A website audit allows you to see what critical areas you should improve on a website to maintain its optimum performance. This covers a number of areas including technical performance, site content, on-page SEO, off-page SEO, responsiveness, and user experience. Every business that owns a website is different, so you need to consider its goals and operational side during the audit process. In case you decide to hire a reliable SEO agency to manage your website, make sure they know your business objectives and the current status of the site before work begins. Check out the website audit checklist below to learn how to audit a website.
Get some baseline data with Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and SEO tools like Ahrefs
Before you go through your audit work, you first need to understand how your website is performing at present. Utilize useful tools such as Google Analytics, SEO suites, and Google Search Console to get baseline information that you can use as a starting point in the audit process. You will use the baseline data to observe any improvement after you finish the audit and relaunch the website.
Once you’ve setup the analytics tool to use, check your website’s organic search traffic. In Google Analytics, for example, navigate to the “Acquisition All Traffic” section then click the “organic traffic” link to filter organic search. It is important to understand the Google Analytics traffic report to give yourself a clearer insight into the seasonal trends of your website traffic. You may observe your traffic channels whether they are growing or declining.
If the traffic trend is declining, however, it is important to determine the ineffective marketing behavior that may have caused the downward direction of your campaign. If you want to know which pages drive high traffic, consider previewing the “Behavior Site Content” report. The analytics tool can help you determine the most popular pages and non-performing pages of the website. In addition to Google Analytics, you can also maximize some feature-packed SEO tools such as the following:
- Google Search Console
- Moz Pro
- Answer the Public
These aforementioned SEO suites offer various valuable features such as keyword tracking, keyword generation, bounce rate, competitor analysis and several others.
These are just examples of SEO suites you can use, however, consider exploring other available options which can match your website profile. Remember that the baseline information you get from these versatile tools will greatly help your keyword research and content creation phase prior to your website audit process as well as during your campaign run.
Remove Low-Quality Content from Google’s Index
You are probably surprised to learn that Google does not prefer websites with too many pages. Websites with fewer pages to be indexed get more favorable results instead. Search engines pay more attention to pages offering high-quality content for target users rather than pages that are created to increase traffic.
Having too many low-quality pages to get indexed in search, especially auto-generated pages, is not beneficial to your website. Auto-generated pages often don’t have unique content or value to offer, so it is a good idea to remove these pages from being listed in SERPs or found by Google.
The following types of low-value pages should be removed from your website, so Google will no longer need to index them:
- Thin content pages (usually contain under 200 words)
- Page filters from faceted navigation
- Archive pages
- Category pages from WordPress and other CMs programs
- Pages containing an image file
- Broken links (404 pages)
- Content no longer relevant (both text and images)
- Paginated pages
- Old news articles and press releases
- Auto-generated user profiles
- Faulty http to https
The above-mentioned pages should be removed since they have no value to offer to search engines as well as users, but they greatly influence your ranking. Removing pages that have no value or do not perform well may result in huge traffic gain. This also means fewer workload for you and the SEO professional who handles your website. In the pre-audit stage, the SEO expert typically evaluates a client’s website to understand what potential issues may be encountered during the audit period.
Improve Page Load Time
Loading time is definitely an important ranking factor for search engines. Page speed also directly affects your conversion results and bounce rate. If you are a customer, for instance, would you prefer to stay on a website that takes too much time to load? Regardless if the internet speed is fast and the hardware specifications of the device are impressive, you still cannot enjoy navigating a slow-running website in front of your screen. On the part of the SEO professional and site owner, their primary responsibility is to make loading time as fast as possible to maintain an excellent user experience.
To be able to improve loading time, you should analyze page speed data and optimize the website using proper SEO techniques. And do not forget to choose an outstanding host server. Use the Google Pagespeed Insight tool to find out what areas of your website need to be cleaned up. You will receive a rating from 1 to 100 for both desktop and mobile website versions with this tool.
When navigating the tool, scroll down until you spot the “Opportunities” section where you will find specific line items that should be given attention to improve loading time. However, capitalizing on the opportunities you get will depend on the CMS platform that runs your website, whether WordPress or custom-coded. If you are operating on WordPress, for instance, consider using caching plugins to deter JS/CSS from loading and storing your pages for random visits in the future. Image compression can also help improve loading speed. After making some modifications, run a quick Google search and observe any changes in loading behavior.
