9 Technical SEO Audit Tips to Outsmart your Competition. Smart Marketing with Competitive Intelligence Research and Audit.
Companies need to understand that online competition isn’t just made up of companies competing for market share in the business world, but also information and content published from a variety of sources that compete for search engine and social media users’ attention.
In the competitive world of content marketing, search, and social media optimization, it’s essential for companies of all sizes and industries to understand their online marketplace in order to gain a business advantage and develop a competitive strategy. The right information and insight could lead to a much more advantageous outcome. Inaccurate information or an absence of competitive research can lead to disaster. The approach to competitive search and social media research can vary widely by situation, but it’s essentially always going to involve some kind of information capture, assessment, and comparison. In a situation with companies that have very similar levels of Internet marketing resources and effort, competitive research may uncover weaknesses or unrealized opportunities that can create advantage. In all cases, an understanding of the competitive search and social media landscape will help content marketers differentiate to better attract and engage with customers.
With search engines, the competition can come in several forms, including search results, advertisements, social recommendations, digital assets, and links. Essentially, competition is anything that takes the attention of your prospects and customers away from your content. There are two approaches to competitive research with regard to search results. The first is based on the results pages for the keyword mix that you’re after. Search engine results pages (SERPs) help answer the question about which business competitors and what types of content competition show up on the first page for the keyword phrases that you’re targeting. This is an ongoing task performed monthly to identify trends or variances. The other approach is to monitor the search visibility of real-world competitors. A useful tool for monitoring competitor organic keyword visibility on Google is SEMRush. Monitoring the search results real estate for your brand, products, and services starts with keywords. A tool like Google AdWords Keyword tool can help clarify whether your assumptions about keyword phrases are on target in terms of popularity and competitiveness. Once you identify a hit list of keyword phrases, review the search results pages on Google or Bing while you’re not logged in to identify what types of business and content competitors appear. Periodically revisit the search results for your most important keyword phrases, and document rankings as well as the makeup of content in the search results.
Customers are increasingly influenced by a combination of search and social media content. Understanding where conversations are happening on the social web relevant to the competition, your brand, products, and services as well as topics related to your customers, employees, and industry can help guide your social media strategy for content and engagement.
Some of the key insights that come from initial social listening and research include answers to the following questions:
- Is your category of product or service or your industry being discussed? What questions do people have? What are their concerns? What opportunities are being revealed?
- Is your brand being discussed, and what are people saying? Who is saying it, and where? What is the sentiment?
- What topics relevant to your specific business solutions are being discussed?
- Are any rogue employees publishing blogs or other social content without sanction or support from corporate marketing and public relations departments?
- On which social channels or websites are there active discussions and communities of interest relevant to your customer interests?
- Who are the influencers participating in key topic discussions and in what channels?
- Are your competitors’ companies, products, and services being discussed, and where?
- Are your competitors active participants on the social web with content? What type of content?
After you’ve completed your initial monitoring to identify a baseline for conversations about social topics, competitors, and your brand and products, it’s time to establish some ongoing monitoring of those conversations.
What is a technical SEO audit?
Best-practices search engine optimization involves a mix of attention to keywords, content, links, social signals, and, increasingly, factors like page speed, the use of semantic markup, and author authority.
A technical SEO audit is an evaluation of a website as it interacts with search engine spiders or bots.
A technical SEO audit is one of several SEO audits typically conducted to determine the SEO readiness and effectiveness of a website. Research into keywords, content and on-page factors, links, and social signals, when combined with a technical SEO audit, provide a complete view of the opportunities for search engine success. One mechanism for communicating ongoing technical SEO performance based on an audit is an SEO Scorecard.
If you’re a content marketing professional or a social media strategist, chances are pretty good that you won’t be conducting a technical SEO audit yourself. However, there are some tools that can be quite helpful, such as those for doing research on keywords and links to the website in question. It’s important to note that a tool’s effectiveness is directly related to the abilities of the user, so it’s important to have someone with experience and skills perform your technical SEO audit. Here are some of the tasks and tools that such an audit might include:
- Review current website search traffic and performance with Google Analytics or another analytics tool.
- Track inbound links with Majestic SEO or Open Site Explorer.
- Check the speed of pages with Google Page Speed Online.
- Review the content management system, templates, and source code.
- Check for duplicate, thin, or poor-quality content.
- Overview site SEO readiness from Alexa Site Audit.
- Document the site URL structure and map with Xenu Link Sleuth.
- Assess basic crawl issues with Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools.
- Document keyword ranking with Advanced Web Ranking or Raven Tools (good for relative measures).
Collecting these pieces of information and conducting an analysis of the website from the perspective of how a search engine sees the content will help generate recommendations to improve the website’s ability to attract organic search traffic.
Evaluating link sources of your competitors that are already performing well in search can reveal new linking opportunities. That same link research can also show the quantity and quality of current links to your website, which serves as a baseline for where and how to improve.
The faster your pages load, the better the user experience for customers. It also means that Googlebot can crawl your website faster, and if you look at the billions of documents Google has to crawl, faster means more efficient for Google. That’s why page speed has been made a signal to help determine page ranking.
Content management systems can be a source of many types of issues with a website’s SEO performance. Templates that publish content from a database can be an SEO’s friend or its worst nightmare depending on the ability to make changes. For example, dynamically populating title tags using reverse breadcrumb navigation can provide a strong, search-friendly feature to an entire website with a relatively small change to the templates and database. But if those changes aren’t possible, a website could be stuck with a situation like uneditable title tags or the need to manually edit thousands of page titles.
Google has a preference for unique quality content, and efforts like the Google Panda Update have put more emphasis on content quality and uniqueness. If a website publishes slim content with more information in the navigation and footer than in the body of the page itself, those pages may not have a very good chance of appearing in the search results. If a website has a substantial amount of content that is deemed low-quality or duplicate content, then it can affect the entire website, even though the remaining pages are of high quality.
Basic SEO services like Alexa Site Audit provide a range of information that can be useful in assessing a websites search engine readiness and provide a prioritized list of recommendations. Xenu Link Slueth is free software that crawls your website and provides a report of all the URLs to help understand how the site is structured, to uncover any broken links, to check title tag length and redirects, and a host of other features. Microsoft offers a similar website SEO evaluation tool called Search Engine Optimization Toolkit.
Google and Bing Webmaster Tools provide another set of useful data about how their respective bots interact with your website. These webmaster dashboards provide information ranging from crawling errors to how often your site appeared and was clicked on to the number of inbound links. You also have the opportunity to indicate preferences about your website to the search engine, such as by submitting a site map or indicating a canonical URL or geographic target preference.
The importance of good research on competitors, the search and social landscape, and a quality technical SEO audit cannot be understated. Capturing information about who your real competitors are in search can provide key observations about what keywords, media types, and promotion channels can be leveraged to gain the desired visibility on search engines. An understanding of social media conversations related to topics of interest to your brand, the competition, and how potential customers think of your products and services is also essential for developing an effective approach to social engagement. A technical SEO audit can provide marketers with a hit list of website and content management system improvements that will fix or improve the ability of search engines to crawl and index your content for availability in search engines. Additional technical SEO insight can provide opportunities to outsmart your competition by understanding the SEO tactics they’re using and countering with an approach to your advantage.
The author of the aboved writing: Lee Odden