October 22 2020

It May Be Time For An SEO Audit

You likely know how important optimizing your website for search engines is, but you may not know exactly which steps to take to do so. Rather than dive into fixing anything, it’s smart to have a qualified professional conduct a thorough search engine optimization (SEO) audit to make sure all the opportunities are accounted for, organized and prioritized so you or a search engine marketer can make informed decisions about which items to tackle first.

What is An SEO Audit?

An SEO audit is an evaluation of a website that identifies issues that could prevent your site from ranking organically on search engines. Though an SEO audit will not define a full SEO strategy for your site, it provides a prioritized list of actions that need to be taken to improve organic search performance.

SEO Audit Tools

Though it is possible to do a manual scan of the site, (and is in-fact encouraged when identifying content optimization opportunities) using a variety of SEO tools is imperative to make your audit more in-depth and accurate.

  • If you do not already have your website connected to Google Analytics and Google Search Console, it is a great idea to do so. These free tools provide insight into important SEO metrics including the percentage of website visitors that are from search engines, specific queries that users searched that lead to traffic to the site and much, much more. These metrics can help provide benchmarks related to the current health of your website and may even drum up future goals. Additionally, if you customize Google Analytics with goals and events, you can understand conversions that you can directly attribute to SEO.

  • For technical SEO crawls, Screaming Frog is a popular choice. This free tool (for up to 500 pages) scans a site and displays errors organized by SEO best practices including which pages have are missing H tags, which title tags and meta descriptions are over or under character count, which pages are producing 404 errors and the list goes on. Other popular SEO crawl software includes but Ubersuggest, Botify, Deepcrawl and more.

  • Moz is a great SEO tool that has a variety of features to help increase website rankings and traffic from search engines. Moz has a built in Site Crawl feature that identifies similar technical SEO issues as Screaming Frog, plus on-page SEO analysis tools such as the On-Page Grader. This feature, which is included in their Pro subscriptions, allows you to enter a URL and a related keyword to generate an on-page grade report as well as recommendations on how to optimize the page and prioritize the issues.

Using these SEO tools properly can help you immensely when evaluating both the technical SEO and more strategic opportunities on your site.

Technical SEO Audit

Starting with the technical portion of an SEO audit ensures that nothing in the backend of your website is impeding your ability to rank well in organic search results. Technical issues often impact SEO in one of three ways; pages are not being ranked well for target keywords, pages are rendering properly, or pages are not being indexed at all. Technical SEO issues like the below are often identified in scans:

  • Noindex: If a page contains a “noindex value” in the robots.txt file, this means the page is excluded from search engine crawlers. Sometimes this is intentional (internal-facing company pages, old promotions, etc.) However, if it is not intentional, these pages are important to identify so that they can be fixed and crawled by search engines.

  • Header tags: Header tags (or H tags) are important signals to search engines as to what your page is about. If your page is either missing H tags or contains duplicate H tags, this could affect organic search performance. H1 tags are very important from an SEO perspective.

  • Meta tags: Title tags determine how search engines and visitors interpret your page content and therefore impact how your page is ranked. Meta descriptions influence whether visitors feel that your content is relevant to their query and if they want to click through to your site. Search engines have best practices surrounding these tags including character count and formatting, so correcting any meta tag issues is often beneficial for SEO.

  • 404 Errors: A 404 response code (or Page Not Found error) happens when the user clicks on a page and that page is either deleted or unpublished and not properly redirected to the next relevant page. 404s negatively impact SEO since they cause poor user experience and a high bounce rate.

  • Redirects: A redirect sends both users and search engines to a different URL from the one they originally requested. Redirects are beneficial if a page is deleted and the user is sent to the next best page. However, issues with redirects, such as redirect chains, can cause your site to lose link equity which negatively impacts search rankings.

  • Canonical tags: A canonical tag within the HTML head of a page tells search engines that a specific URL is the only version of the page that should be indexed. Including these tags on a page prevents duplicate content errors which are caused when a page appears on different areas of the site or on other sites. A technical SEO scan should identify which pages on your site are missing these tags.

  • Duplicate Content Issues: Duplicate instances of any site page are detrimental for SEO because search engines do not know which version to index, so it usually only indexes one of the pages. This can be caused by domain errors or having 90% or more overlapping content on two or more pages.

  • Structured data: Structured data, like schema markup, helps search engines determine what your content is about and therefore increases the chances of your pages being featured in organic search results and in rich snippets. Not all pages have to have structured data, but an SEO audit can help determine which pages have it, which do not and which should.

  • Page speed: Site speed is a direct ranking factor. Pages that do not load quickly offer a poor user experience and are therefore detrimental to search engine rankings.

