In an environment in which 93 percent of all web visits originate from the search engines, with Google accounting for 76 percent for desktop and 86 percent for mobile, the ability to detect any factor that could hinder how Google ranks your site is a critical marketing imperative.
We call this exercise an SEO audit. It’s a multi-faceted, multi-step process, and it serves as the start of any initiative to make sure that your site is aligned with how the search engines view and rank your site.
SEO and all of the activities that factor into reaching for high rankings on search engine results pages, remains a relative newcomer to the marketing discipline. So it comes as no surprise that we’re often asked, “What is an SEO Audit?” And the question that logically follows: “How to conduct an SEO audit?”
Fortunately for marketing directors who are working to gain mastery of this rapidly evolving component of the marketing mix, an SEO audit consists of clearly defined steps, and there are excellent tools for ensuring that the audit process results in a depth of actionable intelligence and insights.
Depth of Data
An SEO audit involves a wide spectrum of activities designed to detect any factor that could get in the way of attempts by Google and other search engines to effectively crawl and index your website. The audit can also flag toxic links, determine how your site ranks relative to your competition, analyze your website’s loading speed, check mobile friendliness, ensure that an SSL certificate is in place, and a lot more.
Here are six essential steps to performing an SEO audit that can reveal oversights and point to solid opportunities to ensure that your site is working for you.
- Initiate a crawl of your site. A crawl of your site will scan all pages to detect any broken links, missing titles or metadata descriptions, and review page structures relative to SEO best practices. While there are many tools that are designed to crawl a website, we at Solid Digital are currently leaning toward the SEMrush Site Audit Tool. Scanning for as many as 60 issues, the SEMrush site audit produces an SEO site health score, along with a prioritized list of errors and warnings.
- Ensure the site is secure and has an SSL certificate. An SSL certificate is a data file hosted in a website’s origin server. It’s what enables the site to move from http (hypertext transfer protocol) to the more secure https (HTTP secure). This means that:
- The URL is an https, not an http,
- There are not any http URLs on the site, and
- The site does not link out to any URLs with an http.
SEMrush uncovers any inconsistencies in linking, and flags them as a warning. While it is an option to maintain a www, it’s essential to ensure that automatic redirects are in place so that Google does not see two versions of the site.
- Check your site speed utilizing Google PageSpeed Insights. Optimizing website speed is critical — it affects both bounce rate and page rankings. Google PageSpeed Insights ranks every page on a site, for both mobile and desktop, with a score of between 0 to 100. For pages that have a considerable amount of content and multiple images, a score in the 80s is often as high as the page speed score can reasonably get to. A score of 50 to 80 is considered mid range.
- Evaluate mobile friendliness. Google has recently switched to mobile-first ranking, which means that it evaluates a site’s mobile experience as the key factor in indexing. This means that site speed for mobile has emerged as an SEO imperative. Among the factors that can challenge mobile site speed: image size and the presence of unnecessary code. While site speed can be improved with steps such as enabling text compression and avoiding multiple page redirects, building a site correctly from the start is far preferable and more effective than retrofitting an existing site to optimize for mobile.
- Review the URL structure of your site. To a large extent, SEO hinges on an organized, streamlined site structure. Key among the reasons: a logical site structure improves user experience, which (as determined by time on a page) is a factor in Google’s algorithm. A logical URL structure also makes it easier for web crawlers to access and index your site’s content. An optimal site structure is based on a simplified page hierarchy, with distinct headers and logical subheaders. A “shallow” navigation structure in which all content can be accessed with three or fewer clicks results in better SEO than “deep” structures in which multiple clicks are required to reach certain content.
- Unearth toxic links. Links that amount to attempts to game the system by manipulating search rankings can have a negative impact on SEO. The SEMrush Backlink Audit tool provides a toxicity score on a scale of 0 to 100. The higher the score the better, and anything under 50 is considered toxic. Google has spelled out its toxic link guidelines, which include avoidance of links from topically irrelevant sites, links from sites that have been created solely for the purpose of linking out, sites that are not indexed by Google, and sites that do not have a “follow” code. If there is not a “follow” code, the link has no value. The goal is to obtain backlinks from highly legitimate and prominent sites such as The New York Times, which has a domain authority score of 100.
An SEO audit serves as a foundational step toward optimizing your site for organic search results. Some of what is discovered can be fixed quickly, other items will need to be prioritized. Every enhancement stands to strengthen your competitive positioning and fuel growth.
The importance of diligently auditing your site’s SEO, and doing so on a regular basis, cannot be overstated. Google is factoring in new information with every search query, every site visit, and every crawl of a site. At the same time, your website is constantly evolving as content is added, layouts are switched, and in some cases, new designs and navigational structures are launched. A thorough and regularly scheduled SEO audit schedule stands to consistently reveal new opportunities, uncover oversights, and power your competitive advantage.
Looking for an insightful partner who can adeptly navigate the multi-step SEO audit process, interpret results, and prioritize next steps for optimal impact? The opportunity to help clients to fine tune their digital presence and the paths that lead visitors to it is what drives us at Solid Digital. Let us know how we can help!