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SEO Website Audit

Is Your SEO Campaign Out of Focus?

April 29, 2009
I've spent the last few weeks reviewing scads of websites for our new SEO Website Review clients and have noticed a lot of interesting things in the process. The sites have run the gamut from the "best I've ever seen" – to – "better off starting from scratch," with lots in between. Some were putting search engines before people, and others hadn't had a chance to even think about search engines yet.

The best site was fundamentally doing everything right, as was evidenced by the fact that they receive nearly a million visitors per month! The worst was a huge mess that hadn't quite transitioned into the 21st century yet. There was one that had recently lost a gigantic percentage of their Google traffic along with the big bucks that came with it. And another that was part of a plot to dominate all 10 spots on the search engine results page (SERP) for 1 keyword phrase.

What I kept finding was that nearly all the folks I worked with were highly focused on rankings for certain pet phrases that they believed were their holy grail to success. In some cases, a higher ranking for their phrase probably would increase their website traffic. For example, the really awesome site I mentioned is making gazillions on AdSense, so a higher ranking for their pet phrase could make them another zillion or so. And honestly, I'd love to give them the magic bullet that would do it for them.

But there isn't one.

In fact, there comes a time in every great website's life when it doesn't matter what you do on the page anymore; it won't affect your rankings. At that point, all you can do to move the needle is to obtain a boatload of recommendations from other sites – ideally all having your pet phrase in the anchor text of the links. This, of course, is a whole lot easier said than done. To do this you have to persistently be the best in your niche by doing and saying things that set you apart from the others.

In other words, you'll have to work your ass off!

Who has that kind of time? Unfortunately, most don't. Most are already busting their butts doing all the other things it takes to run a successful business, as they should. So instead, they focus on the wrong things.

I've got a secret for you. It's one you won't hear me say very often when it comes to SEO. While my mantra has always been to make your site be the best it can be, you may not actually need to bust your butt as hard as you think when it comes to your SEO goals.

You may just need to move the goal posts.

What if I told you that you were leaving money on the table right now because you were so fixated on your pet phrases? What if I told you that your pet phrases aren't even working for you?

Over and over in my reviews, I found that the words people were most concerned with were not always the ones on which they should be focusing. They were words that might bring a lot of traffic to the site, but they were also the ones that would take the most amount of work to gain traction in the SERPs. To top it off, they were the ones that rarely converted to a sale.

Here's the rub.

You already have this knowledge at your fingertips if you spend a little bit of extra time analyzing the right elements. Good web analytic packages such as Google Analytics (GoAn) provide you with everything you need to know – assuming you have it set up correctly and know what to look for. If you are running Google AdWords campaigns, you have even more data to work with. Unfortunately, while most of the websites I reviewed had the GoAn code on their websites, many did not have it set up correctly or were giving it only a cursory glance.

There's no way you can know where to focus your efforts if you're not accurately measuring what works and what doesn't.

Here's your challenge. Starting tomorrow (you can relax today!), instead of wasting time fooling around with keywords you think you need, use the data already available to you to learn where you actually should be focusing your attention. Then plan out your new SEO strategy accordingly.

Jill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings, a Boston SEO Services company.

If you learned from this article, be sure to sign up for the High Rankings Advisor SEO Newsletter so you can be the first to receive similar articles in the future!
Post Comment

 Juliet Austin said:
Thanks so much for this, Jill!

I especially like the point you made, "In fact, there comes a time in every great website's life when it doesn't matter what you do on the page anymore; it won't affect your rankings."

I have come across a lot of people who think if their website is not on page one of the SERPs, there is some magic thing they need to do to to make their site rank higher.
 Vance said:
Hi Jill
I loved your article especially the part about the site trying to "dominate all 10 spots on the search engine results page (SERP) for 1 keyword phrase"

I too have resolved myself to the fact that I need "to obtain a boatload of recommendations from other sites" But that is hard to do in my industry "Construction" I have found that builders just don't understand this need for their sites.

Has every one stopped linking to other sites and everybody knows about this but me?
 SEOMalc said:
It can be an uphill struggle stopping clients from obsessing over that 1 phrase that has X amount more traffic than all the others but a 0.01% conversion rate. I always advise that although these phrases may well be viable targets they are long term goals as they are often very competitive. Short to mid-term focus should be on low hanging fruit and the only way to identify these is as you rightly said via analysing available data through analytics or AdWords.

This also means that SEO activities can begin to generate revenue sooner rather than having to wait 12 months for that golden ranking.

One area of focus is if you can find where you rank for particular terms you can apply basic on site techniques to improve terms of value that you already rank between say 10th and 20th for to hopefully drive them onto the first page.

Anyhow off to pick up my son from Creche.

GL all and hi Jill.
 Alan Charlesworth said:
Hi Jill - your point re "[key]words that might bring a lot of traffic to the site ... " is well made. How many folk with relatively small budgets try to go up against brand/market leaders for popular keywords?

That said, I always preach that finding the 'right' keywords - ie the ones that potential customers use when seeking the solutions you provide - is the key [sic] to any SEO or SE advertising. And as you say, the website owner's gut feeling is NOT the source of those words.

I am amazed when I do an SEO audit for someone and when I ask what the keywords are they reply "what? the SEO folk we employed didn't ask that question". [OK, I'm not amazed - it is actually quite common] ... Alan
 Kris said:
Jill, awesome advice. That kind of sums up all I've learned the last few months as I've desperately been trying to figure out how to take my SEO efforts to the next level.
 WingsDove said:
Google Analytics is an excellent tool for tracking how a Web site is found and the behavior of visitors once they land on the site. I now recommend adding the Google Analytics to every Web design and SEO client. Adding this code has sometimes changed the course of the project!

Wonderful newsletter.
 Jerry said:
True. I have used Google AdWords data to optimize ad campaigns written in languages I don't speak or read. Once the ads and keywords are in place, you can optimize your ad money simply by adjusting bid prices and watching which phrases get the most response and conversions.
 Jill said:
Jerry not sure how that fits this article which is about adjusting your organic SEO not about ads.

Thanks all for the nice comments. Glad you liked the article!
 Mike James said:
It seems to me, that the Google AdWords program gives you all the information you need. Just guess what people would type to find your service or product and come up with variations, test it at a high dollar amount per click, so the information gets counted and you're off to the races.
 Jill said:
@Mike James - Absolutely! It makes it a whole lot easier when you have that AdWords info to know what works and what doesn't.

That's why I said in the article, "If you are running Google AdWords campaigns, you have even more data to work with."
 Phil Wollerman said:
Yea Adwords rocks for that.

My biggest client (an hotel) says he /they know their five keyphrases and will not consider any changes - but this article gives me plenty of compelling reasons to get back to them and sell some new ideas. Thanks Jill.

Every site I am involved with has been set up w Google Analytics - anyone have a model for charging monthly analysis fees?

I'm working with a retail fashion and the site has a slideshow - we can use the overlay to see clicks on outfits - ergo the highest clicks are the big sellers offline and the ones to put in the shop windows. How's that for extracting competitive intelligence from GoAN?
 Jill Whalen said:
@Phil, we just charge a monthly fee to extract the most important info from GoAn and make a few specific recommendations based on the findings.
 Adam J. Humphreys said:
I can certainly appreciate the significance of Google analytics. Over the last few years it's added a lot of value to my portfolio. With Google Webmaster Tools new feature allowing you to see your primary keywords or LSI in the eyes of Google you can now fully utilize this information to improve pages.