One way to initiate a natural SEO (define) campaign is to prepare a report card for your current Web site. Think of the process as a scorecard of sorts, though the analysis could become a blueprint for any online marketing project.
Start by setting some guidelines for your site assessment. The easiest way to establish a few guidelines is to structure the report card by topic and establish a point value system. Think in terms of scoring the site on specific SEO elements and assessing a point value range of 0 to 10, 0 being suboptimal and 10 being optimal.
Let's start with a few baseline measurements. At the least, you want to understand and track the site's search engine referrals over time. A great place to begin is with unique visitors from search engine referrals as a percentage of total unique visitors.
Next, grow your understanding of what keywords are associated with your site's search engine referrals and which search engines drive the most traffic to your site for these words and phrases.
If you site is about online sales or primarily used for lead generation, also understand your conversion rates. Ideally, you should be able to review the difference between brand-related search-referred traffic and unbranded search referrals.
It's also a good idea to get a handle on yielding pages, the pages within your site that yield results based on search engine referrals. To establish a baseline, divide the number of pages yielding search-referred traffic by the total number of site pages. Again, be prepared to track this information over time, usually on a monthly basis.
If you don't have access to any information about your site, give your site a zero for Web metrics and make it the first priority of your SEO campaign.
Sometimes it's challenging to get a Web metrics package in place, particularly if all technical functions are outsourced. Work with your Web hosting provider to review your options or contract directly with the big metrics firms. At the very least, validate your site with Google Analytics to start gleaning some information about its performance in Google. Just make certain you understand the limitations of the data sets.
Once benchmarks are in place, it's time for a little insightful analysis. Start with some structural issues that could affect the site's search engine visibility. Review your site's overall structure on the scorecard.
Set up a spreadsheet, and created a "Site Structure" header. Under the header, create the following topics: "URLs," "Linking and Navigation," "Primary Page Template," and "Cascading Style Sheets & Secondary Page Structure" or "Page Template Structures." If you're a marketer and wouldn't know a dynamic parameter from a hole in the ground, this portion of the SEO scorecard will likely be the most challenging.
To take a long, hard look at the URL structure that's the backbone of your site's structure, it's useful to leverage Yahoo Site Explorer or queries in Google and MSN Live Search. Not only is it easy to review the URLs, you'll get a good idea about what parts of your site the major search engines actually index.
There are other online tools available to help analyze you site structure. Poodle Predictor allows you to see how your site looks in a Google SERP (define). Xenu's Link Sleuth is another handy tool for analyzing your site, as well as a way to review and repair redirects and broken links, and readily review your site's title tags.
Give your site from one to three points if URLs aren't dynamic (URLs that don't contain things like ampersands, question marks, equal signs, and the like). Also give your site a couple points if the URLs don't use session identification numbers or cookies (look for things like sid=1284678357557VVXY1243). And give your site points if it doesn't use appended URLs (funky tracking parameters added on to navigational elements within a Web site).
Award points for having a flat file structure (URLs consistently no more than three files deep). Add more points if your site's URLs are keyword-rich and use hyphens rather than underscores to separate these words. Finally, give your site one point if your domain name is associated with the actual brand name for your goods and services.
Next time, how to analyze your sites linking and navigation, primary page template, and cascading style sheets and secondary page structure or page template structures.
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P.J. Fusco has been working in the Internet industry since 1996 when she developed her first SEM service while acting as general manager for a regional ISP. She was the SEO manager for Jupitermedia and has performed as the SEM manager for an international health and beauty dot-com corporation generating more than $1 billion a year in e-commerce sales. Today, she is director for natural search for Netconcepts, a cutting-edge SEO firm with offices in Madison, WI, and Auckland, New Zealand.
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