, and reinforcing
- Social Media – Windows
- URLS – Doors
- Design – The paint and finishes
- Speed – Convenience of use, hallways, and stairs
- Analytics – Camera’s, or even checking for cracks, leaks every week or so
- Link and relationship building – Getting on with the neighbours and town
- Metadata – Decorations in the garden
- Blog – Furniture
- Google updates – The roads
- Google – The Mayor
If you didn’t understand some of these things above, that’s OK. I will explain some aspects and the building material later.
What should your developer be able to do
Most website developers dislike me, the reason for this is because most of my job is, for the most part, to get as many people in the house as possible, and their job is to keep it all holding together and functioning. I make them work harder and take away part of their business. You can understand why they are not my biggest fans.
Planning is important
You should probably draw a plan if you are serious about your house. You should do a similar thing with your website. You don’t just give it to the architect and say, “make me an awesome house that will make my friends love coming here” no. Well maybe if you have shit tons of money.
You would normally sit down and say I want this, this and that.
But why do you plan? You plan so that in 5 years time, you still have your dream home with space for a boat and a detached flat for the in-laws or noisy teenager, and you didn’t have to tear down and rebuild everytime you wanted to add something new. The best part about doing something properly? It increases in value! The same applies for your website, build it well and build it to last and you’ll be swimming in traffic.
Then you get your web developer (the builder) in.
If you serious about your house, you would get the best tilers in to do the tiles, different guys do the kitchen, bathrooms, lights, roof and fencing. Or maybe you have one company do all of them. I’m not saying you should do this, I’m just saying every person has their trade.
In the end, I would think that at the very least 50 different people, from the architect, brickmaker, to the lorry driver had some input in your house.
6 or 12 months later when the foundations are sinking, cracks are appearing, your doors (page URLs) are warped and possibly too small and no one wants to come to your crappy house because the builder cut corners on the insulation (code and platform), it lets in a cold drafts and is starting to resemble a crack den. Even all that awesome furniture (blog content) is not being used because no one likes your house.
Next thing you know the mayor (Google) gets house moving trucks to move your crappy house to another neighbourhood. It becomes that ghost house that no one wants to visit. WOW. Sounds bleak.
But this is something I see every month, and it sucks. Sooooo incredibly much.
Unfortunately, it’s too late, you’ve paid and the only thing you can do now is write a bad review.
But you can’t write a bad report on Yelp, Hellopeter or their Facebook page because they have your code, host your website and have your online business’ fate resting elegantly in their incompetent hands. Not a pleasant thought.
If you do anything they don’t like, they can cause problems and you might need to build that house again. Time and money down the drain.
Can you believe some people actually go back to those same builders and ask them to build another house?
From the moment you pay that final check to the developer (builder), your power is gone. Let me show you how to make the most of that power, while it is still in your hands or wallet.
I’ll start by saying that web designers have enough on their hands. It’s not their job to write your ‘About’ page and tell visitors what your company is about. I do believe they should maybe edit and optimize it, because screen reading and book reading are completely different kinds of literature.
How Too See If Your Web Developer Knows What They’re Doing.
Usability & Practicality – Architecture
Back to the building of our house/website – Imagine you building a house and the contractor says it will cost x amount.
- This is going to be one of the most important factors and is extremely important
So imagine you are entertaining for the night and someone needs to use a room (page), maybe you forgot to build that room or maybe your house is just so confusing that they can’t find it easily, they will leave if it takes too long – not so good.
Or, you built that room, but built a new and better room in the meantime, without telling your guests about it. No one is aware of this and everyone is still trying to find your old room. Over time, they will slowly start to find your new room, but not before many of them have already left. Imagine how much of a mess that is – and I see it on almost EVERY website I analyze.
Websites are updated ALL the time and new doors are made and old doors are closed, locked and forgotten about. The Mayor (search engines) really likes old established rooms and give those a lot more preference to new rooms. For every four web developers I work with, three don’t understand or are too lazy to show the mayor the new rooms.
If you take away anything from this post and you are someone with an old site and many rooms, make sure your designer knows about Page Authority and redirects. It is one of the biggest factors of SEO and simplest to do correctly but it is frightening how much web developers and agencies to this wrong.
Help your builder by giving him your rough draft (architecture/structure) of your site.
I want a house in this style and it will need to do this in the future and maybe do this in case I do that. The more detailed your original plan and the more specific, the easier the job is for the builder/architect.
Page Content – The bricks and cement
Whenever starting a website it is crucial that you have a couple of standard pages, they are:
You can also include:
- T & C
You should know what needs to be in the site and account for it, make sure they are included in the contract or quote.
Give them the best quality content you can
Write the about page and all the content, or work with a copywriter to get the best content you can.
Having a content strategy with great visuals with posts at an absolute minimum of 300 words. More bricks is always better with building, no one is going to complain of too many bricks, they can be used later! The Mayor (Google) likes useful big houses (sites) that people admire and can get lost in.
Name the images correctly, make them small (symmetrical) it’s so simple and so easy, just do it.
You can use good old trusty paint or just about anything to crop them.
Use tools like Kraken to make the images smaller.
- Upload to Kraken
- Make smaller
- Download again
- Name appropriately
- Short sentences
- Easy to understand English
- Small bite-sized paragraphs
You can also check the seo foundations of a website page article for more info
You need to check your URLs (doors)
Its pretty important to have your keyword in your URL. So keyword research is pretty important.
