I’ve been finding myself having the same conversations repeatedly in the past few months, usually prompted by a client wondering why some service they’re using doesn’t recognize a particular element of their site. In most cases its usually a matter of a third-party SEO-related service (like grader.com) not “seeing” their blog, H1/2/3 tags, inbound links, etc. Of course, the simple answer, as it would be with any third-party tool, is that we cannot guarantee the performance of a tool we didn’t build, nor can we guarantee that what we did build will perform according to that third-party tool’s standards. (This is the same kind problem we see when new browsers are released and sites build before break when viewed in them.) But I think there is a more nuanced answer to these kinds of issues that can be summarized by that old maxim, “don’t put the cart before the horse.” If you’ve just built a new site, before you worry about how your site looks to a service like grader.com, be sure to consider the following (this doesn’t pertain to people with existing sites that are wanting to prepare for a rebuild process by figuring out weaknesses of your site):
1. Focus on your content: Without content, there is no point in having any third-party tool evaluate your site. Remember, content is your site. Without content on your actual site (embedded content from elsewhere doesn’t count), there is nothing for a search engine to see- it’s as if you have no site at all. Until you’ve developed a content strategy and actually implemented it for a few months, don’t get too worried about using other services and/or consultants to evaluate your SEO. Also be sure to really spend some time creating valuable meta data.
2. Focus on your information architecture: This really goes hand-in-hand with content, but the structure of your site is extremely important to how users find and interact with your content. Also, information architecture decisions can affect SEO; if you have critical content that can only be reached by querying your database and retrieving results, search engines will not index that content. You’ll need to build in another way to link to that content in your navigation. Otherwise, it’s as if it’s not even there. Sure, a third-party tool like grader.com can tell you this, but you should address issues like these long before you start “grading” your site.
3. Focus on calls to action: The primary goal for most of our clients’ sites is to generate leads, or in other words, marketing (as apposed to e-commerce). But if all you’ve got is one, generic contact form, don’t expect a ton of good results. You’ve got to make your calls to action clear and specific. Take a look at Mark’s post about CTA’s as well as my earlier post about Newfangled’s CTA stats.
Here’s a great post I saw on the topic of holding off on social media and focusing on your website first.