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A One-Stop Guide to The World’s Best SEO Audit Tips and Tricks

A website audit is an important tool for any business with an online presence. It helps assess your website's strengths and weaknesses, identify opportunities and areas for improvement, and track your progress over time. In short, an audit is an essential part of your strategy.

Editor’s Note: This article is a merging of several older articles, we’ve updated them to be more current with today’s marketing styles, SEO guidelines and Google standards.

Table of Contents

What is a Website Audit For?

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Website Audit

As you can imagine with over 20 years under my belt, I’ve lost count of how many “best SEO” audits I’ve read, written or partaken in… I’m sure, I’ve repeated myself once or twice. But now that I have a plethora (yes, I used that word) of choices, I can help our readers by merging a few of our old Evergreen articles along with some of the newer ones thus, giving everyone the opportunity to find the answers to all their questions in one place. 

If you work online, you need to conduct website audits. Some agencies and consultants specialize in them and have their own templates, while others use tools and pull random data sets monthly. Regardless of why or how you conduct an audit, there’s always so much to know because, data. When an agency, whether focused on SEO, marketing firm or individual audits a website it’s for the same reason a doctor audits a patient – to understand the Current State the website is in and make recommendations for how to improve it.

The best audits are like the world’s greatest puzzle, with all the pieces put together in a way that tells a story about what is wrong and what needs to be done to fix it. When done correctly, an audit should provide clarity and direction on how to move forward with confidence.

One of the most common misunderstandings about website audits is that they’re only conducted when something is broken. In reality, audits should be considered an essential part of any website’s ongoing maintenance and evolution. Just as you wouldn’t dream of driving your car without first getting a tune-up, your website needs regular check-ups to ensure its performance is at its best.

By performing regular site audits, you can catch potential problems early and prevent them from causing larger issues down the road.Just like any other aspect of your business, your website must stay current to make efficient use of your online marketing dollars. If you’ve noticed a huge drop in traffic, your blogs are no longer hitting home or your social media simply stinks, it may be time for you to look at our best SEO audit to determine where you’re going wrong. Whether you’re a small local business or have an international audience, it’s important to keep up with the newest and greatest algorithms coming from top search engines like Google and Bing.

What Can an SEO Audit Do For My Website?

The beautiful and frustrating thing about doing business on the web is that the environment is always changing. Google likes to change up its SEO Best Practices, and what might have worked five years ago may not be an egregious sin against the search engine gods and will get you unranked (or worse…) Global search results are an amazing tool to expand business, as long as you stay current.    (Sorry not sorry if your slick-haired, sports coat-wearing fly-by-night SEO consultant told you that you were good to go five years ago and therefore are still set — the Internet is constantly evolving, and he is clearly not.)

The idea of what is considered high quality (or even acceptable quality) web content has changed considerably as the Internet has matured.  What worked a decade ago isn’t working anymore, what works internationally may not work locally because Google is smarter than it has ever been. For example, instead of strings of keywords scattered like glitter everywhere, there are now a few dozen specific criteria to earn page rankings, and you’d better hope your sport-coat consultant is keeping up.

By having a qualified SEO professional (I stress that last word) perform a comprehensive SEO audit, you’ll know exactly where your website is failing, uncover any search engine penalties and have a plan of action for making your way back onto the first page of Google’s search results.
A better page ranking equals better traffic and, ultimately, more sales. It’s as straightforward as that.Without a decent page ranking, you might as well shut down your website because it’s just taking up space on a server somewhere and costing you hundreds or thousands of dollars a year for absolutely nothing. You didn’t get into business to lose money, did you?

The World’s Greatest SEO Audit Starts Today

Sure, everybody claims they have the best of this or that, but unlike the World’s Best Dad or the World’s Tastiest Popcorn, the World’s Greatest SEO Audit means something more than a mere accolade. We’ve taken our years of experience and built a checklist that covers every aspect of your website and its interactions with search engine technology to help you detect what problems are causing your website’s low or non-existent ranking, and how to fix them. Our process ensures that your links are linking into good neighborhoods, your website is being crawled correctly, your site is built as optimally as it can be and even investigates the reasons you were penalized.

Step 1: The Basic Elements for Success Search Engine Accessibility

Google application
Search Engine Accessibility

Before we get too deeply into your audit, we like to know how well popular search engines can access your pages (when dealing in international SEO, your best local search engines may vary). We check that all the pages are getting examined by the search engine, that all URLs are functional, that your sitemap follows Sitemap Protocol and that no part of your site is obscured by the use of Javascript or Flash navigation.

Site Performance

Your site’s performance is crucial to efficient search engine examinations. The faster your site runs and loads, the more quickly the search engine crawlers can gather information from you. This is a great thing; it means more of your pages are indexed and your site’s entries stay more up to date than your competition’s.

Indexability

Indexability refers to how many pages on your site the search engine can include in search results after examining your site.The more pages that are indexed, the better a result you’ll get — to a point. Some search engines, Google included, will penalize you for having too many links pointing to the same page, so it’s a delicate line to walk.

