Most people give up on SEO audit because the guides they find online overwhelm them with technicality and CS jargon. They prefer hiring professional SEO services companies to do the job. This article will demonstrate a most common audit professionals perform on your website when they start working on SEO. The purpose is to show that an SEO audit which is the most useful way of evaluating your website performance doesn’t have to be complicated.
The purpose of this step by step guide should move you up the ladder, improve your website’s ranking, thus helping you bring in more visitors and potential perquisites.
Gardeners have gardening tools, blacksmiths have hammers and anvils, and websites have an SEO audit. In essence, an audit is a what we do with a set of tools, almost always used for marketing purposes: improving traffic, attracting visitors and potential customers.
If done correctly, An SEO audit should give you a better insight of how your website is performing, which pages function efficiently and which don’t. You analyze individual pages and then bring them all together to see how your entire business performs.
Think of an SEO audit as taking a look at what goes on behind the scenes, which wheels are turning, and which don’t. Some might need greasing, others repairing, and some might need replacing.
Determining The Objectives
Most experts say that an audit should be performed when you start a new project. You should also do it quarterly, merely to make sure that everything runs smoothly and efficiently. Of course, the need to perform a thorough evaluation of your website depends on its size.
Small websites often need less maintenance, while medium/big sites require more attention, mainly if you suddenly start generating less traffic and revenues. In fact, that’s the whole idea of performing an audit: looking under the hood as seeing what is what.
Developing A Strategy
First, you need to develop an audit strategy according to your goals: what is it that you are trying to accomplish? Now, let’s assume you know nothing of auditing, strategizing and website functionality. How do you know which tools you should use? You need an SEO checklist to help perform a great SEO audit.
Well, there are a couple of things you can do. For starters, you can analyze your competition; after all, you are a businessperson. Naturally, you can also perform keyword analysis and keyword mapping. Also, you shouldn’t leave out the technical examination of your website, the overall appeal, and design.
You should also take advantage of free tools (when life gives you lemons…) You can perform crawling, Google schema and Google mobile testing, check links, perform speed analysis, and so forth. Below, you will find a list of tools you can use to improve your website’s performance.
Keyword Analysis + Keyword Mapping To URL
Keyword analysis examines the efficiency of your current keyword targeting tactics. Moreover, it can help you find valuable unutilized keywords, thus helping you get a surprising and rapid edge over your competitors.
First, see if your strategy aligns with reality. Most people are like Icarus: they aim too high and get burnt. You shouldn’t blindly aboard the train of popular keywords. Instead, go for the ones that have less usability, the long-tailed ones (see this article).
After evaluation, you should separate create two groups, separate the keywords that perform well from the bad ones. Naturally, you should always invest your resources in those keywords that bring you best results. To ensure that you are targeting the right keywords, go with the SMART principle.
When it comes to tracking, don’t waste your time on tracking every single keyword. Instead, monitor the vital ones. This method should tell you what Google thinks of your websites. You can use Accuranker to check your results.
If you have newly created website, you have to be patient and put up a good fight. Why? Well, you can’t gain the trust of visitors and consumers overnight. Older websites have more authority and probably have bigger budgets than you. That is why we suggest that you use unique, long-tail keywords. Stay on the ground, don’t fly like Icarus: your time will come!
Alas, make sure that you pair the keyword with the right site; this is called keyword mapping. You match the keyword with the dedicated webpage or create a new website for that specific keyword. Keyword mapping is all about organization, mapping things out and making your site more clear.
There are three stages in this process: awareness, consideration and decision stage. Note that the steps relate to visitors: you need to look at things from a client’s perspective, not yours.
Analyzing competitor is suitable for multiple reasons. You can compare keywords, see what works for your competitor (and could work for you), check for potential link possibilities, and so forth.A good SEO audit should revolve around identifying your competitors strength.
First, use Moz toolbar to compare keywords regarding Domain Authority and Page Authority. You enter a specific keyword and see its performance, is it worth using, etc. In essence, you are checking for keywords that work for your competitors (and could potentially work for you).
