Let’s say you’re a car mechanic. Would you diagnose everything that’s wrong with a customer’s car without first looking under the hood? The answer should be a resounding NO.
Well, the same goes for your website.
Before assuming exactly what’s wrong or what needs fixing on your site, it’s important to run an SEO audit.
Simply put, an SEO audit is an examination of the performance of your site through a variety of on-page, off-page, and technical factors.
While the level of detail can vary from audit to audit, it’s undoubtedly true that this process can lead to higher search rankings down the road—across your entire website!
So what are the top items to look for during an SEO audit? Let’s take a look…
Correct Version of Site Displaying
First, we want to make sure that the right version of your website is what people see. Any other version should be canonicalized to the correct one RIGHT AWAY.
For example, if your home page URL is https://www.example.com, we need to make sure that https://example.com doesn’t load as a separate site.
You can check this very easily. Just type in each URL version into your web browser. If they both lead you to the same destination URL, your preferred site, then you’re okay.
Discover What’s Being Indexed
As websites grow, it’s commonplace to have many excess pages getting indexed by Google. These might include a lot of thin content pages like archives, category pages, and author pages.
To check what’s being indexed, type site:(yourwebsiteURL) into a Google search. The results will show only pages being indexed from that site.
You can use these insights to gauge whether unimportant pages need to be deindexed. Plus, it will show you how your title tags are appearing (more on those later).
Find Broken Links
Have you ever clicked on a link that took you to a page reading “404 Page Not Found” across it? This is what happens when we land on an inactive webpage.
The problem with 404s is that any link going to the page is now considered a broken link. Broken links create a bad user experience and cause would-be customers to rapidly exit your site.
That’s no good for your bounce rate, your customers, or your bottom line.
Thankfully, there are easy ways to check for 404 errors and resolve them. You can run your site through a free Broken Link Checker tool, and see the errors listed right away.
From there, you have a couple of options. You can either get rid of any hyperlinks leading to the 404 page, or you can redirect the 404 page to an active page. It’s up to you.
We would consider what to do on a case-by-case basis.
Google Speed Test
It’s no secret that page speed is a top ranking signal for Google. So it shouldn’t come as a shock that page speed testing is one of the top tasks to perform during an SEO audit.
Where does page speed matter most? On mobile browsers.
Since the majority of online traffic is mobile traffic, and Google prioritizes a site’s mobile responsiveness first when indexing, it’s never been more important to make sure your site is fast and responsive on mobile devices.
Metadata are contents that don’t directly show up on your website in plain text, but they do tell Google what your pages are about so that they can be ranked properly in search engines.
The two most important pieces of metadata are a page’s title tag and meta description. They look something like this in search results:
Title tags should ideally be optimized using a target keyword variation and brand name combination.
If you’re looking for a quick SEO win, try tweaking the title tag of your homepage a little bit.
Like in the above example, the homepage uses the brand name “Beldy Electric Inc.” in addition to keywords it’s trying to rank for, which are “Las Vegas, NV: Electricians, Electrical Repair.
Meta descriptions are a slightly different animal. Although they aren’t a direct SEO ranking signal, they should still be optimized for your target keyword, and should also include a call to action. A meta description is meant to get searchers to click through to your website—plain and simple.
Which pages’ metadata should you optimize first? If it’s a large site, only concern yourself with optimizing the main pages during this initial audit. Then you can work down to your site’s subpages and beyond.
Image optimization is often a neglected part of SEO.
During the audit, not only should you check that all images are compressed on your site, but you should make sure they are fully optimized with alt text.
Alt text is technically another piece of metadata. It’s used to tell users what the image is about as if they were unable to see it for themselves.
The best practice for optimizing them is simple, just pretend that you’re describing the image to a visually impaired person. Don’t overcomplicate this process by stuffing keywords; Google doesn’t like keyword-stuffed alt text, so this will probably hurt you more than help you.
SEO Audit Resources
We are barely scratching the surface as far as things you can do with an SEO audit. To really dig deep into your website, it’s best to try out some of these industry-leading tools…
Screaming Frog – one of the most popular SEO tools around, this application will crawl your entire website to check on tons of factors. The best part is, Screaming Frog is 100% free for crawls under 500 pages. Perfect for those running a small business website.
SEMRush – taking things up a notch, SEMRush is a heavy-duty SEO software that can be used for all kinds of marketing activities. These include, but aren’t limited to, SEO audits, keyword research, competitive analysis, and backlink checking. Of course, it does come at a price—$99/month for the lowest package.
WooRank – like Screaming Frog, Woorank will audit your entire site as well. The main differences are that a) its interface is more user-friendly, and b) it comes at a monthly fee. But the nice reports that this software provides makes it great for sharing your audits with others.
And there you go. Hopefully the next time you hire someone to perform your SEO audit, you’ll have a better understanding of what this process is all about.
It’s really more painless than it seems.