An SEO audit – what to expect

Understandably, the idea of running an SEO audit is pretty nerve-wracking. Particularly if it’s something you’ve never done before.

What if the whole site is broken? What if bounce rates are through the roof? Ignorance is bliss, right?

Or maybe they just seem like one big headache to you.

“I’ll do it after this coffee.”

“I’ll hire someone else to do it.”

Come on. Is that really going to happen?

Let’s do this. You can’t ignore it any longer. Easily fixable problems could be hampering your SEO significantly. And that’s harmful not only to your business but to your site’s organic search visibility.

Chances are, every site is going to experience issues from time to time, but we, as simple human beings, just don’t have the time or capacity to keep tabs on the deeper corners of our websites manually. That’s why regular audits and site health checks are so great (really, yes!).

They help to fish out not only human error, but link and code errors, broken chains, loading issues, and other harmful issues depreciating your SEO value. Failure to adhere to SEO best practices can cause Google penalties, black hat penalties, or your website to fall off SERPs altogether – potentially crippling for your business’s ability to generate sales. An audit will cover both structural and content components within your site that could impact visibility. From the audit, you should aim to finish with a list of accurate, impactful and actionable conclusions that will significantly improve site health and visibility. Leading your business to achieve tangible and measurable results.

So where do we begin?

Depending on which route you want to take, an SEO audit can be a comprehensive in in-depth and timely process which provides a detailed and insightful overview of your website – these would be performed perhaps once or twice a year at the most. Otherwise, there are many online tools to help you perform briefer health checks intermittently – perhaps monthly. While these insights can be limited, they provide you with ongoing visibility of those deeper corners of your site.

Your SEO audit/site health check could bring up a plethora of potential fixes that will significantly improve your website’s visibility. These include, but are not limited to:

Crawl errors

Crawl errors will be signalled. These are simply where a page does not allow Google to crawl properly and instead returns an HTTP error code. This could be down to a number of reasons from server errors, to truncated headers and responses, or bigger problems like DNS errors.

Most crawl errors can be fixed in the Google Search Console. However, it’s important to first identify which kind of error you’re dealing with. For obvious reasons, these are highly detrimental to your SEO and need to be rectified immediately.

Broken links

There’s a reason sites like Reddit and Quora sustain such impressive and sustainable rates of traffic, even after the dawn of social media. It’s because people still like to talk. They like to gossip, converse, and engage in long, meaningful threads. Especially when it pertains to a common interest.

Backlinks, internal links and inbound links are the currency of the internet and are comparable to SEO ‘equity’. If links are broken, your SEO audit will indicate where these are and drive you towards building an even stronger, more robust link architecture.

Perhaps at the time your site was created, certain link chains did not exist. Here, you can discard low quality links and rebuild with authoritative external sources or link internally within your own site. The internet is saturated with new content every day, so now is as good a time as any to also assess the landscape and identify opportunities to obtain valuable backlinks from other influential and authoritative sites within your space.

Keyword health

One thing an SEO audit can flag is ‘keyword cannibalisation’ where more than one page is targeting or showing up in search engine rankings for the same keyword. Google Search Console will help reveal which keywords are driving traffic to your site, and any noticeable drops in their performance which could indicate an issue.

This is also an opportunity to look for keywords that could be sitting just below page 1. You could be missing out on valuable traffic here, and with a little further optimisation work, help move them towards higher rankings.

Thin content

‘Thin content’ is the term given to pages that are added arbitrarily to a site, simply for the sake of adding new pages. In a bid to boost SEO, this shortcut can cause considerable harm to your status since search engines are now designed to seek out content or web pages that lack any purpose or real depth and value.

Many domain owners will write lacklustre blog articles, post them mindlessly under the misconception that the more content, the better. One example of this is where an image gallery with separate URLs for each image. There is simply no need for search engines to index each individual URL. I’m doubtful this will be the case, but an SEO audit is important for flagging up areas of your site that could be considered superfluous. If you do come to find that pages within your site are deemed as thin content, take this opportunity to review, rewrite and reoptimize those pages. From there you can monitor the page’s performance and watch it improve dramatically.

HTTPS status codes

HTTPS status codes are now one of the biggest ranking factors since search engines and users will not have access to your site if you still use HTTP URLs.

If your site has been around for some time, an SEO audit will be effective in highlighting URL errors, including 404 errors. If you have not already, switching to HTTPS is essential, but ensure you do so with the help of a SEO professional to ensure a seamless migration.

Metadata analysis

It’s startling how many people forget or forgo metadata, meta descriptions meta tags. Whether intentionally or not, those little nuggets of content that live behind the scenes are often at the bottom of the priority list. But crawlers also crawl behind the scenes, and good metadata will help them index your page, understand context and topic, and essentially help your web pages speak to search engines. If an SEO audit brings up a significant amount of pages on your site missing metadata, don’t procrastinate. Time invested in crafting SEO-friendly metadata will be a huge ranking factor in the future.

Site loading time

User experience is a crucial contributor to SEO value and is highly dependent of site loading time. Yet, according to SEM Rush, 23% of websites have a slow loading time.

A slow-loading site will inevitably equal a higher bounce rate and reduced ‘time on page’ – both extremely damaging to SEO and reputation. Your audit will assess site loading time and pinpoint problem areas that are perhaps causing congestion or slowing things down. These could be images, videos, superfluous media and visual content, or quicker fixes like reducing the size of above-the-fold content or adding pagination to a comments section.

Websites are comprised of layer after layer or pages, and many websites have been around for some time.

In that time, they’ve likely undergone migrations, substantial changes and redesigns. That all leaves room for error.

While the whole process of website SEO ranking may appear somewhat robotic, websites are still maintained and designed by humans, and search engines have no mercy for human or technical error. That’s why SEO audits and site health checks are so incredibly important.

The truth is, whatever the result of your audit, you need to know. Most issues are fixable. And the sooner you can work on improving, fixing and smoothing our any issues, the better. Bad SEO is reversible. It takes time though, so use an SEO audit to your advantage. Identify those areas for improvement as soon as possible and use the metrics to keep on measuring your site performance over time. Because the chances are you will see some significant improvements. Don’t be afraid of the audit!

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Chris Wright
Chris Wright
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