You should also check link profiles using tools such as Majestic. And if you want to find golden keywords, you can use the Google Search Console:
- Click on Search Traffic
- Proceed to Search Analytics
- Select Impressions
- Sort out the results by clicking on position (ranking from low to high)
Speed And SSL Analysis
If someone visits your website and it takes them forever to load the page, they’ll probably leave. You can use Google Speed Tool to check the speed value. Make sure that every page takes less than 3 seconds to load (3 seconds is minimum). You can find more information about the speed improvement here.
Furthermore, perform SSL analysis. You want to make sure the website is secure (perhaps you heard of SSL certificates). You have two options: go to the HTTP site or HTTPS site, the last one being secured type of website.
There is a simple way of checking your website security. First, enter your site’s URL in the browser. Then, remove the s from the HTTP(s) and click enter. Now, if everything is okay, it the browser should redirect you to the https version of the website. If it doesn’t, perform a more profound analysis.
Google Pagespeed & Lighthouse
The best way to evaluate your website’s mobile speed, use the Google’s Pagespeed Test. Sites load differently on various devices, and Page speed Test is almost always the best tool for performing a mobile-related analysis. Lighthouse is another useful tool. It is free, and you can use it to improve your site’s performance, accessibility, and so forth. Note that Lighthouse operates only with Google Chrome platform.
On Screaming Frog
Screaming Frog is a powerful website-enhancing tool. You can use it to crawl your site(more on this later) and gather useful data related to your site. It is beneficial for beginners since it helps you organise and use the data in a very efficient way. The tool is used to find program-related errors, such as 404, protocol errors, server errors, and so forth.
It is also used for these purposes: finding duplicate content, evaluating redirecting, check canonical. Or you can get a general overview of your site by judging title tags, and meta descriptions, etc. The tool is very useful, and we will talk about it in detail when we touch on specific issues this tool tackles.
Checking For Duplicates
To avoid Panda penalty, you have to prevent the duplication of your content. This often happens because most online retailers merely copy the product’s description. That way, you end up in a situation where both manufacturer and the retailer use the same product description (often META description).
Here’s where Screaming Frog comes into play. You enter the site’s URL in the tool and start scanning. Select the Meta Description tab, set Filter to seek Duplicate and then export the data. You can examine the duplication on the page level.
Screaming frog also tells you if some pages have similar titles or content. Look into these pages and ensure that you have unique content and unique meta.
Canonicals are a form of URLs that bring more transparency into the game: they allow Google to examine the source of your website. Canonical URLs are closely related to duplication, that is, they help reduce content duplication. But, it doesn’t stop the duplication. For instance, maybe you have products on several pages, even several websites.
However, if you use a canonical URLs (ones that feature rel=canonical), you help the search engine identify the origin of specific content. Now, if you are the owner of the specific content, and that content is spread across multiple pages or websites, using the canonical URL will help search engines prioritise and navigate the user to the source.
The most common types of redirects are 302, redirect chains, non301-preferred and non301-secured.
Open Screaming Frog, paste desired URL and begin the scan. Click on the Response Coded, set Filter to Redirection 3XX, and Export the data.
On Redirecting Links
When you outsource the content (so to speak) from one link to another, you create a chain link. Now you want all links to work, and they all have authority over the content. But if the link is broken, the authority is lost, and only the original site pertains the authority. This is no-good because you can lose potential revenues.
Here’s how you check the chain:
- Open Screaming Frog (I told you it is a useful tool!)
- Go to Configurations and click on Spider
- Then Advanced -> Always Follow Redirects -> click OK
- Paste dedicated URL and begin to Scan
- When the scanning is complete, select Reports, and then Redirect Chains
- The report will tell you if the link is broken, where is the problem, etc.
Non-Preferred To Preferred (301)
Maybe you have several websites, but you need to pick the one for your users. Now if you don’t redirect the users to the preferred site. You can have two domains, the www, and non-www. Now let’s say that the www is your preferred domain: you have to use 301-redirect and redirect the non-www to the www domain.
If you don’t do that, you have two websites and authority issues. Now the www domain won’t suffer, but any site you built on the custom platform might suffer due to duplication. There are a lot of tools for checking this issue, but I recommend you use this one.