Aim for high page speed scores on your desktop and mobile website through a testing tool. For example, you can use GTMetrix to check the loading speed of each page you have adjusted or recreated. It is not only important for your homepage to load quickly, but other valuable pages including landing pages and informative posts should also be fast. Whenever possible, aim to achieve a loading time under three seconds since Google itself has proven that over 50% of online searchers will abandon the site when it loads for over three seconds. However, despite making huge adjustments and optimizations and you still have not gotten significant traffic gain, you may want to switch to another host.
Ensure Your Website is Mobile Optimized
You may want to consider making your website mobile responsive since more than half of online searchers now use mobile devices to search for information and products. Mobile accessibility is now included in the long checklist of search engine algorithms. Why not try the Google Mobile-Friendly testing tool where you can get the result in less than 30 seconds? It is easy to use and you just need to enter the URL or domain name into the testing tool. If your website is not currently mobile-friendly, you can do image compression or make the site layout design minimal for better viewing. Remember that the screen should not be cluttered, although ad spots are inevitable when you redesign the website. There are also mobile-friendly themes available on CMS platforms at a lower price.
Resolve Broken Links (404s)
Broken links may not be a contributing factor to search engine algorithms, but they do have a direct influence over the outcome of your user experience. Error pages can seriously hurt your bounce rate, conversion rate, and overall page rank. So it is best to resolve defective internal and external links proactively to avoid various website issues in the future.
You will be able to fix broken links using Google Search Console. Once you have setup this audit tool, click the “Coverage” link that appears in the left-hand menu of the screen. You will receive a listing of your error pages, including duplicate content and inappropriate backlinks. Just click on each error to see the exact detail and recommended resolutions. If you delete a page on purpose, you have nothing to resolve. You can also find in Google Search Console the pages you want Google to find in order to have them properly indexed.
Find and Fix Indexing Issues
Resolving any indexing issues is an important SEO task that should not be neglected. Search engines crawl and find each page for indexing while simultaneously ranking the pages according to relevance and technique used. However, you need to make sure that you have submitted a sitemap to Google using Google Search Console. If you’ve already set up an XML sitemap for your domain, you will see the success status of your created sitemap. Google normally sends a response when you have submitted a sitemap and it has been thoroughly reviewed.
Similar to the previous step, use the Google Search Console to find error pages or crawling issues that need to be fixed. Navigate to the “Coverage” tab to find out any recurring indexing issues. Just click the error page and you will see the URL details and other valuable information.
Ensure Only One Version of Your Site is Indexed
You cannot outsmart Google by creating multiple versions of your website. Other SEO professionals and businesses use this technique, thinking that they can direct all customers or visitors to the same site and get a higher conversion rate. Unfortunately, this is considered a violation, making it less attractive in the view of search engines like Google. If this is the present situation of your domain, better delete these multiple versions to prevent dragging your site to the bottom of SERPs.
Check out an example of 4 different versions of a website below:
They may look the same, but they are different from Google’s point of view. Assuming you have an SSL certificate installed for your domain, these four versions will only redirect visitors to a single website. Google prefers to index HTTPS:// because the site is considered secure and credible. This also signifies trustworthiness for your website, helping you gain the confidence of your potential clients and see your pages in search results more often. Make sure that only one version of your website is indexed to avoid wasting time and resources.
Review Your Organic Traffic
You definitely need Google analytics to observe web traffic properly. If the direction of your web traffic is going upwards, you may have a well-organized SEO strategy setup in place. If the traffic is going downhill, however, you might want to check for issues affecting your performance.
Open Google Analytics and go to the “Audience and Overview” tabs. Indicate the preferred campaign period you want to see on the top right side of the menu. Once the data is displayed, click on the date range of the previous year via “Compare” link then compare the results.
