Jan 20, 2018

How to Perform an SEO Audit

by Digital Marketing Institute

Do you know how well is your website is performing?

SEO experts understand the importance of doing regular audits, but for many of us who only have a basic knowledge of SEO, it may sound like a daunting task. However, in today’s world of digital marketing, it’s becoming more and more important to have a clear understanding of this.

If you’re looking for tips on how to perform an SEO audit, to learn more about the latest tools and get a few tips for a better understanding of the what, where and why behind the process.

What is an SEO Audit?

What is an SEO Audit?

An SEO audit checks the health of your website and in doing so, prevents spam and makes suggestions on how to optimize. SEO audits are important for a number of reasons, not the least of which because Google changes their algorithm frequently in accordance with new technology and new search patterns.

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.

Areas an SEO Audit will cover

An SEO Audit is essentially a checkup for your system to see how well it’s functioning in comparison to the market. Below are some of the most important areas that an SEO audit will cover:

Keyword Usage: An audit will help you figure out whether your keyword usage is on point, placed well, and poised to bring in the optimal amount of traffic.

Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI):

Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)

LSI is a term that essentially refers to the context and intent behind a given search. To put it into context, as technology, specifically AI, progresses, it is able to understand more and more in the way of specific meaning, thereby possibly accounting for things like secondary and long-tail keywords with more frequency.

Organic Search Rankings: If you’re paying for sponsored ads, you’ll want to always look for ways to cut down on this spending. An SEO audit can check to see how well you’re doing in organic searches, thus possibly lessening the need to do paid advertising. You can also use the information gleaned from this part of the search to continue on with more strategies that ensure organic reach.

Keep up with Competition: The competitors in your marketplace should also be doing this regularly to check their SEO rankings, keyword placement and the like. They’ll be checking their meta tags, links, and everything else, so in order to keep up with them, you need to also follow suit.

Understand Problematic Code: An SEO audit can help to review the back end of your site for bugs and other issues that may be slowing it down or pushing you down further in search rankings. You’ll want to get a technical expert like a web developer to help you with this if you don’t have the knowledge.

Crawling and Site Audits

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.

It’s good practice to do an automated scan once a month just to monitor basic factors like bounce rate, conversions, and page views. This will be often enough to bring up major issues, like any on-page errors in the form of broken links, page titles and meta-data or duplicate content. And if you find any significant issues, you can then contact a professional for a detailed audit. A more thorough check should be done annually.

When you do a scan or a full audit, your site is assessed, and bugs can be found, plus it gives you key indicators to optimize your site for better SEO and building brand awareness.

Here are a few key areas to consider when doing an SEO check:

  • URL Structure: Are all of your URLs unique, clean and simple?
  • Content: Is your copy well-written, formatted, informative and fresh?
  • Meta descriptions: Are they unique on each page, and the right length?
  • Links: Do you have an average of 5 per page? Do they all work?
  • Images: Are the descriptions on point?
  • Website structure: It is clear and easy to navigate?

A thorough check will analyze your landing page and how it relates to other pages, the overall user-friendliness of the page, the menu, and whether ads and banners are effective or in the way.

Page Speed

Page Speed

Page speed is also huge when it comes to doing an SEO audit, and your page load time matters. 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.

Assess your Site Architecture

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.

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: www.digitalmarketinginstitute.com/students/courses

Assess your Site Architecture

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!

Check your Site’s Content

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.

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!

Check your Tags

Check your Tags

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!

Check your Backlinks

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. 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.

SEO Audit Tools

SEO Audit Tools

Fortunately for most of us who aren’t SEO experts, there are quite a few tools out there that can help you perform an effective SEO audit. Here are a few examples.

Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider: You can crawl up to 500 URLs for free and then a license is £149 per month. 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.

Google Analytics: This is a must-have for any digital marketer in any industry. It will give you key indicators of all kinds of metrics and will guide you towards better SEO in a number of ways. It’s something that can be used continually to track and monitor traffic. It can be integrated into Screaming Frog so you can compare site data such as sessions, page views and bounce rates, which will give you a more granular, all-encompassing insight into what’s happening with your site.

Google Webmaster Tools (Search Console): Google provides several affordable tools that allow anyone to do regular SEO checks and help you see your page “as” Google sees it as a way of checking the performance of your site.

Check My Links:

Check My Links

This tool allows you to do a check on your links to make sure they are all working in favour of traffic rather than against it. For instance, it will point out any broken links, appropriate density of links, and structure of both internal and external links. While this is something that’s fairly easy to be done manually, this literally takes seconds to do.

SEO Report Card: This will analyze your site to see how well it’s shaping up in comparison to the competition. It will go through things like rank analysis, link building structures, trust metrics and authority baseline. It will also assess your sites overall speed and user-friendliness.

MOZ’s Crawl Test Tool: When you get a pro subscription with MOZ, you’ll also get a tool that helps you boost your page ranking for particular keywords and gives you growth reports. Basically, what this does it uses MOZ’s crawler to analyze your pages and then sends a report.

Browseo: This tool 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.

Majestic: 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.

You can find a detailed list of SEO audit tools on HubSpot.

How important is an SEO-audit?

It’s important to check a website’s overall health to ensure its usability in both an internal and external context. You’ll need to have an internal investigation of a number of factors, including the sitemap, anchor text, and even social media platforms. Load time is big, and doing a thorough audit will also bring up red flag issues that you need to address.

One of the reasons that doing this is so important is to make sure that you’re not getting penalized by Google for doing something that might damage your site ranking. There are a lot of little details that can result in this, and if you’re not an SEO expert, you could very well be doing it without knowing it. When you get an external audit, you can then receive detailed feedback about best practices with your content, linking and so on.

The last thing you need is to be attacked or penalized due to having some sort of content on your site that you had no idea was hurting its ranking; this could be costing thousands of dollars. But it’s a complex issue that should be investigated by a professional.

Doing a full SEO audit is quite complicated and technical, and you can find many more technical descriptions of how to complete one elsewhere. It may not sound like the most fun activity in the world if you’re not a techie, but it can actually boost your revenue in ways that you might never imagine if done right. It’s important that you investigate the overall performance of your website regularly. Do a check once a month using some easy tools, and have an expert review your website yearly. You can glean valuable information about all kinds of metrics if you keep on top of this and your business, or clients will thank you for it.

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