Have you ever wondered if your competitors are investing in SEO? If you knew they were and you’re not, then you may need to start in order to compete long term. Or, if your competitors are not yet investing in SEO, then that could be a nice opportunity for your business to gain the upper hand.
The problem, of course, is there is no “SEO Badge” that makes it clear which businesses are, or are not, already investing in SEO. That leaves most businesses playing the guessing game. In fact, many businesses don’t even know if their own website is set up properly to rank in Google!
How do you know? Are there any tell-tale signs that a business is investing in SEO?
The good news is that the answer is yes. The even better news is that anyone with about 10 minutes of free time can determine if a business is investing in SEO. That’s right, you don’t need any prior technical knowledge. Simply complete the 5-step SEO test outlined in this article. Once you’re familiar with each step, then it’ll only take you about 2 minutes per step to complete. Even if you take your time, then you should be done in less than 20 minutes.
Step 1: Page Title Review
The first tell-tale sign that a website is using SEO is in the webpage Titles (Click here if you need help finding the Titles). Think of webpage Titles like chapters in a textbook. In order to find the information you need in a textbook, you’ll skim the chapter names.
Google uses a similar approach when reviewing and indexing your website. The webpage Title gives Google a quick reference for what the page is about so Google can then rank the page for relevant search phrases, or keywords. With that in mind, one of the first steps to optimize your website for Google is to edit your webpage Titles.
You’ll know a website is not investing in SEO if you find any of the following:
- Missing webpage Titles on all or many key pages
- Only the business name used as the Title of all or many key webpages
- One duplicated Title used across the entire website
- Many duplicated Titles on key webpages
- Generic Titles that do not include a relevant keyword
Of course, just because a website passes this first test, we can’t be certain the business is investing in SEO. Let’s move on to step 2…
Step 2: Website Structure Review
One of the biggest mistakes we see when conducting SEO Audits is when businesses try to rank just one service or product page, instead of individual service or product pages. For example, most services businesses have a webpage called “Services” (this is our page for reference). In terms of usability, that page is great because it’s a quick reference that visitors can use to see which services the business provides.
But for SEO, that page is terrible if you’re trying to rank your website when prospects search for individual services. That’s because a “Services” page lists every service you offer and it’s not 100% relevant for any one service. Same thing for product pages.
This is why it’s important to have individual product and service pages if you want to have a shot at ranking when prospects search for those products or services. So step 2 is a fairly quick and easy test. Does the website have individual pages for each product or service? Or does the website have just one “Services” or “Products” page?
If there are individual pages, then that’s a positive sign the website is investing in SEO and you can move on to step 3…
Step 3: Links Review
Investing in SEO is much more than making edits to your own website. In fact, your own website is only half of the battle in your quest to rank #1 in Google. The other half is what’s called “off-page SEO” factors. Off-page SEO factors are everything outside of your own website that affect your search engine rankings.
One major off-page SEO factor is the quantity and quality of links from other websites. Generally speaking, the more links from other websites the better because that is a signal to Google that you’re providing high-quality information, products, and services. There are many other factors, but links are one of the biggest signs that a business is investing in SEO.
How do you know how many links your website has? One free tool I recommend is Link Explorer. (Create an account here to gain access to 10 free queries per month.) Simply copy/paste your website URL into the search box, click the Search button, and then review the number of links and number of different websites that are linking to your website. If you find zero or very few links, then chances are good the website you’re reviewing is not investing in SEO.
Now on to step #4…
Step 4: Local Business Profiles Review
As mentioned above, SEO is not just about making edits to your website. And when it comes to ranking for locally-focused keywords like “new york city plumber,” then Google takes into account all of your online business profiles. For example, your business profiles on Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook, and all the other major business directories online need to be complete, accurate, and up-to-date with your business information.
To check if your business profiles are set up correctly, use the free Moz Local tool (again, make sure to create a free account here first). Simply search for your business name and zip code, and then click on the correct business profile to view your report. You’ll see how many major business profiles are set up correctly, how many are incomplete, and how much of your information is inconsistent. If you find a very low score using this tool, then chances are the website you’re reviewing is not investing in SEO.
Now on to the final step…
Step 5: Blog Review
Of all the steps, this one is the easiest to check. Does the website have an active blog? While a blog alone does not improve your chances of ranking, it is a good sign that the business is investing in ongoing SEO. To understand why, I’ll quickly explain some of the key SEO benefits of a blog:
- Every new blog article is another opportunity to rank in Google. Think about that for a minute. If you’re blogging weekly, then at the end of the year you’ll have 52 more opportunities to rank in Google. And those articles are assets! So as you continue to blog, you’re building a bigger and bigger net to capture prospects searching in Google.
- Every new blog article is another opportunity to get a link from another website. Again, your articles are assets so over time you’ll gain more and more links, which helps boost your website’s domain authority. As your domain authority increases, your rankings will improve as well.
- Blogging is a natural way to educate and build trust with your prospects, which ultimately leads to higher website conversion rates. By publishing high-quality information on your blog, prospects will view your business as the authority in your industry and be more likely to choose you over your competitors.
With all that in mind, if the website you’re reviewing is actively blogging, then that business is likely investing in SEO.