How to perform a website SEO audit?

A website audit in SEO is one of the first essential steps to take to start your SEO strategy on the right foot. In this blog, we will detail all the important points to understand so that you can perform a professional and effective SEO audit.

Some of the concepts might be scary at first glance for a beginner, but we will simplify everything in order to provide you with as much usable information as possible at the end of this article.

Let’s get started!

Why and when to audit a website?

An SEO audit is a thorough analysis of the current state of a website. You can use it to detect any problems that may affect the exploration and indexing of your site, as well as to identify pages that are not optimized properly, either because of their content, or another element that impacts their SEO such as the user experience. An audit can also allow you to study the competition, and it is particularly necessary for the proper planning of a site migration!

It is important to perform an SEO audit as early as possible, so that you can establish a baseline from which you can project your future goals. It can highlight any problems and help influence your overall SEO strategy for the next 6 to 12 months.

How often to (re)audit your website is up to you. A new audit will allow us to see what has been done and how, or to see what could be done next. Since search engine algorithms are constantly evolving, changes may have taken place that affect your search engine optimization and strategy. Regular SEO audits will help you better position yourself in relation to your goals and the competition.

What are the necessary tools to audit a website?

To do the audit of a website, you need access to different tools to see the real data of your site collected by search engines. Tools such as the Google Search Console or Bing Webmasters Tools give an overview of your site’s positioning for various queries, impressions and clicks on your pages from search results, as well as errors encountered by robots.

Manual penalty messages, security warnings, and mobile data are also available. These are valuable tools for technical audits, as they allow you to correct important errors or discover new SEO opportunities that you may not have noticed before.

You will also need software such as Screaming Frog or an online platform such as DeepCrawl that can export the data from your website for further analysis.

Screaming Frog is free for up to 500 URLs, so if you are the proud owner of a small website, that will be enough for you!

What should be analyzed during an SEO audit?

The analysis of the various elements below will give you a precise picture of the situation and the improvements that can be made to your site during the implementation or optimization of your organic referencing strategy.

Discovery/Visibility

This involves checking whether your content is visible by Google, whether the sitemap is adequate and how the robots read the JavaScript code of your website.

The robots.txt file is used to tell search engines what they should and should not search, whether it is single pages or entire directories on the website. If this file is not created or if it is not used properly, search engines may have difficulty discovering parts of your website.

It is important to analyze the robots.txt file to:

Ensure that nothing important is blocked and, if so, recommend the removal of the directive in question.

Check sitemaps. They should be named to make it easier to find URLs.

Check for possible crawl problems. Maybe Googlebot is not allowed to see as much as Bingbot. Further investigation would be needed to find out exactly what is allowed and why. This could have an impact on organic traffic.

The sitemap file allows to facilitate the discovery of URLs, by letting search engines know of all the important URLs that you wish to have indexed.

In this way, it is possible to visualize the hierarchy of the contents and to obtain, for each URL, various information such as the frequency of updates for example. You can also see which pages are the most important.

Finally, JavaScript plays an essential role in any website since it makes the pages dynamic and interactive. These interactions will allow you to increase the engagement of your visitors with your content, however search engine robots do not always perceive JavaScript in the right way, and it can unintentionally prevent them from correctly discovering all your content.

For this reason, it is important to check how Google interacts with your JavaScript and limit its use if necessary.

Indexability

For search engines, indexing means to “sort, reference, then classify”. Indexing is the main reason for the existence of the search algorithm because it is the one in charge of comparing websites in order to determine the ranking (or positioning).

Indexability means that a search engine not only has access to and can read the different pages of your website, it can also add them to its index.

If an indexability problem occurs on a web page, search engines will be able to read its content but will be unable to record the information, and thus reference the page. This is why it is important to make sure that nothing is wrong with your site and that nothing could prevent the search engine from indexing one or more pages.

To check the indexability status of a page, you can simply insert the address in the URL inspection tool of your Google search console.

To perform an indexability check of your entire website, it is recommended to use a crawler (Screaming Frog for example) which will inform you not only about the http status of each page, but also whether it is indexable or not.

The following elements should also be taken into account when analyzing the indexability of your website:

Canonical tags exist in order to let Google know of the preferred version of each page.

Indeed, there are many cases where a page is available in multiple versions, whether you realize it or not.

 

Here is an example :

‘http://leadstream.ca’

‘https://leadstream.ca’

‘http://www.leadstream.ca’

‘https://www.leadstream.ca’

 

These 4 URLs, different in the eyes of search engines, represent one and only page: the home page.

It may be that the page in question is accessible through each of the URLs, or a part of them, for example, which confuses Google.

In such a case, the search engine will understand that these 4 different pages feature the same content. It will therefore choose only to index one of them and leave the others aside. The problem is that it may not be the most adequate version.

To avoid this problem, canonical URLs make it possible to return the authority (the attribution of the content) to the preferred version of the same page.

 

Here is what the canonical tag looks like :

<link rel=”canonical” href=”https://www.leadstream.ca/seo/>

 

In this case, this tag must be added on the 3 other versions of the page to let Google know that only one version must be indexed, and which one.

