If you want to know that your website is firing on all cylinders and is the best that it can be in terms of search engine optimization, then you will need to carry out a full SEO audit. You could choose to go right into the smallest detail with this, and it could very well take you several weeks to complete. If you are organized, it is possible, however, to do such an audit over the course of a few hours, even if you have limited technical knowledge.
Completing regular audits of your site and your SEO strategies will help to strengthen the chances of driving high-volumes of organic traffic to your website. It will help to prevent search engines such as Google from penalizing you or marking your site as spam, and ultimately it will see you ranking higher on any relevant search engine results pages.
You will be looking into a number of different areas, and you will need access to the following tools. If you have not already registered to use all of these, then it is advisable to set them up as they are handy tools to check on a regular basis.
- Google Analytics
- Google Search Console
- Google Pagespeeds Insights
- SERP simulator
- A domain analysis from Ahrefs.com or Moz.com
- Beam Us Up
- Web Page Word Counter
Tools such as Analytics and Google’s Search Console can take a short time to get set up, while all of the others are straightforward and can be used immediately.
Look For The Red-Flag Issues
Your first major task in your SEO audit will be to identify the significant problems on your website. These will be the factors that will prevent your page from even coming up on the search results page. Let’s be honest, if you are not yet appearing on a search engine radar, you are not going to get any hits, and this should be a major concern because your website is falling at the first hurdle.
Check Your URL
The very first thing that you should check is that only one version of your website’s URL is able to load up. Having multiple versions of your website URL will cause a problem for the search engines if it does not know which one to trust.
You may have multiple versions of the same URL, for example, you may have the domain names: http://www.mygreatwebsite.com as well as http://mygreatwebsite.com. Both addresses may be right. However, Google needs to know which one is the favoured one, and the rest should then be redirected to the main address. The other area that may flag up is whether your site should have http:// or https:// at the start.
You should ideally go for an https:// URL as this will offer greater security for your site, and it will also be beneficial to people browsing as they will see the site as being safe.
Your website may have amassed some serious technical debt over time. If you have had to fix or make changes to your site very quickly, then you may have left yourself a more significant issue for repair on a different day. As helpful as it may have been to create a quick workaround to a problem that you were faced with, the banked debt may incur interest in the form of an even greater workload. Generally, the idea behind leaving these loose ends is that they are only temporary and they would be fixed during the next major update to the site. In smaller companies, it is often a challenge to find the time to make these updates as it may involve many days’ worth of problem-solving before you start.
Areas such as canonical URLs can often be hit by these workarounds. A slight change where a URL has been changed may mean that a search engine may well list the same page multiple times. Technical debt can also affect your meta-tags and your site speed.
Start A Crawl On Your Site
Search engines will routinely send out crawlers to your site to check over a number of different areas. The likes of Google and Bing need to provide search results that will take the user to the page, which is the most relevant to them. It does not want the user to have to sift through several different pages in order to get you to the page that you want to go to. Similarly, that page should load quickly and work on the device that you are browsing from. Mobile browsing has overtaken the desktop as the favoured way to access search engines, and as a result, the search engine needs to direct users to a page that will load on their device.
With well over a trillion searches undertaken each year and ranking over 1.5 billion websites, there is a lot at stake if search engines do not get this right. For this very reason, your site will be visited regularly by crawlers.
You need to know what the crawlers are seeing, so you should use a tool such as Beam Us Up in order to crawl your own site. This free tool may take a few minutes to run. Put the URL of the site that you are checking into the search bar and then set it to run. The bigger your site, the longer it will take. So, if your site has tens of thousands of pages, you may wish to continue with some of the other tests and come back to this once the information is available.
The crawl will throw up a list of issues on your site. Some will be ones that will require you to take action, and others may just be warnings or information that you should take note of.
Check For Any Indexing Issues
If you are not indexed, then you will never appear on any rankings from the search engine, which means that you will not get any organic traffic whatsoever. To check on the indexing status of your website and specific pages within it, you can use Google Search Console. This tool will allow you to see if and when the page has been crawled, as well as any issues that Google noted at the time.
If you do not have Google Search Console set up, you can simply google “SITE:’ followed by the address of your website. This way will just bring up all of the Google results relating to your website. At the top of the search results, it will tell you the number of pages that are indexed by Google, although this should only be taken as an approximate value.
If you do not appear to have been indexed, you will need to fix this as soon as possible. You may also find that you have pages that have not been indexed, and the Search Console will highlight these. There are a number of reasons that a page may have been overlooked, these may include pages that include the NOINDEX tag and have been blocked via robots.txt HTTP header, or it could have missed out any pages that require user login.
The NOINDEX tag can be beneficial when it comes to keeping your website neat and tidy for Google’s site crawlers though. Too many pages of a lesser quality can affect your page rankings or make you appear as though your site has a high spam content. If you feel as though you have too many low-quality pages, the NOINDEX tag will put the brakes on the crawlers viewing this page and will prevent it from appearing in the results. As such, this will benefit your overall domain authority score.
While there are many legitimate reasons for you to have pages that do not appear in search results pages for your site, if you did not mean for these pages to be missed out by the search engine crawlers, then you can correct these quickly. Use your websites header.php to alter these tags if they are placed incorrectly.
