Want to boost your rankings on Google? An SEO audit could be just what you need.
There are many SEO audit guides online that can help you to carry out this process. Unfortunately, many of these guides are very technical – which is great if you’re a digital marketing expert, but no so great if you’re only just trying to get into SEO.
As such we thought that we should put together an easy to follow guide which everyone can benefit from, regardless of their technical know how.
This 12 step guide will attempt to lay out the key areas of the process in layman’s terms. No faff or filler just great advice you can use to improve your online exposure and get a better idea of what is currently working for you and where you need to improve.
Not sure what structured data is? Don’t know what a backlink is? Don’t worry, we’ll cover all of this (and much more!) as we go through.
Firstly we should point out that an SEO audit doesn’t have to be ridiculously complex endeavour and really is something that just a bout anyone can carry out. It may even only take a few hours and at the end of it – fingers crossed – you will be giving your website the boost it needs to improve your rankings across the board.
Thankfully there are a number of tools that you can use to help you along the way and we’ll highlight some of the favourites as we go through. Many of these tools are free, but some may require spending a little bit of money (we’re talking a few quid – nothing too costly!) but you should only spend if you feel you need to.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin…
Check for indexing issues
Indexing issues are one of the first things you should look for when doing a website audit. The amount of times your site ‘indexes’, is the amount of times it appears when searched on Google.
The worst thing that can happen is that your site doesn’t index on Google at all. This means that no matter what people search, your site will never come up.
There are lots of reasons as to why a site doesn’t index on Google:
· If you’ve only just created your site, it could just be a case of waiting for Google to find you.
· Alternatively, your developer may have blocked your website using robots.txt.
· The pages may have a ‘noindex’ tag (more about this later).
· Or you’ve been caught hosting dodgy/illegal content and been de-indexed (let’s hope it’s not this one).
Most sites will index on Google. In some cases, certain individual pages may not index – you can find these pages using a tool called Google Search Console. The ‘index coverage’ tab on Google Search Console can identify which pages aren’t indexing, so that your can try to fix this.
Another way to find out how many times your site indexes is to enter your site with ‘site:’ at the beginning into the search bar (e.g. site:inlink-marketing.co.uk).
There’s then the opposite problem of having too many pages indexed.
Got 80 pages on your website but 125 are indexed? Where are all these extra pages coming from? This could be down to numerous reasons:
· If you’ve just deleted some pages, they may still index temporarily for a few days.
· They could be tag pages or comment pages that count as separate pages – even though they strictly aren’t.
· Multiple versions of the same site/page are being ranked.
Having pages indexed that aren’t really pages could be harming your overall rankings. As a result, it’s worth getting rid of these excess indexed pages.
Tag pages and comments pages generally aren’t worth being indexed. Putting a ‘noindex’ tag on these pages can be useful. You can find out more about how to do this here.
Multiple versions of the same site/page is more of a concern. Check that they aren’t using variations of the same URL– http://inlink-marketing.co.uk, http://www.inlink-marketing.co.uk, https://inlink-marketing.co.uk and https://www.inlink-marketing.co.uk all lead to the same version of the same site. There shouldn’t be separate sites for each of these URL variations. If there are different versions, you may need to use a 301 redirect to fix this. You can find out more on 301 redirects at this site.
Make sure your site is mobile-friendly
Having a mobile-friendly site is important. Over 60% of Google searches are now from mobile devices. If your website isn’t mobile friendly, 60% of Google users may not be able to view or access your website properly!
Most modern sites are designed to be mobile-friendly however if you’re not sure whether your site is optimised for mobile devices, Google’s mobile-friendly testing tool can help you to find out – https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly
Making your site mobile-friendly may require hiring the help of a web programmer and sometimes it is easier to start afresh with a new website build. If you are continually papering over cracks you will have to start over at some point.
Check that your brand name ranks highly
It’s important that your brand name ranks highly on Google. Ideally, it should be the top result (for instance, when you search Inlink Marketing into Google, https://www.inlink-marketing.co.uk is the first result).
If your brand name is a generic word or phrase, you may not rank as highly. However, when it comes to more specific brand names, you shouldn’t have lots of other sites ranked above you.
Want your brand name to rank more highly? There are lots of tactics that you can use.
· Getting your brand featured on online business directories (e.g. Yell, Hotfrog)
· Creating social media pages for your brand (e.g. Facebook, Twitter)
· Ensuring your site has a Google Business listing.
Do some keyword research
Using the right keywords on your site will help Google users to find your site when searching these terms.
