The goal of search engines – like Bing and Google – is to connect their users with the most relevant content based on their search query and likely intent. However, many websites have poor content and contain technical errors. Both of those problems can hurt your site’s search engine optimization (SEO). Furthermore, a lot of sites have Google penalties that the site owner doesn’t even know about. Therefore, an SEO audit is a chance to improve your website – find and fix any issues causing penalties – which will improve your site’s organic search rankings. Here are the most important things that you should review in an SEO audit.
1. Test Your Website’s Speed
One of the most important metrics that Google uses to determine a website’s search rankings is its load time. The longer your site takes to load, the more it will hurt your search rankings. That’s because most of your visitors will end up leaving if your site takes more than a few seconds to download. Google PageSpeed Insights and Gtmetrix both offer free tools to help identify speed related issues and fix them.
2. Make Sure Your Website is Mobile-Friendly
Since a majority of users browse the Internet with mobile devices, that means you will need a mobile-friendly website to reach your full audience. In addition to your site loading quickly on mobile devices, you will want to make sure that all of your text, images, and links load properly with enough padding for easy clicking with fingers on touch-enabled devices. Make sure that your website has a responsive design, so that its visitors will be able to properly view it on any device. Test how easily a visitor can use your page on a mobile device with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
3. Evaluate Title Tags
When it comes to SEO, title tags play an important role in attracting targeted traffic. Title tags tell search engines what your web pages are about. Title tags should be less than 60 characters long to ensure that Google will fully display them in search results. Furthermore, you should avoid keyword stuffing – also known as over-optimizing. That means you should only include one keyword per title tag.
4. Review Your Heading Tags
Heading (H1, H2, and H3) tags are another helpful way to tell search engines what the content on your web pages is about. However, to properly optimize your headings tags for good SEO, you should keep them under 70 characters long. Google won’t penalize your website if you include multiple keywords in your headings. However, the more keywords you use, the more it will diminish the SEO value of your headings. Also, each web page should only have one H1 tag.
5. Check Your Image Tags
Images can be great for SEO as long as they include good image tags. The image tags will tell Google what your images are about. These tags should include descriptive keywords and be under 70 characters long.
6. Fix Any Redirect Errors
Website owners regularly delete old web pages and replace them with new ones without understanding the impact this has on SEO. By creating what’s known as a 301 redirect, you can redirect visitors to the new web page, as well as pass on the old page’s SEO value to the new page. However, if you don’t set up the new links properly, you can end up with redirect errors that will hurt your website’s SEO. Make sure that you find and fix any redirect errors. Oftentimes, redirect errors are created by simple mistakes like typing the link wrong when setting it up.
7. Check Robot.txt File
The robot.txt file provides search engines with instructions on whether to index your website, as well as the individual web pages on your site. Therefore, if you have any pages that haven’t been indexed by Google, check your robot.txt file to see if you have mistakenly told Google not to index the page.
8. Delete Any Duplicate Content
An SEO audit is a good time to check for any duplicate content on your website. Not only will having duplicate content on your site hurt its SEO, but it could also earn a penalty from the search engine giant, “Big G”. Therefore, if you have any web pages that are exactly the same – or contain highly-similar content – you need to delete or combine them. Make sure that each web page on your site contains unique content.
9. Fix Any 404 Errors
A 404 error occurs when a web server can’t find the page that the user is requesting. If your website has 404 errors, you might be able to fix them yourself depending on your technical skills. However, you might have to hire a web programmer to fix them. No matter how you fix them, 404 errors need to get fixed because they will hurt your site’s SEO.
10. Evaluate Site Architecture
Don’t overlook site architecture on your SEO audit. Site architecture includes all of the functional and visual elements on a site, for example, the links on your website, as well as the navigation menu, background colors, and images. Therefore, you need to make sure that all of the links work, images load properly, and that your text is readable with the chosen background color. Read more in our article: Does Your Website Have An Information Architecture?
11. Analyze Your Content
When it comes to good SEO, content is king. If you expect to attract targeted organic search engine traffic, you need high-quality, engaging content that your audience will want to read. Many business owners struggle with creating SEO-friendly content for their site. If you struggle, consider hiring a copywriter to create better content for your site.
12. Review Your Keywords
In addition to content, keywords (more accurately keyphrases) play a huge role in attracting your target audience. Therefore, you need good keyword planning that does two things:
- Represent your brand.
- Represent what your target audience is searching for online.
Your keywords should be placed naturally throughout the text on your site. Don’t overuse keywords, because doing so can earn your site a Google penalty. A good SEO rule of thumb is that your target keywords should make up about two percent of your web page’s content.
13. Improve User Experience
Since Google’s focus is on delivering the best content to its users, your focus should be on delivering the best user experience to your website’s visitors. A poor user experience will hurt your site’s SEO. Your SEO audit could include user testing to see what visitors think of your website. You can then take their feedback to improve your site’s user experience.
14. Analyze Your Traffic
Your SEO audit should also include your website’s traffic. Google Analytics is a good, free tool that you can use to analyze your traffic. For example, you can see which keywords and phrases that visitors are using to find your site in search engines. You can also see your website’s bounce rate, the amount of time visitors spend on each page, and where your visitors are from.
15. Review Your Backlinks
Backlinks play an important role when it comes to boosting your website’s organic search engine rankings. However, they must be from high-quality sites. Unfortunately, backlinks from poor quality sites can actually hurt your SEO. Therefore, during your SEO audit, you must review all of your inbound links. If you find that an inbound link is from a low-quality spammy website, then you can open up your Google Search Console account, and select to disavow the backlink. Disavowing inbound links will tell Google not to include them when determining your site’s search rankings. Google provides a handy guide for disavowing links.
16. Analyze Your Off-Page SEO
An SEO audit isn’t just about reviewing the elements that are on your website. There are off-page SEO elements that can impact your site’s rankings as well. For instance, a good social media strategy can help indirectly impact your website’s search engine rankings using what’s known as social signaling. Let’s say that you use Pinterest to promote your brand to your audience. You create pins that include links to your website. If a high number of visitors click those links to your website, it can signal to Google that your site attracts a lot of traffic. Therefore, Google’s algorithm will apply that data when determining your site’s organic search rankings.
17. Don’t Forget to Evaluate Your Competition
Lastly, when conducting an SEO audit, you don’t want to overlook evaluating the websites of your competitors. Take note of where they rank on Google when you conduct searches using your keywords. Compare the strength of their content to your content. Ask yourself who does the best job of meeting the needs of your target audience. Then, use that information to improve your website’s SEO strategy.The end result of #SEO isn't just about pleasing Google — it's about pleasing your visitors. Click To Tweet
In short, the end result of SEO isn’t just about pleasing Google; it should be about pleasing your visitors. If your site offers visitors a good user-experience, as well as high-quality, engaging, value-added content, your organic search rankings will improve. Make sure that you establish clearly-defined goals that you hope to achieve by auditing your site, and then keep track of those goals. A complete SEO audit of your website is a big undertaking. For a more thorough explanation, you can consult Google’s SEO best practices or contact us here at Agate Fire and we will be happy to conduct an SEO audit and explore SEO strategies customized for your business.