I was prompted to write today’s blog because of a client I have that has been completely taken advantage of by their previous website designer. This client came to me requesting a new website, and when we really started talking about the current website, it became clear pretty quickly that something just wasn’t right. I took a look “under the hood” of the current website, and was somewhat stunned… and not in a good way.
Unfortunately, the person who built the website either knew nothing about SEO, or simply failed to implement any optimization at all. When I explained to my client that the website is essentially being 100% ignored by Google (due to “no follow, no index” html coding), he wasn’t very happy. Years of effort trying to get the site to be recognized by Google have been wasted.
SEO, short for Search Engine Optimization, is one of those topics that is vast and scary to a lot of folks, and for good reason. Unfortunately, that fear of the unknown leads a lot of business owners to simply ignore it, or leave it to the professionals that they hired. Leaving a complex chore like SEO up to the pros is a great idea, but just like with any professional you hire, you should be doing your own due diligence to ensure that they know what they’re doing, and that your site’s SEO is doing well.
Don’t worry though. I’m going to try to make this as easy and painless as possible, because doing an SEO audit on your website should be something you can do yourself in about an hour. Let’s get started!
How to Audit Your Website’s SEO in 6 (kinda) Easy Steps
What You’ll Need:
- Computer with Internet Connection
- Pen and Paper
- Username and Password for Your Google Analytics Account
- About 1 Hour
1. Write Down Keywords/Key Phrases
This step sounds silly, but it’s important. Before you even get started with the rest of these instructions, get your notepad and jot down the keywords or key phrases that you think you should be ranking for. It’s easy! This list should have at least 10 different items on it, but it could have as many as 50!
For example, a real estate website is going to want to rank for key phrases with their target city/neighborhood in it, so you might write down “discount real estate broker in Acworth” or “Northwest Atlanta home buying tips“. These are just suggestions from one of my own clients.
This list of your “targets” will help you and give you a frame of reference for the rest of these SEO audit steps.
2. Check Your Mobile Compatibility
Did you know that your website’s mobile-friendliness now affects SEO? This change, brought about earlier this year by Google, stirred up a lot business owners who had websites that were doing fine until Google launched this little nugget, and now their website traffic has fallen off by over 60% in some cases!
Google has set up this nifty tool for you to check your website’s mobile-friendliness, so it’s easy to see if your website passes or fails this important test. If it passes, you’re good to go! If Google fails your site, however, you’re going to want to call your website company or hire a new one as quickly as possible.
3. Evaluate Your Google Analytics Stats
Hopefully your website developer gave you access to your website’s Google Analytics, so that you can log in and take a look at your traffic anytime. For the purpose of this SEO audit, we’re going to be looking at your site’s “Acquisition”, which is a breakdown of how your site’s visitors are actually finding you.
Log into Google Analytics, and from your “Home” screen, just click “All Website Data” for the site you wish to audit. On the left, there are many tools that you can click on to see all kinds of interesting data about your website traffic, but for now, we’re going to scroll down to the section that says, “Acquisition” and click on “Overview”.
It’s important to note that you can change the date range for the data you’re looking at up in the top right corner of the screen. You can create your own custom date range if you like (I like to view the last 3 months of data, personally), or easily select from some pre-set date ranges, such as today, yesterday, the last 7 days, the last 30 days, etc.
On the left side of the screen, you’ll see a colorful pie chart. It represents all the methods (“channels”) that people use to come to your site. If you mouse over the pie chart, you’ll be able to see each section’s data. The one you want to pay attention to is “Organic Search” which is the red color pie slice.
Organic search traffic usually means the visitor searched for something on any internet search engine, your website came up in the search engine results, and they clicked on it. This acquisition channel is a good representation of your site’s SEO performance.
Don’t be alarmed if it’s not a huge slice of the pie; look at the actual number of “sessions” associated with it instead. If your site is less than a year old, your percentage may be 3% or lower; but if even one person found your site via organic search, then you’ll know that your site is at least being indexed by Google. It’s important to consider the other traffic sources also; if you put more of your resources into social media, or paid search advertising, then obviously those pieces of the pie should be larger.
However, if your site is older than 6 months and you have ZERO organic search traffic, then you should be concerned. In very general terms, if your site is 3+ years old, your organic search traffic should be at least 5%.
4. Evaluate Your Site’s URLs
A URL is the actual “address” of any web page on the Internet. It usually starts with “http://” or “www” and it has periods, slashes, dashes, and sometimes other characters also, but it never has any spaces. URLs can be VERY long, or very short. A URL is just like a fingerprint; every single web page has a different URL.
Believe it or not, your site’s URLs can benefit your SEO if they’re done properly. This is something your website company should have done for you, and it’s very easy to take a look. Here’s a little chart to show you good and bad URLs, and why each example is good or bad:
5. Check for Plagiarism
I know, I know, it sounds like something your high school teachers put me up to, but unique content is actually a really important aspect of SEO. If the content on your site is a duplicate of any other site’s content, Google can and will blacklist your page.
If you are the one writing the content for your site, then there’s no need to worry about this. However, if you’re paying for content from somewhere else, checking the content for duplicates across the web is a smart idea!
I recommend using the Small SEO Tools Plagiarism Checker; it’s completely free and very easy to use. You simply copy and paste content into the tool, and it literally scans it for content that is elsewhere on the internet already. It can only scan about 1500 words at a time, so if your site has a lot of content, just do “spot checks” to make sure that your content marketing person is doing what they should be. The average content-oriented web page has about 500 words on it, so it should be easy to copy and paste entire pages of your website into the tool.
