16 steps of a SEO audit to improve Google's ranking of your website

19.04.2021
5059

Here is a summary of Joshua Hardwick's article on the 16 steps of a SEO audit. The main difference between this article and similar ones is that such an audit does not require strong technical knowledge and a lot of time. These steps cover such important issues as:

  • Technical website optimization,
  • Obvious on-page optimization mistakes,
  • Looking for growth opportunities through search traffic analysis,
  • Checking quantity and quality of the backlinks,
  • Content analysis.

Let's take a closer look at each stage.

Step 1. Check that there are no full duplicates of your website

By full duplicates, we mean a situation where the site works simultaneously across domains:

  • http://domain.com
  • http://www.domain.com
  • https://domain.com
  • https://www.domain.com

We have to choose one correct domain name, preferably with HTTPS, and ask a developer to make 301 redirects from other domains on the correct one.

Step 2. Website crawling by special tools

There are some professional SEO tools for crawling website. They give a possibility to view site structure, internal and external links, and general optimization status.

We can use:

  • free tools such as Beam Us Up(http://beamusup.com/)
  • paid tools such as Screaming Frog(https://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/seo-spider/)
  • online tools such as Ahrefs.

Tatiana Zhevega, Head of SEO at Sprava Agency

There are several other popular services among SEO specialists:

  • Xenu's Link Sleuth (old but free)
  • Netpeak Spider (there is a free version, but it is very limited in terms of results analysis);
  • SiteAnalyzer (free).

But it is worth considering that each of them requires PC resources in order not only to install but also to scan the site. And there are differences in OS compatibility, so before installing, we recommend that you first study the technical requirements to work with them.

Step 3. Make sure that your website is indexable

Example of how to use operator site:

Your website will not get TOP if Google does not see it. There are a few ways to check if the indexation of your website is correct:

  • Google search console
  • Directly in Google using operator site:

What to do if you do not find indexed pages?

Tatiana Zhevega, Head of SEO at Sprava Agency

In fact, this is one of the reasons (and it’s rare) why a site may not be indexed.

Here are a few more common ones:

  • ban on indexing in the robots.txt file;
  • ban on indexing through the code - meta name robots with the value noindex;
  • prohibition for search robots at the levels of the hosting provider (although ordinary users can navigate and interact with the site without any problems);
  • server response different from 200, which is configured only for response levels, while returning the correct image to the user;
  • a young site that is yet unknown to Google.
Step 4. Check the rank of your brand

Normally your brand name has to rank the first position in Google Search. Exceptions can be if your brand is generic. But even in such cases, you can make efforts to popularize your brand. As a result, people will look for your company more often and Google will rank it higher.

Step 5. Manual checking of the basic on-page optimization

We will check the home page and pages that bring the most organic traffic. The most important points of basic on-page optimization include:

  • Title. It must accurately reflect the meaning of the page, be unique and attract the attention of users. Here it is.
Title of the page in SERP

Title of the page in SERP

  • Description. Its impact on the page ranking is not strong, but you can use this opportunity to convince users that your offer is worth reading in more detail.
This is how description looks in SERP

This is how description looks in SERP

  • Header H1. It should include the most meaningful keyword that is relevant to this page because header H1 is one of the important ranking factors.
  • Subheaders H2-H6. They are used to divide content into logical blocks.
Step 6. Checking on-page errors using SEO tools

Special SEO tools can help crawl the big websites that can’t be checked manually. Also, they can help to find some deep issues.

Step 7. Finding duplicate pages and thin content

Different types of duplicates negatively affect the ranking of the site. It can be both partial or complete duplicates of texts on different pages of your site, as well as duplicates of content on other sites, which is especially bad. Make sure texts are unique.

Pages with no or little text, so-called "thin content" can also pose a problem. Therefore, they need to be filled or removed.

Tatiana Zhevega, Head of SEO at Sprava Agency

It should be noted that text content is not only the text that you or the copywriter wrote and placed in the “Text” or “Description” field. All text on the page is evaluated:

  • reviews;
  • infographics;
  • tables.

Therefore, all the text that is placed on the page must be submitted in text format, and not “text in the picture”. So it will be able to correctly index and add value to the page as a whole and increase its ranking in the “eyes of search robots”.

Step 8. Website loading speed checking

Website loading speed should be as fast as possible because:

  1. it is one of the most influential Google ranking factors,
  2. site speed improves user experience.

Step 9. Checking the presence and correctness of structured data markup

Structured data is used to markup:

  • company info,
  • reviews,
  • product information,
  • events.

It helps to improve the webpage view in the SERP.

How structured data markup looks in SERP

To check the correctness of structured data markup you can use Google’s tool Checking rich results(https://search.google.com/test/rich-results)

Step 10. Make analysis of organic search traffic

The purpose of our SEO audit is to find growth points for the site, so the need to analyze search traffic is obvious. We can see whether search traffic is growing or decreasing on a site or individual pages using:

  • Google Analytics,
  • Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.

After analyzing the graphs for traffic, we can say whether certain changes are related to seasonality or if there are any problems on the site.

Step 11. Checking the website ranking changes

Analysis of changes in positions for given keywords helps to identify hits under the filters of the search engine and develop an effective strategy for further promotion of the site. To get data, you can use the Ahrefs’ Site Explorer or connect a tracker to track positions for keywords over a long period.

Step 12.  Searching for pages that are already in the TOP 10

Pages that are in the TOP-10 can be growth points. For example, let's say we have a page that ranks 8 positions for a high-volume keyword.

organic CTR study from Advanced Web Ranking

If we manage to raise this page to the 5th position or higher, then the traffic will increase significantly.

Tatiana Zhevega, Head of SEO at Sprava Agency

Each site has its history, niche, competition. Our experience shows that different sites and keywords need different ways of improvement. And it's better to start with the analysis:

  • Sometimes it is enough to work with on-page optimization.
  • In other cases, it is better to focus on the backlinks.

Thirdly, it will be important to work on the attractiveness of snippets and usability to improve the user experience on the site.

Analyze your site and competitors before taking specific steps.

Step 13. Analyzing backlinks profile

Checking the link profile of a site can be done using the Ahrefs service. We need to analyze:

  • how the link profile is changing (continuous uniform growth in the number of backlinks is normal),
  • backlink anchors - most anchors should be branded or generic. A large number of anchors with keywords is considered spammy and can harm the promotion
  • quality of donor domains - there should not be domains of prohibited topics, low-quality domains or topics that do not match the site's niche.
Step 14. Finding and fixing broken links to and from the site

Broken pages waste your site's “link equity”. Therefore, they need to be found using Ahrefs and fixed in one of the following ways:

  • content replacing,
  • setting up a 301 redirect from a broken page to the corresponding working one,
  • pages without backlinks can be left as they are.
Step 15. Finding “content gaps”

First, you need to identify direct competitors, but without taking into account marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay. Next, we use the Content gap tool from Ahrefs site explorer. It compares the semantics of your site and competitors, which allows you to find out for which queries competitors are ranked, but your site is not. And fix it.

Step 16. Check all content on the site

If your site has bad quality or low traffic pages, then they can have a bad effect on the entire site. Therefore, you need to find and improve them, or if this is not possible, then delete them.

SEO audit has been done!

Of course, you can get a deeper SEO audit but it’s better to trust the performance of such an audit to experts.

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