The digital presence of your business – what prospective clients see when they search online for your business, for you, or for solutions to their problems – is critical. You don’t want your business to be virtually invisible, and you don’t want prospects to be confused by incorrect information. By investigating the strength or weakness of your digital presence you gain the ability improve it.

This article takes you through the process to uncover gaps between what you see in the search results and what you want to see. For example

  • What happens when people search for the name of your business? Does your website appear at the top of their search results?
  • Do people who search for the service or product you offer see your website in the search results?
  • Do people click the search result to learn more?

The search engine optimization (SEO) evaluations I do begin with this basic gap analysis:  Look closely at the current state of the online presence compared to the ideal state. There are many tools that I also use for an SEO audit, but real time search results highlight problem areas at a glance.

Get a read on your online presence

The areas we’ll examine are

  1. Search engine result pages (SERPs) for a branded search
  2. SERPs for keyword searches
  3. Keyword data Google provides through Search Console

To help organize the information, use a worksheet, such as this one.

The Knowledge Graph and Rich Snippets

Tip: First, clear the history in your browser and in your computer; otherwise, your prior searches influence what you see in your next search. Clearing the history gives you a less biased picture. (Instructions in the Resources section.)

Branded Search

When you google the name of your organization, what do you see? In SEO-parlance, this is called a “branded search.” Ideally, you want to see rich snippets and an accurate Knowledge Graph.

Here’s the SERP for my business, CyberTurf Strategic Media:

Google SERP with rich snippets and Knowledge Graph

Google’s search engine results page (SERP) with rich snippets and Knowledge Graph

The Knowledge Graph clearly plays a big role in the SERP – it’s designed to grab the user’s attention – so scrutinize each part of it for accuracy.

Google pulls this data from your Google My Business (GMB) account, when you have one, and from around the Web. Since the Knowledge Graph plays such a visible and important role, do yourself a favor by getting and maintaining a GMB account.

As you dig into the Knowledge Graph, look for:

  • The proper name of your business or nonprofit: It should be the same name used in your website, business card, social media profiles, directory listings, etc. Whenever there are lots of variations search engines often can’t discern that they’re for the same company. Strive for 100% consistency.
  • The category: Imagine the Web as a massive file cabinet, and the category as the file label for your business. In GMB you get to choose the category; otherwise, search engines use data from around the Web and probably won’t get it right. I recently worked with a commercial builder whose company appeared in the Knowledge Graph as a residential builder – not good!
  • Reviews: Have your clients left reviews and are they appropriate? (Rants from disgruntled customers could undermine your marketing efforts.) Google will display the number of reviews found on Facebook, if users haven’t submitted reviews through Google.
  • The listings in “People also search for” at the bottom of the Knowledge Graph: Do they offer the same products or services as yours? If not, search engines might be confused about your business. For example, based on the other places searched for I learned that search engines categorized my client, a large psychotherapy practice, as a yoga studio.

Improving the SERP for branded searches starts by creating or updating the GMB account. Corrections in the Knowledge Graph can occur quickly (maybe conditionally until Google reviews the changes).

Rich Snippets help your organization stand out in the SERP, and they let people quickly access the areas of interest.

Without rich snippets, your organization is at a competitive disadvantage. Google’s liaison for webmasters, John Mueller, has said that rich snippets will probably be displayed when the site is trustworthy. What could make a search engines distrust a website? Some of the issues that can have negative consequences include:

  • Inconsistent or conflicting information, e.g. too many variations of the name throughout the Web, no address, or different addresses;
  • A large number of inbound links from sources that are completely unrelated to the website content, links from low-quality sources (porn and spammers), or links that were purchased (a violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines);
  • A large pop-up or digital ads that get in the way of the page’s content;
  • Technical issues, such as content that cannot be crawled and indexed.

Sometimes, by verifying the name and address with a proper Google My Business account the rich snippets get displayed. Other times, an in-depth website evaluation is needed to identify and resolve issues that could impact search results.

Keyword Searches

When you google the service or product you provide, do you see your organization listed in the local 3-pack? (First, remember to clear the cache in the browser and in the computer.)

