When done the right way, Search Engine Optimization can can have a significant positive impact on your online presence.
It can determine whether potential site visitors end up on your site in the first place, and whether they can navigate it and find what they are looking for. In addition to website traffic, it can also affect the conversions you get.
This is why it’s critical to conduct an audit of your site to determine whether it’s meeting its full potential. This is especially true if you have operated a site for a long time.
Here at Seomphony, we specialize in the more scientific marketing and sales tactics, but they cannot really be utilized before your site is in shape first.
So let’s get going.
What is an SEO audit?
Simply put, an SEO audit is a health check for your site.
It is a thorough analysis of all the technical infrastructure on your site, as well as the off-site and on-site elements that could help improve your website’s usability, visibility, and accessibility.
Depending on the size of your site, the process could require a lot of time and effort, but there’s usually several things that you can correct immediately.
There are software on the market that can help with SEO audit, and it makes sense to use one again if you have thousands of pages online.
On the other hand, it is better to learn the SEO audit basics below so that you can look for and identify the right things to fix.
Who needs an SEO audit and when?
Every website can benefit from an audit especially if one has never been conducted. Roughly, the longer the site has been up, the more need there is for the audit. One way to decide about the actual audit timing are major Google algorithm updates, or for example once a year.
The fairly simple audits that I’ve done for sites with max a couple of dozen pages and articles have all easily resulted in a list of fifty to one hundred items to fix. Older and bigger sites may require a full redesign before the site begins to match current search engine requirements again.
Benefits of an SEO audit
An SEO audit determines your as-is state based on which you can determine a workable plan for improving your site’s rankings on major search engines.
It also allows comparison with competitors. SEO audit is a great benchmarking exercise that can give you an idea of what your competitors are doing. This can help you devise tactics to improve your own visibility and accessibility.
It educates you about all the factors that could affect your ranking on major search engines. This will allow you to pay more attention to them in future.
Supports you in creating a winning SEO approach to serving your customers better. By knowing the weaknesses of your website, you can create a strategy that helps you fix issues and improve your domain authority.
What does an SEO audit cover?
A Search Engine Optimization audit covers three main areas, mainly:
– Technical aspects of the site.
– On-page analysis
– Off-page analysis
Technical Aspects of the Website
A technical audit involves an analysis of the technical foundation of the site. These are all the nuts and bolts that help your site run. This type of audit makes it easier for search engine spiders to crawl and index your site for easy accessibility. Some of the website features to analyze include:
This analysis helps you ensure that search engine bots don’t get an error whenever they try to crawl and index the site. To do this, log into your Google Search Console and check for crawl errors and the current status on your dashboard. If there is a green check under DNS, the site is good to go. However, if there are errors, you need to perform a more thorough check to get an explanation of the problems you need to address.
On the same Google search console dashboard, look for a green check under ‘Server Connectivity’. You can go into further detail in the search console to look for any crawl errors, as well as the total server connectivity errors.
This is also available on the console dashboard. As long as there are no errors, you are good to go. You can also use the Robots.txt tester to ensure specific parts of your site are not being blocked.
All sites get 404 handling errors. Therefore, a small number of these errors is nothing to worry about. However, if you are getting thousands of 404 errors, or if you experience a sudden spike in the number of errors, there could be a problem with the site. 404 errors indicate that there are missing pages, and this could mean that the server has issues, or that there are problems with the site’s performance.
To check for 404 errors, go to the Google search console dashboard and click on crawl. Click on crawl errors, and select the ‘Not found’ tab. If there are a lot of errors, will have to delve deeper to discover what the real issue is.
Search engines such as Google give preferences to sites that are secure. Therefore, having security in place can help reassure your users and even slightly improve your search rankings and traffic. Check your site on your browser to ensure there is an ‘s’ after ‘http’.
This analysis ensures Google is indexing all the pages it should. Start by going to your Google dashboard and clicking on Google Index. Select ‘Index Status’ to see the total number of indexed pages. Next, go to Google search engine and search for ‘site:[yourwebsite name]’. Look for the number of indexed pages the results page returns. The numbers should be equivalent, and any major discrepancies should be analyzed further.
Use a HTML validation tool to determine any errors your site has. Be extra vigilant for any fatal errors. Give the report to your web developer to improve a site accordingly.
Ensure the site has an XML sitemap to make it easier for bots to scan the pages. It’s important to ensure the sitemap is simple and straightforward, as cluttered instructions can weaken the sitemap’s integrity and cause bot confusion. To scan your site’s XML sitemap, use the free W3 syntax checker.
Most search engines can find viruses and malware on a site. A site that has a lot of viruses can be marked as unsafe, and visitors may be wary of browsing through its pages. Therefore, it is advisable to run a scan to check for risks.
