You can’t rely on just creating great content and performing technical SEO audits to get your site higher up in search engines.
The reality is that with two-thirds of all clicks go to top 5 Google search results. Developing an effective strategy to rank above the fold on page one of search results is necessary for traffic and ultimately, success.
It's crucial to analyze your own site's data, identify your audience, research your targeted keywords, and analyze your competitors in order to full optimize your website.
1. Key Metrics On Your Site
These are metrics that give you an overall view of how your efforts are paying off, allowing for easy demonstration and identification if any issues arise.
Organic Visibility (Impressions)
This is one of the most easily data driven items you can track - head on over to Google Search Console and check your impressions! This is a great way to show the growth in your site's visibility as impressions matter even if they didn't result in clicks.
Organic Sessions (Traffic)
Not all traffic should be lumped in the same category but are still easily monitored using both google analytics and google search console. There is Branded Traffic (web searches related to your brand name) and Non-Branded Traffic (web searches triggered based on your keywords on keywords).
Non-Branded Traffic is where you can see your strategic SEO impact as the impressions produce more traffic.
Engagement Rate (The New Bounce Rate)
Engagement rate is exactly as it sounds - the percentage of users that actively engage with your site. Engagement rate is the inverse of your bounce however bounce rate will not be carried over to Google Analytics 4 (GA4).
Engaged Sessions last longer than 10 seconds, or had a conversion event, or had 2+ page views and can easily viewed in you GA4 dashboard.
Keyword Rankings (SERP)
Tracking desired keywords is also a valuable KPI. Simply put, the more your desired terms generate impressions (and clicks) for your site, the better.
You can track your ranking with tools tons of tools like:
Competitive Research and Keyword Research Gadget
Google Keyword Planner
When you see your keywords increasing in rank, this is an indication that the strategy you have implemented for them has been successful.
Link Profile (Backlinks)
Backlinks are one of the most important Google ranking factors. If you want your site to rank higher, then it’s important curate a healthy link profile.
Keep on eye on back link metrics such as backlink quantity, backlink quality (toxic links), referring domains and links gained and lost over time. We use SEMrush to measure your site's link profile as it allows us to track trends, whitelist good links, disavow toxic links, and generate ideas for backlink outreach.
Domain Authority (Relevance)
Domain authority is a score that tells you how good your website's quality and trustworthiness are. It consists of many different signals to indicate this, like the size of its audience or even where it has been ranked by search engines.
Your authority is measured by your domain's age and trust, it's popularity, and it's relevance. Site's that have been around awhile, generate a consistent traffic, and provide relevant content will inherently rank higher in the algorithms.
While different services weight the factors slightly differently, you can use any of them to determine your ballpark authority. MOZ, Ahrefs, and SEMrush are some of the services we use at Brigantine.
Keep an eye on the speed of your site to make sure it’s not harming both search rankings and conversions. Search engines reward fast sites, while slowing down browsers can result in lower conversion rates.
We recommend performing regular check-ins on your page speed as ranking factors continually change. The number of tools to check your page speed is off the charts - PageSpeed Insights, GTMetrix, SEMrush Site Audit Tool, Google Lighthouse (Chrome dev tool), and many more.
Return on Investment (Revenue)
The point of an SEO strategy is not just about generating traffic, it's about conversions. It's all for show if there isn't a return on investment - and that means hiring staff or paying agencies so they can bring in revenue.
You can use your ROI target as a measuring stick to see how you're doing. If it's not improving, then there is room for improvement in other areas of the business and this will allow you make informed decisions about what needs changing or focusing on next.
The toughest part of ROI is understanding that it's measured quarter over quarter and will likely not have enough actionable data for 6-12 months.
2. Pinpointing Your Audience
There are many ways to identify your key demographics from analyzing your current customer base to identifying competitor audiences or conducting market research to utilizing your existing google analytics. Understanding your ideal clients drives your SEO strategy.
Audience Identification Benefits
Allows relevant keyword research and optimization
Improves relevant traffic from potential customers and clients
Allows you to generate relevant content to improve user experience
Converts more of your organic traffic into leads or sales
Tools to Help Identify Your Audience
Analyzes your existing traffic and allows you to glean audience insights, explore benchmarks, and user behavior on your site
Google Search Console
Facebook Audience Manager
Proprietary Systems that Record Data
CallRail (Cloud based phone system)
User Generated Data from programs like JotForm or Google Forms
Company CRM Systems
Professional Agencies (like Brigantine)
3. Content Review
Inventory Your Existing Content - Pages, Articles, Images, Etc.
