When reviewing concerns of a website for a light Search Engine Optimization audit, a core consideration is the content footprint. Granted, this is also very important for a good user-experience. We want to maintain a healthy balance of content that gives your site every opportunity to index well in the search engines while maintaining an equal interest in readability and engagement of your visitors, one that builds trust.
In getting started, it’s best to review the amount of indexed pages that the search engines have for your website and its competitors. In your keyword analysis, which comes before the content footprint, you typically find other competitors that are ranking higher than you in the search results and, at a minimum, who is good to keep an eye on. In doing this practice, you will get an idea of just how much content and focus you need to be competitive, and ideas for how you could present information to visitors of your site.
To find the number of indexed pages, you simply go to the search engine, i.e. Google.com, and type in the site operator followed by your website domain, for example: ‘site:websitedomain.com’. In doing this, you are restricting your Google search to the website you specify. Using an operator is not much different than doing a ‘command’ on your personal computer server. As you write the ‘command’ to scour Google’s database it brings back the information you’ve requested. Google has a lot of options for search operators you can use to help narrow your search results for a variety of purposes.
By searching Google’s database with the site operator and the top level domain without any subfolders, you will retrieve the site operator number at the top of the page. In other words, you will get the total number of pages that Google is currently indexing for that website. Regardless of how many pages the site operator suggests are indexed by Google, it will only actually show you 100 indexed results, usually 10 results per page and about 10 pages deep. If you want to see sections of the site, you will need to put in a first-level domain path like ‘/blog’. The whole query will look like this: ‘site:websitedomain.com/blog’. Then you can see more of what is indexed underneath the blog page path for this website.
You can go any number of directions in searching for the validity of indexed pages. Some things you will want to review are the website taxonomy and blog categories that have created dynamic pages and are relevant for both the user experience and search engines. This is important to investigate at an introductory level and keep general notes now. The taxonomy and blog pages could inflate the number of indexed pages, in that they are not driving as much value as they first appear. We will investigate these further in our audit but it’s important to take note of which sites are indexing pages that are ranking well and which ones need help. For the initial content footprint, capturing the site operator number for your website and a handful of competitors provides a starting point for your work and a comparison with those in your industry.
Next, you want to determine the different types of content being used on your website and how does it compare to your competitors? For example, do you find a blog, videos, reviews, or testimonials on your site and others? Are some or all sites showing each or a variation? Basically, are you taking the opportunity to show your value and present yourself authoritatively and building trust in a variety of ways and with different types of content? If not, you might want to consider adding customer video testimonials, reviews, or maybe a video of you talking about your story, your purpose in providing this service or product to customers, or your long-term goals. Something genuine is the best approach. Also, strategize highly relevant and actionable content for download and repurposing on website pages and blogs.
A complementary element when reviewing your content footprint for your indexed pages and the variety of content shown on the website is the actual content written on your existing pages. Are the current pages that you have comprehensive enough for each page? Are there other topics or relevant material for your website that needs to be explored and are not addressed clearly on your site? If the content is full enough on the websites core pages, you will want to review if there is internal linking going on between important pages with relevant anchor text for those words being linked? Interlinking is important for cross-referencing, providing valuable ‘link-juice’ going from similar and relevant pages to give credibility to the site. In most cases, a website has internal linking to primarily the home page. You can review the existing internal links and their anchor text in Google Search Console.
Always remember, reviewing the content footprint and its various elements is not an exact science. It is also NOT an exercise in keyword stuffing or weird, un-natural linking to a specific page. Do not go overboard in your observations. Are you doing a reasonable job interlinking relevant pages, with 2 or 3 internal links on each page and 3 to 4 paragraphs or more content on pages that can and should be authoritative? Are there content categories that you are leaving on the table? In a general content footprint overview, we want to cover the basic objectives of SEO and find out if your site is healthy, building trust with visitors. As you get more into the day-to-day work some of these questions will become more evident. If anything stands out at the outset, identify it and list it as a priority in the content footprint review.