A basic SEO website audit is a great starting place for your digital marketing strategy. Conducting an audit will help you see where you currently rank and how you can do better. This may 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 your business success.
According to a 2021 report by HubSpot, 64% of marketers invested significant effort and resources into their search engine optimization (SEO) in 2020. If you aren’t making SEO a focus for your website, you’re willfully allowing your competitors to overtake you on Google and attract the customers that could be coming to you. But where do you even begin? Here, we’ll show you how to get started in these 10 steps of a basic SEO audit.
Step 1: Crawl Your Website
The first thing to do is crawl your website to check for SEO problems and ensure that only one URL works. Make sure your URL canonicalization and 301s are set up. Canonical tags prevent duplicate content from appearing in multiple URLs, and 301s help Google and its users navigate seamlessly to pages that have moved URLs.
Ubersuggest is a free resource that can show you how Google is crawling your website. It takes about 10 minutes to complete the scan. Upon completion, this tool will identify your critical SEO issues, whether they be duplicate content, site speed, inattention to keywords, etc. Many of the the issues you identify will likely be quick fixes.
Step 2: Create Custom 404s
When a visitor searches your website and enters an invalid URL that doesn’t exist, you need to return a custom 404. Anything is better than a “This page does not exist” message that leads customers away from your website and hurts your credibility.
Step 3: Improve Your Title Tags
A title tag is the item of content displayed in blue on the search engine results page (SERP) that tells Google the title of your webpage. These tags should be no longer than 60 characters to prevent truncation, and they need to be relevant and compelling in order to drive traffic to your site. If you haven’t already, see to it that your title tags:
- Have keywords placed near the front
- Are not wasting characters with your brand name
- Are encouraging the user to take action
- Provide a benefit or value to the user for taking the action
Step 4: Customize Your Metadata
While meta descriptions don’t directly impact your ranking on Google, they still matter. The meta description is the blurb below your title tag on the SERP that gives your user a brief summary of what they’ll find by navigating to that page. Metadata can be a deciding factor in whether or not someone visits your site. Because they aren’t usually created by default, some businesses don’t even realize that some (or all) of their pages are missing custom meta descriptions — so be sure to add them manually if you have not already done so.
Your meta descriptions should fall between 150 and 160 characters to avoid truncation. Make it very inviting and accurate to 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 website copy that appears on more than one URL. This isn’t necessarily a penalty for your SERP ranking, but it makes it hard for Google to decide which version is better 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 vendor who fulfills orders from a third party and has them ship directly to the customer). This floods the search results with duplicate content.
If you’re using a free shopping cart or CMS that adds custom meta on your pages, you need to double check that these pages are as unique as possible to avoid duplicate content issues. Copyscape is an example of a helpful tool that can identify SEO problems you might have as a result of duplicate content.
Step 6: See That Your Site Design Is Up to Date
If your website looks like it’s straight out of the 90s, you’re not giving your customer the best user experience. A lot of companies neglect their web design, thinking that SEO is the “be-all and end-all” of their ranking. What they don’t realize is that web design has an indirect impact on SEO.
When your web design doesn’t provide an optimal user experience, the potential customer will bounce. In fact, a study by researchers at Northumbria University and Sheffield University in the UK found that 95% of visitors would mistrust a company or leave a website because of poor web design. So, it’s worth the investment to update your web design if you haven’t done so in a while.
Step 7: Put Alt Tags on Your Images
Did you know you may be missing out on a lot of website traffic potential from sites like Google Images and other image search engines? These sites can lead users to your web pages through the alt tags on your images.
Alt tags are HTML attributes assigned to image tags, or brief descriptions of the pictures on your site. They give search engines a text alternative to photos and increase crawlability. Thankfully, it’s much easier to add alt text today than it used to be. If you’re using WordPress or another modern content management system (CMS), you can easily add alt tags without having to mess with the HTML code.
Step 8: XML Sitemap
You can consider an XML sitemap as a roadmap of your site structure. It lists out 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 great internal linking. XML sitemaps are beneficial to large websites with extensive archives, brand-new websites with limited external links, and all websites in between. 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 customers have not identified any focus keywords for specific pages or throughout their website. Every web page on your site needs a focus keyword implemented naturally within the first 100 words. A business owner may know the keywords they want to be ranked for, but unless they optimize their site for these keywords, Google and 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 searching for. When you optimize for these words and variants, Google will better understand what the page is about and bring the right people there.
Tools such as Ahrefs, Semrush, Moz, and Rank Ranger can all help you identify the keywords your competitors are ranking for as well as their volume, position, average number of visits, and the amount of competition for those organic search words.
Step 10: Manage Your Links
It’s a common occurrence for web pages to be moved or deleted. If your site contains broken links, your user will get frustrated and leave your site — and as you know by now, a high bounce rate resulting from a poor user experience will lower your ranking. Downloadable resources like Xenu Sleuth can automatically check for broken links on your site and identify which ones to change so you don’t have to do it manually.
Want to Dive Deeper? Get a Professional Technical Audit Today
This wraps up some of the basic elements of a DIY SEO audit, but there’s so much more to a good SEO strategy than what we’ve discussed. If you want to capture even more opportunities, you need the help of a professional SEO team. Partner with our experts today in creating a strategic game plan to overtake your competitors. We can’t wait to help you succeed.