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Situation Analysis

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Digital Marketing - Study Notes:

What does a situation analysis require?

Current SEO technical setup

A situation analysis requires a clear understanding of, first and foremost, the current SEO technical setup. So what you’ll be looking for here is to see if the technical elements are correctly configured for Google to crawl and index your website.

It’s also essential to ensure that there are no errors in terms of how a user makes their journey through your website. And you want to look deeply into your analytics package to find where some of those blockages are.

Current search marketing activities

The second area you’ll want to look at will be your current search marketing activity, so paid search, the re-marketing activity that you want to take off the back of that and display advertising.

Looking at existing search marketing activities like paid search can reveal the top performing messaging in terms of click-through rate. This can also help to shape your keyword research and identify top performing search markets. And this is something we’ll come back to. Although we’re looking at separate disciplines there are intersections between SEO, paid search and display and they can all help to feed into each other.

Assessing SEO

So let’s start with SEO. So if you’re looking to assess the technical SEO setup you’ll want to look at the different stakeholders, the different markets, the different people who are going to want something different from your website. SEO is typically a rather subjective game actually in terms of strategies and implementation, but when it comes to the technical side, this is where things are rather black and white. Google has a set of guidelines and without adhering to them you won’t be able to maximize your impact.

So I’ll split this into four main areas:

  • Your company: Now your company will be interested in the content that’s on the website. This feeds into the technical side of things because technical SEO can tell you how well indexed that is, how legible it is both for search engine and the user, and how well they’re interacting with it. So things like bounce rates will come into play.
  • Your customer: If you’re looking to assess how your customer interacts with your website from a technical SEO standpoint, you’ll be looking at usability factors. So, are they finding some blockages within analytics? You’ll find whether they are or not. Looking at your sector, the technical SEO aspect that can help you steal a march on the competition is site speed.
  • Your sector: So much of what is going on SEO and in paid search is about mobile. Site speed is crucial in this area and we will look at that in a little bit more detail later.
  • Industry trends: Looking at the industry trends it follows on from that logically that mobile optimization is a key area. What that means will change over time and that’s why this is a little bit broader than the site speed for your company sector. But then industry trends mobile optimization can mean many different things. It could be accelerated mobile pages for example.

Measuring technical SEO

If we wanted to categorize how we could measure technical SEO, we could look at these main five areas.

  • On-page: This has to do with keyword matching. We have seen how Google is moving away from a keyword matching approach. As it becomes more sophisticated, it doesn’t require obvious keyword matching to understand what your page is about. The semantically related terms that are within the page will provide a topic-related insight into what you are doing. So you’re actually in this area looking to avoid obvious keyword matching if you can. It should read as naturally as possible.
  • Crawling: You can use a lot of tools like Google Search Console but an industry favorite is Screaming Frog, which is freely available as well. That will show you how accessible your website is for search engines, and show you where some of the issues are.
  • Keyword tracking: You’ll want to set this up historically so you can see where you’ve come from, and set it up so that you can see the impact of your technical SEO fixes in the future.
  • Backlinks: Backlinks still drive a lot of SEO. Google uses these in the same way as the academic reference system. If you get a reference from someone that’s reputable in your industry, say a news website like the Guardian or the Washington Post, by proxy, you will be seen as someone relevant in your industry. Something to watch out for though is negative backlinks. This could be due to historical activity long before your time working on this website, but you have the option to disavow these within Google. And when you disavow links it means that although Google knows that they’re there, they don’t take them into account when coming to rank your website.
  • Local SEO: This will be more important for some businesses than others, if you have bricks and mortar stores, this will be very important – you want to optimize for local search, and that’s not just Google. There are other suppliers on the market like Myles Anderson and BrightLocal that can help you to maximize your impact there.

Cross-device SEO

So working in digital we all know that our consumers and anyone who interacts with our content is doing so across multiple devices. Now we’re looking at that just specifically for SEO. There are three main areas that we would want to look at.

  • Site speed: Site speed as I’ve mentioned is of paramount importance particularly for mobile search.
  • Indexation status: This is crucial. What we’re looking at here is whether Google has taken your pages and stored them within its index. When Google receives a search query, that’s where it goes to find the most relevant and authoritative results to serve. If you aren’t in that index you cannot be served. Simple things to look for within your source code would be a no index card, which can be placed for numerous reasons, but if that’s on there you won’t rank for anything with that page.
  • Response code errors: This is where there’s a hygiene element to technical SEO. There will be 404 errors, especially if you’re a retailer, that will show up quite often. You want to make sure those are either permanently, as 301, redirected to a page that shows a 200 status code which essentially says it’s okay.

Going mobile-first

The phrase “mobile first” has been used for many years in the industry, but it’s one that Google has taken on itself, and it’s practicing what it preaches. The index up to now has been based on desktop results. So even if you were to search on mobile, Google would go into its desktop results, decide which results are most relevant and authoritative, and then serve the mobile version of that because you’re using a mobile user agent. So that is changing with mobile search set to take up over 75% of web worldwide usage by 2017. Google has decided it wants to reverse that way of looking at things. If most people are using mobile devices to search, why would it use the desktop version to judge what to serve? They’re going to do the opposite. Mobile results will be the first port of call even if someone searches on the desktop.

Now for most sites that are responsive there aren’t too many issues here. However, what we do want to bear in mind is that if you do have an adaptive site or if you still have a mobile version of your website that’s what you’ll be judged on. So this is something you really need to take into account within a situation analysis.

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Clark Boyd

Clark Boyd is CEO and founder of marketing simulations company Novela. He is also a digital strategy consultant, author, and trainer. Over the last 12 years, he has devised and implemented international marketing strategies for brands including American Express, Adidas, and General Motors.

Today, Clark works with business schools at the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, and Columbia University to design and deliver their executive-education courses on data analytics and digital marketing. 

Clark is a certified Google trainer and runs Google workshops across Europe and the Middle East. This year, he has delivered keynote speeches at leadership events in Latin America, Europe, and the US. You can find him on Twitter (X)LinkedIn, and Slideshare. He writes regularly on Medium and you can subscribe to his email newsletter, hi,tech.

Data protection regulations affect almost all aspects of digital marketing. Therefore, DMI has produced a short course on GDPR for all of our students. If you wish to learn more about GDPR, you can do so here:

DMI Short Course: GDPR

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