This article covers:
- How to perform SEO audits for information websites?
- Introduce some of the commonly used technical SEO audit techniques
This article’s target audiences:
- Business owners who want to improve their website’s search ranking
This article’s scope:
- Information websites
- Google Search Engine
We all agree that top ranking is a good thing because it drives more business, but many of us don’t know what it takes to get there. In this article, we’re going to discuss a list of to-dos for improving your website’s organic ranking, with a focus on SEO audit.
Before the start, we would like website owners to understand this fact: web developing and Search Engine Optimisation are separate tasks. Therefore, a newly developed website is usually not search engine optimised, which explains why new websites tend to have little to no visibility, so budget your website expense wisely and spend some on SEO.
Based on the cross-field knowledge in both SEO and web developing, we deeply understand that they are equally important in helping businesses grow online. Many successful companies heavily rely on their websites to generate business opportunities, and they will certainly tell you the investment on SEO makes all the differences. So here we go!
Step 1 – Site Structure and Keywords Tree
To start creating a content skeleton of your website, list all your main page and subpages. Spend some time to review your site structure to see if your main navigation is intuitive, or it needs some work because you have content overlapping.
For products and services which are closely related to each other, do you have side menus to have them all referenced? If not, go ahead and create a side menu. Similarly, for blogs you should also have tags, categories and archives to have them well organised.
Now let’s have a look at your keywords. Competitor research and keyword research are two of the standard methods when it comes to getting your keywords right. Our approach is: after having your pages listed, create lists of all the relevant keywords related to each page. This forms a website content skeleton which we call it a Keywords Tree, and this will be the version 1.
Then go do your keyword research and competitor research to find out what keywords you have missed but also perfectly describe your business, and include them in to form Keywords Tree version 2.
You can also brainstorm some long-tail keywords to be included as Keyword Tree version 3. However, one thing we have to point out is that, don’t overly focus on long-tail keywords simply because they are less competitive. For a local business, your top spots are less competitive when compared to national ones. You cannot go wrong by focusing on the most popular keywords, and we suggest to tail them with your location keywords since they are more likely to be used in real search queries.
Once you have completed the third version of Keywords Tree, you will have a solid foundation for your website content creation. You now have a clear direction to work on content optimisation.
Step 2 – Check Site Indexing
Here is an advanced search query that every SEO specialist uses:
Above tells you how many pages of your website are indexed. We suggest you go through the search pages to identify any pages that you don’t wish to be indexed and disallow them for indexing in your robots.txt file. A developer’s help is needed but you must get the idea that any duplicate or pages show little to no value can only do harm on your site’s SEO performance.
To take this further we can also inspect whether you have both www and non-www version of the website indexed. If so, you must do a redirect from one to another. You can either set up your favourite version in your Google Analytics or ask your developer to help you. To check the www version, use this:
Likewise, you can also check whether you have both http:// and https:// version indexed. If so, you need to redirect http:// to https://.
Based on the Keywords Tree you created earlier, you can check your indexing against top-level keywords by adding them after your search query like this:
site:www.yourdomain.com.au your keyword
Above is also useful to check the keyword density on a website level, which gives you an idea of how many pages/articles contains a specific keyword. If there are little to no results, then you must focus on content creation around this keyword immediately. Keep in mind that keyword density is a ranking factor, but the goal of writing an article for your website should also be pleasing to your audience, so don’t overdo it by writing keywords stuffed paragraphs.
You can also use it to check specific website categories, i.e. see how many blog posts are indexed, which will help you to identify potential indexing issues. You can do it like so:
Combine above two, you could check how many of your posts have covered a particular keyword:
site:www.yourdomain.com.au/blog your keyword
A quick summary of how to use Google advanced search queries to identify indexing issues:
- Site indexing – how many pages are indexed.
- Whether only one of WWW or non-WWW version is indexed
- Whether http:// is redirected to https://
- Whether there are more pages shouldn’t be indexed, if so remove them.
- Whether there are duplicate content indexed, if so remove them.