Check the amount of times keywords is searched in Google,
What keywords are becoming more popular with Google Trends
Make sure they are super detailed and I personally like to make them exactly as the user would type them in.
Which one tells you more about what you will find on the page?
Which one do you think would give more targeted visitors?
Which one would you click?
Which one would tell Google more about the page?
So we can assume onlinegusto.com/best-free-tools-for-twitter is best?
Link & Relationship Building (neighbors and community)
So someone wants to find your house, but you made no effort to make friends with the neighbors or community.
Your town/city is not going to know where your house is if you made no effort to tell them.
Your neighbors won’t even know or want to send people to your house, they think you scary because you don’t wave hello and never invited them to your parties. They don’t even know your name.
No one is going to find your house/website.
Be sure to tell people what you do, online and offline. This is the start of getting traffic to your website and where the majority of your efforts should be concentrated in the beginning.
To measure this is rather hard because there aren’t many free things but you can find out who is talking about your brand.
There is a free tool for Twitter called Topsy and you can use good old Google alerts. The best paid service for me right now is called Mention.
But just like relationships you don’t just go to the most popular kids and say “hey guys, you guys are awesome, come check this out”.
Outreach is a slow process but the best way to generate traffic to your site.
Actually, there is an easier way
First show them that you good at something. Like growing a beard ;) and be known for it. Then do some outreach.
Social Media (Windows)
Remember our objective is to get people to find and enter our house (website). We use windows (social media) to give people insight to what they can find in the website. This is an extremely important part of SEO.
Make sure your windows are clean and look nice, try to make those windows super big (improve reach and engagement) so that if anyone drives passed they will see how awesome your house looks inside.
Make your furniture (blog content) so awesome that if anyone sees your window they like “man I want to sit on that couch next to those people and watch that big ass awesome TV”
Analytics (Checking for cracks, leaks every week or so)
Your house is going to leak, or get cracks, I don’t care how big or solid you think your site is. Over time things wear and tear and people no longer want to sit in a room that is filled with some water (outdated useless content) that has built up on your roof for the last 3 years and is now seeping into your rooms and making it look outdated and worn.
Design (The paint and finishes)
The paint and coloring, finishing. Do you want to go walk into a house that is bright lumo green, probably not but depending on the style of the house you might. With the correct styling it can look awesome and inviting, but sometimes it just doesn’t work. We all know those houses.
Colors also bring about emotional responses and its good to have an idea of some of these when choose the colors to your house (website).
Technical and Code
Honestly this is not my strongest suit and I leave the hardcore coding to the web developer. There are plenty of platforms to build a website yourself like Wix, Drupal, Joomla, WordPress. A good understanding of HTML and CSS is easy to learn can also be advantageous and help with the basics.
In my humble personal opinion, WordPress is best for small to medium business owners, it’s easy to learn and will allow most people to make some additions to their house (site) with fewer issues.
Try and opt for something you can try and learn. So in case, you have your grandkids coming to play you can quickly build a play room for them.
If you looking for errors in the code validator.w3.org is one of the best tools for this.
Google (the mayor) doesn’t assess your meta data for ranking but it does assess your Click Through Rate. So imagine a car driving down your street (Google search page) looking for “gnomes for sale” and they see all the houses… but you have flamingo’s, lots of gnomes and trimmed hedges in your garden and a for sale sign. They will stop and come and check out your gnomes and house.
This will increase your CTR and if they stay on your site for a while, Google (the Mayor) loves that!!
Which one of the 2 would you click?
You can also check how your page/pages look on Google Search Engine Results page
The blog (furniture) is one of the most important aspects of a house. It’s the same with a website.
If you have really nice furniture that people try and enjoy, Google will adore your site and rank it higher. You are making the people happy so it makes sense that The mayor will send more people to your house right?
This is not the job of your developer but yours or your marketing company. You should produce content at least weekly so that you are always improving the experience.
Don’t think of a Blog as just writing because it’s not, it’s a way to keep your website fresh by changing things around and adding stuff. This can be videos, podcast, infographics, lists, how to’s and anything else that would entice someone to stick around for awhile, trust you, become your friend and buy something from you.
If you have no blog content in your site or very little furniture no one is going to stick around and this is not a good indicator. Most SEO people have been screaming blog content, blog content and now they are screaming long posts.
Speed, ease of use.
Speed and ease of use are sometimes overlooked in websites. If it takes more than a couple seconds to load, users often bounce and don’t enter your website. This is extremely important on eCommerce websites, shaving a could of seconds off you load speed could greatly increase sales and conversions.
I use GTmetric to track websites and make sure that they performing well and some new plugin or development addition doesnt destroy the site speed without me noticing
Another great tool is Googles Test My Site
I think it’s like an unwritten rule that you shouldn’t piss the mayor or president off, unless it’s Trump. But generally they have a lot of control over your environment, they have the power to change the amount of speed bumps in your road or what the zoning laws.
Basically, you need to be good to Google, or suffer a lot of road bumps, rezoning and maybe even your site being nuked if you do silly stuff to your website.
If you want to see the mayors decisions and cross reference your site to Google algorithm changes, i like to use the Panguin Tool
When I try to explain or understand something I always use my house example. The goal = get as many people in the house. These tools are my little
These tools are my little arsenal to assess what the developer is doing and how I can monitor and help them do it better for SEO.
Do you have an anology or a website that you use?