I'm continuing my explanation of how to conduct a site SEO review. Yesterday's post considered how to review a website's SEO strategy concerning backlinks and keywords, and today your favourite SEO specialist will be looking at
The importance of external links and link structure is twofold. Firstly, for your human audience, external links and link structure are a key way to establish your site's focus. For instance, if you look at Dane Carlson's Business Opportunities Blog, you'll find that Dane's got plenty of links to various business opportunities and small business turnkey operations. Additionally, his blogroll links to plenty of other small business consultants and mavericks:
"- Business 2.0 Blog - Business Blog Consulting - Business Opportunity Classifieds - Buying & Selling A Small Business Blog - Carnival of the Capitalists - Chris Pund - Chuck Huckaby - College Startup."
Secondly, for your search engine spider audience, having lots of links to related websites and within your website on a particular theme (such as archival links and site navigation links) expresses the same thing: relevance to a particular niche. This makes sense when you consider that search engines work to approximate human behaviour, which, in the case of website surfing, starts by determining relevance.
That having been said, we're ready to consider the methods involved in reviewing a site's external links and link structure. Luckily for us, this part of a site's SEO review can mostly be conducted without resorting to outside resources.
Link Text First and foremost, to review a site's external links and link structure, one has to be literate. That is, simply read from top to bottom every link that is posted on the page, taking note of the words used to link to other websites. Making an Excel spreadsheet or Google spreadsheet to keep track of this would be useful, as with compiling yesterday's review data.
In Dane's case, the external link review quickly shows he could do a better job. As the section of his blogroll cited above shows, Dane mostly links to other business writers by name.
Considering most of them have websites titled with keywords relevant to Dane's Business Opportunities site, Dane's own SEO would likely benefit from linking to them using more appropriate, keyword sensitive text. For example, Des Walsh's link currently reads "Des Walsh." It could be more beneficial to have it read, "Thinking Home Business," which is the name of Walsh's site.
When I review Dane's link structure (the difference between this and external links is that it also considers design, and not just keywords), I find that he has clean, concise navigation links across the top of his blog, as well as links to his most recent "biz ops" in the sidebar. While the presentation is nice, there are a few missed opportunities here too to increase the keyword density (see part one of how to conduct a site SEO review). For example, I would write "Archived Opportunities," rather than "Archives." Link Destination While the text of a link is very important, there's another important aspect to links and that is their destination. There are two things to consider when reviewing a site's external and internal links' destination.
Firstly, does the link accurately describe the site it'll bring you to? For instance, trying to get entrepreneurs to see your poker site by linking to "Dane Carlson" but in fact having the link destination go to some poker website would be bad for SEO as the link description does not match the destination.
Secondly, are the links' destination functional? Imagine going trekking around the rain forest and seeing your trail come to a dead end. Not only would you be miffed with the person who suggested the trail, but you'd have to go back. Obviously, this hurts the suggester's reputation. Websites move, so if you're linking people to a dead end, you could be hurting your SEO - and your reputation in human eyes. (The link goes to my analysis of Google's partnership with librarians in the new Google Librarian Center; a librarian wrote that her group's index of sites checks websites' external links for functionality.)
The importance of content analysis to a site's SEO strategy can be summarize thus: frequency of content updates are a factor in ranking websites, the quality of the content is a factor in ranking the site (think keyword density but also how helpful the content is), and the quality of the content acts as a link magnet because it has broad appeal. If you want to master the techniques of site SEO review, this area of an SEO review should be familiar to you like the back of your hand. Frequency of Content Updates That having been said, daily content updates are the best you can do, unless you want to post more than once on a daily basis. For review purposes, most blogs post, if note the time, at least the date something was uploaded. If you see that people are posting in the morning in time for people to read at work on their coffee break (which starts when they get to work at 9 am, statistics show), you're reviewing an even better site.
Content Quality The next issue to consider in your review of a website's SEO strategy is just how good the content is. Take a good half hour to an hour to go through some of the front page material, then bounce around the archives and see if in fact the quality of the content has been consistent. By this I mean the general characteristics of the writing, including of course grammar, which is paramount (and which Google is developing algorithms to evaluate).
In terms of quality, there are a few genres that you want to look for when conducting the review. During your content analysis, Tips, guides, "how to"s, breaking stories are all examples of useful material. Material on topics with high-paying Adsense, Chitika, affiliate or other revenue ads is another thing to watch out for. This is personal though, so what you look for is really dependant on your goals for the site. Perhaps the content generates lots of newsletter subscribptions. If your goal is to build up a direct marketing database, this is good. If that's irrelevant (though that would be pretty strange), well, you wouldn't value the content as highly in your site SEO review.
Breadth of Appeal or Link Magnetism Generally speaking, there's an easy test of how broad the appeal of some content is. Ask yourself if there's a particular demographic being targeted who would enjoy this. The first rule of content is to know your audience, and if you're trying to sell hair gel to marketing professionals, well, you're not going to get very far.
Another way to research this is to use Technorati.com to find out what topics (by keywords/tags) people are talking about. A third method is to go blogroll-hopping and just read the titles (possibly the intros) to posts.
If you're talking about something hot, chances are it will help draw links. As mentioned above, useful content is a perennial favourite, and if you can find posts that people can use as a reference (such as tips, guides, and other materials), then you should know that the site whose SEO you're reviewing has quality content. Current SEO Effectiveness
It's fun to save the easiest for last. Current SEO effectiveness review is composed of two, easy to conduct bits of research. The first is to compile the analysis you've made so far in your review and grade the site's SEO strategy. Try and include comments and rational justifications, just as teachers do when grading assignments in school.
The second element is to make a shortlist of perhaps 3-10 keywords/phrases the site is/should be optimizing for, and see how well they're actually ranking in the search engines. You just plug in the phrases and see if the site is in the first page or two of results. If not, use SEOChat's ranking tool to find if the site places in the first 100 results. Grade this. In Dane Carlson's case, the grade is 100%, because he's number one for Business Opportunities.
Combine the two grades and you've just finished conducting a site SEO review.
That having been said, I hope it's clear how to conduct a basic site SEO review, and what methods I'll be using to review Dane Carlson's Business Opportunities Blog and James Martin's Work Boxers blog.