But if you prefer to sort out organic search traffic from the rest, you can use the filter option. Click the “Add” segment from the Google analytics top menu. Uncheck “All Users,” select “Organic” and then click the save button to see trending web traffic for the set date range. If you notice either stagnant or fluctuating growth, you should review the SEO strategy you are currently implementing. You can check the status of the following conditions to have an idea where adjustments must be made:
- Expired SSL certificate
- Issued penalties by Google and other search engines
- Website impact due to recent algorithmic changes
- Missed content opportunities
- Insufficient link generation
- Non-performing search terms
Improve Click-through Rates
After you determine the low-quality pages of the website, you can now focus on further improving the existing pages that rank for you. You can start with the first five or ten most important pages of your website since each page requires in-depth audit and takes considerable time to complete. Consider pages that contain keywords and are important to your business. You can also target pages that are found in the first two pages of the SERPs, but only reach the 5th to 15th position.
If you are unsure which pages to start with, identify the pages using Google Search Console. In the Google Search Console, go to Performance and select the date range from the filter menu. Click the average CPR box you want to check to see the actual data. Scroll down until you reach the bottom part, click the pages then click Impressions.
You will notice the listing of pages ranked according to the total number of impressions received from the search in descending order. Consider focusing on pages that receive a high volume of impressions but only gain a low amount of clicks, which is normally under two percent. To improve your pages, start by optimizing meta tags, rich snippets, title tags, URLs, and meta descriptions. These are bits of information that people see first once the search results are displayed.
Consider adjusting the page title and header based on the keywords you think will rank. Use catchy titles or keywords that will engage your target audience. Make your content informative and compelling, but easy for readers to understand. Incorporate keywords in the URL and make it descriptive.
Remember that you don’t need to stick to the same set of keywords that are ranking right now because the trends can change anytime. The important thing here is that you monitor the performance of each page and make necessary adjustments once you figure out any inconsistent traffic growth. Incorporate keyword variations until you get the winning formula of your SEO campaign.
Focus on improving On-Page SEO
Improving the content of your existing pages through content optimization can significantly help boost your website ranking. You can focus on the first five or ten most important pages of the website as starting pages or pages that are in the 5th to 15th position of the SERPs. Make use of Google Search Console and popular SEO suites to find out how your pages are performing in search. Also, use the filter option to create a listing of the keywords your website is currently ranking for.
In performing on-page SEO, it is important that you understand the intent of Google and other search engines for the pages they want to appear in search results. Google only wants to offer the most relevant website and information to customers as it tries to remove pages that have no value or any useful content. It knows the type of page you want to target for your keywords is also critical. If the majority of search results are category pages for a service or product and you are trying to rank a blog, you will likely find it difficult to penetrate the race. Review each page you want to rank and perform the following on-page SEO techniques:
- Include the primary keyword in the meta description and title page
- Incorporate the main keyword in H1 tag, within the first few sentences of the paragraph and other areas of the content, but make sure to keep it natural
- Only post highly informative and relevant content
- Make your content easy to read by putting more spacing or writing short sentences
- Use alt text to describe the image and make it accessible to visually impaired users and search engine crawlers
- Strictly avoid having duplicate content and broken links
- Add LSI keywords and secondary keywords as needed
- Ensure fast loading speed of the website
Research Content Gap Opportunities
Instead of competing on the keywords, your competitors are ranking for, you can fill the gaps with less competitive search terms or keywords you are not ranking. But you need to create unique content to showcase brilliant ideas that others have not yet offered to the public. Finding content opportunities will allow you to drive more organic traffic to your website.
Why not consider using Ahrefs to discover new keywords? When navigating this tool, enter 3-5 market competitors or URLs related to your business and click Show keywords. Ahrefs provides direct links to your competitors’ actual content to better understand the keywords that effectively worked for their campaign. With content opportunities, you may find it amazing to produce compelling topics that can revolutionize a concept, service or product.
Create the BEST Content Out There
Everyone is aspiring to get to the top spots of search results, so you should always expect intense competition in your industry. Your goal is to produce several pieces of content that are unique and innovative so that your followers will continue to support your brand. Remember that your audience is always looking for fresh content or discovering something new from you. But what’s more important here is that you are able to answer the specific query of searchers in full detail. After all, keeping visitors satisfied with what they have read or learned from your business should be the end result of your campaign.
