How SEO website audit work for you
With search engines such as Google focusing on providing quality content and usable websites to their users, not having a well optimised site can seriously affect your ranking. An SEO audit is an in depth analysis of a website that checks for technical errors and offers you practical solutions. Whether you’re using the services of an SEO company or are managing your website independently, chances are you’ve come across the concept of an SEO audit before, but you may not know exactly what it entails or how one is conducted.
So what should you be looking at when you make your checklist? An SEO audit is typically broken up into different sections. An audit is a large undertaking, so breaking it up into manageable chunks is a great way of making it easier to execute.
The technical side of a website can have a large impact on its speed and how well it functions. If a website has too many errors it can see you drop rank in SERPs, or even worse, lead to entire pages being de-indexed from search engines.
Your first step should be checking to see if Google can crawl your website. If there are any issues here, any other problems with links or content are less significant, as you won’t be receiving any search engine traffic. You can identify what pages search engines are allowed to crawl through the robots.txt file, which is stored on your web server. There are certain pages you may not want spiders to crawl, such as those with restricted access to certain users or administrative panels. Pages that have a “noindex” or “nofollow” instructio
n will prevent Google from indexing the page and to not follow any links on the page, respectively. If the robots.txt file is altered incorrectly, you could be inadvertently preventing entire sections of your website from being indexed. At this point, you’re eliminating any organic traffic you would receive from those pages. You can check any errors with your robots.txt file using this free tool.
While using the robots.txt file is a good way of disallowing certain pages from being crawled, as we’ve discovered it’s very easy for this to go wrong. If there are certain pages you don’t want crawled by search engines, you can use the robots metatag within the HTML of a single page, which will prevent other pages from accidentally being disallowed.
HTTP status codes
Whenever a search engine requests a page, your web server will return with a status code, and it’s important that this comes back with a value of 200 so that there are no errors. You’ve probably experienced going to a webpage and receiving a 404 error. This usually happens if the crawler can’t find the correct page on the server. You can easily check for status codes using Google Webmaster Tools, a free resource which shows you the health of your pages. Another common error is when pages are moved to a different location and aren’t redirected. A 301 redirect is the best method to remedy this as it will transfer all authority from the old page to the new location.
A fast site can increase engagement and conversions and help you rank higher. A slow site however, will increase your bounce rate and reduce the number of visitors likely to stick around for a long period of time. Often, page load issues are caused by overusing Flash elements or clogging up your page with HTML that has no effect. You can use WildShark’s SEO Spider Tool to give you a comprehensive speed report that will allow you to pinpoint any problems.
In SEO, content is king. Search engines place more emphasis than ever on quality content that is written for users. That being said, following good SEO practices is a crucial ranking factor, so you shouldn’t neglect your title and metadata.
Your title tag should be as short as possible. Any longer than 70 characters and it will not display correctly on search engines. If you’re using a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress, SEO plugins allow you to easily alter this information and see how it will be displayed in search engines. Alternatively, use Moz’s title emulator tool. You should also remember your title tag should be relevant and contain the keywords you want to rank for. Moz’s emulator tool allows you to input a search term and will show you if it appears in your title tag.
The meta description tag doesn’t affect keyword rankings but it’s still important. When you conduct a web search, you know that snippet of information that appears beneath the URL? That’s the meta description, and it’s your opportunity to convince users to click on to your website over your competitors’. Search engines will also highlight any keywords that appear in this data, so use it – but don’t stuff keywords or you’ll turn users off. Let’s take for instance the search query “SEO UK”. WildShark appears in the top 5 organic results on Google for this search term, because the term “SEO UK” appears in the title tag. It’s also present in the meta description, which is bold to show that it’s relevant to users.
You can also find your title and meta description data in your Google Webmaster Tools account, or by using our free SEO Spider tool.
From an SEO perspective, headings aren’t massively important, although Google does still place more weight on heading tags (H1, H2 etc) than on plain text. They are also very important from a usability perspective. Use headings to break up your text and improve the navigation of your website, and users will have a much more positive experience.
