SEO audit, i.e. optimization of a website, is all about checking the current status, as well as recommendations and creating a new strategy of operation.
Why is it worth conducting an SEO audit?
You can find out what your website is missing, identify its strengths and weaknesses, and compare yourself to the competition in a summary. You will get a picture of the current situation. If the audit is carried out professionally, it should end with valuable conclusions and recommendations for the future. Can you carry out each audit yourself? It all depends on the level of your knowledge, determination, analytical skills, and ability to read and interpret statistical data. In some cases, you can rely on a professional, and for uncomplicated websites, you can try your own analysis. If you want to use the services of a specialist, it is worth acquiring knowledge. You will be able to assess the quality of the audit and in the future be able to do it alone.
An SEO audit is characterized by an analytical and technical approach to the topic. Before performing the test, you need to collect data and have tools that will allow you to process this data and facilitate the preparation of the report, and drawing conclusions. Professionals usually use paid tools. Free tools do not give a full picture of the situation.
Collecting statistical page data and developing criteria for user behavior (number of visits, time spent on the page, number of page abandonments, sources of acquiring users – e.g. search engine, Facebook, direct access) can be entrusted to Google’s flagship and free Google product, which is Analytics. You must install the Analytics tracking code on your site. Otherwise, Google will not be able to collect data. If you want to prepare a good audit, you can not rely on the current data only, you must also assess changes over time. The more data available, the better.
Before proceeding, check that your website is integrated with Google Analytics and that its indexation is confirmed by Google Search Console.
Examples of tools that might be useful:
- Screaming Frog will show you any website errors.
- Incoming links research will be enabled by Google Search Console (the aforementioned free platform), Ahrefs (paid tool), Majestic (paid tool).
- HotJar, A / B tests – VWO will provide heat map generation and recording of user behavior.
- Programs gathering information for SEO (inbound links, comparison to competitors, keywords, and their positions in organic results): Semstorm, Semrush, Senuto.
If you decide to conduct an independent SEO audit, I would assume that you have at least the basic knowledge about positioning and factors which can affect search results; you know what a title and description is and how important content published on the Internet is. If not, read the chapter ‘What is SEO?’ and only after reading this should you move on to the next part.
Before SEO Audit – Initial evaluation of the website
Start by looking at the basic elements of the site. Before you start working on the audit, answer the following questions:
Is my website user friendly? Intuitive, legible, and easy to navigate?
Is my website responsive and displayed on all mobile devices?
What is the timeliness of my content? Does it make sense? Is it useful for users?
What are the basic technical parameters? Page loading speed? Quality of hosting?
If you think that you may not be fair in assessing the parameters, which is subjective at the initial stage, especially from the owner of the site, then ask someone neutral to do this on your behalf. The creator of a website can often have a biased opinion of it.
After the first page review, go to statistics. You should start with Google Analytics. Before you look at your site visits, remember the Google algorithm changes. When did they happen and how did they affect the entire Internet?
You will be able to assess what impact the changes have had on your website. It may turn out that after the introduction of Panda (July 2015), your site lost its viewership, because the new algorithm, focusing on the degree of uniqueness of web content, rated it badly.
Collect at least basic Google Analytics data for your audit:
- web traffic on the site during the last year, and the changes to this traffic – monthly, weekly, and on specific days;
- the bounce level of the home page and the most important subpages (shopping cart if you run a store) and conversion (sales);
- seasonality of visits, which you should try to assess based on the above (summer, winter, holidays, holidays);
- warnings from Google, about search traffic, about manual actions (messages about possible penalties imposed by Google) – obtained in this step from Google Search Console.
The next steps are to check crawl errors (check that the page is correctly indexed in Google), search analytics, and check your sitemap (check to see if you have Google where your site map is).
One of the most important elements about the site’s status are references to this site in the form of links. It is particularly important from which pages they come from, from which passwords (keywords), what their number is and their age also counts. Links that lead to the site can elevate it to popularity and help it gain a good reputation.
A link profile audit is a process of assessing the number of links leading to a page at a given time. The graphic conceptualization of changes in the number of links over time is important. Thanks to the chart you will be able to compare and correlate the three most important factors more easily: the number of links, their quality, and their keywords. It is important to know when the links were created. Algorithms quickly capture an unnatural increase in the number of links. If someone gets ten thousand links in a few days, believe me, it won’t work on their website.
Link growth should be natural. The Internet is full of spammed forums, blogs and SEO websites that are used only for linking. Poor quality pages (e.g., no relevant content) with thousands of outgoing links will not be a good place for you to publish.
