Estimated Read Time: 3 Minutes
Everyone agrees that the top of search engine results is prime real estate, the place to be. But how do you get there? If you’re not there already, how do you figure out what might be wrong so you’re not wasting your time addressing things that might not even matter?
Start with the elephant in the room
The only search engine you really need to worry about is Google. Google commands 60 to 85% of the search marketplace depending on who you ask and what they measure.
Details about the way Google decides who gets to rank at the top is a closely held secret. We do know however, that they use over 200 signals to rank web pages, and that relevance, popularity and authority matter.
Google is first and foremost concerned with satisfying the searcher’s intent.
If your website does not contain the words people are using in their search, then it will not be eligible to rank.
Google reads your website using computer programs called spiders or bots. They’re not terribly sophisticated and can easily run into problems trying to read what’s written on your site.
If Google cannot find your website or read its content, you won’t be eligible to rank.
After that it’s a popularity contest.
Technically well architected websites that use the same language as their intended audience and get the most traffic and buzz are the ones that rank and convert best.
The PACES SEO checklist
The PACES SEO checklist is our way of measuring how well your website addresses the things both Google and your intended audience care about. After all, it does you no good to have a website that satisfies only one or the other.
As stated on our home page, SEO is not just about traffic. It’s about conversions and earning the website owner a good return on investment (ROI).
PACES stands for popularity, authority, content, exposure and setup.
- Popularity refers to the quantity of traffic (visitors) you get to your site, and to the number of other websites and social media accounts that reference you.
- Authority has to do who is referencing you. Context is important. If you are an online merchant in the United States, a link from Amazon is gold. If you are a plastic surgeon, a link from the American Medical Society is considered highly valuable.
- Content speaks to relevance. Does the content on your website match the search query? Is it well constructed, organized and engaging?
- Exposure is all about what you are doing to ensure your content gets enough exposure. The more exposure it has, the more likely it will be linked to, “liked”, shared and/or commented upon – all signals that Google uses to measure your website and content’s popularity.
- Setup relates to the underlying technical architecture of your website. A site has to be easy for search engines and visitors to find. Some technologies and settings prevent Google from being able to find and index your website. When that happens, you might as well be invisible.
The PACES SEO checklist is used to help us gauge what you are doing well and where there is room for improvement.
There are additional benefits to using the PACES SEO checklist.
It helps us identify the skills needed to remedy shortcomings, and to come up with a plan to address them. If you need more or better content for example, we’ll need a writer (you or someone else) and a content strategy. If you need more exposure, we’ll recommend social media and networking.
You can limit the scope of your project to only what’s necessary. Don’t hire that writer, for example, if your problems are technical in nature. Don’t jump on a new social media channel if you’re already getting lots of exposure but little engagement or sharing.
If you decide to outsource some or all of the work, you can be very specific about your needs. This will better position you to compare proposals, apples-to-apples, before making a hiring decision.
All this will save time and money in the long run. It will give you a basis for ensuring better quality and measuring the eventual outcome.
Check out our PACES SEO checklist. It’s an 80 KB Excel spreadsheet.
If you have suggested improvements, I’d love to hear from you. If you have questions, please ask in the comments below. It’s likely others will have the same question and you give me the opportunity to save time by answering it only once.