A basic SEO website audit is a great starting point for your digital marketing strategy. Performing an audit will help you see where you stand now and how you can improve. It might sound complicated, especially if you’ve never done it before, but a DIY website audit isn’t as difficult as it sounds. A little extra time and effort on your part can have a lasting impact on the success of your business.
According to a 2021 report from HubSpot, 64% of marketers invested significant effort and resources into their search engine optimization (SEO) in 2020. If you don’t make SEO a goal for your website, you are voluntarily allowing your competition to outperform you on Google and attract customers who might be coming to you. But where to start ? Here, we’ll show you how to get started in these 10 steps of a basic SEO audit.
Step 1: Explore Your Website
The first thing to do is to crawl your website to check for SEO issues and make sure that only one URL is working. Make sure your URL canonicalization and your 301s are set up. Canonical tags prevent duplicate content from appearing in multiple URLs, and 301s help Google and its users seamlessly navigate to pages that have moved URLs.
Ubersuggest is a free resource that can show you how Google crawls your website. It takes about 10 minutes to complete the scan. When completed, this tool will identify your critical SEO issues, whether it’s duplicate content, site speed, keyword inattention, and more. Most of the problems you identify are likely to be quick fixes.
Step 2: create custom 404s
When a visitor searches for your website and enters an invalid URL that does not exist, you should return a custom 404. Anything is better than a « This page does not exist » message that distracts customers from your website and damages your credibility.
Step 3: Improve Your Title Tags
A title tag is the piece of content displayed in blue on the search engine results page (SERP) that tells Google the title of your web page. These tags should not exceed 60 characters to avoid truncation, and they should be relevant and compelling in order to drive traffic to your site. If you haven’t already, make sure your title tags:
- Have keywords placed near the front
- Don’t waste characters with your brand name
- encourage the user to take action
- Provide a benefit or value to the user to take the action
Step 4: Customize your metadata
While meta descriptions don’t directly affect your ranking on Google, they still matter. The meta description is the blurb under your title tag on the SERP that gives your user a brief summary of what they will find when accessing that page. Metadata can be a deciding factor in whether or not someone is visiting your site. Since they’re usually not created by default, some companies don’t even realize that some (or all) of their pages lack custom meta descriptions. So be sure to add them manually if you haven’t already.
Your meta descriptions should be between 150 and 160 characters long to avoid truncation. Make it very inviting and precise for the page. Do not use the same meta descriptions for different pages or you could end up with identical SERP results and confuse your user.
Step 5: Check for duplicate content
Duplicate content is a website copy that appears on multiple URLs. This is not necessarily a penalty for your SERP ranking, but it is difficult for Google to decide which version is the best to present to the user in their search. Retail sites are notorious for duplicate content, as they tend to copy and paste product information from their dropshipper (a supplier who fills third party orders and ships them directly to the customer). This floods the search results with duplicate content.
If you are using a free shopping cart or a CMS that adds custom metadata to your pages, you should ensure that those pages are as unique as possible to avoid duplicate content issues. Copyscape is an example of a useful tool that can identify SEO issues you might have as a result of duplicate content.
Step 6: Make sure your site design is up to date
If your website looks straight out of the 90s, you’re not giving your customer the best user experience. Many businesses neglect their website design, thinking that SEO is the “all and the end” of their rankings. What they don’t realize is that website design has an indirect impact on SEO.
When your web design doesn’t deliver the best user experience, the potential customer will bounce back. In fact, a study by researchers at the University of Northumbria and the University of Sheffield in the UK found that 95% of visitors would be suspicious of a business or leave a website due to poor web design. So it’s worth investing in updating your website design if you haven’t done so in a while.
Step 7: Put Alt Tags on Your Images
Did you know that you might be missing out on a great potential for website traffic from sites like Google Images and other image search engines? These sites can direct users to your web pages through alt tags on your images.
Alt tags are HTML attributes assigned to image tags or brief descriptions of images on your site. They offer search engines a text-based alternative to photos and increase crawling capacity. Fortunately, adding alt text is a lot easier today than it used to be. If you are using WordPress or another modern content management system (CMS), you can easily add alt tags without having to worry about HTML code.
Step 8: XML sitemap
You can think of an XML sitemap as a roadmap for your site structure. It lists your URLs and quickly tells Google which pages are the most important to crawl and how to reach them, even if you don’t have good internal links. XML sitemaps are beneficial for large websites with lots of archives, brand new websites with limited external links, and all intermediary websites. But how do you know which web pages to include in your sitemap?
Step 9: Optimize for target keywords
Our SEO team finds that many of our clients have not identified any targeted keywords for specific pages or their entire website. Every web page on your site needs a targeted keyword implemented naturally in the first 100 words. A business owner may know which keywords they want to rank for, but unless they optimize their site for those keywords, Google and the other major search engines will never know.
Keyword stuffing and other outdated SEO tactics are no longer effective, so you need to figure out what your target customers are looking for. When you optimize for these words and variations, Google will better understand what the page is about and bring the right people to it.
Tools like Ahrefs, Semrush, Moz, and Rank Ranger can all help you identify which keywords your competitors are ranking for, as well as their volume, position, average number of visits, and the degree of competition for those words. organic research.
Step 10: Manage your links
It is common for web pages to be moved or deleted. If your site has broken links, your user will be frustrated and leave your site – and as you now know, a high bounce rate resulting from a poor user experience will lower your rankings. Downloadable resources like Xenu Sleuth can automatically find broken links on your site and identify which ones to edit so you don’t have to do it manually.
Want to dive deeper? Get a professional technical audit today
That sums up some of the basics of a DIY SEO audit, but a good SEO strategy is much more than what we’ve discussed. If you want to seize even more opportunities, you need the help of a professional SEO team. Partner with our experts today to create a strategic game plan to beat your competition. We look forward to helping you succeed.