Most websites, particularly those built more than a few years ago, could use an SEO audit and subsequent cleanup. In fact, at the very least you should be performing an SEO audit annually. But every good digital marketer will recommend more frequent audits than that.
An SEO audit gives you a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the factors that affect your website's performance in search engines, and it can also yield some valuable UX, content, user behavior, and performance/analytics insights.
What to expect in an SEO audit
The audit process is usually pretty simple: we run the site through an SEO crawler, take a deep dive into the data it returns, look for common issues and anomalies, and provide an analysis of the issues we find. Then, if the client asks us to proceed, we set out to fix the problems we identified with the end goal of improving search rankings, site findability/accessibility, and clickthrough rates.
Why do you need an SEO audit?
Websites are like cars, houses, bodies, and one's taste in music: they need regular, ongoing maintenance and attention. An SEO audit can help identify why your site isn't ranking or converting well, and a tuneup of its problems can potentially boost its search engine performance, clickthrough rates, and conversions.
Some additional reasons to have a professional take a deep dive into your website's search engine performance and SEO practices include:
- Google's SEO and webmaster best practices change frequently, and it's no secret the company is rather opaque about its algorithms and ranking factors. So even if the company or people who built your website were SEO fanatics, it's likely best practices have evolved since your website launched but that your content, copy, and metadata have not.
- It's possible SEO was overlooked completely during your site's design and build. It's not that your website builders were negligent or malicious, just that SEO hasn't always been and often still isn't top of mind for companies that don't have people focused on content and digital marketing.
- The importance of designing web content and data/metadata for search engines as well as users has only become common wisdom in the last few years. We've audited a lot of sites and informally reviewed (OK, snooped on) a lot more websites, and most of their metadata and SEO tactics are somewhere between just pretty good to dismal. (Think a homepage meta description of "test" or "SEO description goes here, Ted.")
- You, personally, might know your way around an SEO crawler or the Google Analytics interface. You might know how to identify what's not working on your site. But do you know how to fix it? Do you know how to implement Schema.org markup or set up an SSL security certificate? Do you know how to add an alt text editor into your CMS interface? Identifying problems is important, but it's far more important to find and enact solutions.
What do we look for during an audit?
We have a well-defined list of SEO factors we look into when conducting an audit, but this list can change depending on client needs and website/CMS configuration. During an SEO audit, we're examining the factors that directly contribute to search engine performance. So, that means we're not necessarily evaluating on-page content, user experience, or overall performance or quality, although these are all additional audit types we offer.
When we conduct technical SEO audits, we focus on and evaluate search-ranking factors such as:
- High-level issues such as having the robots/txt file or robots meta tags enabled, security issues/https certificates, XML sitemap issues, and Google Search Console issues
- Quality of meta descriptions and meta page titles
- Implementation of OpenGraph protocol and Schema.org markup
- Response codes:
- 301 redirects (more than one)
- 404 errors (broken pages, both internal and external)
- 500-level codes (server response errors)
- Image quality (size/"weight" or text that's "trapped" in an image)
- Image metadata such as image alt text or image files names
- Proper use and tagging of H1s
- Site speed
- Quality of page URLs and use of parameters/query strings
- Linking: outlinking, inlinking, internal linking, and backlinking
- Link text/anchor text
What if you want a more holistic website audit?
Although an SEO audit/cleanup is not a silver bullet and is often a foray into a larger site-overhaul process, it can do wonders for your site's performance in search engines.
However, if you're looking for a more extensive audit that accounts for site analytics, traffic, user behavior, site performance, keywords, content quality, or other user experience considerations, we also conduct qualitative and quantitative content audits, UX/IA audits, and analytics audits with the goal of improving search ranking, organic traffic, and, of course, conversion rates, average order value, and other practical considerations.