For most SEO experts, it is better to create a few great pages instead of managing tons of sub-par pages. Looking at the content from the perspective of search engines, they favor websites that offer feature-packed and enlightening content. Search engines consider a website credible when it generates continuous engagement from users and links from other established sites. If you’ve heard about RankBrain, Google uses this ranking factor by looking at how users interact with your website. By creating and building links using the right anchor text, websites that drive a lot of clicks and user responses are greatly rewarded by Google.
Review Structured Data & Rich Snippets
Structured data is the process of marking your website codes to make them readable to search engines. Structured data allows your name to appear in certain rich snippets, reviews, and relevant directories, which greatly helps improve your click-through rates. In the case of reviews, you can use tools like GatherUp to display rich snippets, which can be events, products, or services, in search results by fixing review widgets on your popular pages.
Google offers Structured Data Markup Helper which allows you to manually mark up content. When you need to test the process, you can use the Structured Markup testing tool from Google. This tool will ensure structured data is setup accordingly by scanning for potential errors.
Analyze Your Backlinks
Links play a huge role in ranking, so it is important to conduct link profile audit on a regular basis. Search engines prefer to see only high-quality links connected to your website to signify trust. You can use SEO suites like Ahrefs to search for bad links.
When you open up Ahrefs, you type in the domain name and scroll down to Referring domain section to see the collected data of active links. For sure, you want to see the upward trend of your links within a specific period of time. However, if your links are dropping, stagnant, or have no outcome at all, you need to figure out the problem as soon as possible.
Check your link data in the Referring domain metric and filter the links in descending order. Take time to find low-performing links from the listing. Ahrefs will show you all non-performing links or spammy links from less credible websites. If you are lacking high-quality links, you might want to start a link-building campaign to improve your site authority.
Organize your website navigation
Website navigation is all about how you organize pages or connect them to the overall site architecture. Your pages are organized according to the level of importance. If you keep your website architecture clean and simple, visitors and search engines will appreciate the website more, therefore your customers are less likely to abandon it.
Why is it important to maintain good website navigation? First, you help your users find information within the site quickly. Second, search engines will find it easier to understand your website and index the pages. Lastly, you are able to tell the search engine which of your pages is more important.
To consider a website architecture a total mess, valuable pages are often buried multiple levels from the homepage, or page distribution between sections is uneven. In some instances, there are pages that are considered “stand alone” or pages which are not connected to the overall site architecture. Of course, you also don’t want to navigate a website that is cluttered and highly graphical, right? If you want to minimize these issues, user experience and accessibility must be considered when designing a website.
Do Competitor Analysis
It is important to sneak into the website of your closest competitors to discover what organic keywords they are currently ranking for. You can use keyword research tools, SEMrush for instance, to extract organic keywords from your competition. SEMrush can also help give you an idea of how much traffic their search terms are generating. Once you know the organic keywords that other competitors are getting, you can utilize them in your own campaign or develop more content opportunities, where you can create new and informational content that has never been heard on the market.
Monitor Rankings or Keyword Positions
You cannot simply stop at keyword research and content optimization stages as you need to closely monitor how your keywords are doing in the campaign. Use SEMrush Keyword Position tracking tool to find out if your keywords are effective in your campaign run or not. Remember that the end goal of every keyword optimization is to see your website’s position go up in the SERPs while adhering to webmaster guidelines.
Explore our Website Audit Services
If you follow this website audit checklist, you may create endless opportunities to enhance your website ranking, complement your lead generation efforts and maintain strong online visibility through search. Conducting a full website audit is comprehensive and time-consuming, but you should not be overwhelmed because there are experts available to assist you with your digital marketing campaign. You definitely need perseverance, patience, and investment to see the true success of your marketing initiative. To achieve this, consider hiring a reputable SEO agency like Be Visible Media, which is equipped with relevant experience in conducting complete website audits for various business forms.
Our website audit services are designed to resolve various website issues, both technical aspects and content development for busy business owners and digital marketers like you. The experts at Be Visible Media know exactly which areas of your website to prioritize based on specific business needs and objectives. We are here to help make your website visible on top of the SERPs for the keywords you want to rank for. If you need more information about SEO and website audit, you can communicate with us using our contact form.
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