As a marketer, you will be more than aware of the pressing demands of SEO. Indeed, you will no doubt already have an extremely thorough and (what you hope is a) really good strategy for ensuring that your website is always moving in the right direction (up) Google’s search rankings.
You’ll be growth hacking and content marketing and link building and blogging and tweeting and all the rest of it (you’re doing all of those things, right? Because you need to be).
But, how do you tell – and I mean really tell – if all your hard work is paying off? Well, hopefully your conversion rates and sales figures should be giving you some indication as to how successful you are, and indeed if your business is growing.
However, this may well be incidental to your SEO efforts. For all you know your website could be plummeting down Google’s rankings – but if your business continues to tick over nicely enough with the income you generate from returning customers, how are you ever going to know?
The SEO Site Audit
The only trusted and true way of telling how well your site is performing is to conduct a website audit. Much like your car (or your computer) needs a good service regularly, so too does your website – and that’s essentially what an SEO site audit is all about.
An audit will analyse, measure, and report on major factors influencing your organic search engine rankings. Now, you essentially have two options as to how to approach the audit – hire someone to do it for you, or do it yourself.
This blog post, as I’m sure you have already inferred, is to guide you through the latter approach.
Read more: How to create SEO-friendly content
How Deep? How Long?
Well, the truth is that you can actually be as thorough as you like when conducting an SEO site audit. That is to say that some dedicated professionals may take hours and hours – or, more likely, days and days – to go through a website piece by piece, and line by line of code, making lists as long as your arm as to what could be tweaked or improved to give your website a thousand-and-one tiny little boosts up the search engine rankings.
Or, you can take a slightly less involved approach and spend between, say, 5 and 15 minutes identifying just those glaring killer turkeys clucking up your SEO.
In truth, if you’re going to conduct a site audit yourself, and you don’t really have very much knowledge of coding and website building per se, then it’s the 5- to 15-minute approach that you’re after – and this is something that you should do regularly.
The Beginner’s Guide To Quick DIY SEO Audits
Begin With Crawling Your Site
First thing’s first – you need to crawl your site. This is the automated part – the rest involves manual checks. So, if you start your crawl first thing, then it should be done by the time you’ve finished the manual bits.
So, find a free crawler, such as Beam Us Up, and set the spider loose to crawl your site and generate its report. This should be really easy – If you’re using Beam Us Up (other free crawlers are available), just enter your site’s address in the URL field and hit ‘Start’.
While this little bot is doing its thing, continue going through the list below – by the time you’ve checked it all off, your crawl report will be ready (I’ll come back to this at the end).
Check Your Homepage Basics
Ok, this might seem a bit kindergarten here, but if you’ve never done an SEO site audit before, then you might be surprised at some of the things that your website is missing that could really help it rank higher.
So, go to your website’s homepage, right click anywhere on the screen, and select “View page source”.
A new window should open up which will display the webpage in all its glorious code.
Now ask yourself the following questions:
- Does the page contain a well-crafted, clickable title, which conforms to SEO best practices?
- Is there a custom meta description, which will act as your ad in SERPs and encourage clicks?
- Is there one instance of the H1 tag and does it conform to SEO best practices?
- Are subheaders (H2, H3 etc)properly used and conforming to SEO best practices?
As I say, this all seems like pretty basic SEO stuff, but you’d be surprised how many webmasters don’t get this right. Indeed, content marketers are usually pretty good at optimising their blog posts, but when it comes to the actual homepage, it’s all a bit hit and miss.
So, let’s run through the best SEO practices for each of the above points.
The title tag remains the single most important on-page ranking factor in 2015. In his excellent title tag best practice guide, Shaun Anderson of Hobo Web says:
“The Page Title Tag (or more accurately the HTML Title Element) is still, however, arguably the most important on-page SEO factor to address on any web page. Keywords in page titles can HELP your pages rank higher in Google results pages (SERPS). The page title is also often used by Google as the title of a search snippet link in search engine results pages. Keywords in page titles often end up as links to your web page.”
Tips for optimising title tag:
- Use brand name first
- Focus on one target phrase
- Make sure tag is under 512px in width (more than this and it will truncate in SERPs)
Your meta description will essentially be the advert for your site. Users will see it and read it, and, although it is not actually a ranking factor, a good one will increase click-throughs, which of course do affect rankings – so, you might call it an indirect ranking factor.
Ramesh Ranjan puts it well in this article for Hubspot:
“The meta description is one of your last hopes on search engine results pages (SERPs) to attract a searcher to come to your site. This is something that digital marketers constantly neglect to focus on — perhaps because they think it just doesn’t matter anymore. But if you’re not putting effort into your meta descriptions, you could be missing out on good website traffic that can bring in lots of new leads and customers.”
Headers and Subheaders
The H1 tag is very much an important ranking factor for Google. Each and every page on your website needs to have a unique and descriptive H1 tag. On the home page, you need to make sure that you are communicating the site’s main purpose, and getting in some high-level keywords, too.
So, if you’re selling jewellery, then you should try getting in something like <h1>BUY JEWELLERY ONLINE FROM THE UK’S NUMBER 1 JEWELLER</h1>
This gets in the top keyword ‘buy jewellery online’ and the location, which is important for local rankings (and you could be more precise with the location – London, for instance).
H2s and H3s should also be used smartly, with secondary keywords and phrases worked in – these, too, are ranking factors.
Repeat With Internal Pages
Now, go deeper into your website and repeat the process for all internal pages.
By the time you’ve finished this, your site crawler should have finished its job, and you will now be presented with a pretty neat and nifty report containing your backlink data, traffic data, your site speed, with any penalties you may have incurred identified.
You can now use this detailed information to identify all manner of changes that you can make to your site to assist in its rankings. The title tags, meta descriptions, headers and subheaders are the most important factors that you should always deal with first, and the good news is that you don’t even need to get that technical – simply use the source page to identify your titles and tags, optimise them, and you’re done. Pretty simple, hey?
Got any more tips for quick DIY SEO audits? Let us know in the comments below.