- Whether there are enough website content to support your important keywords, if not create more content.
- We also learned that keyword density is not simply repeating keywords in your writing. Before an article pleases search engine it must be appealing to its readers.
Step 3 – Check Website Meta Description
Use above advanced search query you can get an idea of what your current meta description of each page looks like. If you’ve never written any meta descriptions, Google will take some content from your page to randomly generate meta descriptions. So take control of this important piece of marketing information, because that’s what gives the first impression of your web pages on Google search.
Our recommendations for writing quality meta descriptions:
- Firstly, you must understand meta description has almost no influence in your SEO ranking but it’s still very important for your organic search CTR (click-through rate). This might sound a bit confusing but the reality is Google doesn’t take meta description into account when ranking your website. However, a carefully crafted meta description can help search audiences to click on SERP results and land on your website. Remember: digital marketing is a numbers game, more clicks drive more leads and eventually, more business.
- Your meta description should comply with the character limits usually 70/160-170 for title/description.
- Incorporate a call to action in your meta descriptions.
- Have a good balance between what you can do and how you can help your customers. Mixed up your expertise with the end results of your specialty.
- Make them sound interesting and inviting, you can even go a step further to use a well-known content marketing technique called Emotional Targeting.
Step 4 – Website Mobile-Friendly Test
Your website can certainly be penalised for not being mobile-friendly, to check this go ahead use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool. If the report contains suggestions that you’re not familiar with, forward the report to your developer to address the issues.
Step 5 – Website Speed Analysis
We recommend a sub 2 second for information websites. Unless your pages are loaded with high-resolution images, you should strive for a sub 1 second page speed. Remember a faster website means business because it can greatly improve user engagement.
To check your current page speed score, go to Google PageSpeed Insights. Keep it in mind that, for a large scale website, improving page speed alone can be a full-time job. This is not an exaggeration since so many cross-field knowledge involved to make a website go faster, and we need help from your developer, hosting provider and SEO specialist.
If you’re getting a poor score which is often the case, then consider the following:
- Move your hosting to a better environment, i.e. a dedicated VPS. In many cases, a shared hosting environment usually has poor page speed performance, as hundreds of thousands of websites share the same hosting resource. And the issue usually exacerbates during peak hours.
- Get above three parties work together to resolve your page speed issues. A qualified SEO agency should have the capability to handle this job without having to resort outsourcing.
Step 6 – Website Links Analysis
Generally, there are three types of linking:
- Inbound links – other websites refer us and send us traffic.
- Outbound links – we create links to other websites as part of support/additional information to our content.
- Internal linking – helps website audiences to better understand your content, and it also leads the search engine to better crawl your web pages. We often say that SEO and user experience go hand-in-hand in so many ways, it’s so true!
If you find you don’t have enough linking on your website, this is an opportunity where you can step in and resolve it by yourself:
- Pick up the phone, ring up the resources who could potentially refer your website and send you quality traffic.
- Add authoritative web resources to support and extend your website content. Remember: outbound links are just as important as inbound ones.
- Create hyperlinks to other pages where particular topics are discussed in greater details.
Step 7 – Utilise Google Search Console
Register your website in Google Search Console gives you the following advantages:
- Allow you to check indexing issues
- Monitor broken links (404 errors), which is very useful when doing a site rebuild. You can monitor 404 errors in Google search console and fixed them accordingly to retain your previous organic ranking. This task could last weeks or even months.
- Use Structured Data Testing Tool to further check your rich data which will give you an idea of how to build up rich snippets to show up on SERPs.
- Submit your XML site map to help Google better crawl your website.
- Get real search query report to discover what search terms your audiences have used to find you on Google, which is another excellent way to grow your keywords list.
We’ve covered the SEO audit a lot and tried to keep them as non-technical as possible, but compared to the real tasks we usually do for our clients’ SEO audit we’ve barely scratched the surface. If you’re running a business which depends on your website’s organic ranking, we recommend you to drop us a line for a comprehensive SEO solution.