My Q&A with Forthea’s Zach Doty on how to get your web site ready for spring.
February is drawing to a close and that means spring is coming – and with it a long overdue cleaning of your website’s SEO. I sat down with Zach Doty, digital marketing specialist with Houston-based interactive marketing agency Forthea to find out simple steps you can take to get your website ready for spring.
So before you bear down to attack the dust bunnies and clutter, take some time to address your keywords and metadata. Getting your SEO in order may seem as daunting as cleaning out the attic, but it can be rewarding project.
First, what’s the best way to identify a dirty website?
Zach: The best way to identify neglected website is with a simple spot test. If the site is aesthetically displeasing, there’s a chance that it hasn’t been maintained. Next, I dig slightly deeper and look for out-of-date content. I find that most business verticals have changing conditions and when I know that the standard for an industry is X and the page says Y, then I have a good idea that these folks haven’t been tending their site for some time.
As an SEO specialist, what’s the first thing you look to clean up?
Zach: I think the most frustrating thing as an SEO specialist is a neglected website. When I see a site is well written but has fallen out of date, it loses relevance and authority and that’s disappointing.
When you see a neglected site, what tools do you use? Is there a digital broom or sponge that you just can’t live without?
Zach: When a website lapses into disuse, a host of problems arise like outdated copy and broken links. There are a number of things that I use to troubleshoot, but I have three favorites in particular.
First, I think Analytics SEO, is one of the most important tools in my kit. This software regularly monitors web sites for a wide range of things and keeps me abreast to any critical errors. As an SEO professional, it doesn’t replace what I do, but it makes my life easier.
Whenever I’m trying to troubleshoot issues with search engines, I find it’s best to go straight to the source. That’s why I keep Google Webmaster Tools bookmarked. If I notice that traffic and rankings have dropped off, I usually Google Webmaster Tools.
Finally, I love Screaming Frog SEO Spider. It may have an unusual name, but it’s a useful and free tool for indexing sites. By inputting a website into Screaming Frog, it’ll return all the files it can find for that site – either HTML files or web pages. I then compare their records with Google and the CMS and compare lists. This provides a quick way to contrast lists, spot any discrepancies, and identify those pages that aren’t being indexed by Google.
Spring cleaning is also about tidying up areas you can’t see, like under the rug or behind the couch. Is there one overlooked area of SEO cleanup that shouldn’t go unnoticed this spring?
Zach: For me it’s plug-ins that are out-of-date. Old software can be buggy and those can lead to visible problems on the front end. It doesn’t always result in a site going down, but it can lead to interruptions in the user experience. If you have a slow-loading site, or a form that doesn’t work, the odds that your users are going to convert into leads diminish greatly.
Now that you’ve got your site spick and span, how do you stay up to date going into summer?
Zach: To stay up to date, you need to have a clear plan going forward. I definitely encourage people to have a content calendar for their website, in whatever format that works best for them. Freshly updated sites get crawled more often, so it’s vital to keep to a consistent publishing schedule.
But you also have to keep social media in the front of your mind. I’m not forging new ground, but social sharing is obviously very important. Social signals and sharing data are being commonly identified as ranking factors across search engines, so don’t overlook things like Facebook Open Graph and Twitter Cards to help facilitate more social sharing by your users.
The job of any SEO is one of constant evolution. Do you have any final advice on how users can use this spirit of fresh beginnings to increase their SEO?
Zach: Google is always working to perfect their platform. They are looking to become not just a search engine, but a one stop knowledge shop. They’re trying to get users the best answers as soon as possible. Google is providing websites with opportunities to give more information about themselves and Google Authorship is a big part of that.
Authorship is a form of supplemental information that will pop up inline in the search engine alongside the traditional title, display URL, and description. Authorship builds trust with users by associating a person with a concept. At Forthea, we’ve seen a very high increase in click-through rate from search results after we’ve implemented authorship on content.