To conduct a really thorough SEO audit, i.e., to determine if your website and other digital/online properties are optimized to rank high in search engine results listings for terms relevant to the products and services you offer, there are a whole host of items you should investigate and consider. But, our aim with this blog post is to address the simplest and most frequent SEO audit marketers and business owners tend to conduct, and that is — entering the search terms (keywords) they want their digital properties to “rank for” into a search engine, such as Google and Bing.
Unfortunately, conducting the above actively can lead to a false sense of security related to how the organization in-question ranks. Why? Because Google and other search engines have great memories. They know what websites you visit frequently and/or have visited recently, and what links in search results listings you’ve clicked on. Let’s face it, particularly when we are in a marketing or business owner role, we’re constantly visiting the websites of our organizations, or clicking on links to them that appear in search engine results.
The unfortunate outcome of the above is that search engines are more likely to serve your website listing up high in search results to you than they are to serve it up high in results listings to individuals not affiliated with your organization. But, you may believe that all individuals are seeing the same search engine results you are. You may be seeing a listing for your organization on the 1st page of search results, while target audiences may not see it until page 3 (and they likely won’t make it that far!)
Another key reason testing to see where your organization’s listing appears in search engine results can lead to a wrong SEO perception is because search engines take into consider your location — where you physically are when searching and/or your device’s IP address. So, let’s say I want to see where my firm appears in search engine results pages (SERP) for the term “SEO strategist MA”, a results listing for my organization, Results Communications and Research, might be presented to me at or near the top of the SERP simply because I’m searching from a computer with an IP address that is associated with the town where my business is located, i.e., Braintree, MA.
When a client engages my firm to help with technical/organic SEO activities, I always like to conduct an audit of where they rank for agreed-upon keywords/search terms, so that 3, 6, and/or 9 months down the road, we can see if the SEO tactics we’ve implemented have moved the SEO needle. Because I always visit prospective and new clients’ sites countless times in the initial days of discussions or working with them, I know it doesn’t make sense for me to conduct the simple audit activity described above on their behalf. I subcontract such work to a fellow marketing professional who has no association with the organization, and I specifically request that she doesn’t visit the client in-question’s site before she conducts the audit. Although, this doesn’t completely remove the “location bias” described above. I provide a variety of geographic and location triggers to include in her search to minimize “location bias”. Therefore, I instruct her to include certain towns, cities, and states, in the search phrase itself, such as “general contractors Boston MA” or “window cleaners Providence RI.”
Tactics to employ to avoid getting “misleading” results in response to the simple audit activity featured in this blog include:
- Use the “private” or “incognito” sessions/search capabilities associated with your browser, so that search engines won’t associate your past website visit history with you.
- Clear your cookies, cache, and browsing history.
- Ask an individual, such as a friend or family member, who hasn’t visited your site at all, or hasn’t visited frequently or recently, to conduct this audit for you.
Get more details about the above tactics, and learn about factors beyond your “history” and “location” that influence what results are served to individuals conducting a search engine query: https://www.webpresencesolutions.net/7-reasons-google-search-results-vary-dramatically/; https://www.crazyegg.com/blog/rankings-you-see-on-google/
SEO is a constantly evolving opportunity and challenge, and we’re always here to help, so don’t hesitate to reach out.