11 Steps to Keep Your SEO Company Honest : Small Business Hack
Reading time: 6 minutes
In the early days it was cheap offers of 500 links and recently it was promises to get you to number one in Google.
Dodgy or irresponsible SEO companies have played on the fact that many small business owners don’t understand the landscape.
Now, there are some SEO companies out there taking monthly fees from small businesses, providing shady reporting that keeps the business owner believing the investment is sound. Is that their fault or yours?
Either way I want to help put some power into the hands of the small business owner.
Below I have posted 11 signs your website is not optimised for Google, a beginner’s guide to help you understand whether or not your SEO company is value for money.
The permalink/URL structure of your site helps the search engines crawl your website to understand what it is about and what it provides visitors. If you can better assist this process you are more likely to get your site to rank for your target audience.
How to test: Go through the pages of your website and check out the URLs for each page, for example: www.yoursite.com/about-yoursite/ and www.yoursite.com/contact-us/. If you notice characters or words irrelevant to the page in question, something is wrong. If the URLs are exceedingly long, something is wrong.
Even if these mistakes were made by your web developer, your SEO ‘expert’ should have picked up on them and corrected them.
No WWW redirect
Some businesses advertise their website as www.yoursite.com and others as simply yoursite.com. You want one or the other, not both.
Basic inconsistencies should be avoided by your web developer and is one of the first things your SEO company should fix.
How to test: Type your website into the Google URL bar without the ‘www’ and wait for it to load. If the URL changes to www.yoursite.com, there’s a redirect in place and you’re all good. If the URL is still without the ‘www’, type in your web address again, this time with the ‘www’. You want to be directed to yoursite.com without the ‘www’. If you’re not, your site does not have a redirect in place.
If your site does not have a redirect in place, Google views the home page as two separate pages – www.yoursite.com and yoursite.com. This will be the case for each page of your site – www.yoursite.com/about/ and yoursite.com/about/. This means that any authority you’re building is diluted and you may be viewed as having duplicate content, which is not great.
Problems with heading tags
Heading tags are strong indicators for search engines, so you want to get them right and have them optimised for your preferred search terms.
The biggest issues to check for are no ‘h1’ tag or multiple ‘h1’ tags. You want to see only one and the keyword should be super-relevant to your site and popular with your visitors.
How to test: There are numerous browser extensions you can install to check this. A quick and easy way is this web-based tool. Enter your site’s URL and click the Checkup button. Give it a moment, then scroll down for the results. It will show you the content included in both ‘h1’ and ‘h2 tags. You can have multiple ‘h2’ tags but again you want to see keywords relevant to your site.
Missing far too many image tags
Google doesn’t have an army of people browsing all the websites on the planet. They have spiders. They crawl the sites and they don’t recognise images, so Google relies on the associated data. Image alt tags are a great way to indicate what your images are about.
Obviously there are hundreds of factors which help search engines determine what each website page is about, but image alt tags are easy to implement and will help rank your image within Google’s image search results.
How to test: Use the feedthebot ImageSEO tool. Enter your site’s URL to grade every image on the page. Scroll down and scan for the image alt text. You want to see appropriate data for every image on your site.
Have you Googled your own business name? Of course you have. What shows up in Google’s search results is a title and description. This is your metadata. Both the title and description are super important for different reasons.
The title is still considered a strong influence on search ranking. So you want it to include targeted keywords which are relevant to your page. It is important that this title is not too short, so you’re not under utilising, but also not too long, so it doesn’t get cut short. The title should be no more than 70 characters.
The description is no longer a direct influence over search rankings, at least not by Google. But it is going to influence whether or not a person clicks on your site. So it should be unique to your site, include the likely search terms and be persuasive. Your description should also be unique for each page on your site. The length of your description should be approx 155 characters to ensure you’re utilising the two lines but do not have your sentence cut short.
How to test: Head to Google again and type site:www.yoursite.com. Google will return every page it has from your site within its index. This allows you to quickly scan through each page’s meta title and meta description. Does each page have a unique and optimised title? Are the descriptions unique, relevant and compelling?
No schema data
Schema data is a particular markup language that the key search engines agreed to use a couple of years ago. It helps them to understand our websites better, and it provides your website with an advantage.
How to test: Head to Google’s Rich Snippets Tool. Enter your URL and scroll down to find ‘extracted structured data’. Ideally, you want to see local business or organisation information including business name, address, phone number and ideally your company logo.
A sitemap lays out the navigational structure of your site so the search engines can understand levels of hierarchy and how best to navigate.
How to test: You could ask your web developer or SEO person for the sitemap URL. Alternatively, try these common sitemap URLs:
You should see a page of links throughout your site, many of which you won’t understand. If you see nothing, I would be making your web developer or SEO company work a little harder.
Your link profile is all about the numbers, not the quality or context
The quality of the websites linked to yours influences your domain authority. This is the metric that measures how much authority your website URL has, which in turn has an indirect influence on your search performance.
If you have links to your site from gambling and porn sites, your authority is shot.
Building as many links as possible, regardless of context or quality, used to be a popular strategy to get a site ranking. But now we have to be careful; links to cheap- looking sites that have no relevance to your own can be detrimental to your business. You should be aware that there are still plenty of SEO companies that do this as it can mean an easy, short-term win for them.
How to test: Go to Moz’s Open Site Explorer. Enter your site’s URL and it will return a heap of valuable metrics for you. For this particular problem, focus on two tabs. Click on the ‘linking domains’ tab to see other domains linking to you. If any of the sites look dodgy, read the domain authority score beside them (anything less than 15 is a concern). Now click on the ‘compare link metrics’ tab and read your ‘page MozRank’ and ‘page MozTrust’ – if both scores are above 4, you’re doing okay.
You’re leaking like a sieve
Your site should have links to other sites, but they should have a ‘nofollow’ tag associated with the link.
Links create flow. Internal links create the flow of authority between your pages, and external links spread authority to other sites. You want authority to flow to yours but you do not want to lose any as it flows to others. Your SEO complement should implement ‘nofollow’ tags with each external link.
How to test: There are plenty of tools for this but the simplest is at Getrank.org. Enter your URL and click ‘continue’. It will list each of the external links on your page and tell you if it has a nofollow. This is just testing the home page but it’s a good indication of whether your SEO company is doing their job.
No internal links
As mentioned above, you want to create a flow of authority between the pages of your site. A popular page will have more authority than a less popular page, so you should have an internal text-based hyperlink between the two. They should be relevant, contextual, contain a keyword, and not be overused.
How to test: Just browse through your site.
You don’t have a GWT account
A recent industry survey indicates that Google Webmaster Tools is the most popular SEO tool amongst Moz members. When you have an account connected to your site, Google will monitor your site and provide you with lots of useful data to help you ensure your site is healthy and optimised.
How to test: If you don’t know ask your SEO people. They may have set up a profile for your site on their account. Definitely ask for access to the data.
All the best with your website and your search performance. Hopefully this post has made the issue of search engine optimisation a little clearer and will help you determine whether or not your SEO person is worth their salt.
Quentin Aisbett is the strategist at OnQ Marketing. He has a specific focus on local and mobile SEO, content strategy, and marketing automation. Blogging all the time, tweeting even more so. Pick his brain on Clarity.fm.