Non-Secure To Secure (301)
We already discussed the SSL analysis and SSL certifications. SSL certifications need to be implemented to make the site secure. Again, 301 redirecting is very useful. We already discussed how to examine whether you have successfully applied the SSL certification (removing the s from the https). You can also use the tool above to examine these issues.
Looking For Broken Links
Don’t you love broken links? You click on the link, hoping that it will direct you to the desired product or valuable information, and then you find the beloved 404. Yea, users, hate broken links, so you have to make sure you don’t have any. There are many free broken link checkers online: however screaming frog should be able to find most of your broken links.
If you aren’t indexed (registered) on Google, you won’t be ranked. You can use Google Search Console, select Google Index, and then check Index Status. And if you don’t use the console, you can google site:website.com.
Not only will this tell you whether or not you are indexed, but the Google will also show you the number of indexed pages (concerning your domain). For instance, it will say “about 350 pages found”, which means that 350 pages are indexed.
Website Architecture And Internal Links
If you are interested in search engine optimization, you need to pay attention to the site architecture. It is needless to say that your site should be designed and constructed with users in mind, that is, you need to predict what the users might like.
However, don’t forget that the website needs to be suitable for both users and search engines. These questions should help you examine the quality of the site’s architecture:
- Is your website smooth? Is the navigation neat or cluttered?
- Are you using internal linking efficiently?
- Is there a room for improvement? Can you make the website smoother and more pleasant for both users and search engines?
When you use internal links, you have to make sure that they match the anchored text. If the text says “table” but the link directs to “car engine,” that will confuse the search engines. But not everyone has the time to check for ineffective links, and ineffective links do exist.
And here’s the problem: no tool can assist you in this problem. You have to go through all your pages and check every link manually. It is time-consuming, but very much needed. The best way to avoid the accumulation of broken links is to test them upon their creation.
Technical SEO Analysis
Dealing with technical issues is never easy, especially if you are tech-unfriendly, but it is vital, especially for effective ecommerce SEO. SEO audit that rely too heavily on nont technical issues simply fail because crawling and indexing is still a technical process.But, again, the Screaming Frog is here to save the day. It will help you identify and solve the critical technical problems.
Website speed is essential, and we already discussed how to can check them and improve the website speed. You also need to make sure that your website is mobile friendly. Now, you don’t have to be a software or web developer to understand that sites operate differently on different platforms.
To check, use Google mobile-friendly checker. You can also find a lot of guides online that can make your website mobile-friendlier. There is another, more important issue I want to discuss, and that is the problem of keyword cannibalization.
What is keyword cannibalization? The problem occurs when two sites fight over the same keyword. Now maybe this makes sense to you, but it can confuse Google. Google then asks: “Which site, which homepage or subpage should I prioritize?” In essence, you force the Google to choose, and that choice can hurt you.
Cannibalization often happens when both homepage and subpage use the exact keyword. Try to avoid this practice and use unique keywords for webpage and subpage. Cannibalization can also occur if you write your blogs on the same topic numerous times. Again, it confuses Google.
You can use Screaming Frog to seek potential keyword cannibalization. First, enter your site and start the scan. Then select Page Titles. Now enter a dedicated keyword in the search bar. The Screaming Frog should list all the titles that feature the keyword; your job is to check if the keyword is used multiple times in page titles.
On Google Webmaster Tools
Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) is a set of free tools for people who seek website optimization. It is data analysis over guesswork: you use the tools to analyze your content instead of guessing the outcome, performance, etc. You need to register (make an account) and confirm that you are indeed the owner of the website you want to analyze.
There are plenty of ways you can utilize the GWT, but it mostly consists of adding stuff, such as DNS records and meta tags. You can also link Google Analytics account (if you have it) to your GWT account. You can also initiate crawling, configure your website accordingly, overview the data on the dashboard, and so forth.
Website crawling is a form of website evaluation or website checking. A tool will crawl over the website the same way Google does it, which allows you to get a better understanding of how the Google operates. More importantly, it will point out mistakes and help you fix it.
Can you guess which tool is excellent for Crawling? Screaming Frog. Of course, there are other crawlers (Beam Us Up pops to my mind), but Screaming Frog will help you on many levels. Crawling can help you find 404 errors, 500 errors. Screaming Frog will crawl the site with optimization in mind, and will warn you on issues that are damaging your strategy.
