Websites need to undergo a technical SEO audit from time to time especially since Google is constantly updating their SERP (search engine results pages) algorithms on a frequent basis it seems lately (Hello Panda and Penguin!). SEO is a long game and managing expectations that the huge rewards of free organic traffic and revenue will take time should be explained to clients with informed reasons as to why. It is important to understand all the elements of SEO, the process of auditing a website and show clients a game plan.
So where do you start with an SEO audit? This SEO audit checklist is primarily for beginners to intermediate SEO’s.
What is an SEO Audit?
An SEO audit is a systematic examination of your website in order to find ways to improve the search engine optimization of your site or blog.
Why You Should Perform an SEO Audit
Search engine algorithms and best practices change, especially Google’s algorithm which updates more frequently than years ago. Making time to run a series of SEO audit checks to make sure that your website has the best possible chance of performing well is crucial to its ongoing growth in search engines and for overall health. The goal of your SEO Audit is to complete your entire audit BEFORE attempting any fixes. You can then take the results of your SEO audit and create a list of tasks that you need to do to correct problems.
Here are a few things you should add to your search engine optimization checklist while performing an SEO audit of your company website or blog:
1. Benchmark your KPI data
Where are you looking to improve? What’s tactics are working and what are not? Set your KPIs. Review search data to identify priority keywords that drive organic traffic and convert. Verify your analytics is tracking correctly! Once you have precise data it’s much simpler to show the growth being made.
2. Analyze Competition
Implement keyword tracking to monitor rankings and track competitor results for keywords and organic visibility versus your own website. Discover new opportunities by exploring the content they generate and where they acquire their backlinks. Look at competitor’s site structure and categorization for missed chances.
3. Keyword Research
Of utmost importance is understanding which keywords offer the most value and convert. Do not just look at seed keyword terms and ignore the long tail; look at topics and build keyword clusters. What search terms make up the purchase journey? How are you going to help the prospective purchaser prior to when they are ready to convert? This practice will not only help you comprehend what your customers are looking for, but also help you formulate a content strategy for non-converting search terms.
Research keyword trends throughout the year as some can be seasonable for your business. Prepare for the holidays early on. Keyword research can add huge value to more better targeting during peak periods.
Utilize keyword tracking data to understand keywords that are outside page 1 in search results pages. Page 2 and 3 keywords are near organic traffic positions that drive traffic so they should be a priority to enhance along with their associated pages. Utilize on-page search engine optimization techniques, cross-linking of pages and on-going backlinking campaigns to continually push these targeted keywords to page 1 over time.
4. Repair Any Technical SEO Issues
Duplicate content, broken links, slow pages, 301 redirects, crawl budget and 404 pages are a few of the things that should be fixed asap in any technical SEO audit. Broken links act as dead-ends for both the search engines and your visitors arriving at your website. Even large websites shouldn’t have more than a few dead links at any given time and it is important to implement proper 301 redirects to alleviate this problem or remove the link entirely. Too many broken links can hurt your SEO efforts, as well as the user-experience. An SEO audit should pull a list of every broken link on your site so you can correct or redirect them to existing pages within your website.
Correcting technical SEO issues should lead to a traffic gain. Remember to keep on top of these tasks constantly as issues can show up out of nowhere if working with big teams!
5. Link Audit
A powerful domain is important for search engine optimization and will play an important part in how well your site ranks in search engines. Verify that you have a healthy backlink profile. Toxic links pointing to your site should more often than not be disavowed if considered spammy and are do-follow links (Dofollow links pass along what the SEO community commonly calls “link juice.”). Velocity of links pointing to your site should be steady. Large and sudden increases can trigger to Google that black hat (practices that are used to increases a site or page’s rank in search engines through means that violate the search engines’ terms of service) link building is occurring.
Identify where links point to on your website. The reason being is that a link pointing to a nonexistent 404 page provides no value to your website. Look for chances to channel “link juice” from the homepage to your interior pages by improving internal linking and including keyword rich anchor text where appropriate. Review metrics like domain authority (DA), trust and citation flow.
6. Content strategy
SEO is all about fresh content and consistent content (implement a blog if you are not already doing so!), words and building topics of relevancy. Think about Google’s featured snippet and “People Also Ask” by generating content that answers common user questions about the services or products you offer. Google is finding providing ways of answering the search user’s intention without leaving the search engine results page(s).
