How to See Your Site Through Google's Eyes

05/27/2015 05:48 pm ET | Updated May 27, 2016

Marketers and business owners everywhere have been clamoring to get the most visibility on Google since the search engine rose to popularity back in the early 2000s. Search engine optimization (SEO) once was a simple matter of stuffing your site full of all the things that Google wanted to see, but as Google released more and more sophisticated algorithm updates, it became much harder to figure out exactly what Google wants to see and exactly how your site stacks up.

Today, there are a handful of solid principles that govern how sites are ranked in search engines; put simply, if you offer your users a great overall experience, you'll end up ranking higher. But this principle is a little too ambiguous and not actionable enough for most marketers, who would give anything to be able to see their site through Google's eyes.

While there is no easy way to objectively quantify your chances of achieving a certain rank, seeing your site through Google's eyes is actually a possibility today. Leveraging a series of tools that Google itself makes available for free, you can determine where you stand in the grand landscape of the web and make critical adjustments to maximize your potential rank.

Determining Your Mobile Compliance

Mobile-friendliness is a big deal, especially after Google's major "Mobilegeddon" update. Currently, any site that isn't deemed to be "mobile-friendly" is ranking much lower, on both mobile and desktop searches, and that ranking divide will only grow as businesses have more time and fewer excuses not to optimize their websites for mobile devices. You can see for yourself whether your site is mobile-friendly by checking on your own smartphone and/or tablet, but how can you be sure that Google sees your site the same way? Google has a very easy-to-use mobile-friendly test you can take. Simply put in your URL, and Google will tell you instantly whether it has a mobile-friendly design by Google's standards.

Checking Site Speed and Diagnostics

The performance of your website also has a significant bearing on your overall domain authority; a well-functioning site with consistent high speed will rank much higher than one with performance issues or lagging load times. If you log into Google Search Console and take a look at the dashboard, you'll see a section called "Site Errors," and three small sections indicating the current health of your site. If you see green checkmarks under "DNS," "Server Connectivity," and "Robots.txt fetch," your site is up and running, and there are no issues preventing Google from seeing your site. You can also run a speed test using Google's Developer tools to see how fast your site is currently performing.

Scouting for Indexed Pages

To determine how many pages of your site are currently being indexed by Google, head back into Search Console. Go to Google Index and click on "Index Status." Here, you'll see the total number of pages Google has indexed from your site. Compare this number to your current sitemap--if there are any discrepancies not tied to intentional page blocking on your part, there could be an indexing problem with some of your pages. Head to "Crawl Errors" under the "Crawl" tab to see whether there are any 404 errors--these are the usual culprits. Repair 404 errors by setting up 301 redirects; otherwise you could lose out on some valuable traffic and authority.

Determining Meta Content Issues

In Search Console, you can also see how Google evaluates your meta information, such as your page titles and meta descriptions. Head to "Search Appearance" and click on "HTML Improvements." Here, you'll be able to see whether your site has any duplicate meta descriptions or title tags that need to be fixed (or any that are missing).

Checking Your Microdata

If you use any structured microdata on your site (and you should, due to the growing power of the Knowledge Graph), you can check out how your data appears by clicking on "Structured Data" under "Search Appearance." This will show you exactly how Google sees the microdata on your site, and whether you need to take any corrective actions.

Monitoring Your Behavior Flow

You can also see how Google views the user experience of your site by logging into Google Analytics and checking out the Behavior Flow. Here, you'll see the path the average user takes on your site. If you notice your bounce rate is particularly high for one or a group of pages, you'll need to work to improve those numbers. High bounce rates lead to lower domain authority, while more consistent site visits are seen as representative of a better user experience.

Reviewing Your External Links

You might consider this cheating because it's not actually a tool that Google offers--it's one developed by the search engine experts over at Moz. Open Site Explorer, sometimes referred to as the "search engine for links," will show you all the links on the web currently pointing to your domain, and should give you a pretty good idea of what Google sees when analyzing your backlink profile. Here, if you see any links that could be evaluated as low authority or spammy, you can take immediate action to get rid of them--in fact, the paid version of Open Site Explorer actually ranks the riskiness of each individual link.

Once you understand how Google views your site, you can determine the key areas of your site that you need to improve and take action to salvage your domain authority and rank. In addition to these site structure fundamentals, you'll need to make sure your ongoing content and social strategies are in order--with those pillars in place and a clean bill of health from Google's diagnostic tools, there should be nothing stopping you from getting the greatest possible search engine visibility.