SEO Audit On Your Website During the Downtime
Currently, we are living in history. COVID-19 is emphasizing how businesses will begin to place more focus online. It also will affirm the future of supplemental brick and mortar’s digital advertising, and it all begins with SEO.
The items we’ll cover in this post will provide a well-rounded set of data that will provide you a clear picture of where to focus on your site for SEO. This can be overwhelming, please know that we’ll also be writing in-depth separate SEO audit articles in the coming weeks.
- Google Analytics and Google Search Console
- EAT – Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness
- High-Level Points of SEO
- On-Page Optimization
- Page Load Speed
- Optimizing for Internal Links
- In-Content Links
- Duplicate Content
- Deep, Technical SEO
- Off-Site SEO
During any financial crisis, like the one in 2008, business marketing budgets are usually the first to be cut down. Traditionally, this is a bad move. Companies should be cautious of their spending, but refocus their efforts on the right channels. One of our customers closed their brick and mortar location after they found web traffic was up +150%. The web is leading the way right now and for the foreseeable future, which is why an SEO audit is a great place to start in determining what makes sense for driving your marketing efforts correctly.
To help illustrate, I completed a comparison of customers’ site traffic and separated them into three groups. Those three groups are:
- B2C retail
- B2C online
The patterns are clear. Ecommerce beat traffic from those with traditional locations. The mandated shutdown and social distancing have put a large focus on the online experience. The cornerstone needs to be on brick and mortar digital advertising in these times of need. This includes SEO and is the staple of any website, no matter the business type.
Our focus is to give you tips, tools, and the process of how to audit your website’s SEO to set a roadmap with tasks and goals.
An SEO audit is not rocket science – the more you are aware of how to better your website performance for visitors, the quicker you’ll realize its value, including return on investment.
Tools for SEO Audits
Looking around the office, I came across an old two-disc SEO training course. It dates back to 2006 from the popular Lynda.com training website and is still popular. While I do not have a CD-ROM drive to give them a spin, I’d imagine there are still a lot of the same SEO principals discussed on those discs. There is a baseline of tactics you can employ your own SEO audit and develop a strategy for optimal SEO on any site.
Before I go through the steps we take internally, let me preface that they are brief explanations. We take a lot of time and follow up with questions and more searching based on the information we gather. Sometimes it takes you down some long paths. This is OK though – don’t be discouraged about the information you find. You may not understand everything you uncover. The important part is that you identify questionable items and discuss them with professionals like us to get an action plan established.
To start, complete the following items:
- SEO Audit of the website (multi-tools and human review)
- Use crawlers, like Screaming Frog, DeepCrawl, or Octoparse to get technical data
- Analytical toolsets, like SEMrush, Moz, SpyFu, or Ahrefs
- Optimize pages and add internal links
- Manually submit edit URLs to Google Search Console (GSC)
You’ll want to establish a baseline for traffic and rankings. Identify technical issues and what’s working versus what appears to not be working. From this, you have a list to tackle internally or with the help of a digital agency, like TM. Once implemented, you see how they pan out and then set a strategic plan going forward.
1. Google Analytics and Google Search Console
These are tools that you need installed and working on your site for any SEO audit (you’ll use them weekly if not daily in the future too). Google Analytics (GA) is a staple. It’s important that, at a minimum, they are properly installed and recording data. For GSC, you want to make sure that your site is verified and reporting data.
Both tools will report a lot of data to you. GA tracks in-depth information about visitors to your website. GSC (formally known as Google Webmaster Tools) is a free service that monitors, troubleshoots, and maintains your site in Google search results. It’ll help you see how Google perceives your site and how you can improve that standing.
You’ll be able to check traffic and also annotate (save notes) on when things are modified or enhanced on your site. In the chart above, look at the growth after a relaunch. The creation of “busy times” for that site’s industry grew the amount of traffic. However, the COVID-19 pandemic tanked their traffic as they are travel-related.
