7 Easy Steps to Check Your Website Findability in 15 minutes
July 24, 2019
You spend hours silently reading and judging other people’s websites – but what about your own? Often times our own sites are the last ones we look at and judge critically. Below are 7 easy steps to check your website findability in 15 minutes. You don’t need any experience to do this and its a good quick way to make sure your website doesn’t have any major issues that need to be fixed.
Step 1 – Google Yourself or Your Business
Chances are this is what everyone else does if they’ve heard about you or want to learn more. Your website’s first impressions in the search results can have a huge impact on how people form their perceptions. If you look sloppy here, you’re behind right from the start. You might not even get a click to bring people into your site in the first place.
Pro Tip – Before you Google Yourself, do it PRIVATELY
Don’t just open Google and type in a search – make sure you do it using Incognito mode in Chrome (Chrome Ctrl + Shift + N) or in a New Private Window using Firefox (Firefox Ctrl + Shift + P). This is an important step because web browsers will return different results to different people for the EXACT SAME SEARCH QUERY.
Your web browser will factor in things like your past search history, your location, recent sites you visited etc. and factor that in when it shows you search results. This is meant to give you the more relevant results, but it also means you might not see exactly what others see. Chances are when you’re Googling yourself or your business, Google might realize who you are (maybe you’re signed into Gmail or on your home or corporate network) and understand you want to see your own website.
It’s important to use a Private Search Window or Incognito mode when Googling yourself because it will give you a more neutral and objective view of what others might see.
While you are doing this, be sure to fill out any contact forms you might have and click on any phone numbers. You want to make sure any and all of your contact info is accurate and up to date and you’re getting forms if people submit them.
Step 2 – Google Your Friends or a Competing Business
Just like in the previous step, it’s best to use Incognito Mode or a Private Window in this step too. See how your results compare to other people and make sure nothing is way off or weird with your site compared to others. Remember – this is probably what other people are doing when researching you. Try to pretend you are just doing some neutral research and objectively judge the results and impressions you see.
Step 3 – Do the same thing from your Phone
This might sound redundant but keep in mind the mobile search is a little different than your desktop results – especially in different locations. Be sure to click on a few links of both yours and any competitors and see how the mobile format looks when comparing the two. Google is now using what they call a mobile first index when factoring in search results. This means that mobile optimized sites will rank better. There are a lot of ways to optimize for mobile, but we won’t go into that in this post. At minimum, make sure your site is responsive and formats automatically to all devices and screen sizes.
Step 4 – See how many Pages of your site are indexed by Google
Whether your website is big or small, you want to make sure Google knows about every page. Just because you publish pages and users can click on them and read them doesn’t necessarily mean that Google knows about them. If Google doesn’t know about them, then they won’t ever appear in search results to other people.
It may sound strange but even Google has limits to how many web pages they can crawl and keep track of in their search index. Every time they crawl and store pages it uses both money and resources. Making it as easy and functional as possible helps them, in turn helping you.
Type this into a Google search to see how many pages you have indexed (without the quotes)
“site:https://yourwebsitename.com” (replace with your own website name just make sure to include the “site:” at the beginning.)
This will return all the different pages of your site that Google is aware of and has indexed. If you don’t see all your pages here (or worse don’t see any) you’ll want to address this right away. You might need to request that Google index any missing pages using Google Search Console or ensure that you’re Robots.txt file isn’t preventing your site from being indexed. (we won’t go into how a Robots.txt file works but if you aren’t seeing any pages on your site appear this is most likely the culprit. Check out our past post on Google Search Console for more on using this free tool to help see how your site is indexed.)
Sometimes the fastest way to make sure missing or update pages are indexed is to check your Sitemap.xml file. This is file that lives behind the scenes on your website but informs Google of all the pages you want indexed. For most dynamic sites (WordPress especially) this should get updated automatically and is easy and fast to setup.
Step 5 – Check if your site uses “WWW” or not
Some websites choose to use the ‘www’ in the domain name and others choose not to. Neither way is really better than the other, but the important part is that you choose one and stick with it. You don’t want to be in the scenario where some pages use www and some pages don’t as it can dilute your ranking, get confusing to users and generally is just lazy.
The easiest way to check this is to just type in your website name and see what happens. Use ‘www’ the first time and then type it in without the second time and see what happens. Ideally one of the versions should automatically change/correct to the other so that no matter which you type in, after the page loads there is only one consistent address for every page.
If you get errors here or see both versions load fine you have issues. This can cause ranking issues with duplicate content and just generally needs to be resolved. Another good way to check on this in the previous step (Step 4), look at each of your pages in the search results and see if they all either use ‘www’ OR do not use it. If there is a mix and some pages use it and some don’t then you have issues.
Step 6 – HTTPS vs HTTP
It’s a recommendation that all websites use HTTPS now (this means there is a SSL Certificate installed on the server) and go ahead and type in your website and see if this shows up in the address bar. For personal sites that are more casual, this might not be a big deal. All business sites should transition to this and it isn’t too complicated to setup with your web host or agency. Again, as in step 5 – type in both the HTTPS and HTTP version of your site in a browser and be sure that the HTTP changes to the HTTPS automatically. You don’t want to have both versions mixed up across different pages.
Step 7 – Ask a Friend what they think
Most people have looked at their own website so much they are too impartial to judge anything or see any glaring errors. Ask a friend or partner to spend a few minutes looking at your website and see what they think. There might be something obvious to them that needs to be addressed or updated.
We hope these simple steps help to improve your website. Anyone should be able to perform these (regardless of skill level or experience) and there isn’t any special software or technical tools involved. If you’ve done this and have issues you can’t solve or just want to take your website to the next level, give us a call and see how VWM can help improve your website.
- Google Yourself or Your Business (using incognito or private window)
- Google Your Friends or a Competing Business
- Do the same thing from your Phone
- See how many Pages of your site are indexed by Google
- Check if your site uses “WWW” or not
- HTTPS vs HTTP
- Ask a Friend what they think
Below are some good resources on a few of the items mentioned in the article above if you want to take your website search a bit deeper
More about how a Robots.txt file works
More about using a Sitemap