How to Do an SEO Audit
Your website is one of your most valuable assets. It’s out there 24/7 representing your company and enticing potential clients to buy from you. You no doubt spent a lot of time working on the “curb appeal” of your little slice of the internet because you understood the importance of a gorgeous website. You’re no doubt reaping the rewards of that effort as we speak. But have you considered the benefits of learning how to do an SEO audit for your website?
If you’re getting the levels of qualified traffic you’d like, you’re probably not giving it much thought. But let’s do some investigating before you feel complacent.
In 2019, Google made over3,620 improvements to its algorithm. The Bert update made the headlines, but Google averaged out at 9.9 total changes a day. That begs the question: When did you perform your last SEO audit?
If you can’t remember, or if it was longer than six months ago, it’s time to schedule an SEO audit. In this article, we’ll guide you through the necessary audit process.
Why You Must Know How to Do an SEO Audit
An SEO audit will allow you to see how your website measures up in terms of current online best SEO practices. Twenty years ago, this would’ve meant keyword stuffing and getting as many backlinks as possible. Today, those same practices will result in penalties for your website.
Search engines are fickle, so you must keep up to date with the latest SEO tactics. On the bright side, outstanding content that impresses your audience will go a long way in impressing Google and its peers.
On the downside, as technology improves, your website must keep pace. Ten years ago, web users were happy to wait for your website to load. Today, you’re lucky if they stick around for 30 seconds before clicking away.
Users and search engines also have low tolerance for spammy or broken links, irrelevant content, and unverifiable “facts.”
Planning How to Do an SEO Audit: Key Areas to Consider
An SEO audit today consists of three main areas:
- Checking the back end of the site, like indexing, loading time, and hosting
- Ensuring that the front-end components, like the meta tag and content, are flawless
- Rechecking links and verifying their quality
How to Do an SEO Audit
Every company should spring for a full professional SEO audit at least once or twice a year. A thorough review is time-consuming and tedious, and so it’s best left to the professionals.
Considering that the search engines make frequent updates, we don’t recommend waiting for a full audit. For this article, we’ve simplified the process of how to do an SEO audit into essential steps or a mini-audit. We recommend performing this mini-audit at least once a month.
If you’re short on time or technical know-how, focus on those factors that your visitors will see. Perfect your content, check for broken links, use 301 redirected links where necessary, and so forth. You can leave things like updating schema markups to a professional team.
Step 1: Crawl Your Site
A simple tool, like Xenu’s Link Sleuth, will help you find broken links fast if you only have a few minutes. Ubersuggest offers more complex results and is easy to use. You’ll get the necessary information to start you off for free, but the tips are limited.
For more comprehensive results, choose the paid version. You get a seven-day trial. Annual plans cost between $200 and $500 a year. Ubersuggest is one of the easiest options to use — click on “Site Audit,” and it highlights what changes you must address immediately.
If you’re able to spend a little more time on the project, the Screaming Frog SEO Spider is a more comprehensive option. Screaming Frog offers a basic free version that crawls up to 500 URLs at a time.
The paid version offers unlimited URL crawls and access to more advanced technical features. A useful feature is that it links to Google Search Console. It costs around $200 a year but can also help analyze your competitors’ sites, so it might be worth the investment.
We recommend trying the free versions of each tool to see which one you like best.
Crawling each page on your site gives you insight into what search engines see when they crawl your site. By crawling your web pages regularly, you can pick up problems such as broken links, low page speed, and so forth, and fix them before they impact your SERP.
At the very least, crawl your site whenever you update it.
Step 2: Register for Google or Bing’s Webmaster Tools
These tools are free, provide loads of useful data, and are the closest you’ll get to a cheat sheet on how to ace Bing and Google searches. Search engines don’t make it easy for us to understand all their ranking factors.
However, using the free tools that they provide like Google Analytics allows you to discern which tactics work and which ones don’t. At the very least, registering for these services will enable you to be notified when there’s a penalty.
You’ll learn what you did wrong and have the opportunity to fix it. You’ll also be able to ask Bing or Google to give your site a second chance.
Step 3: Check Your Page Speed
If your site loads slowly, it’ll tumble down the list of an organic search. Google’s free Page Speed Insights Tool will analyze your site’s performance over the last month or so and give you tips on how to shave off crucial seconds.
Pingdom is a paid tool that offers ongoing monitoring and more itemized insights. You get a free 14-day trial. After that, plans start at $10 per month.
Minimizing your page load times is crucial to keep visitors and search engines happy.
Step 4: Check On-Page SEO Factors
Now we’re getting to the part that most people think of first when working on improving organic traffic. There are quite a few things to review on your web pages, so set aside time for this step.
Choosing the right URL to start with is essential, but so are periodic checks of the URL as your site ages. Here’s what to look out for:
- Short, user-friendly URLs are best. Where possible, stick to 115 characters or less.
- Have you incorporated relevant, descriptive keywords? Tell the search engine what your site’s about in the URL. Have you optimized the URLs?
- Do you use subfolders or subdomains? Subfolders are better when it comes to improving link juice.
- Are you using hyphens or underscores to separate words in the URL? Hyphens are a safer option.
- Each URL indicates a doorway into your site. If there are several “doorways” leading to the same page without proper redirection, the search engines read each as an individual site. As both URLs point to the same page, you might be incorrectly penalized for having duplicate content.
Make sure you have great content. Using tools like Screaming Frog SEO Spider or Ubersuggest, you should have the information that you need to vet your content thoroughly.
Comparing aspects such as title tags and the meta description against that of your competitors regularly ensures you can consistently tweak your phrasing.
Now check the content itself by objectively evaluating:
- Target audience: Valuable content will show higher rates of consistent organic traffic, incoming links, more shares, and lower bounce rates.
