Why do you need SEO audit?
An SEO audit is an effective way to identify internal and external errors on the website, unleash its potential, and activate further progress.
In this article we will give you tips on how to audit your website yourself, and show you some basic tools and services that will help you in the work. We also discuss the cases in which the instructions given here are enough, and when it is important for you to turn to specialists who provide professional SEO services.
There are basically two types of SEO audits. The superficial one called “Express SEO” and the comprehensive or complete one named “Full SEO”
A full SEO audit should be carried out by a professional who can analyze, model and search for non-standard solutions. It mainly answers the following questions:
- how to raise low-frequency queries?
- why the site got under the filter?
- how to remedy the situation?
The full SEO requires experience and the use of special tools.
It gives a more detailed picture of the site’s status, which help to conduct full-scale optimization activities and open great prospects for promotion.
An Express audit of the resource:
- gives a general idea of the effectiveness of the project;
- helps to identify gross violations that impede a better ranking;
- helps to improve behavioral factors and increase conversion;
- can be carried out independently according to the standard algorithm of actions.
In this article, we will only consider the Express audit as it can be conducted independently and for free.
WHAT DIFFICULTIES MAY ARISE DURING AN EXPRESS SEO-AUDIT
Here is what you need when performing the audit yourself:
- An analytical mind;
- An access to tools and services, which is not always free.
- Have a visual idea of the process (you can study the case studies of other companies)
- follow the emergence of new algorithms, optimization directions.
Before proceeding to the first paragraphs of the audit plan, it is necessary to understand the principle of the search engines, what factors affect the ranking, how indexing is carried out. In general, immerse yourself in the backstage life of sites.
THE PRINCIPLE OF THE SEARCH ENGINE
The search engine action chain includes: making a plan, collecting data, indexing, calculating, ranking, and evaluating the quality of search results. Let us dwell on some links in this chain.
The preliminary stage during which lists are compiled. To get into them you need to place a link somewhere, mention the site or go to the browser where the search toolbar is installed.
When collecting data (crawling), the search robot moves through the generated list, collecting technical data. Of great importance is the interaction with the search engine. To quickly find the necessary documents, you need:
- monitor the size of the document – the smaller it is, the easier it is for the search engine to process its data;
- Install the robots.txt file responsible for managing indexing
- embed the robots meta tag in the code of a web page – this will help search engines to express their wishes regarding the indexing of the page content and the links placed on it;
- specify the encoding, server response code, document size in HTTP headers;
- to work out the structure of the site – it distributes the priority between sections (clusters), on which data collection depends.
At this stage, factors matter:
- content metrics and quality;
- number of links, directing to a specific document;
- and a lot of signals.
At this stage, categories related to queries are taken into account.
- The region of the site and the user entering the request. When doing SEO audit, it is necessary to check the region assigned to the site and the area (country) the users come from. For example, if you want to promote USA in the region, and the majority of visitors from Australia, it means that the quality of the audience does not match the needs of the site and it is necessary to make adjustments.
- The query input language or browser language settings. For example, the user usually enters requests in Polish, and today entered in English. He will more often see the search results in Polish.
- The type of request predetermines the result of the issue, because according to commercials, news and informational queries, various ranking formulas are used.
EVALUATION OF THE QUALITY OF SEARCH RESULTS
The quality of the results is assessed by quantitative analysis of some behavioral factors:
- The number of clicks – the less clicks on the site, the weaker its position will be in the future.
- The number of reformulations – when the user has to supplement the query, deepening the search.
- The number and speed of returns – the frequency with which the user returns to the resource. For example if a web user makes a search and visits the first link suggested by Google and for some reasons closes the page for another website using the same search this means they probably did not find the answer to their concerns.
- The number of output resources viewed – the more pages a user visits, the worse the bot determines the quality of their output.
WHAT EXACTLY TO ANALYZE ON THE SITE?