Here’s an example SERP with the local 3-pack for “business consultant services”:

Google SERP with local 3-pack

Google SERP with Local 3-pack

Google automatically displays the local 3-pack based on where you are right now. To see the 3-pack for another city, add the city name to your search, e.g. business consultant services McLean.

Like the rich snippets and knowledge graph, the local 3-pack grabs attention, but now you’re competing with everybody.

A business is more likely to appear in the 3-pack when the NAP (name, address, phone number) is published on the website. It’s much more likely to appear in the SERP for a city where your business is physically located.

As the above example shows, the local 3-pack is often displayed for professional services. Even when you can provide services remotely or nation-wide, be aware that search engines first look for local businesses; underscoring the need for full and correct NAP (name, address, phone) on the website and throughout the Web.

Searches related to at the bottom of the SERP are search terms that Google has grouped with the keyword you searched for. If this list seems unrelated to what you do, try other keywords until the search results you see are appropriate; these are the keywords and topics that you should consider incorporating into your website. (If you’re not sure about keywords, here’s an article to help you.)

How does your digital presence look so far? Perhaps you’ve got these bases covered – Google displays a correct Knowledge Graph, rich snippets, and your business is listed in the 3-pack for your target locations. Awesome! But wait, there’s more.

By the Numbers: Search Console Data

Search Console is a marvelous resource for learning how Google has processed your website. It provides a wealth of data, specifically about your website in Google’s SERPs. You can’t afford to ignore it.

For the purposes of this quick assessment we assume you verified your website in  Search Console. We’ll focus on looking at the search queries report, which is a list of search terms that Google associates with your website.

Begin by opening the Performance report you see at the top of the Overview.

Search Console Homepage

Search Console Homepage

By default, the data shown is from the last 28 days. I prefer to use a longer time frame, e.g. 3 months or 6 months. At the top, choose the time period you want.

Search Console performance report

The Search Console Performance Report for Queries

The Performance report opens with a list of queries – these are search terms for which Google displayed a page or resource (image, PDF, etc.) from your website.

The number of impressions is the number of times that your website appeared in the Google SERPs for the search query.

CTR is click-through rate, i.e. clicks/impressions. Position is an average of where your content appeared in the search results.

By default, the data is sorted by Clicks, i.e. how often people clicked on the search result. For most websites, the most clicks are on branded search queries, e.g. for the business name – or for the names of the owners. That means people searched for the business or owner, they saw the name listed in the search results pages, and they clicked on it.

When branded searches are absent, it’s likely that Google hasn’t been able to identify the name of your business. This occurred for a financial services client I work with, probably because the company name didn’t appear in their content, or it was in abbreviated form on most pages of the website. By updating each page with the full company name, it now appears at the top of the Queries report; more importantly, the website became easier to find online.

Beneath the branded searches there should be hundreds, or thousands, of keywords that Google associates with your website. The data can be sorted by clicking on any column; for example, by clicking on Queries the list will appear in alphabetical order, thereby letting you see variations of a keyword.

Investigate the data with these questions in mind:

  • Do the search terms make sense to you, e.g. are they relevant to your organization and to the website? If you see loads of irrelevant queries, perhaps the website content is not focused on what the company does, or there are blog posts about personal or random topics;
  • Are keywords that your marketing targets missing from the Queries report? Does your website actually use your target keywords where search engines can detect them?
  • Are there only a few queries listed rather than hundreds? Perhaps Google hasn’t processed the website because it can’t crawl the site or another technical issue;
  • Downloading the data lets you sort it any way you wish. Tip: Focus attention on the queries with the most impressions and smallest position; can you incorporate them into the website with quality content?

While Search Console provides a great deal more data the Queries report lets you see what Google thinks your business is about. I recommend checking it monthly.

Your website, whether it generates leads or simply showcases your work, is your platform to communicate and engage with the individuals who matter. A snapshot of its online presence provides insights into how well Google has processed all the data about it. Your research can be used to plan an online marketing strategy to close the gaps and improve its digital presence.


How to clear browsing history

Set up Google My Business

Local SEO – Moz