When you pay for marketing and optimization assistance, it’s fair for you to expect results. You start any partnership with the understanding that it will help you towards your goal, whether it’s getting an email, increasing your social media presence, or selling products. Most importantly, you expect your optimization efforts to get you higher on Google’s search engine results pages.
A website audit is a comprehensive review of your website. It reveals a plethora of information about how, where, and why your site ranks the way it does. Businesses who complete a site audit annually can also stay one step ahead of Google’s penalties. Reversing these manual actions or any other restrictions from Google can be time-consuming and complex. Therefore, it’s best to focus on preventative strategies.
There are several types of site audits. During site health audits, you examine the general health of the site to find the source or potential cause of a site issue, such as a downturn in traffic. Red flag audits are when the site is assessed for potential penalty issues. During conversion optimization audits, the site is analyzed for technical and onsite conversion issues. Negative SEO audits examine how the site has been affected by third-party SEO attacks (attacks usually come from competitors). And lastly, a security audit seeks to unveil and gaping holes in your security.
Typically, each of these audits are a part of the overall SEO Site Analysis, which is broken down into chunks. And while you can benefit from hiring an experienced team to conduct a site audit, there are still ways you can do it yourself. Here are 5 steps to doing so:
1) Check on-page optimization. This is the most important part of the audit checklist. A few hours of on-site changes can make all the difference to your SEO. This checklist will help you understand where you need to make changes:
- Rewrite headlines to appeal to search engines
- Put relevant SEO keywords in title tags
- Ensure URL pages are each unique and properly formatted
- Make unique titles for each page
- Edit tags longer than 65 characters
- Check all content against Copyscape to determine there are no duplicates
- Create meta description tags that appeal to users reading it from search engines
- Optimize images according to best SEO strategies
2) Check your links. Internal page linking is useful to both search engines and visitors. The pages that you want to rank better should have the highest amount of internal links. Additionally, make sure you’re using keyword anchor text that includes the full page anchor text and non-anchor keyword text. Depending on the length of content, include 2-10 internal links per each page.
Images also need to be optimized. If it makes sense, use keywords in the file names and make sure they are descriptive. Each image should have the ALT tag defined and be compressed to minimize their size. If your images take up too much bandwidth, consider using a content delivery network (CDN).
Check for broken links or links that point to dead internal pages. These links could hurt your site’s SEO. For webmasters using a CMS or ecommerce platform, you may be able to download certain tools that automate this process. WordPress has a few plugins for this, and others programs like Xenu help webmasters as well.
3) Make sure search engines can index your site. Automated robots need to be able to access your site to properly rank it. There are several factors that could affect a search engine’s ability to read your content, such as improperly installed code files. Search Engine Simulator is a free tool that allows you to see how your content is displayed through the eyes of the search engine. You can use this as a foundation to correct any impurities.
4) Check your backlinks and conduct a competitive analysis. After you’ve gone through the bulk of your on-site edits, it’s time to see how you stack up against your competitors. To begin, check your backlink profile. This plays a huge role in how you search engines determine the value of your site. There are several link explorer tools to help you. Majestic SEO and Open Site Explorer both have free and paid options.
These tools will display every link that points to your site, and help you see which links are healthy. Repeat the process for your competitors to show where they’re receiving their links. By examining similar sites, you may even uncover industry trends and publishers you weren’t aware of.
5) Check your site for speed and user-friendliness. The Google Insights Tool is just one you can use to check your site speed. If your page load speed is too slow, it can increase the bounce rate and affect SEO. Google’s tool will also make suggestions on how to improve your site. Studies have even proven that speed has a direct correlation with conversions.
Additionally, have a colleague or friend go through a site walkthrough to ensure the site is user-friendly. This encompasses a variety of elements. Clicks should be intuitive, there should be a proper 404 error page, and the site should be easy to navigate.
If this list feels too technologically involved, it’s best to seek SEO services and experts who can not only walk you through the process, but explain what’s happening as they make corrections each step of the way.