Nov 3, 2016
The importance of Search Engine Optimization within a successful digital marketing strategy is difficult to ignore. A staggering 96% of marketers use SEO to provide informative and educational content, which as we know is the cornerstone of lead gen and brand visibility tactics. And in an appropriately meta SEO twist, “Search Engine Optimization” is the most popular marketing term searched for by internet users.
96% of marketers use SEO to provide informative and educational content to their customers.
Conducting a thorough SEO audit is an essential starting point for any digital marketer, whether you do so in-house or outsource the task. This is because it allows you to analyze your current SEO efforts, no matter how prolific or sparse they are, and take immediate action off the back of those insights.
If you’re unsure of where to begin, we’ve created a simple and easy-to-action guide that will help you to make the changes yourself, or accurately oversee your chosen agency.
Every effective SEO audit starts with a comprehensive site crawl. This allows you to assess the current situation and identify any issues your website might have. Essentially, a crawl will help you to set a baseline for the rest of your audit.
You can use a crawling tool such as Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider (you can crawl up to 500 URLs for free and then a license is £149 per month) to carry out this step in the process. All you need to do is enter the URL you want to crawl – in our case it would be www.digitalmarketinginstitute.com – and the tool will carry out an analysis for you.
You’ll be able to find out if your site has any on-page errors in the form of broken links, page titles and meta-data or duplicate content. Screaming Frog can also integrate with Google Analytics so you can compare site data such as sessions, pageviews and bounce rates, which will give you a more granular, all-encompassing insight into what’s happening with your site.
Site speed (and individual page speed) is one the factors involved in search engine rankings.
Simply put, the faster your website loads, the higher up the SERPS you’ll be.
Similarly, a fast site speed promotes a positive user experience, whereas a slow one will doubtlessly result in higher bounce rates in our age of limited attention spans! This is obviously far from ideal if your website serves as one of your primary channels for conversion.
Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to analyze the speed of your website as it renders both on desktop and mobile. YSlow is another tool that will check your webpages and provide suggestions that you can easily implement, such as properly formatting and compressing images. Pingdom Website Speed Test, meanwhile, examines every part of each web page and provides a detailed list of the items on a page, their size and individual load times.
The importance of a speed test lies in the fact that you can determine which elements of your website are acting as obstacles from an SEO perspective. Once you know which areas you need to improve, you’ll be able to optimize your site’s performance.
Another factor that will improve your site’s SEO is ensuring it has a solid structure. The better the architecture, the better the user experience, both in terms of website visitors, as well as the bots that crawl it to determine its search ranking.
You should seek to make your website visitor’s journey seamless, so they can access important information in as few clicks as possible.
It’s for this reason that having a clear, logical, organized structure that is reflected in a complete, accurate sitemap (that has been submitted to your webmaster tool accounts) is essential. A strong URL structure is equally important. Make sure that it relates back to your site hierarchy and that you adhere to clear and simple naming conventions, avoiding any symbols or numbers where possible. An example of a strong URL structure would be:
Another component of a strong site architecture includes making sure all your main webpages are listed in the top navigation menu of your website, again so site visitors and bots can find everything they need easily and efficiently. For the same reason, you should also include internal links that will take users and bots from one page of your website to another in one simple step. In these ways, you’ll be able to guarantee a strong site architecture that will benefit your SEO!
Content is a fundamental on-page SEO factor, and one that will strongly influence the effectiveness of your site. Google is a proponent of regularly updated, unique content that is relevant to the needs and preferences of a searcher. This means that you have to make sure that your website’s content fulfils this brief, so you can enjoy enhanced brand visibility and higher rankings.
Using a tool like Moz Pro’s Page Optimization will help you to understand how well your webpages are ranking for particular keywords. This will provide insights that you can tie into your overall SEO strategy! While keyword stuffing, or creating content solely to incorporate keywords are approaches that should be avoided, it’s still important to consider the words and phrases your target audience will be searching for. When creating content, you should use keywords in a consistent, natural manner. You need to strike a balance between using targeted keywords but not conveying your brand to be ‘spammy’. When it comes to creating content for SEO, value and relevance are key!
Content length is another element you need to consider. Too much, and you’ll lose the attention of your site users. Too little, and you won’t have fully optimized your pages for SEO. In theory, if you can provide between 300 and 500 words per page, this should satiate the search engine bots sufficiently!
Another valuable approach is to use a tool such as BROWSEO, which will let you view your webpages just as a search engine will read them. This will let you audit the more technical elements of your content and refine them where necessary.
Once you’ve organized your website with a complete and sturdy site structure, your next step should be to label it! You can do this using a variety of tags that will represent your website and its key components in the eyes of search engines. We’ve outlined the function of some key tags below:
Concise, descriptive title tags that accurately convey the purpose of the webpage in question. Longer titles will be cut off by search engines so in this instance, less is more. Try to include a relevant keyword where possible!
A meta-tag serves as a description of a webpage’s content. If optimized, they will incentivize a searcher to click through your listing on a SERP to your website. Alt tags for images, meanwhile, are a text description that is essential for bots when crawling a website. If you include accurate descriptions of your site’s imagery (and again, use targeted keywords if it feels natural), this will significantly impact your SEO.
In terms of other important tags, making sure each of your pages includes a rel=”canonical” link (otherwise known as the canonical tag) in its HTML will prevent duplicate content issues, while blog post tags will help you to organize your site’s content for crawling- provided you have a blog of course!
Sometimes, it’s not what you know, but who you know. Often, search engines can determine the quality of your website, and its perceived value to searchers, based on the quality of the websites that link to it. Historically, there was a practice known as ‘link farming’ that involved exchanging reciprocal links with other sites in order to enhance SEO.
However, as time has gone on, the practice of SEO has refined and algorithms have become more sophisticated. In terms of backlinks now, it’s quality over quantity, and if a search engine believes that questionable websites are linking to you, it could bring your own site into disrepute. Majestic is a tool that is self-described as ‘the planet’s largest link index database’, and will help you discover who is linking to you, so you can discern if they provide a relevant and valuable connection. Similarly, it’s important to verify that your links are coming from a variety of domains, rather than the same website as this will also impact your SEO.
Though comprehensive, this is by no means an exhaustive audit. If you would like to share your own approach to conducting an SEO audit, please do in the comments section below!
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