This last week, a colleague of mine had mentioned that he had a client that seemed to be stuck in rankings and he wanted an SEO audit of the site to see if there were any issues. Over the years, search engines have evolved to the point that old site audit tools aren’t really helpful anymore. In fact, it’s been 8 years since I really irritated search agencies and consultants by saying SEO was dead. While the article was a bit of a bait tool, I stand by the premise. Search engines are truly behavior engines, not just crawlers that scan the bits and bytes of your site.
Search engine visibility is dependent on four key dimensions:
- Your content – how well you organize, present, and enhance your content and optimize your content management system for search engines to crawl and identify what your site is about.
- Your authority – how well your domain or business is promoted on other relevant sites that search engines are able to digest and recognize your credibility and authority from.
- Your competitors – you’re only going to rank as well as your competition allows you to, so understanding what competitors are doing that keeps them ranking higher is critical to your success.
- Your visitors – search engine results are largely tailored to your visitor’s behavior. So, you need to provide a compelling, engaging overall strategy to get shared, promoted, and for visitors to keep being presented with you in their results. This may be dependent on location, device, seasonality, etc. Optimizing for human behavior will absolutely result in greater search visibility.
As you can see, this means that you’ve got to do a ton of research for an audit… from onsite coding and performance, to competitive research, to trending analysis, to recording and reviewing on-page visitor behavior. When most search experts perform an SEO audit, they rarely encompass all of these aspects into their overall audit. Most are just speaking to doing a basic technical SEO audit for onsite issues.
One tool out there that will do this quick check for you is Alexa’s SEO performance tool. It can point out the basic technical issues that could be impacting your site’s ability to be indexed properly by search engine crawlers.
Alexa has shared this infographic, A Technical SEO Audit Guide for Beginners, that points to 21 issues in 10 categories:
- Ensuring your pages can be indexed, aren’t blocked from Google by mistake.
- Ensuring you have a valid SSL certificate, which search engines often give precedence to ensure any data captured is encrypted and secure.
- Checking your meta data is a great means of engaging the search engine user. Think of your meta description as a call-to-action for someone seeing your page in a search result… what would you say to get them to click through?
- Checking backlink health and identifying new opportunities for relevant sites to link to you.
- Optimizing site speed by troubleshooting and correcting infrastructure, hosting platforms, caching, compression and other issues.
- Using canonical links to ensure that search engines are directed to the URL that is optimal for your content. Note: Google has absolutely said there is no duplicate content penalty… so this is a nuanced discussion. If your site has multiple URLs with identical page content, you’ll want to absolutely use a canonical link to direct search engines to the appropriate page, else you risk competing with yourself and not ranking well for any of the duplicate pages.
- Remove low value pages because they’re dragging down your overall site’s value. This is an area that I am constantly pushing clients in, formulating a content library strategy rather than a continuous stream of awful content no one is reading or sharing.
- Create useful links from your primary and secondary navigation structures, to internal anchor text linking. Imagine a crawler building your site, deciding which pages are most important by how many times you internally link to them.
- Optimize for mobile is essential as more and more people browse mobile devices. Mobile responsive, fast websites that are optimized for viewing and interaction on a small screen rank incredibly well.
- Master the basics of organizing your website and writing your content – from titles, to using headings, bold, emphasis, images, and video. SEO is a race and your content has to be better than your competitors to win that race. Is it?