You don’t need an automated SEO analysis or ranking factors checklist to determine your website’s SEO health. You’ll understand the true status of your SEO by simply giving an honest answer to this fundamental question.
You have a website, you want more organic traffic, and you want to improve your SEO. What questions are you asking? Let me take a guess:
“Are my title tags optimized?”
“Do I have enough content?”
“Am I getting any inbound links?”
The questions above are all very important, but let me suggest a question you may not be asking:
“Does my website have a page dedicated to each of the most important keyword phrases my customers are using?”
Maybe this seems like a no-brainer, but I’ve never seen it on a list of ranking factors and I probably never will. I can’t blame those that publish ranking factor studies for this omission, because those lists ultimately describe page-level ranking factors. If all you want to do is optimize a given webpage, then these lists are excellent resources. However, page-level ranking factors don’t even tell half the story of SEO.
I often use a fishing metaphor to describe SEO: If you haven’t been catching any fish, before going out to buy fancier bait and a new fishing pole, it makes more sense if you just change where you are fishing! Similarly, if do not have pages built specifically for the keywords your customers are actually using (where the fish are!), you won’t get any more organic traffic than you would fish from an empty pond.
By asking the simple question above, you are forcing yourself out of the “optimize what I have” paradigm into the “what pages do I need to build” paradigm. Asking how to optimize your on-site factors before properly identifying the content you need is to miss the forest for the trees.
Don’t get me wrong: If you don’t have properly optimized title tags, unique and relevant content, and helpful calls-to-action, your website will be entirely ineffective. However, identifying the pages you need to build for specific keyword targets gives these on-site optimizations a better chance at yielding returns.
Unfortunately, SEO is not as simple as checking boxes off on a list; many factors are interdependent and build off each other. This means that order matters. By asking the right questions at the right time (hint hint… the question above at the beginning of your analysis!), you can force yourself to address the most fundamental factors before tidying up the finishing touches.