You know that SEO is important for your website. Maybe you checked off everything on the SEO checklist and feel great about your results. Eventually, you notice a dip, and things don’t look quite as rosy. When that happens, it’s time to embrace the SEO audit.
What is an SEO audit? It’s a key factor in building digital marketing campaigns and optimizing your organic search potential. Let’s take a look at what SEO audits do, why they’re important for your site, and how to use them.
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What is an SEO Audit?
An SEO audit is a thorough analysis of your website’s presence and function. In an online world, it’s necessary to have a functional site that is searchable. SEO audits analyze several factors that affect your site’s ability to rank in search engine results.
Proper SEO audits are customized for your business, comprehensive, easy to understand, and entail actionable recommendations. They should uncover gaps and faults, missing pages on your site, broken links, and other areas needing improvement.
It’s important to note that no SEO audit looks the same. While they all share some similar components, businesses in different industries should have variations. Likewise, the needs of small business websites differ from large corporations, and SEO audits should reflect that.
Why Does Your Site Need One?
Performing regular SEO audits for your website is like going to the doctor for a physical or seeing the dentist for a check-up. It may not be fun or exciting, but it keeps you healthy. SEO audits keep your website and SEO strategy fresh and healthy.
Regular audits optimize your site’s performance, help finely tune your marketing plan, and allow you to adapt to changes in the industry. Think about the social media fluctuations and how fast trends change across those platforms. Staying on top of your website’s functionality is in your best interest.
Elements of an SEO Audit
Every SEO audit is different because it’s custom to one site; however, every audit should include the same general components. Some aspects may be more critical to your business than others, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore any elements.
An excellent starting point is your on page SEO. Take a good hard look at your pages and ask what your site says to visitors. Even if you know you dialed into the perfect keywords and filled in all of your meta descriptions, a reliable SEO audit checks again.
It may sound tedious and time-consuming, but reviewing and analyzing your site’s content is a critical aspect of an SEO audit. You can identify individual page issues and overlapping content that negatively impact your appearance in Google search results.
For each page on your site, you want to review several elements. It helps to create a checklist and tackle each aspect individually for every page on your site.
- Keyword usage
- Site content structure
- Meta Data – page titles, meta descriptions, heading tags
- Images and videos
- Internal linking and the HTML sitemap
Have you ever left a site due to slow loading? What about redirects to blank pages? It’s frustrating to navigate web pages that don’t perform well, and you don’t want to lose visitors that way.
It doesn’t matter how well you write a blog post or how many target keywords you use if nobody can find or use your site. From failure to load and domain issues to missing redirects and poor URL structure, the technical SEO audit is critical.
The technical SEO audit identifies what your site says to Google. This aspect of the SEO audit digs deeper, goes behind the scenes, and addresses both accessibility and functionality of your website. Some of the issues to assess include:
- Domain consistency
- SSL certification
- Site performance and page speed
- XML sitemaps
- HTTP issues, like redirects and misdirects
- UX, UI, and accessibility issues
If you’re not sure how to start with a technical SEO audit, try a site crawl to get an idea of how Google crawls your site. Performing a site crawl provides an excellent starting point for your audit because it identifies several types of technical issues.
Analyzing Your Competition
What is an SEO audit without addressing your competition? Identifying how you measure up against your closest competitors provides additional insight on ways to rank higher in Google searches and drive more traffic to your site.
Analyzing your competition is all about keyword research. You want to find the best keyword combinations to outperform your competition in a Google search.
Off-page SEO is what other sites on the web say about your site. Technical SEO and on-page SEO set your page up to be searchable and discoverable, so off-page SEO tells you how well you did and how popular your page is.
Trust is the critical factor here. Building trust with Google takes time and involves fine-tuning your on-page and technical SEO.
Remember, your content needs to speak to other people. When you create content that resonates with readers and other bloggers, you should see an increase in organic traffic. The best thing you can do to improve your off-page SEO is to optimize your on-page and technical SEO.
Implementing Audit Findings & Making Corrections
An SEO audit is only the beginning. Whether you handle the audit yourself or hire SEO experts, there should be actionable steps to improve your marketing plan and your site’s performance.
Depending on the results of your audit, you may have different steps to take. Let’s take a look at some of the most common issues and how to resolve them.
Solving Common On-Page SEO Issues
Remember that on-page SEO refers to how well your content resonates. You want to balance keyword usage with quality content, so reviewing your competitive set analysis could help fix problems in this domain.
