Accessing information online is changing everything from the way we work to the way we shop – more than 263 million Americans shop online.
And a key part of how individuals access this information is search engine optimization (SEO). Sure, paid advertisements are a way to attract attention, but it is the organic content that users trust and visit time and time again.
Enter the SEO site audit. Creating your site according to SEO best practices is a great step, but maintaining an optimized website through regular site audits is the key to securing a high-ranking spot.
We’ve created the following SEO site audit guide to help you cover the most important elements of your website’s functionality for user-friendliness and search engine compatibility.
What is an SEO Site Audit?
A search engine optimization site audit is a process that analyzes how well your site is ranking on search engine results pages (SERPS) according to best practices. SEO audits will identify both foundational issues and the effective parts of your website.
SEO audits typically will reveal:
- Problems with website structure
- Technical SEO issues
- Content optimization opportunities
- User experience problems
- Competitive market insights
Think of an audit as a check-up for your website. Audits should be conducted regularly to keep your site competitive and running smoothly.
Throughout this guide, you’ll learn about several free tools offered by Google itself to check the health of your website. While these are great resources for managing your site, you’ll get the best results with an experienced web design team.
1. Check Your Mobile-Friendliness
The mobile friendliness of your site is crucial to both your user experience and your SEO rankings. 60% of searches take place over mobile devices, and that number is only growing after Google rolled out its Page Experience Update in 2021.
In this update, Google developers made the point that mobile-friendliness will be one of the user metrics emphasized in determining website usability.
Your SEO audit should look at how users interact with your website from mobile and tablet screens. Check your website by using Google’s free Mobile-Friendly Test. Go to the Experience > Mobile Usability tab within your Search Console, and you’ll get an overview of the issues that you need to fix.
For an even more detailed understanding of the mobile capabilities of your website, experts like the Iconic Web team can use their years of experience and tested metrics to look deeper into your site and even track mobile rankings separately.
2. Optimize Your Keyword Strategy
Keywords are the cornerstone of any search query and therefore any SEO strategy. Keywords tell you where your website is ranking and which areas have room for growth.
Your SEO site audit checklist for keywords should include:
- Finding your top ranking keywords
- Identifying competitors
- Choosing keywords with Keyword Efficiency
- Applying the Keyword Intent
First, look for the top-ranking keywords. These will yield the best results. A great free tool to get started is Google Adwords’ Keyword Planner – but again, you’ll have the best results with an SEO team.
Next, identify your competitors. These are the websites that offer similar content to yours and that have secured the top spots for your top keywords.
It’s time to finalize your keyword list by looking at their Keyword Efficiency Index. A higher KEI means that a keyword has high search volume but low competitors, while a lower KEI signifies high competition with fewer searches.
There is no “good” or “bad” KEI – they are simply metrics that should be compared between keywords to determine the optimal choice.
Lastly, check that your keywords match the intent they’re describing. Certain keywords will have informational or navigational intent, while others will have transactional intent.
Look at your existing content and the keywords that you’ve used. If your target keyword is “create SEO checklist,” it’s likely your content should be designed to inform your audience.
3. Improve On-Page Content
Keywords are just one of the tools you can optimize to make your website stand out. But for the best results, you need a holistic approach that focuses on creating the best content.
First, you’ll want to try out the skyscraping method. It works like this: do a quick Google search of your chosen keyword, and read through the top few search results for that word.
What are these sources doing well that makes them desirable to users? Are there updates or content gaps that you could fill?
Here’s where you implement skyscraping. Take these high-ranking pages and add even more unique value to them, “building on” to the original content.
The links within your text are another key factor to high-ranking content. You’ll want to focus on internal links and external links. Internal links take visitors to other pages within your website, while external links send visitors to other sources, like when you cite a study or refer to a news story.
Both internal and external sites add value to your on-page content if done properly.
When it comes to internal links, only link to pages with high site value. Think contact pages, landing pages, or blog posts where they can learn more. Never take a user to an obscure or infrequently visited page.
External links should take users to reputable, relevant websites. If users click on an external link that you provided and don’t find what they’re looking for, they’ll in turn view your website as less trustworthy.
You may be familiar with the term backlinks, a form of external links that appear on other websites and take users to your site while clicked.
While being referenced on a high-ranking website is a huge benefit to your SEO, it’s often out of your control. It’s a better idea to focus your SEO audit on links within your website since you can modify them as necessary.
