Everything you need to know about in order to run a successful SEO Audit
Let me ask you something candidly. Have you been going through episodes of anxiety because your site has not been producing any substantial leads? Your competitors are reaching heights of popularity, while you are still stuck in a limbo of low traffic rate? No matter how much time, effort and money you dedicate to your site’s development, it is still not ranking high enough in the search engine results? If your answer to all these questions is a yes, then you, my friend, are suffering from a severe SEO deficiency.
How can you be sure? By running a full SEO audit of your website and diagnosing all the problems that have been haltering its success. What is an SEO audit? It is a complete check-up—an evaluation of sorts, which grades a site against a number of well-defined standards, set by the respective search engine.
What is the role of a search engine in improving a site’s visibility, you ask? Monumental. It is the search engine (predominantly Google) to which people go when they have questions on their mind, and it is the search engine that displays your site on its SERPs in response to people’s queries—giving it a wonderful exposure.
The point is no matter how hard you try to clean your site’s interface, if its ‘Googleability’ is not on par with the best in the business, then there’s just no use burning the midnight oil.
If you are wondering how to run a successful SEO audit of your site this year and you are a beginner, then you need not wander far. Check out the grading pointers below, which will help you improve the rankings of your site in a matter of hours.
Begin with Crawling
In SEO terminology, ‘crawling’ is a process in which a search engine releases its secret bots to crawl over billions of pages/websites alive in the digital pool, and score them on the basis of relevancy in its gigantic index.
This is the point from where you can start your SEO audit, to understand what you are actually dealing with. Run a crawl over your site using advanced tools like,
- Screaming Frog (Free/$190 per year)
- DeepCrawl (Free/$89 per month)
- Netpeak Spider
- SEMrush etc.
Configure them to emulate the Googlebot’s behavior. See in which manner and how frequently the crawling is done on your site.
Get the analysis report highlighting any broken links, excess redirects, duplicate content, and unlinked pages that might be affecting your site’s reputation. Once you run the diagnostic tests online over your secure internet connection (Check: Cox internet bundles), then you can focus your attention on fixing the issues permanently, boosting the site’s ranking thereby.
Measure the Accessibility & Indexability
Are the users and the search engine crawlers facing any hurdles when they try to open your site’s pages? If yes, then, it is time to evaluate the site’s accessibility ratio and analyze any indexability problems. Following factors come into account here:
- Authenticity—The last thing you need is for your site’s image to be tarnished with confusion. A confusion that arises when more than one versions of your site show up in the SERPs, discouraging the users and the search engine crawlers to process either. What you need to do is integrate all the authentic permutations of your site and remove any incongruity/duplicate URLs/mixed messages that appear to tamper with your site’s main accessibility. A manual Google search can show you the way.
- Robots.txt—This file is used to restrict the movement of search engine crawlers on a particular site. You need to make sure that it is not blocking access to the ‘important sections’ of your site—only those that are under the “noindex, nofollow” meta tag. You can manage the robots.txt file via your Google Webmaster Tools.
- HTTP Codes—Errors or HTTP status codes, if handled amateurishly, can prevent the search engine crawlers and the users from accessing/indexing your site properly. Once you have an inventory of your site’s entire collection of URLs before youas a result of your self-run crawl, then you can fix the broken links and redirect those that are no longer available using the famous 301 HTTP code.
- Sitemap—Search engine crawlers automatically favor those sites that have a proper XML sitemap document in place, which gives them a roadmap to all the pages of the said site. So, make sure you notify the search engine about XML by submitting it to your webmaster tools accounts.
- Speed—According to Neil Patel, about 40% of the people abandon a site if it takes more than three seconds to load. That is why speed is a crucial element when it comes to determining a site’s accessibility. You can assess your site’s current loading speed by taking the Pingdom tests. Google Page Speed and YSlow are good speed-measuring tools too. Once you identify the bottleneck pages, optimize them to improve your site’s performance.
- Hierarchy—Structure and site architecture matters, a lot. While auditing, identify how many levels of hierarchy there are on the site and how well the pages are linking to each other, vertically and horizontally.
- Security Certificate—As of its late 2017 update, Google warns to penalize all the sites that do not follow the HTTPS security protocol, ranking them the lowest in its index. Thus, you should take the cue and check if your site is padlocked with HTTPS protection or not. If it is not, then acquire the security certificate right away to open up the way to a seamless accessibility.
Once you audit and tackle these accessibility + indexability issues successfully, then proceed to deal with the on-site problems.
Inspect the On-Site Performance
A website domain needs to function smoothly in all its dimensions to be ranked favorably by the search engine. Even a single missed characteristic could jeopardize the whole site’s performance. So, after evaluating the accessibility & the indexing problems of your site, next, you should turn your attention to a site-wide audit. The following factors matter here:
- URL—This gateway to your site’s portal needs to be short (less than 115 characters), user-friendly, hyphenated, static and keyword-optimized. It should have subfolders instead of subdomains for easy link juice passing.
- UX—Short for ‘User Experience’, this factor includes the color scheme of your site (whether it is eye-catching enough or not), the design of the site’s interface (whether the layout is coherent or not), the use of images and videos (whether these are properly integrated with the text or not) and the placement of social buttons on site sections etc.
- Mobile-Friendly—According to statista’s report, about 52.2% of all the web traffic was generated through mobile phones only last year. In addition,wiredseo facts predicts the mobile internet users to exceed the 50 million number by 2021. This shows how crucial it is for your site to pass the mobile-friendly test, as set by Google.
- Content—This element composes the bulk of a site. You need to make sure that your on-site content is long-form (as that’s preferable), has valuable information, comes with zero grammatical errors and plagiarism, is not stuffed with disjointed and irrelevant keywords, can easily be processed by various search engines in different formats, has a proper information architecture etc. There are various tools which you can use to assess the content, like Copyscape, Grammarly, Browseo, Google Keyword Planner, Panda/Penguin checks etc.
- HTML Umbrella—The evaluation of this markup reveals some of the most important on-site ranking elements, like page titles, meta descriptions, canonical tags, content-to-ads ratio, page outlinks, and their anchor texts etc. These should be concise, keyword-optimized, ensure maximum CTR and relay authenticity. Tool to use: W3C, World Wide Web Consortium or CSS validator.
Perfect these on-site dimensions first, and then head over to the off-site development to see what’s the problem there.
Check the Off-Site Progress
Running an off-site SEO audit takes a little more time than the rest, but it is totally worthwhile. Off-site refers to what you are projecting out there—your image outside the premises of the domain. It includes:
- Backlink Profile—How many high-quality, unique-root-domain websites are linking to your site? Are the backlinks relevant? How many of them are of the ‘nofollow’ category? Use blekko, Ahrefs, or Majestic SEO tool to extract and audit your backlink data.
- Site Authority—If a site is trustworthy and has a good link-backing, then the search engine automatically elevates its site/page authority. Use SEOmoz to check your PA/DA.
- Social Integration—Social media is all the rage, these days. Therefore, its integration with websites is quite instrumental. Check your Hootsuite account for the progress of social media metrics. Alternatively, you can use third-party services like Shared Count to gauge your site’s social engagement ratio.
If your website is not exhibiting enough traffic despite your best efforts to maintain it, then you need to run an SEO audit to see what’s going on behind the veil. Such an audit will help you see the points where the site is lacking and show you how to recover them effectively. You can run an SEO audit on your own by following the aforementioned steps.