What is an SEO website audit?An SEO site audit is the process of assessing your website’s content, structure, UX and their impact on your site’s performance in terms of organic search, organic rankings and conversion rates. Essentially it’s a health check of your paid SEO strategy and the digital assets that may affect its performance. The purpose of performing an audit is to identify any problems with your site that may be affecting your SEO, so you can align your digital assets with your SEO goals, implement best practices more effectively, manage Google search engine optimization costs, remove outdated practices, and get on Google’s best side.
Is it the same as a Google automated report?Google offers an automated report on SEO performance for all websites through the search engine. While this is a great starting point, it can’t deliver on many of the most important objectives, including an estimate of overall investment and business impact. In fact, most SEO tools allow you to run audits or reports on a website. At Yellowball, we use SEMRush to crawl a website and create a list of errors that it can identify on a site. These errors and warnings are somewhat prioritised and useful for everyday website management and maintenance, or even an indication a that an audit is needed, but are not a substitute for a proper audit itself.The issue here is that these audits are of limited value. They are also very easily accessible, producing a number of problems:
- Anyone can produce one of these ‘audits’. This means that unless you are using a reputable and involved digital marketing partner, you may very easily end up with an automated report that took less than a minute to produce rather than an actual SEO audit.
- Issues without solutions. These reports show that an issue has been picked up but give you no strategy or insight on what impact it is having on website visibility or how to correct it. A proper audit will not only detect SEO issues, it will make recommendations on how to correct them and the impact these measures will have on your SEO strategy. You will also have direct access to a team who can implement these corrections.
- Little to no context. These reports are very superficial and don’t take into account critical website data, making them very limited in terms of their effectiveness.
- No strategic value. Automated reports do not offer any strategic value, insight into the impact of the issues and how to overcome them, or insight into the impact of correcting these issues. It also can’t tell you your ROI, overall investment, and business impact.
What is included in a paid SEO audit?SEO audit processes will differ between specialists, but from our agency experience, an audit is far more than a paint by numbers report. Our SEO audit will take into account a swathe of items, including:
- Keyword Analysis & Competitive audit – This looks at the search demand for your niche, looking at what keywords users are typing into Google Search and the relative competition by other websites showing up for these searches. This form of market research focuses on what’s going on outside your website by evaluating your website against your competition. You’ll see your strengths and weaknesses compared to theirs and receive recommendations that make your SEO efforts more effective.
- Technical audit – This process evaluates your website from a technical SEO aspect, searching for broken links, duplicate content, page speed load times, and more. The majority of resolutions found in this leg of an audit would likely require the assistance of a developer. This should be a standard aspect of an assessment from your audit team.
- On-Site audit – This covers an analysis of keyword implementation in SEO relevant page elements like page titles and headings, eligible image optimisations, and the implementation of structured data, and evaluations of website structure, and an assortment of other elements.
- Content & Link Building Analysis – This leg focuses on the longer terms components of the websites SEO campaign, reviewing existing content on the website against competitor website offering, looking for opportunities and weaknesses you can leverage for both short and long term growth of the websites SEO strategy, and part of the content focus in the promotion of the content and acquisition of links to the site through well crafted content designed to add value to the greater internet.
The most common paid SEO issues and how to fix themWhile we do recommend using our SEO audit services to evaluate and improve the visibility and performance of your website, we understand that businesses also want to try and keep costs down. Here’s a quick look at the most common issues that SEO audit services uncover and how to fix them.
1. Slow page load speed and/or Poor core web vitalsThe speed at which your webpage loads has a considerable effect on your SEO. Measuring your page load speed isn’t as simple as typing your URL into the browser, pressing enter and starting your stopwatch. Every millisecond counts so use an accurate online tool such as Google PageSpeed Insights, Lighthouse or GTMetrix to find any issues with your page speed. Given that “53% of visits are likely to be abandoned if pages take longer than 3 seconds to load”, it’s essential that your page is loading as quickly and efficiently as possible.Here are a few pointers to get started on improving load speed:
- Ensure that all images on your site are optimised
- Minify the HTML on your site
- Remove any surplus plug-ins on your site
- Enable browser caching
- Utilise Content Delivery Networks for websites operating in multiple regions
2. Missing or incorrect page titlesThe title tag element on a web page signposts the overall content of a page to Google. In the same way that if you’re given a box with “Cotton wool” written on it, you’d naturally assume that box is filled with cotton wool. The title tag can be seen in the SERPs to let users know what they can expect to click through to.The title tag also displays on snippets when shared on social media or other digital platforms. Optimising a title tag involves making sure that the title itself is relevant. The relevance of the title tag is key to search engines, SEO and user experience. If you opened a box expecting cotton wool and it was actually filled with broccoli, you wouldn’t be too happy about it. Unlike other elements of a site, Google restricts the display of title tags to 600 pixels instead of to a character count. As a result, Google displays in the region of the first 50-60 characters of a title tag. It’s worth considering that different characters will take up varying amounts of space. For example, a pipe ( | ) would be a better use of space than a dash ( – ).
3. Missing or incorrect meta descriptionsSimilar to a blurb on the back of a book, meta descriptions describe the content of a page – what a user can expect to find if they were to click on the link. The meta description is your opportunity to entice a user into clicking through to your site, and convince a user that the content of your web page is the best place for their query to be answered. It’s important to note that metadata will not display on your website – it only displays on the SERP. Ensure that your meta description is relevant and between 150-160 characters for optimal performance.Whilst Google doesn’t consider the content of your meta description as a ranking factor, it will highlight specific words if they’re searched for in the SERPs.
4. Missing or incorrect main page headingsHeading tags break down the content of a page, much like chapter headings in a book. If the content of your page covers multiple different angles of a topic, these H tags help search engines to identify the different topics discussed on any given page. For example, the title tag, meta description and heading tags should all work together: <head> <title> Famous Female Scientists | Name of Website </title> <meta name= ”description” content=”Here is an enticing piece of text, encouraging you to click through to the site.”> </head> <body> <h1>Famous Female Scientists</h1> <h2>Famous Female Scientists 1950-2019</h2> <p>Body copy, relevant to famous female scientists between 1950 and 2019.</p> <h2>Famous Female Scientists 1900-1949<h2> <p>Body copy, relevant to famous female scientists between 1900 and 1949.</p> </body>Note that you should only ever have one H1 tag, whereas you can use multiple H2s, H3s and so on.
5. Broken links (internal and external)Broken links are links that point to pages that don’t exist, internally or externally. You can find yourself with broken links on your site through a number of avenues:
- The site that is being linked to has deleted the page that you’re linking to – also known as link rot or link decay.
- The URL that you’re linking to is incorrect. i.e. you’ve made a typo when linking to the site.
- Link to a new destination
- Redirect the page (usually through a 301)
- Display 404 error
- Reach out to an external linking site, and request a fix.
6. Redirect chains and loops
- Redirect chains – A URL redirect chain occurs when there is more than one redirect between a URL and its destination. Ultimately, this slows down your site, hinders your user’s experience and is detrimental to your own SEO. Redirect chains can occur when URL 1 is redirected to URL 2, then URL 2 is then redirected to URL 3. They’re also a common issue when migrating a site over from http to https or from www. to a non-www. site addresses.
- Redirect loop – Similar to a redirect chain, a redirect loop is where URL 1 directs to URL 2 which redirects to URL 1 and so on, essentially sending the user (and Googlebot!) in an infinite loop.