Search Engine Penalty Identification

It would be great if alarms, bells and screaming sirens went off any time a search engine penalizes your website, but that doesn’t usually happen. Not everybody gets a glowing hot email that tells them that their site has been penalized by a search engine when it happens. If there’s no way to reach you or you’re not checking your email, you’re kind of left twisting in the wind. You’ll know if you’ve been penalized more often than not, though — if your site is completely de-indexed, for example, there will be no signs that your website was ever known by the search engine. This can happen due a change in the algorithm of the search engine, which is no fault of yours. We can figure out which problem is plaguing your site so we can get it resolved quickly.

Ranking Optimization

There are certain things search engines and customers alike look for in a high-quality website. Properly formed URLs that are short and easy to remember, the use of subfolders instead of subdomains and a lack of URLs that lead to the same content are just a few of the things we consider.

Content Evaluation

Maybe you’ve heard the old expression, “Content is king.” Google has implemented a brand new, intelligent algorithm that can tell if your English language site’s content is poorly written, uses poor grammar or contains lots of spelling errors. Even if you were never concerned about these problems before for your customers’ sake, it’s imperative now. Significant Google penalties apply when poor quality content is present, which includes anything from plain old bad copy to keyword-stuffed pages. 

Site Architecture Functionality

Your website isn’t just made of the things you see there — the words, the pages, the little applets that run in the background — it’s also made of a lot of stuff that you don’t see. Just like a house must have a solid foundation to stay up, your website’s architecture must be sound for it to function properly. Certain HTML elements, including titles, metadata, alternative text for images and outgoing links can influence your site rankings in ways you’d never believe.

External Page Ranking Factors

While there are many elements within your control that influence your page ranking, quite a few ranking factors are totally outside of your site’s direct reach. The popularity of your site, how often other quality sites link back to you and the number of mentions of your site on social media are just a few of these external ranking factors.

Step 2: Improving your Bottom Line

Most businesses use keywords and content to attract traffic to a site. While it takes careful planning to implement, the general concept is easy to use and repeat. As a rule, SEO strategies give people what they want: quality information that is easy to understand and access. Now that you’ve done your audit, how are you going to implement what you found to your site?

Clever use of keywords and content strategies aren’t enough to generate long-term profit, however. While they may form the foundation of search engine marketing, building a truly optimized site involves factors you probably aren’t even aware of. In fact, most factors affecting your bottom line happen after the search.

There is a lot of overlap between these sections. An audit of user experience, for instance, can provide suggestions that also improve the overall loading time of your menus. In my professional opinion, here are the top five basic areas the audit can pinpoint, and address to affect your reach and conversions.

Loading Speeds

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Loading Speeds

The faster your page loads from the search page, the more attention you’ll get from your visitors. Slower speeds cause visitors to lose interest. Load speeds of 3 seconds or more are devastating to otherwise flawless SEO efforts. Frustrated visitors are likely to tell others to avoid your site and earn a reputation for load delays. Some factors that can affect load speeds include:

Network and Server issues

  • Page assets
  • CSS and HTTP
  • Plugins
  • GZIP and minifying
  • Browser caching

Small details in coding can make a big impact on load times, ranking, or the usability of your site. Unresolved issues can discourage your audience, driving them to competing sites. Addressing site programming and protocols can improve the performance of your search engine marketing campaigns.

Calls To Action

Call to Action

A Call to Action (CTA) tells your visitors what to do to access your services. As a business, you should already be aware of the importance of CTAs for converting customers and subscribers. Even great CTAs can have critical issues that reduce their effectiveness. Page elements may draw attention away from the actions, or confuse viewers about what action to take if there are competing “calls.” Older, forgotten pages that still get good traffic could suffer from broken links that prevent conversion.

While focusing on developing new content and marketing campaigns, it is easy to lose track of old pages. Evergreen content often outperforms new, trendy content and could be optimized to keep generating those sales or subscribers.

Ranking Inhibitions

The whole purpose of SEO is to improve your site’s ranking and visibility in search results. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of ranking factors you probably don’t know impact your position in search results. Search engines update their algorithms faster than most sites can keep up with. It takes a team devoted to monitoring these factors and how they affect each page’s rank to stay on top of them all.

Some of these ranking issues include:

  • Page resources
  • Title tags
  • Meta data
  • Redirects
  • Language declaration
  • Site redesigns

This is just a small sample of the many factors search engines will use to rank your pages. Unless you have the resources to devote to these regular updates, you’re likely ranking lower than you could be. As an alternative, hiring a third party to keep track of these changes for you might be worth more than the hassle of doing it in-house.

Site Function/Usability

Usability may seem similar to user experience, but it is more about the ease of use and functionality than visitor interaction. User experience focuses solely on the visitor’s perception and ability to interact with your site. The functionality of your site considers things like hidden pages your visitors can’t reach and mobile experiences.  This can also include missed opportunities to link pages for greater access to the information and more intuitive designs.

