THE BLOG
08/06/2012 12:56 pm ET Updated Oct 06, 2012

SEO: 2 Things You Simply MUST DO First

I got a lot of terrific questions about SEO (search engine optimization) last week in response to my article and infographic, ""SEO Doesn't Matter...To The 1%."

Several people asked me, given all the things they could do with their websites, what I consider to be the most important, high-priority things to do right now.

I believe you simply MUST DO these two things first:

  1. Get Analytics running on all your webpages.
  2. Add robots.txt and sitemap.xml files to your site.

By just doing these two things you'll be ahead of the majority of websites... and maybe, your competitors!

2012-08-06-images-infographic_ga.gif
1. Why Analytics?

When we conducted our 1 Million Site research, about one-third of websites we analyzed had no apparent analytics running on the page.

While it's not surprising that Google Analytics runs on the lion's share of webpages (after all, Google Analytics is free), it IS surprising that there are still 36 percent of sites without ANY analytics.

If you have a website, no matter how small or big, you've made an investment, even if your investment is limited to your time. Analytics establish a baseline for comparison. If you don't have analytics installed on every page, you have no way to determine if your investment is paying off.

For instance...
  • Knowing your most popular webpages and the search terms visitors used to get to those pages
  • You added a new page; did anyone visit?
  • People are coming to your site, but how do they navigate? What's the most common path?
  • How long do people stay on your pages and what percent abandon your site and go someplace else?
  • What percent are new vs. repeat visitors?
  • ... and so forth

To make sure you haven't forgotten to do this, do a quick check. Enter the URL of a webpage at http://FreeSEOScorecard.com, scroll down to the bottom of the report page and notice the Analytics results bar. If Analytics are not found, you have some work to do.

2. Why Robots.txt and Sitemap.xml?

Ever wonder why so few people visit your website? It might be your fault.

Even with the world's greatest content, beautiful graphics and killer headlines, if Google
can't find all your webpages or you've unintentionally blocked search engine access to certain webpages, you're not going to show up when a customer searches on "your keywords."

According to our research, only 30 percent of websites provided a sitemap while robots.txt files were found on 60 percent of sites.

  • The sitemap.xml file is like a table-of-contents for all the pages on your website. Every page you include WILL get indexed by Google.
  • The robots.txt file tells search engines which web folders to exclude from indexing. It's not uncommon for websites to muff it and block access to pages that should be indexed. It's like getting all dressed up with nowhere to go. Your content is ready, but no one's ever going to see it.

Checking for these two files on your site is a snap. In your browser, try going to these two webpages on your site:

If you don't see pages similar to my examples when you attempt this on your website, Google may not be sending you all the traffic (and potential customers) you deserve.

Image courtesy of Venture Marketing under Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.5)