Along with Google, Bing has its own webmaster tools (BWT). This is the same process as Google here for analyzing and correction.
TIP: Once you have made improvements and changes to your site’s SEO, ask for a recrawl in Search Console. This will get the most current data into Google and see how they like it (URL inspector tool, request indexing). Don’t always rely on Google to do crawls themselves, sometimes they need a little push.
Prior SEO History
Before you get started, have a conversation with your team to learn about historical data and efforts related to SEO.
- Gain access to the website and/or log files
- Acquire access to GA/GSC/BWT
- Find out what was done in the past for SEO and with whom
- Locate any previous domains used in the past
- Procure a list of domain names the company owns and those redirected or used for “other” sites and why
- Define a list of competitors
- Learn what other information should you need to know about the company’s initiatives
2. EAT – Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness
In the summer of 2018, Google made an impactful update to its core algorithm. They referred to YMYL (your money or your life) pages, which is content focused on health, money, and finance. These are internal factors that Google uses to measure how much trust it should place on the website or the related brand. Google wants to give its customers (any search engine user) the best experience possible. It only wants to show websites that can prove continuous relevance to the EAT metrics.
These EAT metrics were later verified in Google’s Quality Raters’ Guidelines. Yes, some humans actually audit websites on the web and input information into Google’s system. This helps them reference ranking factors, and are updated frequently to combine both onsite and offsite factors.
Ultimately we recommend making your site as fast-loading as possible and continually invest in content production. Not thin, weak regurgitation content, but content that speaks to your specific audience. This would be different if you are a fashion blogger or a specialty steel supplier in North America. The web is “today” and there will always be content you can create based on your industry that is topical. Learn your audience and produce it in text, images, and video.
Understand EAT and make it a part of how you build upon your web properties.
3. High-Level Points of SEO
To help understand what you should do for your website during your SEO audit, here are some focal points to keep at the forefront:
- Keyword research – you need to know the words and phrases you want to rank for.
- Focus – you should focus on one keyword/phrase for each page of your site. Remember parent/child relationships.
- Competition – know who they are; you’ll be auditing their sites eventually to make your strategy.
- Rankings – continuous comparison on pages that rank versus those that do not and why.
- Content – make the length of page content a focus.
- Structure – HMTL, headings, and scripts that create functions; links are and will continue to be important.
4. On-Page Optimization
The website structure is important. Like a book, your website needs a title (company name or focus) and chapters. Likely each chapter has sub-chapters, and some text has emphasis and citations to the footer and index. Your website needs the same, as this is how Google will look at and index your site properly. The more structure you provide, the better the results.
Stay focused on the following in your next post or page:
- Title tag and keywords in the title
- Meta description with relative keywords
- Headings, such as H1, H2, H3, H4, etc.
- Appropriate use of italics, bold, lists, tables, and more
- Internal and external text
- External links to other sites
- Content – is it too much or just enough?
- Schema types & word count
5. Page Load Speed in SEO
Whether you knew it or not, fast-loading sites can rank better. Knowing how Google or a rendering engine would recognize your website. What requests go to the server and how long do those requests take to call and deliver to a web browser? Those are important and are optimizable for quick delivery.
6. Schema for SEO
Schema is a semantic vocabulary of tags (or microdata) that you can add to your HTML markup. It’s used to describe XML files and databases but can also describe other types of data. This makes your web page look better in search engine results pages (referred to as SERPs). Schema enhances the rich snippets displayed under the page title of your content.
Schema.org is the result of a collaboration between Google, Bing, Yandex, and Yahoo! to help you provide the information their search engines need to understand your content and provide the best search results possible at this time. ~ Moz
Schema is a helpful tool and left for a developer or team to implement on your site. So don’t fret and become overwhelmed. Most importantly, it’s an adopted standard that can be helpful in your SEO.
7. Optimizing Internal Links Within Your Site
Every website has a navigation outline. What are the pages on your site? How do they breakdown from a parent to child and grandchildren, etc.? You may have even heard about the number of clicks it takes to get to a page on a website. These all contribute to its overall usability.
