- Sharp Stick to Your Eye
- Website Audit
Which of these would you rather do? Performing a website audit does not need to be as painful as the first two, in fact, after reading this article I hope you will agree that it is something you could describe as almost fun!
There are a number of items you will need to do to complete your audit. First, you’ll need to do some detective work to get a sense for how your site is currently being seen by the search engines. Of course the best place to start is with Google. In doing a site:www.yourdomain.com search, you’ll be able to see a number of items which can affect your visibility in the search results pages (SERP’s). The first thing to take note off is how many pages are listed at the top of the page. The number should be in a light gray font near the upper left on your screen. Write this number down, you’ll need it again later. Does this number roughly represent how many pages your site consists off? If not, there may be some indexation issues you’ll need to dig into. Secondly, is your homepage the first listing? If this is not the case you may have a penalty or site architecture issues.
Next thing you’ll want to take a look at is how your brand and branded keyword terms are currently performing in search. Here again, you’ll want to make sure your homepage is the first result. For your branded terms, do the correct pages show up? If not, a penalty could be the issue. While you are on the SERP’s, go ahead and click on the little down-pointing triangle near the page URL. A couple of options may appear, click on “Cached” for now. This will go to a version of the page which was cached by Google one of the last times Googlebot visited your site. You’ll see a link at the top, “Text-only version” go ahead and click this too. This is what Googlebot actually “sees” when it crawls your site. At the top you’ll see the date/time stamp when it was visited. This can give a pretty good idea about how often your site is being indexed. If you have a small site, all the pages will have the same date probably, if a very large site, it won’t get indexed all at once most likely. The two most important reasons for looking at this are to verify that your content is showing up on the page and that your navigational links are both visible and all accounted for. If not, there maybe some issues with how your site’s navigation is being implemented.
The next thing to do is to check to see how your site is showing up on a mobile search. We all know how important our mobile devices have become in our lives! Go ahead and do a branded keyword search on your phone. Do you get the “Mobile Friendly” label in front of the page URL? I’m assuming of course that your site is already mobile friendly, either a responsive design or other implementation.
After this, pop on over to your Google Analytics account. You’ll want to check on a number of items in your initial detective work. First, dig out that number I said to write down earlier. Does that number match the number of landing pages listed by GA? If not there could be some page quality issues that you’ll want to address. The number of landing pages listed here are pages which have received at least on visit, so it will not be an exact number of indexed pages, but it should be close.
Other areas you’ll need to address in a proper technical website audit are:
- On-page Optimization
- Duplicate Content Issues
- Site Architecture
- Internal Linking
- Technical Issues
- Site Speed
On-page optimization is just what it sounds like, optimizing items on the webpage. At the most basic level you will want to make sure that these items reflect the keywords and intent of your page.
The most import item is the title tag. This is a key indicator to a search engine of what the page is about. You will want to have your target keyword within this tag, preferably at or near the beginning of the tag. In most cases, it will also appear as the title in a search result snippet on Google or Bing. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of getting this right. Make sure that your title is no more than 50-60 characters or more accurately, 512 pixels in length. This way your entire title will show in the SERP’s.
The h1 tag is also considered to be a factor indicating the topic of a page. While less important than the title tag, it also let’s your site visitor know that they have landed on the correct page. You will want to follow suite and include the target keyword within this tag as well. Character length is not an issue here.
While the meta description no longer plays any role in ranking, having a well written meta description does affect your click through rates. It is your chance to convince your customer to click your ad over the other search results. I would always recommend forming well thought out meta descriptions. If you do not, the search engines will make their own up from the content on your page.
<alt image tag>
This is a tag used by search engines to learn what an image is about. A web crawler has no way to know what an image is without this tag. Might just as well make the tag contain your target keyword too. This tag is used by web browsers to read aloud for vision impaired individuals also.
The catch-phrase of the year has been “Content is king.” Google and Bing are getting very good at reading your content and determining what the page is about. They also look at originality, grammar, writing level, keywords, related keywords and a host of other indicators about what this page is all about. Your goal for each page on your site should be to have a concise purpose for that page and present your ideas in a unique manner and provides a better user experience than any of your competitors. For instance, if you are selling pest control services for roach control, rather than a boilerplate page about how you are the best pest control for roaches, blah, blah, blah, you might put together a page outlining the three major pest species of roaches, their habits, geographic areas, control techniques and what a customer might reasonably expect from hiring your company.
The main goal when creating your content is to provide better information than your competitors and providing solutions to your customers concerns while leading them towards your goal of gaining more business. That could be a sale if you have an eCommerce site, or it could be an email sign up if you have a business which has a much longer sales buying cycle.
This goes hand in hand with your content. Duplicate content does not provoke a penalty as such, however it does create a situation whereby the search engines must decide which of the duplicate pages is the most important to rank. Personally I do not wish to leave decisions up to the search engines. In the case of an enormous eCommerce site you could have 10’s of thousands of duplicate content issues because of faceted navigation. If there are numerous ways to get to pages, each with it’s own URL, then you will be forcing the search engines to again make a choice, not to mention all the link juice you are wasting. There are a few different ways to handle this. Either by creating better navigation or by implementing a well thought out canonical structure to ensure that Google knows which page you want to show up in the SERP’s.
You will also want to have a look at you site architecture to make sure that it not only makes sense to your customers, but also that it makes sense to the search engines. Categories, sub-categories, sub-sub-categories should be set up so that they reflect how your customer is likely to shop and helps Google to understand how your website is organized. Target keywords should be used at all times! Every page on your site should be no deeper than three clicks from the home page if at possible. You will also want to make sure that your menu is readable by the search engine crawlers. Using technology which is unreadable to search engines, but looks really cool may make the designer happy, but if the search engines can’t see your navigation you are going to have serious issues getting any visibility on the SERP’s.
Ideally you will want to make the most of internal linking to help the search engines find related pages within your site. If you have a page about roach control and another page about pesticides which are good for getting rid of roaches it would be a good idea to include links to each of the pages within the content too. Preferably near the top of the content copy. Pages about motorcycle tires might have a link to the page about motorcycle wheels. You get the idea.
Other Technical Issues
This can run the gamut from including a noindex tag for you entire site to having no xml sitemap or worse a broken xml sitemap. Other things you will want to check your site for are internal broken links. Broken links can cause the crawler to leave your site altogether, and too many broken links can indicate a poor user experience to Google. External broken links can be managed by using 301 redirects. Which leads me to mentioning that you should almost never use 302 redirects as they pass no link juice and are meant only for temporary situations.
Suffice it to say that you want your site to run just as fast as it possibly can. This is extremely important for a mobile friendly site. You will need to make sure you are running efficient code, your images are formatted correctly for fast load times and that you are not suffering from the ill effects of having too many plugins if you are running a site on WordPress to name a few. Google Analytics can also give you specific suggestions for speeding up your website.
In conclusion, while doing a website audit may not be quite as fun as going sailing on a beautiful day, it is not nearly as painful as you may have thought. I recommend doing an audit as a first step to amping up your SEO and getting the traffic you want.
If you would like someone else to tackle this project, feel free to contact me and I will be happy to get started on your project.