It is necessary to approach the site analysis in a way that affects the 4 metrics of effectiveness:
- SEO (positions, traffic, semantic core)
- technical (speed of indexing, loading, correctness of opening pages, code, links, quality of the index)
- usability (behavioral factors – the number of views, returns, failures, time on the site, the use of the internal search function)
- commercial (number of regular customers, orders, sales, calls, check amount, conversion level)
Commercial metrics are an indicator of business success. They need to be monitored, but they do not depend on the SEO alone.
The Website usability affects both business metrics and SEO metrics. The tendency to create user-friendly resources motivates owners to fill websites with additional elements that simplify their use.
Traffic directly depends on technical indicators. The absence of blank pages and duplicates in the index is of fundamental importance. You need to get rid of them so that the index contains only extremely useful pages.
SEO site audits involve the analysis of technical and SEO metrics. For us, for the first time, it’s enough to show the users we care. A convenient catalog, a “buy” button, a price list – all for comfortable “shopping” or searching for performers. Contact information, warranty and return data, feedback form – all for trust and peace of mind.
NECESSARY TOOLS FOR INDEPENDENT SEO AUDIT
To collect data and analyze the site you will need to use a variety of tools. Some of them are available for free, while some require payment.
Keep in mind that buying a toolkit for auditing a single site may be more expensive than paying for SEO services. Let’s turn now to the practical part – the preparation of tools.
FREE SEO TOOLS
Mandatory publicly available tools for resource analysis include:
- An SEO checklist – a structured algorithm of actions that must be taken to cover all the analysis issues
- Google Analytics – a service used for obtaining a variety of statistical data on the work of the site as well as behavioral factors of visitors
- Xenu Link Sleuth i- a site parser that collects technical plan statistics by going through all of the addresses (Document sizes, HTTP headers, encoding type, location of broken links, etc.)
- Web Developer Toolbar – an extension for Mozilla that provides great opportunities for webmasters
- Firebug – a functional extension for analyzing the technical characteristics of a site (HTML codes, page loading speed, tracking of script elements that take longer to load when loaded)
- SEOquake – a free plugin that provides data about the site and page optimization; some functions are similar to the RDS bar
Paid tools Ahrefs is a service that allows you to analyze the quality (new, outdated, etc.) and the number of links online.
Majestic SEO is a service similar to the previous one, but with a bias towards a foreign base.
Screaming Frog SEO Spider is like the Xenu Link parser, but offers more options for auditing. Convenient work with filters and settings.
INSTRUCTIONS ON HOW TO AUDIT THE SITE
A website audit includes several types of analysis:
- technical – analysis of technical factors (technical SEO)
- external – analysis of reviews, external links, references to the resource on third-party sites (off-page SEO)
- internal – audit of internal links and site content (on-page SEO)
- semantic – analysis of the semantic core, keywords and phrases
- structure analysis – close attention to the convenience of the structure, how indexation is going, and what opportunities there are for optimization
- Commercial – inspection of the site based on the consumers point of view
HOW TO MAKE A TECHNICAL (INTERNAL) SITE AUDIT
These steps include the analysis of the website code, the page loading speed, the HTTP headers, the robots.txt files, the meta-robots, and the optimization for mobile devices.
IDENTIFY ERRORS IN HTML AND CSS
Errors in the HTML markup and CSS give an incorrect display of the pages. The consequences can be serious and could greatly affect your ranking.
- the use of a non recommended tag
- non recommended characters in links
- tag is not closed
- the use of not required attributes
How to check:
Using HTML and CSS validators.
Based on the scanned code, the services generate a detailed report with errors found.
The sites where users open a series of pages with an error 404 (not found) will not like visitors and will surrender their positions in the issue. Such situations may occur if:
- the deleted (or moved) page is preserved in the search bot index – users get a link to it in the search results
- when on the site itself there are internal links to the deleted (or moved) page
- other sites link to the deleted page
- There is a typo in the address bar
How to check:
Check by using the webmaster panel (google) and the free Xenu Link Sleuth service. It’s better to use several methods to reveal the maximum amount of broken links.