Another issue is serviced on similar topics. You should follow the rules for publishing links on pages with similar topics. It’s natural if you talk about car engines on a culinary blog. Of course, it’s always worth publishing links. These are websites with the highest level of Google trust (e.g. government, university, school, organization and foundation websites). Their links are always desirable, regardless of the subject.
There is a division into pages that allow the robot to go further (known as dofollow), and those that stop the robot (known as nofollow), and pages blocked for indexing (known as noindex). The most valuable from the SEO point of view are index and dofollow links, but a number of other links will always be useful. You never know what could be important in the future. There is also a division into links leading to the main page and leading to subpages, with the exact number of pages from which links lead, as well as keywords.
Link regionalization is very important. For example, on Google Maps it must be taken into consideration how many links are from local sources (in the immediate vicinity, e.g. the city), how many are from the whole country, and how much from the rest of the world. It is difficult for a website to gain popularity if all links will come from sites in Brazil or the USA when the site should be directed to Poles.
It is important to know from which domains the links come from, specifically extensions. The reports will tell you whether .de, .com, .eu, .fr or other domains link to your site. This is important because you can check that the rented agency does not use linking machines and does not generate links from websites using a foreign language.
Links can take different forms. Pictures are published on the web as well as links containing texts. An image tag attribute desired from an SEO point of view is alt text (alternative text). Although the robots are still unable to fully read the pictures, the progress is still impressive. Alt text shows the robot what the picture shows. It is used for positioning, so it’s important to summarise how many links of this type you have obtained.
The keyword or phrase from which the link comes from can be your company name, domain address, click password, see the page, URL with link. The keyword is important from an SEO perspective. It serves as a foundation and if you want to be high in Google search results in response to a certain password, it is important that you receive links leading to that word.
Note: if the keyword in the link is important, isn’t it worth getting a large number of links containing it to quickly start enjoying visibility in the search engine? Unfortunately, this is not easy. The rapid growth of a large number of links with the same keyword is unnatural. The algorithm captures the anomaly, classifies it as manipulation of the SERP search results, and the effect is counterproductive. Most often it ends with a filter or a penalty from Google, and your position will drop in search results.
Your position on the Internet is not solely dependent on you, you must also think about the competition. The easiest way is to enter the keyword you are interested in the Google search engine and check which position your site is in comparison to the competition.
Then go to the competitor’s website, which ranks first. If you have access to a Majestic or Ahrefs tool, then confirmation of data compliance should be easy. Unless the website owner blocks it from data collection robots. If you have access to information, enter your competitor’s domain into your browser and check the parameters, number of links and their response to keywords, visit liking pages and rate their strength. If you can’t judge your competitive advantage based on your review, you probably lack expert knowledge.
For professional site evaluation, you need advanced tools that will gather the necessary information. Unfortunately, you cannot evaluate this using standard programs.
You should start a technical audit of the server and check the website’s availability and loading speed. This service should be available 24 hours a day, in all locations, otherwise, it makes no sense from the internet users point of view. Pages that load for a long time discourage visitors to visit and wait for delivery. Websites placed in low-cost server rooms are often exposed to attacks and disappear without any notice (hosting appears and disappears).
Technical SEO Audit
Special programs (e.g. Screaming Frog) can go through the entire site, collecting most of the important information: broken links, information on duplicate titles and descriptions, data saying that they do not match the requirements (too short, too long, duplicates).
- headings on the page: h1 – h3;
- internal linking;
- content duplication and canonical links;
- site map;
- landing page audit (landing pages) with TD-IDF analysis.
In the TF-IDF (TF – term frequency, IDF – inverse document frequency) audit) it is checked whether the landing page is matched to the keywords (phrases) that are most important. The result of the test is a TF-IDF result expressed on a scale of zero to one hundred. The higher the score, the better the page will match the algorithm and keyword to the landing page.
Why is this important?
It’s important because it means the website is optimized in terms of the keyword. You have the chance to reach a high standard on Google Ads, which results in lower advertising costs and the opportunity to reach a wide range of people interested in your products. Good optimization is the basis of SEO. You can increase your chances of getting organic traffic and improving the visibility of results generated by search engines.
As a result of the TF-IDF audit, you get what needs to be changed in the title, meta description, keywords (meta keywords), in the content of the page (body), in images (alt attribute). You are informed if your message is unique and whether you need to increase or decrease the saturation of your site with keywords. Other elements such as H1-H6 headers, bold and italics (italic), outbound and inbound links – are also important SEO factors for which an appropriate report with a description of the recommendation is prepared. The report must be transparent even to a person who is not a professional SEO specialist. In each part of the report, you will find a description of the individual elements, what their current status is and how to proceed in fixing related errors.