Auditing a Live Site to Discover SEO Problems
SEO specialists spend more time implementing solutions to live sites rather than assisting in the actual web development process. Because SEO is still a rather young industry, many web developers lack the skills necessary to build perfectly optimised search engine friendly websites.
Prior to the commencement of an SEO campaign, it is important for a technical SEO audit to be conducted. A technical SEO audit is a process where all the SEO strengths and weaknesses of a website are evaluated and documented for the client. During this undertaking it is important that everything is properly defined for the reader’s benefit and strategies to combat weaknesses are addressed. Like with a normal audit, it is important that no stone is left unturned. From meta tags to mistakes in the code, every aspect of the website must be tested.
The following are components you should look for when conducting an audit:
Ease of Use
Usability may not directly affect SEO, but it plays a big role in conversion and website staying power.
Perform a Search Engine Health Check
Confirming whether the relationship between the website and search engines is strong can help you uncover any longstanding penalties. There are multiple ways to accomplish this:
- Experiment with your brand terms to see if you are ranking at all.
- Check the Google cache to ensure the cached pages match the live ones.
- Type your website URL into a search engine and see which pages are indexed or not.
Check Keyword Health
Is there evidence of keyword stuffing? Are the right keywords being used? Do the keywords integrate effectively with the overall site architecture? These factors, and more, must be addressed when it comes to keyword usage.
Duplicate Content Checks
If you have http and https versions of the same pages on your website then Google and other search engines will take note and most likely index one and not the others. It is important that 301 redirects are utilised so that crawlers can have an easier time exploring your website.
For sites with large volumes of pages such as those involving e-commerce, this is a immense task, but damage can be minimised by ensuring all the most popular pages are optimised.
Ensure your URL is keyword friendly and as short as possible and with no keyword stuffing being utilised.
Title Tag Review
Title tags need to be descriptive and engaging for maximum effect. Including keywords is a must and if you want to utilise the brand or company name, put it at the end of the tag. Having the keyword first and foremost has greater ranking power.
Is there enough content? If a large website has many pages with minimal content, there will be an imbalance which search engines may view unfavourably.
Meta Tag Review
Utilise unique meta descriptions for all your pages. If, for some reason, this is not possible, remove the tag completely. Having meta descriptions that are similar can be a marker to search engines of duplicate content.
Ensure that any and all redirects on a website return a 301 redirect code.
Internal Link Examination
This can be a tedious procedure, especially if the website is incredibly large and difficult to navigate. The best links are worthless unless they connect to relevant content. Ensure that every link connects to the correct page and be sure to avoid link stuffing.
Whenever possible, utilise keyword powered anchor text.
Depending on the business, having the web domain optimised to a particular country or city might be necessary. If your business relies on a physical store(s) based solely in Boston for example, then having the address listed on the website is optimal for customers.
Page Load Time
Having too slow a load speed can impede a search engine’s ability to index it. But it has to be quite extreme for such an occurrence to affect ranking. Unfortunately, long page load times are notorious for turning off traffic and promoting high bounce rates. Try to keep page loading times to under two seconds at maximum, while anything under one will provide best results.
Alt Tags for Images
Search engines do not have eyes like humans and cannot interpret images like we can. As a result, they rely on alt tags when it comes to sorting images. Alt tags are typically short descriptions of an image and perfect excuses to lay down a powerful keyword.
If using the WordPress CMS, alt tags can be easily set anytime you upload an image or some other form of multimedia. Tick an image in your media library and to the right you will see a range of fields including Title, Caption, Description and, also, alt tag.
Technical SEO Audit Checklist
Because SEO audits require much time and effort to effectively compose, we have included a template you can utilise or refer to when making your own.
There are many SEO factors that need to be addressed in an audit. For every issue be sure to include:
- Definition – Because not everyone knows what meta data is, for each issue make sure it is properly explained and use images for assistance if necessary
- Findings – What were the results?
- Examples – Illustrations of technical findings
- Recommendations – What is going to be done to fix the issue?
Technical Audit Checklist
To make the task of composing a high quality audit even easier, we have provided a template for a table of contents that can be followed when writing your own.
- On Page SEO Relevancy
- Meta Data
- Title Tags
- Meta Descriptions
- Meta Keywords
- Current Content/Landing Pages
- Brand Awareness
- Mobile Optimisation/Usability
- Images and Videos
- Image Optimisation
- Video Transcripts
- Indexation & Accessibility – Coding
- Site Architecture
- Site Theming
- txt file & XML Sitemap
- txt file
- XML Sitemap
- Custom 404 Error Page
- Crawl Errors
- Webmaster Tools Checks
- Main Domain URL
- URL Duplication
- 404 Error Pages
- On Site Duplicate/Common Content
- Security Check
- Site Speed
- Code Compliance
Because issues such as keywords, meta data and links are universally common among all search engine friendly websites, not all audits are unique. As a result, you could adopt the contents above as a framework for your own audit. However, it is important to be flexible and fill in the gaps when necessary. An e-commerce site audit may have different issues tested than a common food blog.
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