Content length has a significant impact not only on rankings but also conversions. SerpIQ found that content that was longer than 1000 words ranked significantly higher than shorter content. Producing detailed, quality content will earn you credibility and increase your ranking ability. Check for pages with a word count below 300 words and you can safeguard against being interpreted by search engines as irrelevant.
They say that a picture is worth a 1000 words, so you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t optimise them for SEO. Describing your images in the ALT attribute will help search engines crawl your visual media and will crucially give you something relevant to display if for any reason your image won’t load. In this case, you may not get your 1000 words, but saying something is better than saying nothing at all.
Backlinks are so important for SEO and are an increasingly significant ranking factor for search engines. Earning high quality, relevant backlinks can significantly increase your rank, but if you’re not getting any benefit from the links you’re receiving, or no one is linking to you at all, it’s time to seriously review your link strategy, and an audit can help you see when this is necessary.
Internal links are those from one page on your website to another page on the same web server. Providing contextually relevant links will help improve the rank of your linked pages. While you’ll never receive as much authority from an inbound link as you would a backlink from a reputable external website in your niche, using inbound links is a nice way to gain a little extra link juice. You can find information about your internal links from Google Webmaster Tools under Traffic – Internal Links. From here, you can ensure your inbound links are relevant to gain you the most benefit. It’s also wise to check the health of your links to make sure they’re not broken.
You’ve probably heard the saying “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer”. A solid awareness of your competition is crucial to success. By understanding their strengths, you have a much better chance of emulating that and eventually outranking them. Use Open Site Explorer to analyse the domain and page authority metrics of your competitors’ sites. Then, you can determine why these websites are so authoritative. Social Crawlytics analyses your competitors’ site and determines their number of social shares for each page. Combine this with their backlink profile and you can produce the sort of content that is valued in your niche and can target the same websites to gain powerful backlinks.
Social media is an effective method of gaining exposure and engaging with influencers and customers. With 31% of all referral traffic coming from social shares, your presence on social networks should be a crucial part of your SEO strategy. The number of fans or followers on any social network will not directly affect your ranking, although the more people sharing or liking your content will increase your authority and traffic to your website. SharedCount is a free tool that tracks the sharing statistics of any page, including leading networks Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. If you want to optimise your content for Twitter, Keyhole is a great tool that analyses hashtags and shows you what’s trending, allowing you to reach users searching for the same tags. Use these tools together so you can target your content and earn more shares, exposure and therefore, traffic.
If your website has a local presence, it’s important to audit its local profile. This means ensuring your information is listed across directories and is visible in the local pack – that’s the list of local companies that appears at the top of SERPs when you search for a relevant location term. You can find out more in this guide about optimising Local SEO.
Mobile SEO audit
Mobile SEO has become increasingly important in recent years with the development of smartphones and the ability to access information from anywhere at any time. To increase your level of conversions on mobile devices, your website should be optimised, so it’s important not to neglect mobile SEO in your audit. The Google Webmaster Tools report will highlight any mobile usability issues such as if your design’s not responsive or your font size is too small.
If you use a separate URL for the mobile version of your site (usually prefixed with a “m.”), you should ensure the User-Agent is properly configured to display the correct version on mobile and desktop.
An SEO audit should be an ongoing process where you consistently measure and analyse your website. This can prevent having a significant number of issues to fix during future audits. Now you know what goes in to a search audit, you can take steps to ensure that when you update or change your website, you will avoid the common pitfalls that an SEO audit seeks to remedy.
SEO site audits are a great way to reevaluate your SEO strategy and find new opportunities to increase your search engine rank. They also allow you to redefine your goals and ensure your website will effectively generate leads and increase conversions. Whether you invest your own time or employ the services of SEO experts to conduct an audit, the insights you can gain to improve your website from not only an SEO perspective but also in terms of design and social media are invaluable.