- Content depth: A three-hundred-word post is the bare minimum for a blog post It’s difficult to say whether that’s enough, but consider the value that short posts add. How much can you explain in 300 words? Longer form content might prove more useful to visitors.
- Keyword use: Ensure that any keywords you use appear in the first few paragraphs and then naturally throughout the text. Using a mixture of long-tail keywords and synonyms helps to clarify the context of the page to search engines without appearing spammy.
- Anchor text: Keep it as natural as possible. The anchor text must directly relate to the site to which it links to make sense to a search engine and also to make sense for human readers.
- Content flow: Is it easy for the average person to read? Intellectual people may use more sophisticated vocabulary. This may count against them when dealing with an average reader. Use words that most people understand and make it simple to read.
- Spelling and grammar: Search engines are starting to understand natural language better, so you might get away with using some slang. That doesn’t mean that spelling and grammar no longer matter. Glaring errors make you seem less credible.
- Search engine processing: Those Flash graphics might look great to a human user but be nonsensical to Google. Who’s going to bring you more traffic over the long-term? Consider what the search engines can understand when choosing complex content.
- Credibility: As businesses, we focus a lot of effort on inbound link building. Linking content to authoritative sites improves your site’s credibility. When you explain a concept or give an opinion, provide readers with resources to back you up.
How to Do an SEO Audit: Technical Content Tips
Now that we’ve gone through the general rules for what to look for in your content, it’s time to examine the more technical aspects.
The architecture refers to how you present your content to your audience. Presenting it in a logical, useful manner is essential. When auditing your site, make sure that each page has a clear purpose. Center each page on one of your target keywords to make this easier.
Have you repeated your targeted keywords across several of your pages? If so, that’s something you should change. Multiple pages on your site ranking for the same keyword cause confusion with readers and search engines.
Say you’re targeting the key phrase, “water purification.” If you focus your “About” page, “Product Description” page, and “How it Works” page using the same phrase, how does a search engine decide which page to rank in the search results?
Would your “About” page rank in first place for the key phrase to benefit you the most?
Choose a selection of target keywords to give each page a slightly different, unique context. This good practice gives you a better chance of ranking across various searches.
Content that’s virtually similar and that appears on different pages won’t do your website any favors either. Copyscape Pro Search is an inexpensive way of identifying similar content. These pages should either be designated as duplicates of the original or rewritten to read as unique.
HTML is an essential part of your site’s overall SEO. It tells the search engines what content is more important, by differentiating it in code. Humans can see the difference between title text, headers, and paragraphs. Computer algorithms can’t do so unless they see it in the code.
Using the correct HTML markup helps your site to display correctly and gives search engines an idea of the overall context of your content.
Using the right markup is just the first step.
The title tells humans and computers what the page is all about. It’s the first thing that appears in search results, and it’s what most people notice when a page is initially shared.
A well-constructed title will influence your SEO results. Check your titles for the following:
- Succinctness: A long-winded title may sound smart, but the search results might not display the full title. Get to the point fast and save the wittiness for your content.
- Relevance: It’s tempting to pull the bait and switch to get more clicks. If your content isn’t a good match for the title, though, visitors will bounce off your site fast. It’s not worth using a clickbait title because a high bounce rate negates the benefits of the higher click-thru rate.
- Use your target keyword creatively: You should be using a specific keyword per page, so this should be simple. The hard part is to keep the title descriptive, click-worthy, and wholly relevant. Make each title unique too.
The meta description doesn’t technically affect how your page ranks. It does, however, impact how many visitors click through to your site. Keep it short to prevent it from being cut off in search results. Up to 155 characters is a safe bet.
Ensure the meta description is relevant to the page content so visitors know what to expect when they click through. The description should contain your targeted keyword and be interesting, but it must also make the page content clear. Stick the keyword near the front of the meta description.
Each page must have a unique meta description for the search algorithms. These meta descriptions explain the context of the site to the search engines.
For human users, beautiful images add interest, for search engines, images mean little. Artificial intelligence is learning to interpret images, but it’s not at the point where it can clearly understand what’s in the picture.
That’s why it’s essential to use a descriptive alt text and filename when uploading images to your site. Your human users do not see these, so plain, descriptive text is best. Include your target keywords in the text as well.
When search engines were still in their infancy, choosing the best sites was a popularity contest. If you had the most inbound links, you won. Today, things are very different because of black hat marketing techniques such as link exchange programs. The algorithms evaluate not only the quantity of these links but the quality of them.
The kicker is that today the algorithm also evaluates the sites that you link to on your website. If you link through to authoritative sites, your site seems more trustworthy. If you link through to spammy sites, your site’s credibility comes into question.
This all has to do with user experience. If you link to another site and that site has no value for your readers, search engines might assume you’re part of a link exchange program or a spammer. Technically speaking, if you’re leading your visitors to irrelevant content, you are spamming them.
The way that you link through also matters. What anchor text did you use? Your anchor text should contain your targeted keywords, but these keywords must be an accurate reflection of the content.
Human users should be able to discern the content on the other page through the anchor text on your site. If you use anchor text that’s irrelevant to the content, the link might be considered spam.
Reap the Benefits of Knowing How to Do an SEO Audit
You’re now at the end of your site audit. If you’ve covered these steps, you’ve covered the most critical SEO factors. Human beings and artificial intelligence will be able to read and understand your site better.
In the end, it’s not all about who has the prettiest display. SEO today is about ensuring that search engines and your visitors have a good experience on your site.
The latest SEO best practices change periodically, and your site must adapt to maintain your gains. Maximize yours by following through with a professional audit every six months to keep up with the latest SEO best practices.