Performing a search engine optimization audit (SEO Audit 2020) of your website is important for many reasons.
First, you can identify problematic areas that need improvement and create an action plan to correct them and second, a good SEO audit will keep your website up-to-date with the latest developments in search marketing and on top of the competition.
What is an SEO audit?
Before getting into the details on how to perform an SEO audit, it is necessary to understand the meaning of it and what to expect as the end result.
An SEO audit is a process for evaluating the search engine friendliness of a website in a number of areas. While there are various tools you can use to SEO audit a website, the best approach is to either perform the audit by following a guide (like the one you are reading now) or hire an SEO Auditor to do the work for you.
The SEO auditor will manually review the website and come up with recommendations of what needs to be fixed (because it is wrong) and what needs to change so that the performance of the website in search engines is improved.
Why it’s important to SEO audit your website on a regular basis?
Things change very quickly in the SEO industry and what is working today may not work in 6 months from now. Google reportedly makes thousands of updates to their ranking algorithm per year and an SEO audit, will help you stay in synch.
How to perform your own SEO Audit?
Now that you are convinced that an SEO audit is a must for every website, let’s see how you can perform your own audit.
After reading almost all available articles on how to SEO audit a website and testing a number of audit tools, I came up with a list that covers everything you need to check.
To make it easier to work with the list, it is separated into 20 sections:
Step #1 Remove Low-Quality Pages
Step #2 Make Google Index Only One Version of Your Site
Step #3 Fix Broken Links
Step #4 Check if your site is Mobile Friendly
Step #5 Content Gap Analysis
Step #6 Publish Quality Content
Step #7 Improve Page Speed
Step #8 Analyse your backlinks
Step #9 Avoid duplicate title tags
Step #10 Go after featured snippets
Step #11 Optimize for user intent
Step #12 Install an SSL certificate
Step #13 Check for crawl errors
Step #14 Have a simple site structure
Step #15 Improve your on-page SEO
Step #16 Internal & External Linking
Step #17 Track Your Progress
Step #18 Check your robos.txt file
Step #19 Check social reputation of a website
Step #20 Check for Google Penalties
Bonus Off-Page SEO Audit
STEP 1: Remove Low-Quality Pages
Speaking of SEO audit:
It’s not only about knowing about the errors that are holding your site back. It’s also about rectifying those.
You need to remove the pages that are low quality or provide no value to the readers.
So you may ask:
How to identify low-quality pages on my website?
It’s pretty simple, you will need to login to your Google Analytics and click on ‘Behavior >Site Content > All Pages
And go through the list…
You will come to know that there are pages that have a high bounce rate and low user retention time like this:
The reason why these pages are low quality is that no one wants to read it and people are not coming back.
You can do two things:
Either remove the pages
Or Rewrite the content so that it provides value to users
It depends on what you want to do with these pages!
STEP 2: Check if more than one version of your site is indexed
Your site has many versions like:
It may not seem like a big problem and you will think that all of these sites are the same.
Google will treat them as separate websites and that’s not a good sign for you.
So, how to fix this?
All you need to do is to set up a 301 redirect from the rest of the pages to your main page. That’s it.
STEP 3: Fix Broken Links
I always say: Broken Links are dead-end for your on-page SEO. You need to remove these links or replace them with valid ones.
Go to Google Search Console and then to index > coverage and you will see if any links return a 404 error code.
Once you get the list of all broken links on your site, simply remove those links or set up a 301 redirect.
STEP 4: Check If Your site is Mobile Friendly
Google now runs on a mobile-first index and the algorithm strictly monitors if your site is fit for mobile ranking or not.
This is a very important step in this SEO audit guide!
As you may have heard that links can make or break your website.
Keeping that in mind, a spammy backlink to your website will harm it beautifully.
So, link analysis becomes necessary!
What are spammy links?
The links which come from spam websites that are not related to your niche like – gambling, casino, judi, togel, poker, etc are called spammy or shady links and they can have a bad effect on your site’s SEO.
I also advise you to check from which anchor text
So, how to find these bad links?
Head over to Google Search Console and then to the links section. Here you will see the list of all inbound links and also the list of websites linking back to you.
Just make sure that all of these websites are real and if you find any spammy website just disavow it using ‘Google Link Disavow Tool‘
Then you’ll need to create a .txt file with the list of links you want to remove.
Here’s how your file should be like:
Lastly, submit the file to the disavow tool and done.
It will take anywhere from 48 hours to 2 weeks for Google to disavow those links.
But, once done you’re good to go.
STEP 9: Avoid Duplicate Meta Tags
Duplicate meta tags also pose a threat to your Google rankings. Make sure you don’t write the same title and meta description for posts that are quite similar.
You should find out when the penalty was imposed, why your website was penalized and create an action plan to correct the issues and remove the penalty.
There are two easy ways to check for Google penalties.
Login to Google search console and then select ‘Manual Actions’ from the left menu. If there is a manual action imposed on your website, you can see the reason(s) here.
The second way is to compare your Google organic traffic for the dates Google released an algorithmic change. A sudden drop (or increase) in organic traffic is a clear sign that your website was affected by the changes.
What to do if you are under a penalty?
If the above tests indicate that you are indeed into trouble, then the best approach is to find out as many details as possible about the Google updates and adjust your SEO audit accordingly.
For example, if a site is penalized by Google because of thin content (very popular these days), then in the on-page SEO audit section, you should check the quality of your content and either improve, redirect or remove pages that don’t meet the quality standards.
Bonus: Off-Page SEO Audit
Off-Page SEO refers to methods and techniques you can use to promote your website on the Internet. It is usually referred to as link building.
SEO Backlinks are considered by the Google algorithm as ‘votes of trust’ and websites with good quality backlinks tend to rank higher in Google results.
Off-site SEO is important but if you are not careful of what you are doing and if you don’t know exactly what you are allowed to do and what not, it is also very risky.
Low quality incoming links can be a very good reason for Google to penalize your website
Off-Site SEO checklist
Although there are only 3 items in the checklist, you need to do a bit of analysis before having a clear picture about your off-site SEO current state.
Evaluate your incoming links and identify toxic links
You can find out about your incoming links either by using a tool like Google Search console.
While reviewing your incoming links report, answer the following questions:
How many unique domains are linking to you?
Which of these domains are considered trusted domains?
How many links are pointing to your home page and how many links to your internal pages?
Which of your pages have the most incoming links?
What percentage of the links is keyword based?
What is the ‘toxic score’ of each link?
Depending on the answers, you may have to take some corrective actions so make sure that these are included in your action plan.
For example, if only a few domains are linking to you, you need to get links from related domains so you need to create a list of possible websites to be used for guest blogging or blogger outreach campaigns.
If you don’t have links from trusted domains you need to get in touch with the leaders in your niche and let them know that you exist (it’s easier said than done but if you get noticed by the big fish you have more chances surviving in the pot).
If all the links are pointing to your homepage, you need to ensure that links are pointing to your internal pages as well. You can do this by either removing links from the home page or by building more links to the internal pages.
If all the incoming links are keyword based (and Google did not penalize you yet) you need to urgently change them by making them more natural by using your domain name only, your full post title and things like ‘click here’,’ link’ etc.
Unlike on-site SEO, off-site SEO is not a straightforward task and that’s why you need to know exactly what you are doing.
Links are important if you want high rankings but you really don’t have to go out and build links like crazy.
Instead, you should concentrate your efforts in building good websites (with good content) and links will flow in naturally.
For all those who have made it to this point, congratulations! If you follow the recommendations above, it is almost certain that you will improve your rankings and organic traffic levels.
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