SEO audit

How to perform an SEO audit and fix your performance

Your website could look great but if no one can find it, what’s the point in having one? This is where Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) comes into play. Websites need to be optimised for search engines to allow them to look through your website and show them in their search results for relevant queries. In order to optimise your website for search engines, you need to perform an SEO audit. We are going to go through how you can perform an SEO audit and how you can use the insight from the audit to fix your performance.

What is an SEO audit?

Before you start performing an audit, you need to understand what an SEO audit is and why you need to perform them. An SEO audit is simply a process to find any issues that could be affecting your website’s performance from ranking on search engines. We will look into more detail what types of issues that could appear when running an audit. If you find there are a number of issues affecting your site, it’s likely your website isn’t performing well in the search engine rankings.

Because of this, you will be missing out on organic traffic to your competitors who are ranking higher than you. By running an SEO audit regularly, you can make sure that any issues that might arise can be fixed quickly to ensure your rankings are not affected negatively. Losing out on traffic can also mean losing out on sales. The number one result in Google’s search results has an average click-through rate of 31.7%. This number quickly drops and if you find yourself on the second page, only around 0.78% of users click on these results.

How to perform an SEO audit

Now you know what an SEO audit is and why it’s important to run them regularly, let’s take a look at how you can do this. In order to run an in-depth site crawl, we use SEMrush’s site audit tool. There are other site crawl tools available on Moz and Sitebulb. SEMrush will ask you to create a project where you will enter the domain of the website you want to crawl. It’s unlikely that you will need to change any of the settings for the audit.

Once you start the site audit, depending on the size of your website and how many pages are being crawled, this can take some time. When the site crawl has finished, you will be shown a score as a percentage out of 100, as well as insight broken down into ‘errors’, ‘warnings’ and ‘notices’.

Erros

‘Errors’ are the most severe and will have the biggest impact on the performance of your website. Some of the common ‘errors’ that we find are:

  • Duplicate meta descriptions
  • Duplicate title tags
  • Broken internal links
  • 4XX error codes

Warnings

‘Warnings’ are not as severe as ‘errors’ but should still be fixed as soon as you can as you will still see an improvement in your website’s performance. Some of the common ‘warnings’ that we find are:

  • Uncached and unminified Javascript and CSS files
  • Low word count
  • Missing meta descriptions
  • Images with missing alt attributes
  • Broken external links

Notices

‘Notices’ are the least severe and by fixing them, you will see a slight increase in your website’s performance. Some of the common ‘notices’ that we find are:

  • Pages with only one incoming internal link
  • Pages that need more than 3 clicks to reach

All of the ‘errors’, ‘warnings’ and ‘notices’ have a pop up which will tell you more about the issue and how they can be fixed. It’s important to know, however, that it won’t be possible to remove all of them. Some Javascript and CSS files might still flag in the ‘warnings’, however, they might be needed for the layout of your website. In this case, it’s important to get your site audit as high as possible without compromising the look of your website.

How to fix your performance

After running a site audit, you now have a list of issues that need fixing. Depending on how your website was built, this list could be long or short. As SEMrush breaks the issues down depending on their severity, you can begin to create a plan that prioritises issues. When creating your plan, you also need to take into account the time and resources required to fix each issue.

If you don’t have development experience, you will need to work with a developer to fix some of the issues. Depending on how your website is built, you may be able to implement a lot of the actions yourself. If you don’t have access to edit your website or don’t have the experience to, you can still fix the content issues in a document before sending them over to a developer to implement on your site. As you wouldn’t normally need a developer to fix your content issues, these issues are fairly easy to fix.

Quick wins

Some other quick wins include:

  • Fixing broken internal and external links

The site audit will highlight any pages that have broken links. You can then go to these pages and change the links to ensure they are going to a page that works. This may be a simple issue to fix, however, it can help a lot with optimising your website. Fixing broken links will show Google that you are keeping your website up-to-date and providing a good user experience – no user wants to click-through from Google to be met by a 404 error page. Google knows this and will rank your page lower. 

  • Fix orphan pages

Orphan pages are pages that are on your site that are not internally linked to by another page. There may be some that can be left as they might be landing pages as part of an email or social media campaign. Look through the audit to see if there are any pages that should be linked and find relevant pages on your website to link through to them.

Tips for optimising your content

If you have a website built on a CMS (Content Management System), it’s likely you will have access to fix the content issues on your website. We have mentioned some of the common content issues we find on websites but how can you fix them?

If your website is built on WordPress, it’s highly recommended that you install the YoastSEO plugin. There is a free and paid version of this plugin and it will make optimising your content a lot easier. Common issues that arise on the site audit are around the page titles, meta descriptions and headers. The YoastSEO plugin will make it a lot easier to fix these issues. After the content box, the plugin box will appear which will allow you to change the meta title and description as well as giving you tips around optimising the content on the page.

The SEO audit will highlight which pages have issues around their page titles – there could be duplicate page titles, a title could be too long or the title and header of a page could be the same. It will also highlight any issues around your meta descriptions. A lot of time they are missing and the YoastSEO plugin allows you to enter these easily. It’s important to remember that the title must be under 60 characters and meta description must be between 150 – 160 characters. They should describe what the page is about and also have the keyword you want the page to rank for. 

How can you find out if your site is optimised?

Once you have fixed as many issues that you can from the SEO audit, you can then re-run it to see how much your SEO score has increased. Depending on how long it takes to fix these issues, more issues could arise when you re-run the audit. However, it’s unlikely that there will be as many as your first one.

You can also see how well your site is optimised by tracking the keywords you want to rank for. If you are using SEMrush, you can use their Position Tracker tool. If you add the keywords before you start optimising your site, you can then track them over time as you make the changes and you should start to see them increasing.

This blog just scratches the surface of an SEO audit. Google change their algorithms overnight and don’t always saying exactly why or how. You need to stay on top of your SEO and performing an audit is the first step in doing so. Depending on your experience and knowledge, you can look on Google Search Console to see if your website is being penalised by Google, if there are any mobile-friendly issues and if there are any issues on your site stopping any pages from being indexed and shown on the results pages.

By taking these first steps, you can create a plan of action and start optimising your site. Hopefully, you will start seeing your pages ranking for your chosen keywords. Don’t wait around for your competitors to take the number one spot on the search results page. Perform an SEO audit and start optimising!

Written by: Thomas Coughlan
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