You may be wondering what an SEO audit is and why you would need to do one on your website. First, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) includes many factors you control on your website in order to bring in traffic through search engines. These engines crawl through your website to see how easy the content is to read, how easy is your site to navigate, and more.
An SEO audit is a way you can see how your website is performing when it comes to SEO. There are several platforms you can use to run audits on your website, and they will tell you where mistakes are and what steps you can take to improve your SEO. When you run an audit and update your site accordingly, your search ranking should improve, resulting in increased traffic.
Before Conducting an Audit
Before you start your audit, you need to make sure you have a Google Webmaster Tools account set up. Having an account allows you to access tools and reports that will help you better understand your current SEO standing and discover opportunities for improvement.
Content-Based SEO Checks
There are a couple of kinds of SEO audits you can run. The first one we will talk about is content-based SEO. These updates will be in the written content on your website. You can use online tools, such as Screaming Frog or SEMrush, to run reports and figure out where SEO issues are coming from.
- Check your H1s. H1s are typically the page title. They should include the primary keyword or phrase you want the page to rank for. Each page should have only one H1.
- Ensure all pages have unique, descriptive, keyword-rich meta titles and descriptions. These are displayed in search results, browser tabs, and when your page is shared on social media. They should be short but informative to help increase your visibility in relevant search results.
- Image alt text. Alt text is a short description (typically 125 characters or less) that describes what is in an image. Since search engines don’t look at images, this gives you the opportunity to tell the search engine what the image is and how it should be indexed. Having alt text on all images also helps with accessibility and ADA-compliance so someone who is visually impaired and using a screen reader can understand what they image is conveying.
- Avoid duplicate content. Even if you aren’t copying content from someone else, it’s possible you have duplicated your own content in various areas of your site. When it comes to SEO, content needs to be unique in order to rank well. If multiple pages on your site have similar content and the potential to battle one another for position in SERPs, you can use canonical links to let search engines know which pages you would prefer to have ranked.
- Update old content. If you have old content on your site, then updating it can really improve SEO. Google looks for new content because it is more likely to have current information. Additionally, users are more likely to click on a recent article than an older one.
Technical SEO Checks
The second SEO audit you can run is for technical SEO. This kind of audit is looking at site structure, indexing, and accessibility on your site.
- Keep sitemap up to date. Your sitemap is an XML file that contains all the links that exist on your site and defines how search engines will index your site. You can also use this file to dictate which pages search engines will and won’t crawl. This is helpful in cases where certain pages might dilute your rankings (duplicate content, pages for internal use only, utility pages, etc).
- Test page speed. There are a variety of online tools you can use to test site speed. When search engine crawlers scrape your site, one of the things they’re looking for is how quickly your site loads. A few things you can do to improve load times include compress images and videos to lower file sizes, optimize your code, lazy load your pages (this is a function where content doesn’t actually load until a user scrolls down to it, so above the fold content loads more quickly), and implement a content delivery network (CDN) if your site is content heavy.
- Check URL structure. URLs should be as short as possible and follow a consistent structure. Typically, you want to include your keyword for the page but should avoid keyword stuffing, random alphanumeric strings, etc. You should use hyphens as separators and not underscores or spaces.
- Add schema markup to your site. This is a form of structured data that can be added to your website’s HTML to convey more detailed information to search engines about a web page’s purpose. There are plenty of online schema markup generators that can be used to create this data. Implementing this data also increases the likelihood for Google to feature your content in their rich and featured snippets, provided that the content is relevant and useful.
- Use an SSL certificate. You’ve likely seen a website using both http:// and https://. The “s” stands for secure and means your site is protected with an SSL certificate. This ensures that private data is protected and encrypted. While this doesn’t play a huge role in improving your search engine rankings, the presence, or lack of, an SSL certificate can act as a tiebreaker in search engine rankings. Typically, sites using https:// will be prioritized over those using http://.
- Eliminate 404 errors. A 404 error occurs when a page no longer exists at a particular URL. This might mean that the page has moved or that it’s been deleted permanently. If a page has simply moved, adding 301 redirects allows you to direct search engines (and users) from the old URL to the new one seamlessly.
How Often to Perform an SEO Audit
You’re probably wondering how often you need to run an SEO audit on your website. First, you should know Google frequently updates their algorithm, which means SEO best practices are constantly changing. To keep up with these changes and keep your site relevant when it comes to SEO, you’ll want to regularly run audits. You should run an audit at least once a year, but you can do it as often as every quarter if you prefer.
Regular SEO audits are a necessity for anyone who has a website. All of these changes may feel overwhelming, but they don’t have to be! Contact us today, and we can start working on your SEO audit together.