4. Look for Indexing Issues
If search engines can’t access your content, you’ll never appear in search results. To make sure this doesn’t happen, look for indexing issues during your SEO audit.
First, check your crawlability with robots.txt and sitemap. Google Search Console is a free tool that scans your website for crawlability and indexing problems in its Coverage section.
If a page has the “noindex” tag in the <head> section of pages, it means that your site isn’t able to be found by search engines. The robots.txt file also blocks your site from indexing if it appears in the root directory of important pages.
Also, take a look at broken links. When pages become obsolete – perhaps from a sale that has ended or a landing page that is no longer relevant – 404 pages appear and disrupt your user.
These broken links hinder usability and lead to traffic losses, but they can be easily remedied during your SEO audit. Fix all broken links by correcting them and sending them to 301 redirect URLs. Customize your 404 error page with helpful links or suggestions to guide customers if they stumble upon a broken link in the future.
Lastly, you’ll want to identify duplicate content issues. When different URLs exist for the same webpage, search engines get confused and interpret the multiple sites as a blackhat SEO attempt.
To remedy this, use canonical URLs to help search engines consolidate information. Canonical URLs let you tell search engines that certain similar URLs are the same and should be identified under one authoritative, URL.
5. Speed Up Your Site
Google has confirmed that your site’s speed is a ranking factor – and with users expecting your site to load within just a few seconds, this isn’t surprising.
The rule of thumb is to aim for a website that loads in under 2 seconds. During your SEO audit, visit every page of your website and take note of those that don’t load within this time frame.
To speed up your site, you can enhance certain elements of each page by using file compression and optimizing videos or graphic content. If an image is 6000 pixels, it won’t load properly if it’s displayed at 600 pixels on your site. It’s also better to stick to JPG rather than PNG.
For a more advanced solution, SEO experts can use externalized code or put scripts at the bottom of your site.
If all else fails, you may want to consider using a Content Delivery Network to reduce the work from your server. CDNs allow users to download files from servers close by instead of using your server. Spreading the bandwidth will lower page load time.
It also may be a good idea to switch your hosting service. At $10 a month, you can’t expect fast loading times, and you’ll notice quite a speed difference when you upgrade to premium hosting services.
6. Track Your Competitors
Attaining a high search engine ranking isn’t about more than designing a beautiful website with great content – it’s all relative.
High-quality content won’t do you much good if your competitors are uploading even better content. A beautiful website won’t help you if your competitors have an even more user-friendly layout.
Google’s Keyword Planner will tell you about the top-ranking keywords for you and your competitors, It will also give you insight into how much your competitors spend to rank highly for these words. With this information, you can decide which keywords will be worth pursuing.
Staying up-to-date with your competition will give you an idea of where you need to improve and what gaps you can fill. If the industry norm is 1000 words a blog post for a particular topic, writing one that’s twice as long could help you become the authority for that concept.
You can even use your competition to identify your niche in the market and establish connections, which will be helpful when you’re looking for link-building opportunities.
7. Simplify Your Site
Simpler is always better when it comes to your website. Busy websites that overload your senses harm the user experience, along with making navigation more difficult.
A study from Google found that users will judge a website as beautiful or not in as little as 1/50th of a second. More often than not, visually complex websites receive lower ratings. And the less attractive your website, the fewer views you’ll receive.
Take a look at the following elements of each website page:
- Font choice and size
- Colors used
- Text groupings
Most successful websites stick to the basics. Think an easy-to-read black font on a white background, with one accent color used for links.
Colors should be congruent and complement your site’s logo. Images should be clear and relevant to the text.
Speaking of text, read through some of your content and notice how lines are grouped. Text lines should be about 60 characters long, and paragraphs should be no longer than 3 sentences.
And simple extends beyond the visual elements of your site to its architecture. Site architecture is how the pages on your site are organized and helps search engines find and index your pages.
When your site architecture isn’t simple, Google will have difficulty indexing your pages. When your site architecture links pages together seamlessly, Google’s crawlers will be able to organize information more easily.
A good test of your site’s architecture is to count how many clicks it takes to get from your homepage to another page on your site. The most important pages should be only one click away, and no page should be more than three clicks away.
Conducting An Effective SEO Site Audit
Attaining and maintaining high rankings are critical components of any digital marketing strategy.
And you don’t have to do it alone – the Iconic Web SEO team is here to guide you through the process of optimizing your site, whether it’s designing a landing page from scratch or conducting an SEO site audit.
Reach out to our team to learn more – we are available by phone or email 7 days a week.