If you already have a website but it’s not performing as required, then running a website audit for SEO is a great way to discover areas which might be causing you problems.
You can often gain some quick wins by resolving fairly easy to fix minor issues. You don’t always need a technical guru to make improvements.
An SEO audit can look at many things on your website. It’s a key component of your overall SEO strategy.
Let’s look at the key components of a thorough website audit.
The areas of focus can be split into the following key areas:
The technical elements look at how the site is built, are there any errors and is the site secure.
UI and UX look at the user’s journey on the website and how the website actually looks and navigates.
The final area is SEO. How is Google and the other search engines seeing your site?
Let’s break it down further. There are course big overlapping areas. Everything affects SEO! But here I’ve broken it down into the main tests and which of the three that primarily fall under.
- Broken links
- Versions of site submitted
- Page load times
- Bounce rates
- Call to actions
- Internal links
- Content quality / duplicate content
- Title tags and hierarchy
- Meta titles and descriptions
- Backlink analysis
- Alt tags
OK let’s look in depth at each component of your website audit for SEO improvements.
First and foremost, do you have an SSL certificate installed on your website?
An SSL certificate is what gives you https in the address bar, usually accompanied by a padlock icon.
What does this mean? An SSL encrypts data between your website and its users. Think of a form on the website, the SSL provides an envelope in which your letter is placed before being submitted.
Not having SSL opens up your site to phishing, hacking and data breaches.
When a website is created and launched, you should submit a sitemap to Google.
This site map lists out all the pages of your website which you want Google to list in the search rankings.
This process is called indexing. Google will crawl your website and add the pages to its index.
Now it’s possible that your website could be blocking indexing. There is a file called robots.txt which can provide instructions to Google on which pages it can or can’t index.
Make sure you aren’t blocking your pages from being indexed! It’s common practice to block access to things like a website’s admin area. Or if you have a website under development which isn’t yet ready for the world, you can hide it from Google.
If Google can’t index a page, it won’t show in the rankings.
Broken links can result in what’s known as a 404 error. This can happen for a number of reasons. The main one being a page was deleted or the URL changed. It’s good practice from both a user experience and SEO point of view to set up a redirect if a broken link appears. So they are a key part of the audit process.
We’ll look at redirects in more depth shortly, but essentially if you remove a page, use a redirect to take the user to another relevant page (don’t just send them all to the homepage).
Occasionally a broken image link can appear too which results in the same error. This would show the user a missing image icon where the image should be.
During a website audit for SEO, you should look and assess any redirects you have in place to make sure they are working.
A 301 redirect should be in place if a page has been permanently removed and a replacement/alternative exists. A 302 redirect would be used if a page has temporarily moved.
Perhaps more importantly is how your main website URL is set up and redirecting.
Unless configured correctly, Google could see your website as 4 versions:
Your audit should highlight any issues with your domain setup. Ideally non https would be redirecting to https. Also www should point to non www, or vice versa, depending on your preferences. From an SEO perspective it doesn’t make any difference.
DNS records should be correctly setup to ensure www and non www versions are resolving correctly too.
Versions submitted to Google
Google search console allows you to ensure Google is only indexing one version of your site.
Multiple versions being indexed will hinder your rankings, being seen as duplicate content.
You can fairly quickly see what version of your site Google indexes by searching site:yourdomain.com
Page load times
More important than ever, page speed costs money. If a site fails to load quickly, you will lose visitors.
Also Google doesn’t like slow sites, so you won’t rank well if you’re site is slow. Take a look at our other article Why is my website slow?
When auditing, there are a couple of good resources to assess your website speed.
Both will score your site, and provide feedback on things to do to improve the speed. Not all are technical, for example compressing images or using a decent hosting platform.
Google Analytics will provide some valuable stats for your website audit.
An important one to look at is your bounce rate.
A bounce rate is the percentage of website visitors who enter the site and then quickly leave (“bounce”) rather than continuing to view other pages or posts within the same site.
So basically they didn’t find what they were looking for, or the page was irrelevant.
An audit can show which pages are causing the most bounces, so addressing this could improve site use and ultimately conversions.
Call to actions
Is your website clearly defining next steps for its visitors?
CTAs, or call to actions, need to be clearly defined to let the visitors know what to do next. Should they call? So they need to complete a form? How do they buy?
They should visually be obvious and use the right language to encourage action.
How would a site visitor with a visual impairment be able to access and navigate your site? The web needs to accessible to everyone.
The website audit should look at things like the contrast between text and background, font sizes, or the over use of images (are you using alt tags? See that section below).
Can the website be navigated using just a keyboard?
For great accessibility, the content must be POUR:
The internal linking structure of your website can help navigate users to the important content.
Can they easily get to see details about a key service offering if they land on a blog page?
It not only helps users, but it helps the search engines determine which content on your site is most important.
Content quality / duplicate content
Your website content will always be the main driving force for traffic. So the content needs to be relevant and high quality.
Each page should have a minimum of 3-400 words. A good blog article or how to guide should be at least 1000 words. Each page should be user and keyword focused.
Having a lot of duplicate content can be a negative. Your website audit for SEO should flag pages which have repeated content.
Where it’s not possible to remove duplicate content, you can use canonical URLs to tell the search engine which page is the one they should prioritise.
Each page on your website needs to make proper use of title tags.
There should only be one H1 tag per page. This is the main title.
Then you should have h2 tags, any subtitles there within an h3 tag, and so on.
Duplicate h1 tags on a page will need resolving. Also the content of the h1 tags across the site should be unique. Don’t repeat titles.
Meta titles and descriptions
Meta titles and descriptions are an easy fix should a website audit flag them as being incomplete/in need of work.
These are the title and short description which appears on a Google search results page.
Both of these should be optimised to the relevant keyword, user focused, and worded to drive conversion.
Make sure your meta titles and descriptions are unique on every page.
Alongside website content, your backlink profile is another key component of your SEO strategy. A thorough website audit for SEO will look at this.
A backlink is a link from another website to yours. The more high quality and relevant websites you have pointing to yours the better. The way The search engines see it, if a website is pointing to yours, it must have some content of interest.
An audit will scan your backlink profile and highlight any bad links you may have from spammy sites.
Assessing your backlink profile and comparing it to a competitors can show up some opportunities for growing your profile.
Related to website accessibility, an alt tag is a visual description of an image.
It’s main purpose is to describe the images which a user can’t see, for example if they use a screen reader to access a website, or if a browser blocks an image.
From an SEO point of view, good descriptive text can help your images rank on a Google image search, bringing in another potential source of traffic.
There is a great article on what makes a good alt description on Hubspot.
A thorough website audit will look at all areas of your website and make suggestions from both the user and search engine’s perspectives.
We’d recommend fixing the technical ones first, along with missing meta data. These can be quick wins.
Content auditing can take time and the results from an SEO point of view even longer.
If in doubt give our team of experts a call today.