Check That Your Pageload Speeds Are Good
Nobody wants to wait around for a website to load up. In the age of instant information, we expect pages to load instantly and go straight to the information that we need from them. If your website does not load fast enough, you will find that many people do not stick around to find out if you are relevant to their needs.
Google knows that people expect smooth and fast page loading, and as such, this is an area that can affect your website’s ranking. Run a test using Google Pagespeeds Insights so that you can gauge the speed of all of your pages.
There are a number of factors that will affect your page loading speeds, these include issues surrounding your Webhosting, using unoptimized images, or using widgets that are too clunky. Too many adverts on a page will also slow everything down too, and you should also be aware of issues surrounding the site theme that you are using, and plugins such as Flash.
If your Webhosting is letting you down, increase your data package, or switch to another provider. Everything is else can be fixed by going to the page and reviewing the necessity of the part of the page that is causing the page to drag.
Broken links can be a massive problem for your search engine optimization. If a page on your site reads “404, Page Not Found” then your visitors are going to click straight off your site and go and look at your competitors instead. Visitors will immediately click away from a 404-page error, and that will mean that the average time spent on your site will end up dropping considerably. The more of these error pages you have, the worse it becomes. And if the link has been shared in a prime spot that attracts increased traffic, this will cause greater spikes in your averages.
The problem with visitors not spending much time on your site is that search engines will see this happening and take it as a sign that your content is poor. This will, of course, impact the chances of your site getting ranked as high, and you may lose domain authority as a result.
While admittedly, nobody wants to have a bunch of pages that go nowhere on your site. They are bad for business, and frankly, they don’t look great either. But getting around to clearing these pages out, or fixing the links can be something that gets put off in favour of jobs that may generate you more income.
But sorting out these SEO niggles is vital, even if you have a large site and are not sure where you should even begin.
What Are Broken Links And How Do You Fix Them?
There are two types of broken links that you may find on your website. Firstly, a broken internal link. This will take visitors from one page on your site to another. If the other page has been moved or removed, but the links that correspond to this page have not, then you will find that you have dead links. These can be fixed by removing the link, or by replacing the target URL with something else.
The second type of broken link will be one that goes from your site to an external website. Unfortunately, you probably don’t have the power to fix the website in question. However, you can change the URL to which the link is pointing. Find a new page that is relevant to the original link and amend it, or just remove the link altogether.
Run a broken link checker to identify any and all broken links. It is natural that over time you will come to have a few on your page.
Check That You Rank For Your Name Or Company Name
If you are running a business, then one of the primary reasons that your website exists will be to get your brand out there. If you have a unique name, then you should expect that you will appear at the top of the stack when you come to Googling your brand name. If you have a generic brand name that everyone else has, then you may be fighting against other companies with similar names that have invested more in their search engine optimization.
Google your brand name and see where your site sits on the list. If you are not in the top spot, then your only solution will be to put more energy into building up your SEO. There are no quick fixes, and having a great PR campaign to generate interest in the form of links from some major websites is one way that you can achieve this. You may want to invest in SEO practices such as blogger outreach, whereby influential bloggers will share links to your site on their blogs. Local SEO strategies can also be helpful if you have a brick and mortar aspect to your business too, You can do this by including your website on every business listing page that you can find. And of course, the other way that you can generate more interest in your website from Google searches is by upping your game in terms of social media. That means building up a much bigger following and sharing relevant and interesting material.
Getting Your On-Page SEO Perfect
All of your most important webpages need to have on-page SEO that is free of errors, and that runs well. These pages that you are going to look at here are the ones that get you the most organic traffic. Very often these will include your home page and any it may also include pages that provide high-quality, vital information about your company such as, how you can be contacted, and what you do. If you are unsure of which pages get the most views on your site, then you should use your Google Analytics in order to view your stats.
When it comes to checking out your homepage, you need to be sure that it has the right information on the page. This page is significant as it is the first impression that your visitors will get, and from this page, they will often judge the site by this page, and if it is not up to scratch or does not give them the information that they need, they will move on.
To get an idea of whether there are any issues on any of these pages, you should visit them in your web browser. Then, right-click anywhere on the screen and click ‘view source’. Don’t worry too much about the fact that you are seeing a mass of text information, you will only need to look at selected elements of this.
Firstly, look at your website title. On this page, it will be highlighted between <title> and </title>. That will be the name and title of the website as it appears in the search engine results. Make sure that you are happy with that information. The title should include something that may be heavily searched for online. So this may be some information about your business, for example. If you are not happy with the wording, or it is not representative of your goals, then you should make a note and change this later.
Next up, you will be looking at the meta description. This is the information that will sit below your website title on the search engine results page. Does the description that exists currently say what you need it to do? Does it make use of strong and popular keywords? Again, if you find that this is not suitable, make a note and change it.
Check out any H tags that the page is using. You should only have one instance of the H1 heading tag being used. This will generally be the page heading. For subheadings, you should use H2, H3, and H4 tags. It is essential that these tags are used in order, though. Following on from each of these H tags, you will need a title that has strong keywords. In particular, this is significant for your H1 tag, which will also very often be the same, or similar to the canonical URL for the page.