Also, review any duplicate content (different URLs with the same content on each page) you may have built up over years of blogging. This can raise a red flag from search engines as it may look like you are trying to trick the algorithm by creating multiple pages that say the same thing and target the same keywords. Many site owners don’t even realize they have duplicate content on their site, but if you do, you are actually hurting the search engine optimization of your website. Not only are you splitting the internal and external links between the two pages, you are also splitting your visitors. An SEO audit can help identify any duplicate content issues on your site, including meta data (title tags, meta descriptions and so forth). It is important for site owners to write unique title tags and meta descriptions for each page of their website and not use auto-fill to apply the same title tag for each page throughout your site. Implement canonical tags to web pages if content is duplicate to tell search engines which is the main page. In essence, if you have the same or similar content under different URLs, you can utilize canonical tags to specify which version is the main page and therefore, should be indexed.
7. Enhance Navigation and Site Structure
The classification of your categories and sub-categories should be assembled around keyword research. URLs should flow rationally from category to sub-category to product page when possible.
8. Enhance Poor Performing Web Pages
User experience (UX) is extremely important for SEO. Analyzing important metrics in Google Analytics such as bounce rate, average time on page and pages visited will give you an indication of what pages need correcting. Review Google Search Console click-through-rates (CTR’s) and once again, review page speed for scripts and high-resolution images that may slow down web pages leading to higher bounce rates.
Checking Your Site Speed:
Your websites load speed is a key factor for SEO and user experience. If your site is slow it will impact your rankings in Google and lower click through rates. It can also impact how long readers stay on your site and how they interact. Use Google’s speed insights or GTmetrix to scan your site.
9. On-page SEO
An optimized web page should be relevant to your focus keywords, assist in conversion and provide a great user experience. On-page SEO starts with making sure your Title tag and meta descriptions attract viewers to click through to the website. Sprinkle in the important keywords and long tail keywords throughout the text in a natural way. Do NOT overoptimize!
10. Local SEO
If you are a local business with a brick and mortar footprint, then make sure your local business listings are complete and optimized. Ensure your NAP (name, address, phone number) is consistent in local directories. Local web pages should include SCHEMA markup code within your pages to help Google better understand your business. It may also improve your click-through-rates.
11. Link Building and Content Marketing
This is one of the most important components of SEO. Run a link portfolio analysis to ascertain the quality of your link profile. Depending on how large your link profile is this might take a while, but you should check out each and every link to make sure it’s the kind of link you want associated with your site. Google does not like purchased links, PBN’s (private blog networks) and unusual link profiles. A backlink penalization will be devastating to site traffic and rankings. You can get a manual action notice in Google Search Console if too aggressive with black hat link building tactics.
When analyzing your link portfolio be on the lookout for:
- links in blog networks which were deindexed by Google
- links in the footer of other websites – links on unrelated sites
- too many paid links
- links on unrelated sites
- link exchanges to spammy sites
- hidden links
Goal: Build a natural link profile from trusted domains. Authority and trust are the important metrics. Utilize social media to spread important pages to those viewing your posts. They may like your post and reference your site with a backlink on their website. The attractiveness of content marketing is that it can also raise brand awareness, increase social engagement and of drive subsequent website traffic.
12. Anchor Text Analysis
One of the last important steps in your SEO audit is to check anchor text distribution. Your SEO audit needs to pull data on what anchor text you are using as part of your link building as well as how frequently you are using each word. In a perfect scenario, the greatest percentage of your anchor text should be branded. It’s important to make sure that you are a using a wide variety of non-branded keywords as well (including keywords you’re actively targeting on your site and long-tail variations) so you keep your anchor text looking as natural as possible.
A good starting point with any SEO audit is to run a free SEO audit scan of your site. This can help identify any of the previously mentioned issues for your site and quickly identify issues that are hurting rankings along with other on-site SEO issues. You can run a free SEO audit here with our tool.
Site ranking changes
If you see your keyword rankings go down a bit right after optimizing your site, it’s okay. It’s normal to see some fluctuations in your keyword rankings while search engines index your changes.
In summary, SEO is a long-term strategy and business investment. When SEO is done right, you’ll drive traffic and potential customers 24/7.