In addition, if you own an online store, it often happens that the pagination of your category pages plays tricks on the indexing robots.

Therefore, it is important to check the canonical tags. These allow you to avoid duplicate content.

Noindex tags are used to prevent the page from being indexed by Google. Checking the correct use of these tags is therefore extremely important: leave them in place if they are appropriate, but if not, remove them as you may lose traffic opportunities.

Analysis of on-page SEO factors

On-site content is another important aspect that needs to be addressed when considering how to audit a website in SEO.

Indeed, content is king in SEO and we must therefore ensure that it is appropriate, relevant, and well understood by search engines.

Let’s look at the important elements to analyze:

The URL (for Uniform Resource Locator) is the address of a site or a web page.

But it is not only the address that appears in the search bar! It contains valuable information such as the required protocol (http), the path, the name of the file in question, and the main keyword. That is why writing a URL should be as clear and efficient as possible.

Writing an SEO friendly URL (optimized for search engines) means using about 3 to 5 words, avoiding unnecessary linking words, including the main keyword targeted, which can be easily read and understood by humans.

 

Main Keyword

The URL must contain the main keyword of the page, regardless of your field of activity. Finding the targeted keyword in the URL is as important for search engines as it is for visitors.

On the visitor’s side, this increases the confidence factor when they find your page in search results, since they will associate the URL as exactly matching their search.

On the search engine side (Google), it is an additional element that allows them to understand your content, and therefore what the page in question is about.

How to analyze your URLs for SEO?

Writing an SEO friendly URL does not mean making it endless, and even less adding all possible keywords! You need to be clear and concise in describing the page to the user in the simplest possible way.

If your URLs look like complete sentences filled with “to”, “of”, “and”, etc., you can revise and simplify them. Finally, don’t use accents or capital letters!

Any successful website integrates images linked to the published content. However, it is not enough to simply insert images as we see fit; there are certain rules to optimize the quality of your site!

 

Dimensions

The size and weight of the images are of paramount importance not only in terms of the visual quality of the site, but also in terms of loading speed. An image that is too large will take up an inordinate amount of space on the page, and conversely, an image that is too small will not enhance it.

The weight of the image is also a factor to take into consideration; images that are too heavy will have to be compressed so as not to affect the page’s loading speed.

Tools such as WinZip and ImageCompressor, among others, will be very useful. A complete analysis of your website will help identify issues with images and correct them.

 

Image Alt Text

Alt text is a tag used to describe an image on a website and is part of the HTML code; it is not visible to users unless the image cannot be displayed for various reasons.

Although alt text was originally intended for visually impaired people to help screen readers get a better comprehension of the page, this text is of great importance in SEO as it helps search engines understand what is on the image.

The alt text tag is also a valuable navigational aid when a site with a lot of graphics is viewed with a slow connection.

 

Image Analysis

A good SEO audit allows you to check if the image file names are relevant. Indeed, image file names should not contain spaces, special characters or accents, so as to avoid error messages.

It is therefore important to separate the different words with a hyphen, so that search engines can more easily distinguish the different words.

Finally, it is relevant to include information about images in your site map, so as to make them easier to find (for example, images that are accessible via JavaScript code).

Il est possible d’ajouter des vidéos à une page ou à un site Web; mais encore faut-il les insérer correctement! En analysant votre site, il sera possible de le vérifier.

Différents éléments doivent être visibles dans le plan du site. Si le titre et la description de la vidéo sont des balises obligatoires, d’autres comme la date, la durée, le calcul du nombre de vues et la catégorie à laquelle la vidéo appartient sont fortement recommandées mais facultatives.

De même, il est généralement conseillé de faire une transcription textuelle de la vidéo (video transcript), idéalement à proximité de la vidéo, sur la même page. Cette transcription comporte tout ce qui est dit oralement dans la vidéo, de manière à en améliorer la compréhension par les malentendants, ainsi que par Google.

During an SEO audit, the structured data will also be checked, but what exactly is it? It is a standardized format that provides information about a given page and allows you to classify the content of the page. In other words, it allows search engine crawlers to better understand the content of your page. Implementing structured data can increase the click-through rate by about 30% compared to a site without structured data, according to several studies.

 

Identify opportunities

How can the page be tagged with structured data for inclusion in search results? You must first provide up-to-date information and avoid tagging misleading content (for example, fake reviews), otherwise your page will be penalized by search engines.

What information could you include? If you have an online store, you could tag product names, prices and the number of units in inventory for example.

 
Analyze and test structured data

In early July 2020, Google announced that it would stop maintaining its structured data testing tool, in which you simply entered a URL or code to see if it contained errors or generated warnings to the search engine.

While still available, it will very soon be the tool for testing URLs or codes for enriched results that will be favored by the Google development team. Although this tool is relevant, it does not  check for all the structured data that could be shown on a web page, but only those taken into account by Googlebot to generate enriched results in the SERPs.

However, here are some alternatives to test your structured data:

  • Yandex Structured Data Validator: Google’s Russian counterpart also has a tool to check the accuracy of structured data on a page, or just a piece of code. However, you will need a Yandex account to access it.

