I’ve been working on a few sites lately that are relatively new and were advertised as including current SEO methods. They look great visually, and visitors can navigate them effectively. But when I look at the details, there are things missing, things that were automated and aren’t customized, and things that just need more attention.
Is that standard? Don’t website designers integrate SEO into their completed projects? Even when they say they do? It varies by designer, and you need to do your research so you know what to expect.
How can you tell if your website utilizes current SEO standards? And if you decide you need updates, what should you look for in a specialist? Let’s start at the beginning…
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s a marketing term that refers to tactics that will cause the search engines to place your website higher in search results. A better wording is:
When they refer to “organic,” what do they mean? They’re referring to things that you do NOT pay for, so no paid campaigns, or Adwords, or Facebook ads. SEO usually refers to the free things that can be done. Quick examples? Creating proper page addresses (URLs), title tags, making sure your meta descriptions are specific to each page and are NOT duplicates, making sure every image is optimized and has alt text, and lots of other fun things.
Did my site design come with SEO?
Possibly, but possibly not. I’ve found that many designers concentrate on the visual aspects of websites, which is what they’re best at. They’re experts at making your content look spiffy and shiny, but that may not be enough to get the site to a good position in search results. And if you’re expecting your new site to look good AND be following current best practices for SEO (which are connected but not the same thing), be sure to ask your designer about whether this is part of their package.
And to be honest, SEO changes so frequently that sites over six months old probably need some editing on small things (meaning your site designer may have installed lots of current SEO elements, but those elements have since changed). This is not due to any errors on the part of a designer, but more due to the dynamic nature of SEO. There have been some big changes as recently as December, so you need to keep that in mind when looking at your or other sites.
But new sites that are advertised to include good SEO should have it built in. If you’ve paid for it, you should receive it.
How can I tell if my site has current SEO?
How can you see if the SEO on your new site really happened? And if it’s up to current SEO standards? Here are some current SEO methods that are helpful now:
- Look into your Google Analytics account (and if you don’t have one, get one asap). This will give you an idea of your traffic. If you have a new site, how does your current traffic compare with your traffic on the old one? If it’s not as good or better, that’s not good.
- Look at your title tags by doing a site: search (so type site:[yoursitename.com] into Google or Bing). There are few a formats that you should see here, and this is my preferred one: name of page, name of business, location. If your title tags don’t appear customized to your site, you may want to work on that. They should also not run past 60 characters.
- Look at your meta descriptions. Are they specific to each page they describe? Or are they duplicates (meaning the same exact description for several pages)? If they’re specific, they’re great (and even better if they include your keywords and location). If they’re duplicates, they’re doing you no good and should be adjusted. And this changed recently, but meta descriptions can now be up to 320 characters, so you should try to take advantage of that. (NOTE: this limit has changed recently, so if you metas are shorter, that’s ok, but you may want to adjust them).
- Do your pages have simple, easy to understand page addresses? For example, your About page should be called [mypetsittingbusiness.com]/about or /about-us or /about-our-team. These are easier to read than /why-we-are-a-great-business, and your clients (and Google) know this. Simple is the key word here. For more reasons why, check this out.
- How does your site look on mobile devices? If it doesn’t look so great, I would check it on Google’s tool to be sure you’re set.
- Do all of your images contain alt text? This is the description of the contents that may be used by visually impaired site visitors. Google is very insistent on these, so all designers should enter them without question.
- Does your site contain any broken links? These are also a no-no for the search engines.
- Do you have the best pages for pet sitting businesses? And specifically, do you have a Service Area page? If not, you need one asap. This is a must-have for any business that travels to clients’ locations (and for any business, not specifically those in the pet industry).
If your site has many of the above problems, it may need some SEO work (and if your site is young, you may want to have a chat with your designer). **Note: but of course if your site is doing well and you’re happy with the traffic you’re getting, I wouldn’t worry about this at all.
Must I have a specialist do my SEO?
No, you do not, if you’re interested in learning what to adjust and how to adjust it. There are many sites – Moz is my favorite – that will teach you about SEO, and there are videos and other tutorials that will help you. I specialize in WordPress, but I’ve found lots of tutorials that will help you adjust sites on GoDaddy and other builders.
BUT if you don’t have the time to learn the current SEO standards, or if you don’t care about the inner workings of websites, it’s worth it to find someone who can help you. My mom always told me that decisions come down to time vs. money. If you have the time to invest in research, it’s a good investment. But if you don’t have the time but do have the money, a specialist is a better solution. (Mrs. Mattison really knew her stuff)
NOTE: If you plan to make changes yourself, make sure your site is backed up on a regular basis before you start.
How do I choose an SEO specialist?
Ok, this is partially self-serving here, as I’m an SEO specialist and I hope you look at me and my experience. But there are others out there, or you may get a personal reference to someone who can help you. Before you enter into a financial arrangement with anyone, do your research and make sure they’re using current SEO standards for themselves.
- Can you find them by searching their name and SEO? If not, they may not have much experience in the field.
- Look at their website. They should have an easy-to-find site with info readily available. If you can’t find the site, or you can’t find their contact info, that’s not a good sign.
- Do a site:search (see above) on their site. Are their meta descriptions all different and specific to their pages, or are they duplicates? If you see any dupes, stay away. They shouldn’t be telling you how to arrange your site if they don’t do it for theirs.
- When looking at their site:search results, do their page names run off the page? Or do their meta descriptions? If so, they may not be aware that there are guidelines (laid down by Google, no less) that they should use. And if they’re not aware of this, do you really trust them on other things?
- Look at their recent reviews. They should have them on a Google Business listing or Facebook or another site. If you don’t find any other than on their site, you should wonder why.
Websites have two different parts, the design and the SEO. Purchasing a beautiful website doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get a site that places high in search results (although that is always the goal). SEO is a dynamic practice that is constantly changing, and some practices that were very successful a few years ago are not helpful now. If your site is under six months old and you’re not happy with the traffic you’re getting, it may be time to look under the hood and see if there’s anything further that can be done.