Fetch As Google
Fetch as Google is a tool that allows you to see how the Google renders web pages. The tool also allows you to submit your pages too Google Index, helping you change the site according to new standards. Here’s how you do the Fetching:
- Navigate to the Google Console, and select Crawl -> Fetch As Google
- Here, you have two options: fetch or fetch & render
- Fetch allows you to see how Google perceives your code, and Fetch & Render gives you a visual presentation of how the Google views your page
Now, if you left the URL bar blanked, the tool will scan your website by default and list out all the pages. If you selected Fetch & Render, you would receive two images: how Google sees your page, and how the end user sees it. And if you are satisfied with the results, you can Request Indexing (top right corner).
This option is helpful, especially if you made changes to your site and want to update the progress. In order to ensure that you check this off your SEO audit list ensure that you also check the new version of the page in Google.
HTML Improvements is another useful tool and part of the Google Search Console. It helps you with title issues, meta description problems, and non-indexable content. It is rather simple to use:
- visit the Search Console and click on the wanted site
- navigate through the menu, then select Search Appearance -> HTML improvements
If the Google found any issues during the Crawl or Index, the HTML Improvements will explain these issues. The tool is useful and straightforward to use and can help improve user experience, as well as boost the traffic (use it regularly).
On Sitemap Errors
Sitemap errors come in many forms, and we already discussed some of the issues. For instance, your site isn’t using the URL format of your choice (it doesn’t use www, or it uses http and not https). Or, your sitemap is just one big fat blank white page.
Mobile SEO is very important and making improvements using mobile webmaster should help you make mobile-friendly content.To improve your mobile visibility the SEO audit should also cover mobile related factors including AMP pages. Why should you make improvements? Well, the desktop version of your website is not the same as the mobile version.
Now, almost everyone uses a mobile phone. According to Google, 94% of the Americans that own a smartphone use it to find local information. Even when they are home, people still prefer using mobile phones over desktop computers.
Here are a couple of things you need to have in mind:
- Focus on the customers and make it easy for them to find and use your website
- Focus on the speed and effectiveness of the site
- Select the template and theme that is cross-platform and can be used on multiple devices (this is also called responsive web design)
- You can find more information on this topic here.
Other Webmaster Issues
Google Search and Google Search Console can help you solve a lot of problems. Regardless of the issue, you can always use Webmaster troubleshooter to examine and tackle those issues.An SEO audit that doesn’t account for GWT issue fails primarily because it relies on third party intelligence.
Perhaps your website isn’t mobile. Or worse, it is mobile, but the Google still claims it isn’t. Maybe your site features a lot of links you didn’t build. In short, you can run into a lot of weird problems, all of which can be solved, as long as you.
Google Schema Tool tester
Google Schema Testing (Structured Data Testing Tool) is a tool used for data accumulation and evaluation. You open the tester, paste the desired URL and start testing. You can also check the piece of specific code, but we won’t go into that right now.
This Data Testing tool will examine all the data within that specific link, and provide you with potential errors and warnings, which is very useful. In the top right corner, you can click Help to learn more about the tool. Or, you can click on Search Gallery, which will explain to you how to use structured data effectively.
Google Mobile Page tester
Google Mobile-Friendly tester functions in a similar way as the Structured Data Testing Tool. It helps you see how mobile-friendly is your website, that is, can mobile users use the site quickly and comfortably. You paste the URL in the blank spot and start the test.
If you run in some issues, such as not being able to load the data (your page isn’t reachable), or if the page isn’t fully loaded, check the Search Console for help (or click here).
WWW or Non-WWW Analysis
Which is better, WWW or non-WWW? None (or both, depending on how you look at it). Choosing between the two won’t help you generate more traffic, attract more customers, or increase your revenues: that’s a fact. And don’t think this is my opinion; even Google said that this is a preference thing, meaning that it has nothing to do with the performance.
SEO Audit Conclusion
This covers the basics of an SEO audit. There are a range of other things professionals from an SEO agency might check. A large range of these factors are based on site architecture and experience derived auditing a lot of websites. If you have any other factors that are not covered as a part of this audit please feel free to leave a comment and let us know.