Don’t overdo keyword usage, and don’t try to double-dip. Google only recognizes the top-performing page for a keyword, so if you have three or four pages optimized for the same exact keyword, you’re missing out.
Entrepreneurs and small businesses can use Google Analytics and Google Search Console to improve keywords. There are also tools that allow you to track keyword performance over time to stay relevant.
Correcting Content Structure and Navigation
Site content structure should make sense to visitors and be navigable. Consider the layout and scheme you chose to make sure it’s pleasing to the eye. Compare the look and appearance of your site with other web pages you appreciate. Make certain it’s easy to find information and use your menu bars.
Don’t forget to address the mobile version of your site to make sure it’s equally appealing and easy to navigate. Remember, not everybody accesses your site from a desktop or laptop!
Making Your Meta Data Work
Missing meta data is a missed opportunity. Meta data describes and identifies aspects of your page, which makes it a key aspect of on-page SEO. Page titles, meta descriptions, and heading tags should include your page’s keywords.
A common misstep is a missing or incorrect meta description. You want to create your own meta description with focused keywords because it appears in the Google search results beneath your page title and webpage link. It also helps your ranking. Try to keep the meta description between 120 and 160 characters.
Another mistake is failing to add titles, tags, and meta descriptions to images and videos. Taking time to add appropriate tags helps them appear in a Google image search.
Add Appropriate Links
Don’t forget the links. You can use internal links to draw attention to other pages on your site or external links to other relevant, trustworthy websites.
Choosing to link to popular, trustworthy external sites helps your page. Try to link to content that’s relevant to your page. Ensure the anchor text (the words that appear in the body of the page) is also relevant.
Technical SEO Solutions
It may be easier to address content issues on your site, but ignoring problems with your technical SEO is a mistake. There is a lot of support available to help correct issues, and you can always reach out to an SEO expert if you feel overwhelmed.
Setting Your Domain
There are a few common errors with domains, and correcting them can make a big difference for your site. You want to choose a preferred domain that is secure (has the SSL certification) and set all other variations to redirect to that version.
For example, you set your preferred domain as https://www.ABCDE.com. However, visitors can type it in their browser three other ways:
You want each of those options to be 301 redirected to your preferred setting. If you fail to set up proper redirects, visitors could receive errors and never reach your page.
Improving Page Speed
How long do you wait for a website to load before you navigate elsewhere? If your pages don’t load within a few seconds, there’s a good chance you lose the visitor. There are several ways to improve page load time:
- Compress files, so they take up less space.
- Monitor your redirects to use as few as possible.
- Trim and compress your code.
- Limit how many plugins you use, but don’t skip the cache plugins.
Address Site Architecture
You can improve the crawlability of your page by streamlining and optimizing your site architecture. It’s not about the appearance to visitors as much as how your site looks to Google.
The structure of your site should make sense and create a sort of tree. At the top is the main page. Beneath it, you have the main menu of key pages, and then other branches stem off in organized groups.
An XML sitemap is a map of your site. When you add, delete, or move things around, you need to update it with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. Keeping your XML sitemap up to date is crucial.
As a side note, you may want to use a breadcrumbs menu. These menus create a visual link that shows your visitor how the current page relates to other pages on your site. It’s especially helpful if the user is on a secondary page because it shows them the parent pages.
Redirects and HTTP Errors
If the site crawl revealed any unindexed pages, they are likely redirects or broken pages you need to fix. Since internal links help with SEO, it’s important that they all work. We compiled a list of some of the most common HTTP errors visitors may encounter.
- 301 redirects can be helpful, but they can also hinder page speed, so you don’t want to overdo it. You probably just want to use them for your preferred domain.
- 302 redirects are temporary and link to a different URL. Don’t leave these in place for too long or they become permanent.
- 404 error pages appear if a page no longer exists or the user typed in the wrong URL. Make sure your 404 page follows your branding.
- 500 internal server error indicates that your web server has problems and can’t take the user to your page at the moment.
- 502 bad gateway errors involve miscommunications between servers.
Many of these errors have nothing to do with you and create temporary issues. You can use a web crawler to perform an error audit to get a clear picture of the HTTP errors. It’s important to keep an eye on these issues to make sure they don’t last long enough to impact your SEO.
Final Thoughts on SEO Audits
SEO audits allow you to refine your website on every front to improve your visibility and usability. After all, you aren’t putting in all the effort to create content and maintain the site for nothing.
Performing regular SEO audits keeps your site relevant and functional while providing powerful insights you can apply to your marketing plans. Remember, if you’re not comfortable handling the audit, you can hire an SEO expert (like me!) to help.