SEO audits used to be a big part of our business and a couple of years ago, we were doing up to 60 of them every month. Although we stopped doing consultancy like this some time ago, we still do the occasional audit, for example when a friend asks us to have a quick check over their site. While these checks are not as detailed as those we used to do for our clients, they still give a nice overall view of how your SEO is doing. This is the first in a series of three articles which will give you a condensed overview of how to go about this yourself.
Steps in the SEO audit
The guiding principle of this SEO audit is our approach of holistic SEO and this means we will address some content SEO issues, technical SEO issues and more. In short, your entire website needs to be right for your SEO to be right. This series of posts goes over the following steps:
Part 1: User experience & Content SEO
Part 2: General SEO
Part 3: Site speed and engagement
The first thing I do when reviewing a website is to look for low-hanging fruit. What are the obvious improvements? How can we make things easier for our readers?
Are the colors on the website appealing and do they match the brand? Websites should use a color scheme that keeps the focus on the content. So, headings should stand out as such, and links should be obvious, so users don’t miss them. Contrast is an issue I’d check at this point as well.
Use of images and videos
Images and videos are great to present a product, direct visitors to the right spots on your pages or set a mood, and should support the written content of your site. Check that there is a good balance between text and visual information. Now is a good time to check out our opinion on sliders and video backgrounds, in case you’re using them. Note that a video background isn’t the same as adding a video to your text: video in your text can actually be beneficial.
There is a fold
Yes, there is a fold and I want to see your primary call-to-action and your central message (what’s your main proposition for the visitor?) above it. If your primary call-to-action is much further down the page, or just not there, you need to fix that asap. Especially on your homepage, where your main goal is to direct people to the different sections of your website, it should be clear immediately where they need to go.
Social proof, security signs and testimonials all contribute to a good user experience. They will reassure the visitor how good your products are, and how trustworthy your company is. They will tell your potential customer that your website is safe and they can buy from you without having to worry about things like security. Of course, what you use depends on the type of website you have.
The basis of any SEO strategy is writing good content, which means you need a killer content SEO strategy. In the end, your content needs to answer any question a user ‘asks’ Google. Good content starts with keyword research, so the content part of your SEO audit starts there too.
As you are doing this SEO audit yourself, you could fall into the trap of not using the same language as your customers. So, if you are renting holiday homes, but you tend to refer to them as cottages, think about what your visitor is likely to search for first and check your site is optimized for those terms. It just means a quick check, but it’s well worth the effort. When you have decided on the main keyword for your website, check that you have one main page that will rank for that keyword. If so, check whether you used any related keywords to optimize other pages as well. For a deeper dive into keyword research, see our ultimate guide to keyword research.
The next thing I would look at is site structure. Does it make sense? Does the menu include the main pages of the website, and can they be reached from a footer menu and the homepage? Is there a sitemap that tells me more about the site structure, in XML or HTML?
We like to think of a site’s structure as being like a pyramid, in which the main articles are supported by other pages that target long tail keywords, for example. This process, and more, is explained in our guide to site structure, so be sure to check that out. Once you’ve read it, it’ll be so much easier to understand and check your own site structure, and identify things to improve.
Introductory content is important and quick to check. Regardless of the type of site you have, you’re likely to have pages that act as indexes for large collections of content. Think along the lines of product categories, blog archives, landing pages and that kind of thing. The important thing is to make clear – to both your visitor and Google – what it is that this collection has in common. Usually, around 200 words will do as an introduction, if you want a guideline for your SEO audit.
I’m not going to go into detail here as to why you don’t want duplicate content. Go read about that here. The bottom line is that you want to prevent it. A quick way to get at least some insight into your duplicate content is CopyScape, which tells you where (snippets of) your content can be found anywhere else on the web. I also like their SiteLiner product, which checks for internal duplicate content. Go try them for yourself.
The one thing that annoys me the most on a website, especially on larger ones, isn’t when Google directs me to the wrong page (Which can be fixed with, for example, cornerstone content), but when a website has more than, say, 20 pages but has no decent internal search option. People often add a search to their website, then neglect to optimize their internal search result pages. It’s very common in WordPress sites. While people are getting better at this, you might need to give it some TLC on your own site. Just do an internal search on your site and see for yourself.
Related posts and products
On your pages, blog articles, or product pages, is there an ‘escape route’ to the next page available at the end of your main content? Do you direct people to the next page, if they have, for example, decided not to buy yet? Just check if it’s there, if for instance, your WooCommerce install provides this, or if your theme builder has a ‘next page’ option. It provides a better user experience, will keep people on your page and creates valuable internal links in the process.
Coming up in part 2: General SEO
That’s it for the UX and content SEO part of the SEO audit. Since combining all the parts of an audit in a single post would create a behemoth of an article, we’ve split it down into three parts. Next is part two of the SEO audit series in which we’ll dive deeper into the general SEO checks you should do to find out if a website is well optimized for SEO. Then in part three, we’ll look into site speed and engagement. See you next time!