You need to get rid of the broken links according to the situation:
- for moved pages – configure 301 redirects
- for deleted pages via internal links – delete the link or fill the not found page with relevant content
- for erroneous pages on external links – contact advertisers and inform them that their resource is not working
Next you need to “remove” non-existent pages from the index to prevent the “page 404” from turning your potential clients away from your website. For this, use webmasters panels. Using the explanation and help information, insert links to the main sections of the site or to interesting images.
By using the ErrorDocument directive located in the “.htaccess” file in the root folder, you can specify where users get redirect to once the “404 error” happens.
Similarly, other errors can be fixed (401, 403, 500).
CHECK THE PAGE LOADING SPEED
Users hate pages with low download speed, so you must ensure that on the desktop, pages are loaded in 3 seconds and mobile devices are loaded between 7-9 seconds.
How to check:
First of all, we recommend using services from Google. To check the speed of the pages, you can use the famous PageSpeed Insights or install an extension called “Lighthouse”. For a more detailed check of the mobile version of the site and how your site is loaded on mobile networks (2G, 3G, 4G), use the online service for testing on mobile networks, Google, pagespeed insight, PingDom, or GTMetrix We also recommend that you pay attention to the new service from Google Web.dev – Fast load times. This is a tool that will allow you to check your website’s speed both on mobile devices and desktops. See the image below:
The image below show an example of testing in mobile networks (dont forget to insert an image here)
Testing the mobile version optimization via google search console
An example of a new web.dev tool
How to minimize the page load time:
- reduce the volume of pages
- compress pictures
- enable data cache
- get rid of unnecessary redirects
- reduce the number of server requests
CHECK ROBOTS.TXT FILE
Long files clog up the index and make the robot spend more time, which it could be spent on the indexation of valuable documents.
How to check:
On google search console.
CHECK FOR DUPLICATES
While creating subdomains for testing, we sometimes forget to close them from indexing. This way duplicates are formed which worsens the ranking of the main site.
How to check:
See if there are test subdomains in the issue.
WHAT ELSE TO CONSIDER IN AN INTERNAL AUDIT
- Check the completeness of the content and meta-description.
- Add unique titles to the headers.
- Get rid of the garbage index or unnecessary pages.
- Check comment moderation to ensure that the profanity does not fall into them and that prohibited topics are not touched.
EXTERNAL SITE AUDIT FOR FREE
This stage covers: analysis of reference profiles, donor IP-addresses, competitive sites.
(service Alexa shows the dynamics of the popularity of the resource)
REFERENCE PROFILE ANALYSIS
It is important to monitor the nature of the reference mass. For example, do not insert links to stores for adults in borscht recipes.
You can use the service “Ahrefs,” which analyzes the quality of the inserted links.
ANALYSIS OF DONOR SITES
Control of aggregators, link exchanges, and moderation of purchased links is necessary. Otherwise, your flooring may be closely intertwined with drugs for genital infections.
Conducting an external audit of the site, you must also pay attention to the nature of the anchor list.
We recommend SemRush and Ahrefs, which are the two optimal tools as of now that can help you with competitor analysis.
At this stage, the semantic core, distribution of queries and their results are subject to audit.
Tools for working with semantics:
Google analytics, LiveInternet, Yandex.Metrica Wordstat, search tips, Key Collector, Rank
Tracker (from Seo Powersuite), parsing highlights and themed words from the online service arsenkin.ru and others. In these programs you can see statistics, create groups of queries, and apply various filters.
SEO ANALYSIS OF THE SITE STRUCTURE
The site structure is closely intertwined with its semantic core. At this stage, compliance with semantics, depth of nesting, and navigation is analyzed.
- The nesting level is more than 4
- The structure does not correspond with the semantics
- Persepam, which can cause the website to be banned.
COMMERCIAL SITE ANALYSIS
At our level, it is enough just to check the availability of the contact page, map, mode of operation, certificates and other trustworthy clients documents.
Setting goals in web analytics contributes to a simpler independent SEO analysis of the site. To achieve quality but free auditing, you not only need to have the desire, but also the knowledge and will to analyze. However, if you find this process lengthy and don’t have the basic knowledge, you can refer to us and we will help you.