  • Bing Markup Validator: Just like Google and Yandex, Bing has a tool to verify your structured data (HTML microdata, microformats, RDFa, Schema.org, and OpenGraph).

Metadata are HTML tags containing text excerpts that describe the content of the page. These tags are in the source code, but their content does not appear on the page.

Here we will talk about only two of these tags:

 

Meta title

The meta title tag, as its name suggests, gives a title to your web page. This is the title that appears in the search results in blue, and can also be found on the tab of your browser.

The meta title (sometimes called “SEO title”) is your only chance to convince search result visitors to click on your page. You must absolutely optimize it in the best possible way!

It is therefore essential that this title tag includes one or more keywords related to the page. In general, for a good referencing optimization, it is also recommended that the SEO title include between 50 and 60 characters, including spaces.

 

Meta description

The meta description is the small text snippet that appears under the SEO title in the search results, which gives more information about the content of the page.

Ultimately, this is your second and last chance to catch the user’s attention and convince them to click. To do this, you have 150 to 160 characters available, after which Google displays the three little dots.

The meta description is no longer a direct SEO factor, however it is an essential element to increase your clicks, and therefore your CTR (Click-Through Rate). Optimize it in the best possible way, be creative!

On-page titles and subtitles are also important in SEO and should reflect the content of the page. These tags are named H1 for the main title, while H2 and following tags will be used to prioritize the subtitles. Thus, the content is classified by level of importance.

Therefore, the H1 title will contain the important keywords but be careful: they must be inserted in a natural way and not “forced”. It is essential that your title remains fluid!

Here is an example:
H1: How to successfully grow a vegetable garden in an urban environment?
And not…
H1: Keyword + another keyword + another keyword…

Keep in mind that this is a title and not a Google query!

The same goes for H2 and H3 titles, which are used to organize sub-sections of your text, while H4 and following tags announce additional information.

It is not enough to have a website and to include information; the content must be of quality, unique and regularly updated!

It is important to follow the points mentioned above in order to remain attractive to visitors and search engines.

Although the content remains of paramount importance, you still need to convince the users to visit your page! This is why the choice of keywords is a step not to be neglected. Who wants to put hundreds of hours of effort into writing great articles, only to find out that no one can find them?

It is therefore necessary to choose carefully the keywords used, in order to acquire the traffic necessary to discover your work!

 

Create unique content

Needless to say, you need to create original content in order to attract users.

In fact, if search engines find duplicate or identical content on another page, Google will ignore your page and you will not appear in the search results.

On the other hand, the better and more consistent your content will be—we are talking about a minimum of 400–500 words per page—the more likely you will be positioned for a specific query.

As a general rule, the average length of blog posts that rank on the first page of Google is 1500–2000 words. Search engines assume that a topic that is covered thoroughly will better answer a user’s query, and increase the chances of answering the question completely.

So, if you want to position yourself, write unique, relevant, and precise content (which implies longer by definition).

 

How to check for duplicate content?

To audit your content and determine if some of it appears as being duplicated on your website, you can use a tool such as Siteliner.

It allows you to know the ratio of your website that is duplicated across your pages. It also helps  you to find internal links that no longer work (that no longer link to an active page) in order to change them for a better alternative.

Other tools such as Yoast SEO (for WordPress) or SEMrush allow you to get recommendations on how to improve your pages.

Although no tool is perfect, it might give you some ideas to consider in order to optimize your content for search engines.

 

Internal link building

The internal mesh represents the way your website’s internal links are organized.

In order for your website to be indexed correctly and for search engines to understand it more efficiently, it is important that link building is carried out properly and that it can easily link to other pages of your site.

However, remember that less is more, and avoid spreading a multitude of links aimlessly!

As mentioned previously, it is important that your internal links are directed to strategically chosen pages that work. In addition, the anchor text (text that contains the link) should be descriptive and clear about what your visitor will find when clicking on it.

 
“Featured snippets” (or “Rich Results”)

Arrived in the United States in 2014, featured snippets are small boxes appearing at the 0 position of a search result page (1st organic result) and which answer a user’s query. If each of the search results is related to the question asked, the one that is the most relevant and that best answers the query according to Google is assigned a featured snippet.

It is impossible to force Google to make your page a featured snippet; however, by ensuring that you provide a clear answer to a given question, you increase your chances of doing so. That’s why it’s important to know the most frequently asked questions related to your website!

Conclusion

Wondering if auditing your website is necessary? The answer is yes! The SEO audit of your website always reveals the various problems preventing it from moving to the next level in terms of SEO.

It is always possible to go further, more in detail… it is always possible to do better! If you are the kind of person who doesn’t waste an opportunity to improve, an SEO audit is necessary to find out where to put your efforts.

If you want to put all the chances on your side, the first step is to follow our step-by-step audit guide and write down the problems you identify. The second step is to “fix” those problems!

This may be quick, or it may be more complex depending on your situation. In either case, if you wish to entrust your SEO strategy to a specialized agency, LeadStream would be happy to discuss it further with you.

Good luck, and good research!

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