Keep your subheaders flowing in a logical manner and avoid anything that is too generic in them. Instead, make them relevant to the topic of the page.
Again, if there are any issues with any of your headers and subheaders, then you should make a note and amend these after you have finished your analysis.
The crawl results that your search on Beam Us Up can be analyzed here. Look for warnings that the crawl has brought up. Often, these will be about the length of meta descriptions or URLs. You may find that you have similar issues across a number of pages. You can export all of the data from your Bean Us Up report so that you can open it in excel.
When it comes to prioritizing the issues, start by examining any errors that you may have before starting to look at the warnings.
Analyze Your Organic Traffic
The reason that SEO exists is to maximize your organic search traffic. But if you are not paying attention to how many hits you are bringing in as a result of your SEO efforts, then how will you ever know if your work is successful?
It is well worth using Google Analytics as a way of delving into the detail regarding who is coming to your site, and what has brought them to you in the first place. Having a good handle on this information will ensure that you will be able to generate more visitors to your site.
You can check on the pages that are bringing people into your site, what times of the day people are coming, and which days are the most popular. There are lots of reasons that your website may get sudden spikes and falls. If you are experiencing heightened traffic, it may be that a search term has suddenly become topical. If you have recently invested in some PR, this may be the rewards of this. A dip may well be indicative of a bigger problem such as your site getting penalized in the rankings for issues with your website.
Apparent success should be noted and replicated. But where posts and pages are failing to gain traction on your site, then you should look into these areas and try to discover if it is an issue with the content or the way that the information is delivered.
Checking Your Content
Anything that you have on your site needs to be original unless you have permission to share it. When met with multiple versions of the same information, Google needs to work out which one to display first. It is going to base this decision on a whole host of stuff, and ultimately, if the work is your own, you need to make sure that you are top of the pile and are not being plagiarized.
Run your web pages through Copyscape and see what comes out. While you may come up with close hits against generic-sounding statements on your site, you should not be finding swathes of uncredited content that is directly from your site. It is in your best interest to take action against these pages as, not only are they stealing from you, they may also be hurting your rankings.
Duplicating pages within your own site can also be problematic, as it can cause confusion about which copy to go with first on the search results page. Avoid duplicates within your site if possible.
The other thing to consider when it comes to content is how dense it is. Anything that is too short may not be regarded as worthy in the eyes of the crawlers, and this too will affect the page rankings. You should check your website for thin content using the Web Page Word Counter. Anything that comes in below the 200-word mark should be reworked and expanded upon to try and add value to the page.
Making Use Of The Best Keywords
Keywords are valuable to any website because these are the things that your visitors will be using to find your site. When you start to write the content for your site, you should ensure that each page is rich with keywords that reflect the type of things that people search for. But, these need to be placed naturally. Keyword stuffing is a problem for search engines as the intelligent algorithms employed to crawl your site can tell when a page is not written in a natural way. Having all of these keywords appearing high-up in the text, instead of peppered in relevant places throughout will not serve you well when it comes to getting ranked. Although search engines use technology to read the websites, they are intuitive enough to look for content that has been created by humans, with the aim of being read by humans.
Knowing what keywords to use is essential, and you could use tools such as the Keyword Explorer on Moz.com, which will give you the highest-ranking keywords related to a particular term. Make a note of these and then try to include them in your content. Keyword Explorer is also a useful tool for use in terms of looking at the top-ranking keywords on your site. By cross-referencing your site against the subject matter, you may be able to identify any missed opportunities. If you are missing out on anything major, it may be worth tweaking your content accordingly.
Having Strong Backlinks
Backlinks are a great way of legitimizing the content on your site. Having other, more popular domains referring their visitors to your website is like your content is being vouched for. A useful, well-placed link to your site demonstrates that other people that are noteworthy have read your content and recommend that others do too.
There are a number of ways that you can examine the linking structures within your site, you could either run Link Explorer on Moz.com or Site Explorer through Arhefs.com. The higher the referring domain, the more benefit it will have for you.
If you do not have your site linked to from other domains yet, then you may want to look into using the services of a Blogger Outreach specialist, who will get your website linked by high-ranking and influential sites within relevant content. You could also approach websites that you are interested in gaining synergy with and finding ways of getting a link on their site. Guest posting is a popular option if the website has a blog. Having your link within the body of the text on a website will mean that it is more likely to be clicked on that if it is placed in an advert or sidebar. When it comes to having your site linked, you should use an anchor text that hides the naked URL. These should be strong, relevant words that give an indication of the subject matter. Avoid using generic terms such as ‘click here’ or ‘visit for more information’ as this will not make for a strong backlink.
In an ideal world, you would not need to do anything to gain a backlink from a reputable site, they would just pick up your content and reference it on their website anyway. It is useful to look at which of your pages are the ones that are linked to the most from other sites. You can do this by using either Arhefs.com’s Site Explorer again, or through Moz.com’s Link Explorer. Having an idea of the type of content on your site that commonly gets picked up in this manner can help you when it comes to content creation in the future.