For most web devs and business owners, the phrase “SEO audit” is little more than a chore that gets taken care of every six months. Some website managers will even go a full year before running one, if at all. It’s not that they don’t think it’s valuable, but simply a matter of ROI. After all, the ultimate benefit of an SEO audit might be a marginal improvement in ranking, but it for a multi-hour affair, that’s not phenomenal.
If you’re using the right tools, have a bit of a setup, and know what to look for in your reporting, you can do your SEO audit during your lunch break, and you will be able to do it far more often.
Here are the three steps you need to take in order to complete a comprehensive, yet efficient, SEO audit.
Start Crawling Your Site
You might already be familiar with how a web crawler works. If you’re not, it’s simply a bot that goes through your sitemap and essentially reads every line of text, follows all of your links, and checks all of your code, indexing everything it comes into contact with. Search engines send web crawlers, also called spiders, all across the Internet to index pages and refer users to sites based on what they find.
Two pieces of good news: the first is that you can run your very own spider on your site by just giving it your home page. There are a variety of options to choose from, the most notable being Screaming Frog, which is great for enterprise IT. Another is InSite InSpyder, which is better for individual businesses. Screaming Frog is based on an annual license, though it has a free version with limited features, while InSite is a one-time purchase.
The second bit of good news is that if you set it up properly, you won’t even need to worry about remembering to run the spider on your website. The spiders mentioned both have scheduling capabilities, so all you need to do is simply set a time frame – say, every two weeks – and you will automatically be emailed with a full audit. If you can get your crawler to do the work for you, it won’t take any time at all to actually have a report to view.
Analyze Your Report
Your report will probably include dozens of metrics you can use to measure your site’s SEO health. However, there are multiple baseline criteria that can give you a fairly complete picture of how search engines view your website.
Having broken links on your site is perhaps the most important consideration you should take with this report. Look and see if you have any errors with your links, and specifically look for any errors between the numbers 400 and 408 or between the numbers 501 and 510. Any of these will indicate that something is going wrong in the process of traveling to the site and that you need to either remove the link entirely or try and correct the error. Keep in mind that search engines will stop indexing your page if they find such errors, so you could cripple your SEO strategy if you have dead links, even from no fault of your own.
Another thing that search engines hate is duplicate content. Most spiders will pick up if you have strikingly similar content across your site, and it’s important to note which pages. Duplicate content is a cornerstone of black-hat SEO, and you need to be mindful to stay clear of Google’s bad side. If you are posting the same content across domains, or have multiple pages for the same or similar products, consider using a canonical URL or consolidating your pages. Otherwise, your site’s authority will plummet.
Word Count and Keywords
The foundation of a content strategy is making sure that it’s actually being employed. The report that your spider will pull from your website will inform you of the following, and give you the knowledge you need to have your current content better fit your overall SEO strategy. A good SEO audit will answer the following questions:
- What keywords is your site ranking for?
- Do the keywords you rank for match your content strategy?
- How many of your top keywords are long-tail keywords?
- Are all of your pages at least 300 words?
- What is the average length of a page?
- Is your long-form content between 1000 and 3500 words?
You may have simply forgotten to remove the “noindex” tag from a few of your squeeze pages, or misspelled one of your WP tags and never happened to notice. It happens, and that’s why setting a spider loose on your site will pick up on these issues and allow you to make changes before they hurt your site’s ranking.
Review Your Site’s Google Analytics Reporting
Now it’s time to look at your real data in Google Analytics. Part of any great SEO strategy is done at least in part by reviewing the actual fruits of your labors and how users interact with your site. Simply logging onto Analytics will give you up-to-date information which you can use as a metric of your site’s SEO health. A high bounce rate and abandonment rate will both hurt your rankings in Google, and knowing if those are on the rise or the decline will give you critical information on whether your site’s ranking is improving or not.
In addition, you can check your backlinks using Analytics. Backlinks are becoming a more important metric that search engines utilize to determine if your content is actually high quality, and if you are not consistently monitoring the performance of your backlinks strategy, you are not running comprehensive SEO audits. Be sure to monitor your backlink growth over time, and disavow backlinks that Google believes are disreputable.
A Quick and Easy SEO Checklist
If you set up your spider to be automated, as well as know what to look for in your reporting, you’ll only have to spend about thirty minutes every month running and analyzing reports, so long as there are no major changes to make to your site. Review the following checklist if you’re not certain of what to look for in your reporting:
- no broken links
- no duplicate pages
- no pages under 300 words
- your keyword count is under two percent
- you are ranking for the correct keywords
- you have no erroneous noindex tags
- you have no erroneous nofollow tags
- no misspelled words
- review your bounce rate
- review your backlinks