Many digital marketers know a lot of details about SEO, but they have trouble with the big picture.
One of the most important skills you can develop is getting a quick snapshot of a website’s SEO. All it takes is ten minutes. And you don’t need any expensive tools.
You can use this step-by-step process to determine your own website’s health, to find out how your competitors are doing, and to discover what needs to be done to improve your SEO.
What I’m going to show you here is a broad overview process. This doesn’t get into the nitty-gritty of a full SEO analysis, nor does it explore offsite SEO in a detailed way. The goal is quick-and-dirty pulse-taking. Here’s the process:
- Step 1: Find out the domain authority.
- Step 2: Determine the site load time.
- Step 3: Check for a sitemap.
- Step 4: Check the robots.txt.
- Step 5: Check for meta content.
- Step 6: Check for H-tags.
- Step 7: Check for onsite content.
- Step 8: Test keywords.
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Step 1: Find out the domain authority
Domain authority (DA) is a number, or score, assigned to your site. The number is on a 100-point scale. The higher the number, the more authoritative your site is.
Sites with higher DA scores get better search results. A site’s DA increases with its age, SEO, and authoritative link backs. The DA is the single most important piece of information you need to score a site.
All you have to do is go to Open Site Explorer, type in your site’s URL, and click “search.”
Look at the number in the upper left corner of the screen. This is your domain authority.
I’ve put this chart together to help you understand how your site fares from a DA perspective.
|1-10||Poor – Your site is young and weak. You have a lot of growing to do.|
|11-20||Decent. Your site isn’t stellar, but you’re doing better. It would be good to grow.|
|21-30||Fair. Your site shows signs of SEO, but there are many things you can and should do to improve.|
|31-40||Competitive. A lot of startups find themselves in this DA range. It’s not bad, and you’re beginning to get close to the sweet spot.|
|41-50||Good. Now, you’re getting somewhere. This is a nice place to be, and many good ecommerce sites find themselves squarely in this category.|
|51-60||Strong. As you swing out of the lower half of the scale, you’re beginning to get much healthier. This is a good place to be.|
|61-70||Excellent. A DA at this level represents a great site with a lot of recognition, a lot of link backs, and a considerable authority in its niche. Many .edus are in this space.|
|71-80||Outstanding. You’re dominating in the SERPs and owning your niche. Quick Sprout is a 73.|
|81-90||Very outstanding. You’re in the upper echelons of authority. You can consider yourself to have arrived.|
|91-100||Rare. These sites are household names — Wikipedia, Facebook, New York Times, etc. Your site will probably never attain this level. Only a miniscule fraction of a percentage of sites on the Internet ever get this high.|
Key takeaway: If the site has a low DA, it needs some SEO work.
Step 2: Determine the site load time
Google ranks a site high only if the site has a good load time. If your site is slow, then your SEO is going to be poor. Here’s how to know:
Go to Pingdom, type in your URL, and click “test now.”
Pingdom will analyze your site’s performance and load time. You’ll get an instant report that looks like this.
These numbers may not mean much. The sentence beneath the numbers, “Your website is faster than 95% of all tested websites,” is a good indication of how competitive you are. I’ve created this chart so you can determine if your site needs work.
|Site speed||Rating||What should you do?|
|2-3 seconds||Fair||Site speed may not be the first priority, but you should consider making some speed improvements in the months ahead.|
|4 or more seconds||Poor||Consider switching to a faster host, eliminating long load time elements, optimizing image size, using a CDN (e.g., Cloudflare), or making other speed improvements.|
Key takeaway: A slow site speed indicates there is room for SEO improvement.
Step 3: Check for a sitemap
Does your site have a sitemap? Sitemaps are a sign of an organized and easily indexable site, which is good for SEO.
Since you’re merely scoring your website’s SEO, you don’t need to worry about a proper sitemap protocol at this point. You can get a detailed how-to guide on sitemaps in my university course.
- If the site is yours, you probably already know if you have a sitemap or not.
- If you’re investigating a site you don’t own, type in the URL, followed by “sitemap.xml” (in some cases, you may need to type fullsitemap.xml).
- If you still can’t find the sitemap, use this Google query: URL of the website, followed by a space, then sitemap.xml: www.example.com sitemap.xml
- If you still can’t find the sitemap, there probably isn’t one. If there is a sitemap, that’s a good sign of SEO.