Your internal links and their structure need to have some thought to them. Utilize a third-party tool, like Screaming Frog. You can get a detailed visual of the internal linking structure. Seeing these relationships can help you craft a logical, clean internal linking structure. This will help search engine performance and end-users can easily navigate and understand relationships across your site.
Things to consider:
- Is the internal linking structure clean and understandable? Could it be better?
- Is there a URL hierarchy that is SEO-friendly? (i.e. https://www.company.com/category/product)
- Is there a grouping of topics?
- Do the silos of categories with parents and children look appropriate?
- What about content clusters for your blog categories – do they all match up as you intended?
Screaming Frog, like its competitors Sitebulb or Oncrawl, has many features to offer. All will give information on server response codes, metadata, canonical tags, internal link data, traffic data, and more.
8. In-Content Links
It’s not all about navigation. An SEO audit will make you look at how you link to other pages in your site (think traffic and popular pages). Would you have to add links in the content to the main pages? Blogs and articles have content where you can add links in phrases and sentences with keywords and anchor text. Links in your navigation are simply not enough.
Speaking of content, what is your site ranking for? What particular content is ranking? Are there any potential opportunities? Example: we’ve had a long-standing article on the use of Htags in website markup. This has continuously received a lot of traffic over the past 8+ years. The traffic has a low conversion for leads for our agency, but it is an article that gets a lot of exposure on Google. This speaks to our EAT. With this in mind, we try to update the article regularly, adding in any relevant information to keep people updated.
This is low-hanging fruit. While we cannot convert info-gatherers to leads, we can play more off of the EAT factors to build upon other legitimacy aspects of our site.
9. Duplicate Content
This can come in a few forms. One popular mistake is the use of the canonical tag. This tells search spider bots that crawl your site what the “master copy” of a page on your site is. Why would you have multiple copies of content on your site? It’s important to limit duplicate content on a site and minimize common content. Duplicate content uses up a crawl budget – the number of pages a search spider has to crawl pages in your site. Serve up too many duplicates and you eat up your crawl budget. This results in fewer pages crawled, and therefore less that are indexed and ranked.
10. Deep & Saucy in an SEO Audit
Do you have a large site and access to the log files? What about other data from a call tracking platform, online and offline sales data? Any data in a CSV format – Oncrawl.com – allows you to mesh this data together (some limits, of course) to make some amazing data views and reports. Combining all of this data can tell a large story and create new paths to changes and edits elsewhere. We get into these aspects more in our Technical SEO article.
11. Off-Site SEO data
There are determining factors that make-up what helps or hinders your website rankings. Look at external aspects to help with understanding as well. Tools like GSC, Majestic, Ahrefs, and SEMrush will help identify external links that point to pages on your site. Links have been a major factor in how popular your website is with Google. Over the years, the weight of links has become complicated and intertwined with other Knowledge Graph aspects and factors, like EAT.
- What are the topics of links pointing to your website?
- Are there any off-topic? (they could be spam)
- What is the anchor text or link type? (text, image, etc.)
- Should you try to remove or disavow those links in GSC?
Once you get a look at the backlink profile of your website, it’s best to identify who and why people would be linking to you. If any stand out, consider how you got those links. Was it an awesome article that is helpful? Was it shared and referenced by many? Did an older company buy a bunch of comment spam links on blogs with no relevance to your brand or products? Which type of links do you want to be associate with?
An SEO audit identifies the current issues on your website. Once you have the information you can analyze the data and identify technical issues. You can then place those into a structured list and separate into needs, such as immediate/critical, on deck, and future. Your technical needs should always be at the top. Like a home, if you don’t have a solid foundation, the rest of the building will be sub-par or, worse yet, crumble to pieces.
With this current cultural and economical downtime, the world is leaning more than ever on the internet. Take the opportunity to harness everything that has to offer, and get to work on your web presence.