DIY SEO Part 1: Understanding what you’ve got on your website

Let’s kick off our “DIY SEO” plan with a bit of preparation, shall we? As I mentioned yesterday, it’s essential to have an analytics service in place (Google Analytics is free), so you can see what’s happening. I should add that a “log analysis” tool such as AWStats is not really good enough for marketing purposes – you need the real thing. You also need the ability to edit your website beyond adding a new story – we’re going to be changing page titles, meta descriptions and content along the way. Make sure you understand thoroughly how your Analytics service works, and if you don’t, go buy a book on it, or even better, find yourself a training course.

Our first step is to get a good overview of your website, so you know what you’re dealing with. This means making a list of all the pages, and various useful bits of information about each one. For this, I’d recommend getting the Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool. There’s a free version which may well be all you need for your site. What this tool will do is to “crawl” your site, just like a search engine does, and present the findings, which you can view in a spreadsheet. It’s quite brilliant.

The only companies we’ve ever come across who have problems at this stage are small local divisions of huge multinationals, who have a little corner of their parent’s website to call their own. Crawling the whole site, and then just pulling out the data on the relevant few pages, can be very difficult for these companies. I can’t really suggest a shortcut, but I also suspect that these local companies may have larger problems to contend with when it comes to SEO, related to their ability to make changes to the website. Other companies who may have problems include those whose sites extend to many thousands of pages, making a “sitemap” almost unmanageable – if this is the case, I’d “crawl” the site just down a couple of levels, and resolve to get a grip on just the few hundred most important pages.

If you don’t go any further with this exercise, I’m sure you’ll agree that having a nice plan of your website on a spreadsheet has given you a better idea of what you’ve got, and has made it worthwhile reading this far.

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