It’s also no secret that mobile-friendliness is a confirmed Google ranking factor. It’s fair to say websites that aren’t easy to navigate on mobile are at a disadvantage when it comes to search. Mobile usability refers to how well a website functions on a mobile device. Mobile-friendliness is a measure of how well a website is designed for mobile devices. Google uses a variety of factors to determine the order of search results, and they regularly update their algorithms. This means that if your website isn’t designed for mobile devices, you’re at a disadvantage in the search results. 

In 2020, 211 million people in the United States used mobile devices to conduct searches. How your site appears on a mobile device is more important than ever. Sites with good user experience may suffer from usability issues the visitor simply isn’t aware of. Improving this area alone can increase traffic between pages and improve the performance of great posts hidden from the user’s view.

Large companies devote teams of experts to pouring over these nuances on a daily basis. For small or medium businesses, that kind of investment often isn’t in the budget. For a typical site, reviewing hundreds of individual pages to find these problems can be tedious and costly. Auditing your site even on a quarterly basis can make a huge difference to your overall profits. By not conducting a full audit on your site, at least occasionally, you are losing out on missed conversions and greater accessibility. So what are the benefits of an audit? Read on mes amis…

User Experience

When designing your site, it’s common to focus on profit and the bottom line. Keeping the visitor’s perspective in mind can be a tricky process. The way visitors interact with your site affects their interest and ultimate conversion. Search engine updates take this into account, which means it can also affect your rank.

Drop down menus, social media integration and pop-ups are a few examples that affect the user experience. Be aware that the design of your site may impact conversion as well, either through poor screen resolution or inconsistent design between pages. A full audit of your site will reveal these problems and suggest improvements for the visitor experience.

Will A Site Audit Help?

The quick answer to the question of whether or not a site audit will help is: of course. As long as you meet specific objectives with the reports. Otherwise, the audit will fall the way of being all bark with no bite. Here are some of the key elements that should exist in a helpful audit:

A Fleshed-Out Objective

Before beginning any assessment, it is important to set specific goals for why an audit is being done in the first place. You need the “why” to help drive the “what”. For example, if the audit is being done in preparation for an upcoming website redesign, then this objective influences the timeline of the project. More importantly, the report can provide insight on the kind of items that are recommended for the new site.

Comments On The Technical Aspect

A helpful site audit first focuses on whether or not the site is working the way it should by noting pages that are broken or outdated. A website with broken pages suffers from an image problem. It appears unprofessional and low-quality. The consequence of this is that the site often ranks lower.

Details On Specific Areas

An audit should not stop at giving a broad picture of the website. It should contain details. For example, even a 404 page is included in the study. It should note whether the error page is keeping readers interested, as well as include recommendations on how to improve it. The audit looks at things such as information architecture, and whether your site is structured in a way that makes sense.

Information Architecture

An Actionable Recommendation

The ideal format of a site audit is an assessment followed by a recommendation. These recommendations need to be specific and include a call to action. It should answer the question, “what should I do?” The recommendations should contain verbs like, “review”, “change”, or “update”. It is pointless to figure out weaknesses if no steps will be taken to address them.

Comments On Content

Content is king when it comes to the Internet. SEO optimization and other online marketing tactics are meaningless if they direct you to information that is obsolete or useless. You want an audit that delves into the content of the site. For example, it should contain recommendations on how blog titles are written. The use of tags in posts is also examined.

The report also goes beyond the technical aspects of writing. An effective audit also comments on the substance of the website. It can make recommendations on writing styles, such as suggesting more descriptive language to draw in readers. It can suggest the use of bulleted lists or headings to make the content readable. Often it pinpoints possible content strategies to strengthen the linkability and marketability of the site.

Performance Outside The Site Itself

The interconnected nature of the Internet is its main character. A helpful website audit puts the site into context with the rest of the information available online. Thus, you should also get recommendations on how to establish a presence using tools like social media, other sites.

For example, the audit should contain a do’s and don’ts list for social media use. It can recommend that the company use social media pages that are on-brand as well as always respond to negative feedback professionally. The details are usually up to you because it is an internal matter, but the audit should pinpoint the general guidelines.

The Importance Of Data

The site audit should note the importance of tracking the performance of the website, especially as changes are implemented. The competition for space on the Internet is fierce, so you need to be aware of any changes in strategy or search engine algorithm changes to stay at the top of the rankings. The audit should contain recommended tracking tools and templates.

Conclusion

Whether you choose to schedule them in-house or outsource, regular audits reveal critical areas that affect your marketing campaigns. Knowing what pages need attention and how to improve them is a crucial aspect of improving the effectiveness of search engine marketing. Not knowing these issues can cost your business viewers, customers, and sales.

In short, if you want to improve your bottom line and overall, SEO return-on-investment, add SEO auditing to your practices as an integral part of your business strategies.

Think of website auditing as an investment. It can take a lot of resources, such as time and costs, but you can expect a return. At the end of the audit, you have a clear picture and a set of objectives you can attain to ensure that your site is performing as well as it should.

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A website audit is an important tool for any business with an online presence. It helps assess your website's strengths and weaknesses, identify opportunities and areas for improvement, and track your progress over time. In short, an audit is an essential part of your strategy.

Today's Author

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SUPPORT OUR AUTHOR AND SHARE
Interested in Guest Posting?
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