If you need a better understanding of how your business website is performing from a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) standpoint, then a website audit should be the first thing you consider. In general terms, a website audit is an analysis of all the contributing factors to a site’s search engine visibility. Those factors determine ranking performance (which in turn drives organic traffic) and fall into three areas: Technical, SEO (both on- and off-page), and Content.
The work required to conduct an audit will vary depending on the size of the website and will likely produce a list of actions that, when implemented, will improve website presence and search engine performance.
The Benefits of a Website Audit
Approx. Time to Complete: 8 hours.
Search engines like Google feature quick-loading and highly functional websites and tend to give higher rankings and visibility for relevant keywords and topics to pages that are properly set up. Google claims to use over 200 ranking “signals” to determine where a particular site will appear in the organic listings for individual keywords. Exactly what those signals are, and how they are weighted, is a trade secret.
While no person or SEO company has been able to crack the exact code, the steps referenced below will guide you through an audit and provide insight on areas you can focus on to improve your site’s visibility.
- Review Technical Performance
The technical review portion of the website audit is often seen as the most challenging part to understand. Given that businesses often hire outside help to maintain their site, it’s understandable how this might be an overlooked area inside the company. However, SEO is not the same thing as web development, and a great developer might not be completely savvy about SEO. Giving your developer the following guidance to help focus their efforts on things like website speed and link structure could help.
Review the Website Speed
Websites that don’t run quickly or that have extraneous features can often be slow to load, which has been proven to affect overall site engagement and therefore website rankings. In fact, Google conducted a study in 2018 that suggested 53% of mobile users will leave your site if it doesn’t load in 3 seconds. This confirms that the need for speed is very important for both search engine ranking and user experience. Google’s free PageSpeed Insights is one of several available tools that will test and report your website’s performance in this area.
Perform a Site Crawl
By using a tool like Moz or Screaming Frog SEO Spider, you will be able to crawl your website and review the technical accuracy and link structure. Issues such as circular linking and broken links (404 errors) can trip up search engine crawlers and users alike, resulting in lower search rankings. In addition, tools like Lighthouse, a Chrome development plugin, will allow you to see the speed at which the site operates and better understand what improvements can be made.
- Review SEO Ranking Signals
Once you have taken care of the more technical elements of website structure, you can step in and take a closer look at SEO performance. When reviewing a site from an SEO perspective, there are two main components involved: On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO.
The purpose of reviewing on-page SEO is to identify all pages on the website for proper keyword use by ensuring that the content matches the keyword and that it appears within the page slug and H tags, among other things. The foundation for this work is a comprehensive and recent keyword research list. While this portion of the SEO process might seem tedious, it provides a great opportunity for improvement. One of the tools we like to use to conduct this portion of the audit is Moz.
The focus of the on-page SEO review is on the page content, whereas the off-page SEO portion involves looking outside of the website for backlinks to the site, anchor text, brand authority and perception from outside sources, and more. This process requires the use of tools like Google Search Console and Google Analytics to review referral data and linking domains, which will help you understand who links to your site. The overall goal is to increase the number of high-quality, authoritative external pages that link to the site. Obviously, if someone has engaged in overly aggressive linking schemes in the past (resulting in a penalty from the search engines), that needs to be dealt with first. Check the messages in your Google Search Console account to confirm this.
Related Post: Three Essential SEO Actions When Updating Your Website
- Review Content Performance
Your best indicators of content effectiveness include visitor metrics like time on site, average pages viewed, and interactions such as clicks and form-fills. Focusing on quality and content relevance will cause those metrics to trend higher. This is important because user engagement provides an important set of ranking signals.
Take a long and critical look at the content on your website and blog. Can visitors quickly see from your site how you can solve an important problem, improve a situation, or save them money?
Next, look at your social media accounts. Are you getting new followers and likes? Are people engaging and commenting on your posts? Do your posts bring visitors to your website? The goal is for your audience to like the content, find it valuable, and engage with it further.
Some of the following questions will help guide you toward what you should be looking for when you review the content on your website and social media platforms:
· Review each social platform for number of posts
· What’s the average post frequency per day/week/month?
· What’s the average post engagement? What posts performed the best?
· What posts performed the worst?
· Any trends emerge from those posts?
· What’s the tone/voice used for postings and blogs posts?
· Are there unique standpoints / positions taken by the posts?
· Were direct comments left on the blog post or social posts?
· If so, what was the sentiment? Positive or negative?
With the steps referenced above, you will have some of the basics to conduct a website audit that will provide information to optimize your website for search engines. If you’re having difficulty getting these done or are looking for more information, please contact us and we’ll be glad to help you.