They say that the best place to bury a dead body is on page 2 of Google search results. Though it might be a particularly macabre joke, you get the point. If your website is not on page 1, at the very top, it might as well not exist. Therefore, it's important that we continually update and improve our websites so they stay ahead of the others. But in order to improve, we must also have a clear idea of the current state of the website and the different elements that go into making a great website. Let periodic content audits lead the way.
Don’t let the word ‘audit’ intimidate you. It’s simple. Consider it a well-defined analysis if you will. While we could evaluate numerous parameters to gauge the efficacy of a functional website, there are some absolute must-haves like page titles and meta descriptions, we must be judicious with the number of keywords and outbound links that we place on a page. Ease of sharing content across social media is always a welcome feature.
Here, we share a brief framework to guide your content audit. And worry not, you'll find all of this in an excel format that you can download and use at will!
- URL: It’s very basic yes but pay close attention to the URL. Let it not read like a bunch of gibberish words. Simplify it for the search spiders. Separate each word in the URL with a hyphen to let the crawler index each word. Ensure that it contains the keyword summarizing the content on the page it directs readers to.
- Page Title: Derive your page title from the content of that specific page. Ideally, restrict it to a word or a small phrase (typically your primary keyword, unique for each page), followed by the name of your brand. This content, visible at the top of a browser window, is usually the title text displayed on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) for a given page, aiding both SEO and social sharing.
- Meta description: Summarize the content on your pages into 155 character descriptors, indicating just what readers can expect to find on that particular page. Choose your keywords with care for they will either prompt or dissuade people from clicking and arriving on that page. Each page should have a unique description and must be very relevant to the content on that specific page.
- Meta keywords: Compile a set of words or phrases that best define the content on a particular page; they must also find a relevant place on the copy of that particular page. Else it’ll be of little help. It’s a little pointless to have keywords referencing smartphones when in fact your web pages talk about a fitness regime. Your selected set of keywords must bear direct relevance to the content you’re showcasing on that page.
Lately, the relevance of keywords has gone down in the whole SEO hierarchy; however, every little bit helps towards optimizing your content for search engines. Like they say, no effort goes wasted.
- H1 tags: The H1 tag, usually the title/heading of a page (highlighted for emphasis), is the first text element that readers encounter upon arriving at a particular page. Therefore, it is imperative that this piece of text carries the central idea of the page (using the relevant keyword/s) so assure readers that they’ve reached the right page and help them decide if they’d like to spend more time on it. H1 tags not only aid accessibility but also help inform search engine spiders about the content on your pages, further boosting your SEO efforts towards a higher SERP listing.
- H2 tags: A step below the H1 tag, the H2 tag is the next major heading on a particular web page, lending a structural hierarchy to the content on the page. Its placement on the page helps search engine spiders gauge the importance and relevance of that particular piece of content, in reference to the rest of the page. Therefore, ensure that you use the relevant set of primary and secondary keywords or their appropriate variants while writing up your content.
- Images/videos: A picture is worth more than a thousand words! Yes, it’s always a good idea to supplement the content on a page with an appropriate graphic element, either an image/infographic or a video. It helps break the monotony of reading a text-heavy page, enhancing user experience. Articles with images get 94% more total views.* And a nicely designed infographic could urge your readers to share it across social media. However, keep in mind that the displayed visual assets must be related to the content on the page. A mismatched graphic/video will do nothing for your page stats.
- Alt tags for all images and videos: Displaying the relevant visual assets on a particular page is just half the job done. Each visual element must necessarily be accompanied by descriptions and supporting text, referencing them. These will enable Google and other search engines to index these assets more effectively. This copy could either be placed in the page content, or become visible upon a mouse-over.
- Word count per page: While this might vary from industry to industry, depending upon the nature of the product/service, it is recommended that each page on your website has at least 300 words of content to aid SEO. Fewer words than that and our search engines friends might find it a little tough to understand what the page is all about. At the same time, avoid overwhelming your readers with an overdose of content. Format it into appropriate sub-headings (using H2 tags) with bullet points to aid readability. Avoid placing more than 600-700 words on a page. Instead, cross-link to other content either on your website or other websites, wherever relevant.
- On-page optimization:
- Keyword density: Resist the temptation to overstuff your content with your chosen keywords. Google does not like it and will penalize you for it. So be judicious, and not overenthusiastic.
- Choice of synonyms and close variants: This is a very handy approach because we mustn’t repeat our keywords often. Instead, look up synonyms, related words and close variants of your selected keywords to arrive at various permutations and combinations of phrases that our readers might be searching for.
- Presence of keywords and phrases in the main body of the content: Remember that search engine spiders pay close attention to the location and presence of keywords and phrases. Those placed in the main text carry more weight than those placed in the peripheral elements of a page.
- Presence of related, co-occurring phrases: Today, search engine spiders have progressed from indexing individual keyword terms to indexing complete phrases. Some of these phrases can also lead the spiders to predict other terms and phrases, relevant to a particular topic. And if they are unable to find the phrases they typically expect to find, that page gets ranked lower. Therefore, it is important that we get as specific - with the choice of words and phrases while drafting the content.
- Defining semantic distance and term relationships: A well-drafted piece of content would have closely connected concepts tied together seamlessly. Its HTML elements (page titles, meta descriptions and keywords) would also bear direct correlation to the content visible on the page, indicating to Google and other search engines definite relationships between the key ideas expressed. The absence of a coherent relationship between the HTML elements and/or disjointed copy could have an adverse impact on the SERP ranking of that particular page.
- Grammar and language checks, including consistency in the choice of language: Nothing kills the joy of reading more than a spell of bad grammar. Therefore, get an extra set of eyes to review your content before it goes live. Don’t talk down at your audience. Adopt an inclusive tone of voice, one that tells your readers that you’re an ally. Identify whom you’re writing for. Which language are they expecting to read the content in, UK or US English? Stick to UK English for South-East Asia and Europe.
- Cross-links to additional pages across the site: This not only assists search engine spiders to identify the key ideas on a particular page but also provides visibility into other related content or resource material that you might have and which would be useful for readers. You could also go a step ahead and link to external sites to establish your link neighbourhood and add to the legitimacy of your content. However, be careful of whom you’re linking to; stick to the reputed names in the industry.
- Effective calls to action: While drafting your content, always keep in mind what you’d like your reader to do when she reaches the end of the page. In the absence of a clear call to action, she is bound to shut the tab and move on to something else. Instead, devise a clear call to action that she can act upon whilst staying on the website. Craft each piece of content to drive a specific intent or action.
- Links to social media presence: With social media becoming an integral part of our digital strategy, it is important that we provide readers with multiple avenues to connect with our brands. Sometimes, it might be a complaint they want to register. At other times, they’d just like to remain apprised of the recent happenings. Your social pages will allow you to be more conversational and interactive, sometimes with a dash of fun and humour. But remember that linking to/integrating inactive social media pages could backfire.
Share buttons: The ultimate test of good, relevant content is the number of times it gets shared by your readers within their networks. Therefore, make it easy for your readers to share your content, with share buttons for the popular social media platforms enabled across your site. Your readers will thank you for it.
As we see, not all parameters are created equal. Some are more important than the others. The HTML elements (page titles, meta descriptions and keywords) are crucial. So is on-page optimization. You could derive the former from the latter or vice-versa. But whatever you do, remember that relevancy is key to all that you do.