  • Robots.txt: A robots.txt is a text file that lives off the root of a site and instructs search engine robots how to crawl the website. It can include directories or files that should not be crawled and should also link to the site’s XML sitemap. If this file is missing, incomplete or incorrect, it can negatively affect organic search traffic.

  • Sitemap XML file: Your site should have a dynamic XML sitemap file which includes all site pages that should be crawled. This file should be automatically updated each time you add or remove a site pages. If this file is present, ensuring it is linked from your robots.txt file and submitted in Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster is the next step.

Content Optimization

Auditing a website for content optimization opportunities involves more than just a scan. Tools like Moz and the Google Ads Keyword Planner can help identify keywords and show page rankings. However, it is also important to explore the site manually. Some common opportunities include:

  • Content Expansion: Robust content is important for SEO because it signals to search engines that a website is an authority on the topics/offerings presented. The more content (if well-organized and relevant), the more helpful a site is for users which is a ranking signal for search engines.

  • Blog: Incorporating a blog/resource center into your site’s domain can increase organic search traffic and rankings if the content is relevant to your business and what searchers are looking for. An integrated marketing effort that drives traffic to your blog can improve your domain authority.

  • Keywords: Determining which keywords are being targeted and if the website is ranking for these keywords are important discoveries to make during an SEO audit. In addition to choosing target keywords, identifying opportunities to include these keywords and geographic mentions within page content, title tags, h tags, etc is an important strategy.

  • Additional Pages: Creating dedicated pages for each product/service/topic allows for targeted optimization which allows the website to better compete on more specific keywords. This doesn’t mean that the site should have an overwhelming user experience, but rather that there is detailed content available for users that want it.

  • Calls To Actions: All pages on a site should include a highly visible call to action button that is “above the fold” and links to the main desired action of the page. This is important for generating leads from organic search and is trackable within Google Analytics.

Site Structure

Search engines value a clean, logical site structure and URL paths that reflect that structure. This is because search engine crawlers can more easily crawl a site that has an organized hierarchy. Ensuring your site hierarchy makes sense and does not involve a lot of clicks to get to an internal page is an important evaluation to make during your audit.

Link Building

  • Internal Links: Internal links allow search engines to crawl from page to page, establishing the site structure while distributing page authority and ranking power throughout site – which supports the overall SEO strategy and rankings. Internal links also encourage visitors to stay on your site. By cross-promoting products and including links in the footer and navigation, you are giving users more of a chance to explore your site.

  • External Links: External links or ‘back links’ are links featured on one website that navigate the user to a completely different domain. Domain Authority, which is an important ranking factor, is largely based on the quantity and quality of your backlinks. Most of your backlinks should come from real websites vs. spam links. The more links your website gets from quality websites, the more valuable search engines will see your site as. It is never advisable to purchase backlinks as this is considered a black hat SEO technique.

Competitive Analysis

Understanding your competitors' SEO health can help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of your own site. An important aspect of evaluating your competitor’s SEO health is researching how they compare in rankings. If their website is ranking higher than yours when you conduct a search for products/services that you both offer, there are some factors to investigate when analyzing their site:

  • Length/structure of page content

  • How keywords are utilized within content

  • If blog articles are supporting products/services

  • If meta tags are present/optimized

  • How their site architecture is organized

  • If structured content is present

These questions can be answered by either manually looking at the site or using some of the tools discussed earlier. Conducting a competitive analysis will help create benchmarks as to how your site is currently performing and how you would like it to perform. It may also assist in prioritizing which items from the SEO audit should be tackled first.

Prioritization

Once the SEO audit is complete, the next step is to prioritize action items. Prioritization depends on a few factors: 

  • Severity of the issues

  • Website goals

  • Budget/time

In terms of severity, resolving technical SEO issues is a must. Without a strong technical foundation, search engines will not value the front-end content optimization. However, prioritizing the rest of your SEO items depends on your website strategy. For example, if your goal is to increase your domain authority and brand awareness, beginning a blog within your domain can be a good start. If your goal is to increase conversions, adding call to action buttons on important pages is something to consider tackling initally. If budget and time is a concern, go for the quick-wins first. Starting somewhere is better than nowhere!

Importance of Ongoing SEO

Once you resolve the technical SEO issues found in the audit and your content is optimized, you are not quite out of the clear. SEO is an ongoing process since search engine algorithms, ranking factors and your website is constantly changing. Regular monitoring, monthly site scans and ongoing optimization efforts is important to maintain organic search health.

For an audit of your website or information about our SEO services, contact the SEO specialists at ZAG Interactive.

  • Content
  • SEO
  • Website

posted by
Alexandra Giarratano
Alexandra Giarratano

ZAG Interactive is a full-service digital agency in Glastonbury, CT, offering website design, development, marketing and digital strategy to clients nationwide. See current job openings.
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