Keep in mind that there are tons of phrases that are used over and over again on the internet, so if the tool reports some of your content as “existing,” that’s okay. Your content should have no issues being at least 90% unique content. If it’s not at least 90% unique, you should speak to your content writer about making changes immediately.
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6. Check Your Site’s Source Code
For my next trick, I need to teach you how to (quickly and easily) view your website’s source code. Source code is the actual HTML coding that makes your website operate and display on the internet. The HTML code is (or should be) laced with things that help Google rank your site or page appropriately. Some of the most important SEO cues are in your site’s source code.
How to view the source code of any webpage:
– If your web browser is Internet Explorer, Opera, or Firefox, click “View” and from the menu that drops down, click “Source” or “Page Source”.
– If your web browser is Safari, click “Preferences” then “Advanced” and then check the box that says “Show Develop Menu in Menu Bar”. Close the “Preferences” and you will see that you now have a “Develop” menu. From that menu, click “Show Page Source”.
– If your web browser is Google Chrome, click the wrench icon or the menu icon in the top right of the window. From the drop-down menu, mouse over “More Tools” and then click “View Source”.
After you follow these steps, the source code for the website you’re currently on will be displayed to you, so make sure you go to any of the web pages that you want to check for SEO, and then view the source code. I know all of that code just looks like gobbledygook to you. Don’t worry, I’ll simplify it for you!
– Check The Page Title
The title of the page itself should contain your keyword and/or key phrase, and it should be in the site’s source code in “title tags” so that Google can easily know the title of the page.
To check your page’s title, push the “control” (CTRL) key and the “F” key at the same time. This is a nifty trick to bring up a small search bar that will let you search the entire page you’re looking at for any word(s). (Note: if you’re on a Mac, the “control” key is the same thing as the “command” key.)
In the search bar, type: <title>
When a word is in those <brackets>, it’s referred to as a “tag”. So you’re searching for the title tag. It will highlight that tag for you, and the words that come right after the <title> tag is your site’s title according to Google. Hopefully, the title accurately reflects the content on that page, AND it includes at least 1 keyword and/or key phrase.
– Check The Headers
Your site’s content also contains “headers” which could be the start of a new paragraph or topic, or just general callouts to specific phrases on the page. Ideally, your page’s headers should be similar to the title, but not necessarily the same.
Be sure that you’re still looking at the page’s source code. To check the page’s title, we’re going to use the same search function again: CTRL + F at the same time on your keyboard.
In the search bar, type: <h1>
That is a “header 1” tag, which is the biggest header on the page. The words that come after the <h1> tag is your site’s biggest header; it could be the same as the title, or it could be something different, but either way, it should reflect the content on the page AND include a keyword and/or key phrase.
You can check other headers also, by searching <h2> and <h3> and so on. Google considers all headers as an important key in ranking the page.
– Check The Image Optimization
That’s right; even the images on your site can be (and should be!) optimized for search using the same keywords and/or key phrases that you want your page to rank for.
While still looking at the page’s source code, use the CTRL + F function to search.
In the search bar, type: alt=”
That is what’s known as an “alt tag” and it goes along with most types of media to help define the media. Search engine robots/crawlers can’t see images or watch videos or listen to audio, so it relies on the “alt tag” to tell it what the media is about. As you might have guessed, the alt tag should include a keyword and/or key phrase for the page it’s on.
As a side note with image optimization, you also want the title of the image to be optimized, as well as any caption it may have.
– Check the Meta
The “metadata” (or “meta” for short) in your site’s code is something that isn’t visible to the naked eye when you’re just viewing the website normally, but of course, Google relies on it heavily to rank and display your page appropriately.
While still viewing the page’s source code, use the CTRL + F function again for the search tool.
In the search bar, type: meta
It should highlight each of your meta tags, which all play a role, but I’m only going to discuss the important ones. Just search for the following meta tags, and I’ll offer a little insight on each:
- meta name=”keywords”
If you find this tag, it’s a sign that your site might be outdated, because Google no longer classifies this particular meta tag. However, it will allow you to look at the keywords that the original web designer was aiming for. The keywords will be right after the above coding, within the “content=” quotes.
- meta name=”title”
This is similar or identical to the <title> tag that I mentioned earlier. Your site should at least have one or the other, but having both is great too!
- meta name=”description”
This is a very important meta tag, because it actually explains to Google what your page is about using a few sentences, and it is displayed on the search engine results page as well.
- meta name=”robots”
This meta tag is difficult to explain, but in simple terms, it tells Google’s search engine robots, or “crawlers”, whether or not to index the site and whether or not to follow the links on it.
There are a lot of variations of what your robots meta tag could say, however, for SEO audit purposes, you only want to make sure that it DOES NOT say “noindex, nofollow”. The “noindex, nofollow” tag is telling Google not to index your site with the search engine, and not to follow any links, meaning it won’t index any of the other pages either.
Whew! That’s it for a simple SEO audit!
This checklist of SEO audit items is nowhere near exhaustive; SEO is made up of hundreds of different keys that each unlock a part of Google’s search engine ranking system.
If you have questions about some of the things that you found while you were doing your audit, feel free to ask me! You can contact me traditionally, or send me a tweet, or post a comment below.