When performing an SEO audit, it is crucial to have a comprehensive overview of every content item on your site in order not only determine how well it is optimized but also if there are any issues. Inventory and analyze:
Articles or blogs
Embedded content like HTML
Quality and Diversity of Content
Content is the foundation of any successful SEO campaign. It's no secret that backlinks and technical optimization are important, but if your content isn't engaging enough to rank, then all those efforts don't help.
The easiest starting point is to identify which pages or articles are NOT ranking in the top 10 and start to optimize them first. Take a look with the following questions in mind:
Is the content unique?
What is its readability according to Flesch-Kincaid?
Are there clear calls to action?
Does the information flow naturally?
Is it easily navigated?
is it relevant and accurate?
Are there typos?
Is it up to date?
4. Conducting Competitor Analysis
Determining Direct Competition
Knowing your competitor's is less straightforward than you might think. Fortunately, there is one way sure fire was to identify competition - use available data.
When you look at what sites are ranking for similar keywords as yours and how they rank, then you can identify the competition. At Brigantine, we use SpyFu and SEMrush to pull the raw data to start forming a competitor list.
Explore Competitor's Strategy
Now that we have a competitor list, we need to go another step. What trends in the data are working for them? Are they sinking their time into just a few words and knocking it out of the park? Or, are they dropping money into fruitful PPC campaigns?
By identifying what is working (or not working), you can start to analyze trends in your industry.
Identify Which Methods Might Work For You
Whatever your competitor's strategy is, take a step back to think about what applies to your business goals. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery - BUT you don't want to copy someone else's strategy to the letter.
No matter how similar you may seem to your competitors, you are unique (and that's a good thing). If you're a local company with roots in the community, steer your strategies toward that. If you're new and exciting, point towards that.
With the power of data, you know what works - and layered with your point of difference, you now have a leg up.
5. Choosing the Magic Words
Now that your audience is locked in and you've peaked behind the competitor' curtain, it's time to dive into keyword and phrase research. Identifying the search terms that bring in visitors (or the ones you want to rank for) is the reason we did all this research in the first place!
In order to optimize, it's important to use keywords that are relevant, have high search volume, and are not too difficult to rank for.
Quality Over Quantity
Search intent is more Important than search volume. This is where 'semantic' SEO comes in. Picking your keywords and phrases needs to be based on two things, what will generate the most traffic with the right audience, but more importantly, determining how you're demographic thinks.
Explore Long-tail Keywords
50% of search queries have 4+ words so it's ideal to consider longer search terms. For example, the single word keyword "shoes” is high, returning more than 4,161,637 search results. Use more specific terms, like “birdies shoes”, or “discount everyday shoes", both of which are more descriptive with less search competition.
Keep An Eye on Your Keyword Ranking
SEO is a long-term investment so it's key to regularly monitor both your rankings and the search competition. The more you carry out these activities in order for them be effective over time as well as now
6. Technical SEO Review
Is it fun? No. Is it important? It's Crucial!
Poor metadata, bad sitemaps, and 4xx errors, oh my! All of the work you do on your site can come to nothing if you don't correct your technical issues. Fortunately running a technical audit is actually pretty straightforward with tools like MOZ or SEMrush.
Run your scan to identify technical issues
Identify and remove duplicate content
Confirm all pages only have one H1
Review your metadata and titles
Fix redirects - reducing redirects will optimize your crawl budget
Review and clean-up your sitemap
Provide Google with your sitemap manually and with your robots.txt
Make sure there’s only one browsable version of your site
Check your website analytics data to look for problems
De-index your low-value pages
7. Using All The Data to Optimize Your Site
Prioritize By Time and Budget -- Short Term Wins, Long Term Growth
Since SEO is a long game and different parts cost different amounts, it's important to know what are the most crucial targets are for your business. If you need traffic fast, then PPC is most likely the fastest route (but also one of the priciest). Ultimately, when gives you the quickest bang for your buck should be your desired starting goal.
Lather, Rinse, Repeat
The rules and algorithms are in constant flux, so you should be too. Come up with your strategy, implement it, learn from it, adjust it, and start over. The concept of experimentation is not new to business and certainly holds true to SEO.
The only way to determine what works for you is to gather all the available data, analyze it, and implement it - and remember perseverance is key!
The whole point of an SEO audit is to get all the data, analysis and intelligence to help you make informed decisions. It allows you to strategize how you will use this information - for your content strategy? product positioning? social engagement?
All aspects of a strategic SEO plan need to be aligned because they all factor into your visibility, relevance, and ranking - so keep those thoughts flowing!
Brigantine Can Help
We're a full-service add-on agency with the brains to help you get ahead. We act as an in-house growth marketing team.
Regardless of your company's size, our specialized team crafts a targeted strategic plan that seamlessly connects website design, analytics, SEO, and digital marketing.
Start Growing Your Business Today
If you're ready for data-driven online marketing, contact us at email@example.com.