Pop quiz…just five quick questions for you.
- Do you know every page/piece of content on your website and how it is displayed within search results?
- Do you know what errors have been found by Google, Bing, and other search engines?
- Is your site optimized for all device types? What does it look like on mobile vs. desktop?
- Has your site been negatively impacted by any of the latest Penguin, Panda, or various other algorithm updates?
- Do you know what your most important keywords and pages are on your site?
These are some of the questions that you can (hopefully) answer when you complete an SEO audit on your site. It’s not the sexiest thing in the world to talk about an SEO audit, and it is especially daunting when you consider just how deep you want to dig into it. However, just like your annual physical for your own health, your website needs a regular SEO health check to make sure it has the proper foundation to perform well in Google (and Bing, and other search engines).
What Is Included in an SEO Audit?
As I said, an SEO audit is a health check on your website. It is difficult to know what steps to take without first completing a full evaluation to identify problem areas. Without completing an audit, you are simply treating the symptoms when something much larger may be at play. Generally speaking, organic search accounts for at least 50% of all site traffic, so it should be a foundational element of what you do as you build your digital footprint.
When I think of an SEO audit, there are 6 foundational elements that you need to look at to get a full view of your site health:
- SEO “Best Practices” Audit
- Keyword Audit
- Technical site audit
- Content Audit
- Inbound Link Audit
- UX (user experience) Audit
- Bonus: Competitive Audit
Let’s dive a bit deeper into this (but not too deep…it’s intense!)
SEO Best Practices
Every SEO practitioner likely has their own definition of what they consider “best practices.” For me, this simply refers to the low-hanging fruit that everyone can do with minimal effort.
- Title and meta data evaluation: your title and description, when properly managed, are used by Google in search engine results. Make sure you are following Google guidelines for length.
- Proper use of Hx tags: is there just one H1 tag on each page? Are you using H2 or H3 tags for sub-heads?
- Are you using robots meta tags and/or a robots.txt file? Do it, and make sure you format it correctly!
- Do you have a sitemap.xml file? Again, do it and make sure you submit it to Google and Bing.
- Have you verified your site with Google and Bing Webmaster Tools? These are extremely useful for getting a peak at how the search engines see your site.
- Do you have Google Analytics or Tag Manager implemented on your site? Do you have goals defined and tracking?
- How many pages has Google/Bing indexed?
- How many links does Google/Bing show pointing to your site?
It’s All About the Base…Keyword Audit
No matter what anyone tells you, the base element of content-based SEO is still your keywords. While the evolution of search is moving away from keyword-based strategy, it is still extremely important to understand what keywords are most important. At emfluence, we think in terms of keyword “clusters,” which are groupings of keywords around a single base keyword theme. You can then use these keyword clusters to identify new content opportunities and new ways to optimize existing content to broaden your SEO footprint. The keyword audit is all about identifying the base-level keywords and building out thematic clusters of keywords that are most relevant to your website content or product. During this audit, you will look at:
- What keywords are currently top traffic drivers? If you are tracking goal conversion, take it further and find out what keywords are high converters? Note: this can be challenging given the “Not provided” keyword Google sends over.
- If you are leveraging Google AdWords campaigns, looking at the top performing keywords in your paid campaigns can also help provide some context into your SEO keyword strategy.
- What related keywords exist that could be appropriate and relevant to apply to your SEO strategy?
- What keywords are your competitors leveraging?
- Where do you currently rank for these keywords?
Let’s Get Technical: Back End SEO
Much of SEO is highly dependent upon the technical infrastructure and backend development environment for your website. There are literally dozens of questions that come up during the technical SEO audit:
- Are there any hosting issues that may be impacting the deliverability/load time for your website?
- Is the site built with SSL encryption (a newer SEO factor that should be a top priority for all websites)?
- How does your website display/respond on various devices (desktop vs. tablet vs. mobile)?
- Are you using rich/structure data markup to enhance search results? For example, schema.org markup for product pages, reviews, site search, breadcrumbs, videos, etc.
- What is the average page speed for your site? It must be quick (ideally 1.5 seconds or less…and if it is more than 5 seconds you are losing visitors).
- Have you optimized your images for image search?
- Is your HTML minified?
- Do you have a custom 404 page?
- How are you handling redirects? 301? 302?
- And a host of other questions!
Content is King…Do You Know What You Have?
The content audit is one of the more obvious pieces of the SEO audit process, and one of the more important considerations that extends beyond your SEO strategy. Content feeds all the channels in your media mix…from SEO to social media, and from email to paid media. Across your marketing mix, content is a requirement that is always needed…and for that reason it can get out of control.
There are several interest points for an SEO-based content audit. First, there is the content inventory, which is simply a list of pages/content elements (PDFs, videos, images…anything that could be indexed by a search engine). You will typically primarily focus on the pages within your website because this is what search engine results focus on; however other content types can play a very valuable role in SEO. This inventory will include a snapshot of the basic elements of SEO. At a minimum, this should include:
- Meta Description
- Meta Keywords
- H1 tag
- H2/H3/Hx tags
- Content length
If you want to be thorough, you can also cross reference with analytics data to show visit-level information within your audit.
Who’s Linking to You? The Inbound Link Audit
From an SEO perspective, while content is certainly King, links are the Queen (and sometimes she wears the pants). There is no doubt that high-quality links from trustworthy/authoritative websites can have a dramatic effect on your SEO results. When running a link audit, there are a few things to address:
- How many links do you have?
- More importantly, what is the quality of those links? What is the average trust/authority of your current links?
- Has your site been linked to by any “bad neighbors” that are negatively impacting your link profile?
- Which pages of your site are getting links?
- What is the anchor text of those links?
- How many “follow” vs. “nofollow” links do you have?
As with every audit, the list can go on and on, so it is important to have a finite depth for your audit. These are generally deep enough for an audit to get a solid understanding of your inbound link profile.
The User Comes First: UX and SEO
In all reality, the User is King…not content. Building an experience on your website that is focused first on your users is the new wave of SEO. But what elements of User Experience truly concern an SEO expert?
- Does the site navigation flow logically?
- Does the directory structure and URL naming convention work?
- How does cross-linking work?
- Are images and videos a core piece of your content strategy? If so, are you maximizing these content elements?
- Does your page layout emphasize goal conversions effectively?
- Are you speaking to the user, not just to please content guidelines?
SEO is highly dependent upon effective user experience. Especially as search engines start to use more and more data points and machine learning to personalize results.
Evaluate Your Top Competitors for Extra Credit
If you have the extra time and want to go through the process, you can complete these audit elements for your top competitors.
How Do You Get Started with Your SEO Audit?
It can certainly be daunting to tackle an SEO audit, especially if you are responsible for a dozen other things within your business. However, there are plenty of free and paid tools out there to help you work through the process. You can also reach out to get started with an audit with emfluence!
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your audit, or fill out the form below.