An increasing number of visitors access websites through their mobile devices, including smart phones and tablets. Making a site mobile friendly can help tap into this market and reach the site’s full SEO potential. The Google Developers mobile friendly test can help you determine if the site can be easily accessed and navigated on a mobile device. What you need is an ‘Awesome’ score from Google Developers. If you don’t get this message, analyze your site further to determine any issues it has that may affect its responsiveness on mobile devices.
The speed of a site has a lot of impact on the user’s experience, and it can influence their decision to stay on a site or to visit it in future. Most of the time when conducting an SEO edit, you’ll find a problem affecting the speed of the site. The likelihood is fixing this issue will have a huge impact on the traffic volume as well as conversion rates on your pages. Websites such as Google’s PageSpeed Insights can help you determine the speed of your site on both desktop computers and mobile devices. It is important to note that you’ll never get a perfect score on these tests. However, you should watch out for certain factors and results, including:
– Code to text ratio
– The size of a page
– The size of images on your site
– Cache installation
– Minimizing or externalizing scripts to improve site speed
On-page SEO audit
A thorough on-page audit would involve an analysis of every single page on a site and that makes sense if you have a maximum of a few dozen of pages. However, this is not practical for sites that have hundreds or thousands of pages. For such sites, it is better to take a sample of 50 to 100 pages and analyze them to determine the health of the site.
Main and Footer navigation
Navigation affects the experiences your users have on your site. Navigation on the site should be simple, accurate, and intuitive. Everything should be logically arranged and keyword focused to make it easier for users to access the information they need. There should also be straightforward navigation on the page’s footer.
If the site has any breadcrumbs, analyse to ensure they are relevant and functional. Breadcrumbs can help with schema markup and improved navigation, as long as they lead to the right pages and convey the right information.
Content is king on any website, which is why it is important to ensure the site has the right information. To stay competitive, it is important to update the content on a site consistently and continuously. The articles and on-site information should always be optimized for a certain keyword relevant to the industry or target audience. These long-tail keywords improve a site’s chances of ranking highly on search engines. More information in my article about SEO Copywriting.
URL is the path that search engines follow to access a site. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the URL is analyzed for usability and indexation. A good URL should convey what the particular page is about. When analyzing URLs, ensure there are no numbers or symbols. The URL should be short, simple, and keyword focused.
NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone Number. A business site should have this information on all pages on the site to make it easier for users to contact the owner. The NAP should be present on the header or footer to ensure it can be seen throughout the site. The information should also be consistent on all pages. For SEO purposes, you can also integrate maps on your site to make it easier for users to locate the business.
This involves a deep analysis of all the pages on the site. Some of the details to look out for include:
1. Page title
2. Meta description
4. Keyword focus
5. Relevant copy
6. Interactive and visual content
7. Internal linking
8. Alt tags
9. Broken links
11. Layout and readability
12. Spelling and grammar
13. Call to action
This is the final phase of the audit, and it mostly involves backlinks and social media audits. It is important to know where traffic to your site comes from, and whether the sites are authoritative and respectable.
One of the best tools to use when determining the traffic to your site is Google Search Analytics. To access it, go to the search console dashboard, click on ‘Search Traffic’ and select ‘Search Analytics’. You’ll see a chart with information on your site’s ranking, performance, and search viability.
If a site has been penalized, you may have to go through quite a bit of to get it indexed again or ranking higher on search engines. There are two types of penalties, manual and algorithmic. Manual penalties are enacted by staff members in Google, and they spell real trouble for site owners. To check if a site has been manually penalized, go to ‘Search Traffic’ on the Google search console dashboard, and click on ‘Manual Actions’.
Algorithmic penalties are automatic, and represent a decrease in site traffic after algorithm changes. There are quite a number of tools to help you determine if an algorithmic update affected your site’s rankings or traffic. If you see any decline in traffic after an algorithm change, it means that your site was penalized because it didn’t conform to the rules of the new algorithm.
An audit should analyze the quantity and velocity of inbound links. Ideally, inbound links to a site should increase steadily over time. If the velocity is too high over a short period of time, it could suggest that the content on the page went viral, or that there is spamming or negative SEO. Negative SEO tactics and spamming could get a site penalized. It is also important to ensure that the deep links are more than the home page links. Deep links are inbound links to internal pages on a site. Home page links are links to the site’s start page.
Inbound links should com from Top level domain sites. Generally, the most authoritative and beneficial links are from .gov and .edu sites. You can also get a lot of benefits from .com and .net sites. But: to determine the actual quality of a site and a link, use a professional tool such as SemRush, Moz or Majestic.
Another factor to consider when auditing a site’s inbound links is the link topic. The inbound links should come from relevant industries and sites, not ad-heavy or adult-themed sites.
After conducting an SEO audit on a client’s site, hold a meeting with the site owner to discuss the findings of the audit and advise on ways to correct issues and errors for improved site performance.
Want to know more?
Robbie Richards has excellent ideas about removing “dead weight” from your site.
With GTMetrix you can get a quick overview of your site’s technical health.
Link-Assistant.com has a good checklist for performing technical SEO audit.