Why perform an SEO audit?
Before delving into the strategies you will to adopt and methods to learn in order to audit your website it is worth highlighting the reasons for embarking on such a journey. The overriding reason for conducting an SEO audit on your site is to improve user performance and make your site more visible to and tick more boxes for the search engines that determine your ranking. In addition to this, however, is, as Lojix, a digital marketing agency based in Barnsley, says “…the unavoidable fact that SEO is in constant flux – since October 2019 there have been two major Google Core updates that have introduced subtle changes to how Google’s algorithms determine best practice and in the end those crucial rankings. Think of an SEO audit as a big spring clean on the inner workings of your website.” In a survey conducted by Databox, 70% said that SEO is better than PPC when it comes to generating sales. (Databox, 2019).
How to perform an SEO audit
Ask your users
There is as the saying goes, more than one road to Timbuktu and this is true in the labyrinthine world of SEO audits. However, it pays to think logically about how to begin. For years now, Google has shifted its focus to user performance and this is constantly being targeted in any algorithm update. So, before committing to using any SEO audit tool, or diving in headfirst, sit back and consider what it is your users think. Jot down two or three questions and conduct a survey of your clients and web visitors. You might want to come up with something like this:
1. What content interests them the most?
2. What is their favourite kind of content, i.e. lists, how-to articles, surveys, images, video…?
3. What are their likes and dislikes with regard to the website?
Leave room for additional comments in case you’ve missed a vital point and there seems to be an overwhelming consensus. This kind of information could be crucial in how you come to evaluate your site’s performance and pinpoint areas for potential improvement in your audit, but also about how you can improve your content going forwards and tailor it to the particular needs and interests of your customer demographic.
After conducting your survey it is vital to crawl your site in order to analyse and completely understand its current state. What is crawling? Well, crawling is the comprehensive review of pages on a website, using a tool such as Screaming Frog. You will be able to map the site and pinpoint any particular issues that need addressing. Your content will be reviewed and you will end up with a thorough overview that will help you understand how search engines may judge your site. Examples of some of the issues that can be spotted include broken links, duplicated content and URLS that have been blocked by robots.txt. Occasionally, over-zealous SEOs end up actually blocking a Google URL! In addition you can generate an XML sitemap. This will serve as a roadmap of your site that will direct Google and other search engines to the most important pages on your site. XML sitemaps can provide an SEO boost because of this – even making up for imperfect internal links. A crawl will also help you to overhaul your title tags and meta descriptions, detect temporary and permanent redirects as well as providing integration with Google Analytics.
Focus your goal on conversion
If your number one aim when undertaking an SEO audit is not focussed on lead generation, turning casual visitors into paying customers, then it probably won’t have the effect you are hoping for. You need to constantly have in the forefront of your mind the idea that visitors to your site must be encouraged to engage, no matter what page they land on. Tidying up and making your CTAs more attractive is a vital cog in the conversion wheel.
Accessibility is paramount
In order to look into the accessibility of your site you will need to set up Google Analytics and Google Search console. These tools allow you to measure and track conversions (GA) and rankings and errors in indexing (GSC). Also, by using these tools you are giving Google reason to believe in the authenticity of your site. Google Analytics is particularly good for helping you to assess whether any changes you have made in your audit are having the desired effect in terms of conversion rates.
Tip for carrying out key technical checks
When carrying out checks on things including speed, mobile indexing and other performance metrics, in order to achieve accurate and comprehensive results it is vital to carry out the check on at least 3 pages of your site, the most important being the home page, the category page and the page most stuffed with content.
Speed is of the essence
This brilliant article shines a light on the importance of loading times. 47% of users expect a website to open in under 2 seconds. Any longer will reduce the likelihood of perseverance and loyalty so it is vital to make sure that you understand why your speed may not be optimal. There are some great free tools like GT Matrix that can help you to understand the reasons behind the loading times on your website and pinpoint any opportunities for improvement. One very common cause of slow loading times is failing to ensure that caching of web pages is enabled. If caching is enabled, the page will be automatically saved for visitors to speed up loading on their next visit, providing a smoother performance. Remember that performance should be optimised for all devices and mobile is becoming the most important of these devices, although there is some indication that post Covid-19 desktop browsing is on the rise once again – understandable given the reduction in movement of most people.
It is impossible to talk about any facet of SEO without a look at content strategy. In the online marketing world, where there is often little in the way of consensus thinking, the one constant is the agreement that content is the single most important factor when it comes to a strong SEO strategy. So making sure that content is as strong and relevant as can be is a cornerstone of any SEO audit. Content can also be a great leveller. Businesses of all shapes, sizes and budget, can with a time commitment and a little writing acumen come up with some excellent and unique content. It is an excellent vehicle for brand development and to showcase the unique voice of your company. With the help of tools like Screaming Frog you can get a strong overview of your existing content and what is working and what is not. Coupled with an organic search traffic report generated by Google Analytics you will get a picture of where your current content is strong and where it could do with some work. As ever always bear in mind your target demographic and your users’ specific demands. There are three key ways you can help assess whether your content is matching them.
- Undertake a review of searches carried out in your site’s search box to see whether people are looking for content that is not there. Google Analytics can help here.
- Carry out tests on your site, asking those who respond to read, interact with and review your content. Sites like usertesting.com are great for this.
- Survey away! The power of surveys (use platforms like Google Forms or SurveyMonkey) is great. You can create surveys asking customers to rate your existing content. If you are clever you can pitch similar content against each other, differing only in style of delivery to experiment with how your customers react best to distinct content types.
What makes a great SEO audit is having your goals in the forefront of your mind at each stage of the process, not getting too bogged down in detail for detail’s sake and keeping it as simple as possible to avoid inadvertently changing something that will be counterproductive.