You write to rank. But how often do you pause typing to see how your SEO-focused content is performing?
A glance at the first page of Google won’t cut it. A simple SEO audit can provide a better understanding of the positives and adverse aspects of your site’s pages in the eyes of Google and other search engines.
It’s an important undertaking so you can improve upon what works and eliminate bad SEO tactics that affect your rankings (and in some cases, could result in your site being removed from the search engine altogether).
While this article focuses on an SEO audit, it must be done on a solid foundation. First, document the answers to these questions around your brand’s purpose for the site:
With these answers, you’re ready for the audit.
Search engines use what are called “crawlers” to go through your website and analyze:
Google and others also use real-life searches to see if your pages deliver what their users are looking for.
An SEO audit should be split into three sections:
On-page SEO is the heart of your website. Knowing how well these factors stack up is the most important step because you can control (i.e., change) your pages.
Among the elements to assess:
Use the table format below to conduct your on-page factor audit. At a minimum, list the URLs for every landing page identified in the pre-step as key to your site and brand.
After you go through this on-page section of your SEO audit, fix any of the elements where you answered no.
Technical SEO spans a wide range of topics, but in terms of an audit, stick to the core elements around access and user experience:
If a website can’t be crawled properly, it will not rank. To see if Google can find your content (i.e., it’s indexed), go to Google Search Console through your Google Analytics account. Click on Index in the left column.
Audit question: Does the number of discovered URLs match the number of indexed URLs?
If not, keep reading on how to investigate – and fix – the problem. If your URL numbers match, move to the website structure section.
Staying in Google Search Console, look at the page-level data (use the search bar at the top of your website) to see if your target pages are being found by Google.
If not, add the target page(s) to your site map and ask Google to do another index. You can do this two ways as detailed by Google: (1) Use its URL Inspection tool or (2) Submit your site map.
TIP: Google recommends if you have a lot of new or previously unindexed URLs, submit a site map. If only a few URLs aren’t indexed, use the URL Inspection tool.
Now, assess the frame on which a website is built because it directly influences URL structure. Search engine crawlers like to see a top-level category page with all relevant sub-pages below and cascading relevant sub-topic pages. Ideally, it should look like this:
Audit question: Does your site’s URL order make sense?
If your site doesn’t logically structure the URLs, revise them so they are clean and tidy. (Note: Redirect existing URLs, which may have been published, to ensure that those visitors land on the right page.)
TIP: Proper URL structuring does not include capital letters, underscores, or punctuation/characters such as hashtags, etc. Search engines can’t crawl these characteristics.
Visitor privacy and protection also are important to search engines. An HTTPS site indicates it has an SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate, which means the visitor’s data is secure between the browser and the site’s server.
Audit question: Does your site have its SSL certificate and corresponding HTTPS address?
If you don’t have a recognized secure site, check out this Google resource to learn how to obtain an SSL and have it automatically configured for your web server. (It’s not a complicated process.)
Search engines also want site visitors to be able to find the pages.
In Google Search Console, under Index, click on Coverage. It will show any URL with 404 errors (page cannot be found) and any other pages that have accessibility warnings.
If the URL receiving the 404 error was accidentally removed, restore it. If the URL receiving the 404 error was removed purposely, use a 301 redirect to a page with the closest relevant content.
Audit question: How fast does your site load?
Page speed relates to the time pages take to upload on your site. A slow page load can affect search and its users in two ways, according to Moz:
(1) The search engine will crawl fewer pages in the site’s allotted crawl time and
(2) user experience (visitors won’t wait long for a page to load).
Input your URL into a tool such as Google’s PageSpeed Insights.
If your site score is 85 or higher (on a scale of 0 to 100), the load speed is adequate. If it’s below that, you can take multiple steps to improve it
The final SEO audit area examines the strength of your site beyond the parameters you control – links to your site and mentions of your brand on third-party sites.
Unlike the on-page and tech assessments, this category isn’t as straightforward in how it affects SEO. For example, a link that may look like it has no brand value, may carry weight for rankings – whereas a brand mention might not have an SEO value.
Audit question: What is your site’s domain authority score?
Your domain authority, which is a formula developed by Moz, predicts how well the site will rank. The score ranges between one and 100, with higher scores indicating a better ability to rank. Though it is not a direct factor in search engine results, it indicates how well your site is linked to from other sites.
Audit question: What’s your key pages’ authority score?
Pick your key URLs and asses their page authority, a calculation for a page similar to the domain authority formula for your site.
Lower scores for domain and/or page authority indicate you have more work to do when it comes to attracting links (and ultimately traffic) to your site.
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