I have written a few blogs about the importance and basics of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – but I wanted to touch on another topic: SEO Audits. An SEO Audit is a quick check-in with your website to make sure everything’s running smoothly, and your new content is being indexed.
We run an audit of our website every month, or if we notice a dip in traffic. This helps us keep a healthy website, and proactively address any minor mistakes that could lead to major website problems. For example, I spent 30 minutes auditing a potential client’s website, and discovered they had a plugin that was a known carrier of the Malware computer virus. On top of that, their website was appearing as “This Site May Have Been Hacked” in Google search results:
This led to the eventual deindexing of their existing site, and they had to start from scratch because their old website design company used outdated plugins and didn’t update them.
While you can absolutely outsource your SEO Audit to another company, you can run one on your own. I have compiled a step-by-step guide to a beginner’s SEO Audit, inspired by Moz’s “World’s Greatest SEO Audit.” I felt this audit was a bit complex for the average website owner, so I created a list that most anyone can handle.
Pre-SEO Audit Checklist:
- Google Analytics is installed
- Google Webmaster Tools is installed
- Analytics and Webmaster Tools are linked
- You do not have any errors in your Webmaster Tools crawl
- Your sitemap is submitted to Webmaster Tools
A Beginner’s Guide to SEO Audits
The very first thing you need to check with any website is if your site is indexing. Indexing means that Google has crawled your pages, determined there is content on it, assigned it a rank. and added it to their database. You can do this by doing the following simple Google search: “site:www.yoursite.com.” This should pull up a list of all the pages on your website that have been indexed. If it does not, you may have a robots.txt error, or your site may be penalized – either way, you should contact a marketing agency for help. Some other common problems here are a mismatch in the number of indexed pages versus actual pages, or lack of ranked brand terms. When you search your company by name, the first results should be your website and associated pages. Again, any problems you run into here are going to be very unique to your website – so you should consult someone who is familiar with SEO if something isn’t adding up.
Making Sure Your Site is Mobile Friendly
Another important item to check during your audit is mobile friendliness. You don’t need to do this every month; once a quarter is fine. In April 2015, Google released a new ranking system for mobile that ranked mobile-friendly sites above those that are not. This is important because 60% of internet users are now browsing via iPhone and Android devices. You can do a quick mobile-friendly test here: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/
Checking on Alt and Meta Tags
Meta information gives users and search engines a brief overview of what an image or page is about on a website. They are helpful for indexing (Google can’t “see” images, so they index your photos based on alt text), search rankings, and user experience. You may want to recruit an outside tool to help you go through your meta tags quickly. We recommend Raven Tools, it pulls a basic SEO Audit for you as well as a list of pages and images that are missing their meta data.
Keep in mind meta’s should contain key features like keywords, brand name, and location.
SEO Audits: Accessibility
Quickly take a look at how easy it is for Googlebots to access your website. You can do this by looking at your robots.txt file. This is a hidden file contained on your website that instructs search engine crawler robots what pages to index. You can find it by going to www.yoursite.com/robots.txt. Make sure you aren’t blocking anything important in the “Disallow:” section. If you are, you can update your robots.txt file from your website’s FTP or other login.
Site Speed is Bearable
It is estimated that if your page takes more than 3 seconds to load, over 80% of your visitors will bounce – so checking your site speed is pretty important. The good news is that Google Developers provide a free site speed tool – that tell you how long it takes your site to load, and how to make it faster.
Advancing Your SEO Audit
This is a very, very, very basic SEO Audit. As you get more comfortable performing these items, you should start branching out to more complex items. Here are some stage two items to think about as you go through your first few audits:
- Site architecture and internal linking
- Content hierarchy with h1, h2, and h3 tags
- Technical accessibility (such as Flash elements)
Outsourcing your SEO Audits
You can always outsource these efforts to a marketing company. I myself love running technical site audits, especially when there are a ton of problems to be resolved. So if you don’t have time to learn the SEO ropes, contact ONE400 and we can figure out a program that fits your needs together.