Sitemaps don’t look pretty. Here’s the sitemap for CNN.com.
If you don’t have a sitemap, you can easily add one to your WordPress site using this free plugin.
Key takeaway: No sitemap means poorer SEO.
Step 4: Check the robots.txt
A site with good SEO will have a robots.txt file with no major disallows. One of my training courses discusses robots.txt in some detail. You want to make sure that the robots.txt is there and that it’s not disallowing the crawlers from indexing important areas of your site.
In your browser, type in [yourdomain]/robots.txt
Most sites have a robots.txt file. Yours should. Some webmasters even get chatty with the crawlers.
Most robots.txt files consist of simple lists of areas where crawlers aren’t allowed to index.
Make sure that the robots.txt is there and that nothing major is disallowed.
Here is Quick Sprout’s robots.txt:
Key takeaway: If a site lacks the robots.txt or disallows content crawling on major areas of the site, it indicates an SEO problem.
Step 5: Check for meta content
To make sure that you have the main meta components in place, check the following:
- Go to your homepage.
- View the source code. In Chrome for Mac, use the keyboard shortcut: Command + Option + U. Depending on your browser, you should be able to use the “tools” or “view” menu to view the source.
Search the source code for <title> tag. You can do this easily by pressing CTRL + F, then typing <title>. The page title, if you have one, will be displayed:
Search the source code for a meta description (meta name=”description” content=). To find this easily, use CTRL + F instead of wading through lines of code.
These are the two main meta tags that you want on your site. You no longer need to include meta keywords since Google does not use them as a ranking factor.
Key takeaway: Meta tags are important for SEO. A site should have them.
Step 6: Check for H-tags
In addition to having the correct meta content, you should have header tags (H-tags) as well. Good SEO means having at least one H1 tag and, ideally, an H2, H3, and H4.
Use the source code view to search for each of these elements.
I recommend using the CTRL +F feature to find each of these tags: H1, H2, H3, and H4.
Key takeaway: Having the right H-tags is an important ingredient of good SEO.
Step 7: Check for onsite content
A site needs continual, updated content in order to rank well. It’s very difficult to have sustained SEO without consistent content output.
- If you’re scoring your website, you probably already know whether or not you have an active blog.
- If you’re scoring a competitor’s or client’s website, it should be pretty easy to find a blog or content source. Navigate to the site’s homepage and look for a link to “Blog” or “Articles.” Content marketing is an important part of Quick Sprout, so I’ve made my blog easy to find:
If you can’t find a blog, you may want to do some more digging. Try this Google search: inurl:example.com blog
Since CrazyEgg.com is a landing page designed to drive conversions, it’s not important for it to have a blog link. However, we still want to find out if CrazyEgg.com has a content marketing strategy.
Based on this query, I see that it does have a blog:
The sign of a healthy blog is that it has articles that are recent and consistent.
Looking at Crazy Egg’s blog, I see that it has a recent article.
Looking closer, I can see that the output is consistent.
Key takeaway: Healthy content marketing is an essential ingredient of good SEO.
Step 8: Test keywords
The final way to score a site’s SEO is to find out how it is doing in queries.
- First, in order to gain the best results possible, make sure you sign out of Google.
- Perform searches on targeted long tail keywords. There are services that provide up-to-the-minute Google rank results for any site. Since I’m giving you the free method, however, we’re doing it the old-fashioned way. Just Google and count.
Here, I searched for “hashtags online presence.” It’s a specific long tail phrase that I’d like to rank for. Here are my results:
You may want to create a list of keywords that you or your competitor are targeting and work through them one by one.
|Google SERP Position||SEO Strength|
Key takeaway: To make the scoring process simple, use the chart above to help you determine the SEO strength of your site based on your position in Google’s SERPs.
This is a brief and simple way to get a perspective of a website’s SEO. It won’t answer all your questions, but it will give you an accurate sense of how a site is doing.
The good thing about this method is that it’s free and quick. You don’t have to learn any special tools or purchase any subscriptions. You just need to do a little digging. After you do it a few times, it becomes almost reflexive to hit the keyboard shortcuts, do the searches, and check for the proper SEO elements.