An SEO agency can usually help you to identify the best keywords for your site. Alternatively, there are a number of tools that you can use to find suitable keywords.
Google Analytics is the most basic tool you can use to see which keywords searchers are already using to get on your site.
This may allow you to keep using certain keywords that are relevant and popular. Be careful of keywords that are irrelevant that may be leading to your site – if you’ve used the phrase ‘tip of the iceberg’ in a post about car repairs and now people searching for ‘iceberg’ are ending up on this post, you may want to consider removing this phrase to stop the wrong type of visitors.
Moz is another tool worth making use of when researching keywords. This tool isn’t free, but it’s the most effective tool out there for finding out which keywords your competitors are optimising.
You may be able to incorporate a few of the same keywords and in doing so compete with their rankings.
This tool could also be useful for finding relevant keywords that your competitor isn’t optimised for – you can then take advantage of these keywords.
Make sure to incorporate keywords correctly. Keyword stuffing (overusing the same keyword) will make your content unreadable and most importantly it will negatively affect your rankings – try to incorporate keywords naturally as a result.
Don’t be afraid to add keywords to your website’s most popular content as well as your least popular. Ranking 4th on Google for a specific keyword may seem like an achievement – and indeed it is – but you may be able to incorporate the same keyword again and increase your rankings even more so.
The difference between ranking at 4th and 3rd position on the 1st page of Google’s search results can mean a huge difference in the number of visitors you receive.
Conquer on-page SEO
On-page SEO is hugely important for improving the amount of visitors you get through Google. It involves using keywords, headers, sub-headers, page titles and meta-descriptions, among other things.
Headers and subheaders can be useful for breaking up walls of text, but they can also have an impact on your rankings.
Adding keywords within headers is particularly effective – H1 headers are great for primary keywords, whilst H2 and H3 headers are well suited to secondary keywords.
Meta-descriptions are also worth considering. This is the snippet of text that appears under your search listing on Google.
Whilst meta-descriptions don’t typically affect rankings, they are still an important factor that will help persuade searchers to click on your site.
Regularly converting searchers into visitors is one of the most important tools at your disposal, get it right and your traffic can increase exponentially overnight.
Get it wrong and Google will see that you have a poor ‘Click-through rate’. As such this will actually harm your rankings, after all the search engines don’t want poor performing websites cluttering up the 1st page, they want to offer their users as good an experience as possible.
Make sure that meta descriptions are well-written and that they contain key information that is likely to get people to click.
Watch your word counts
Next, you should consider the word count of each page on your site. You can do this using this website word count tool – https://wordcounter.net/
Pages with less than 200 words tend to rank poorly on Google. Such pages should be padded out, with quality content not just any old filler, to give them a more respectable word count. If this can’t be done, get rid of the page!
Merging pages that cover similar topics but you struggle to get passed the 200 word mark is also an option.
Encourage more backlinks
Backlinks are links leading from other people’s sites to your own. Having lots of other sites linking to your content is still one of the most important ranking factors.
Backlinks are built using a process known as link building. An SEO agency may be able to help connect you with sites and help to encourage these banklinks. Alternatively, you may be able to form cross-promotion schemes with other companies (link to their content in exchange for them doing the same to you) or you may be able to request reviews and guest content on other people’s sites.
Social media and business directories may be able to contribute to backlinking. Using a PR company you may also be able to get press releases distributed and encourage media coverage, which could in turn contain backlinks that help boost your rankings.
Get rid of broken links
Another factor that could be harming your rankings is too many broken links. This includes links leading to your site and links leading from your site.
You can use Google Search Console to check for broken links leading to your site. These may lead to deleted pages or broken pages – make sure to fix this problem by removing these pages or redirect users to a custom 404 page.
As for links on your site, check that these aren’t broken too. These could be links leading to other pages on your site or links leading to other people’s sites. By clicking on each of these links you can find out which ones are broken and then remove/change these. Sites like Dead Link Checker can also search your entire site to find broken links.
Fix structured data errors
Errors with structured data can also negatively affect your rankings.
What is structured data? Structured data can include various bits of information from reviews to product categories. It is information separated from the rest of the text – usually in a box. Google has a guide to structured data which you can read for more information here – Google’s guide to Structured Data
You can use Google’s structured data tool to look for errors. Structured data that is not properly formed could be damaging your rankings.
Speed up slow-loading pages
Page loading time can also have an impact on your site’s rankings. Slow-loading sites tend to rank lower on Google. If you’ve noticed that your site takes ages to load, it could be worth addressing this.
Sites can load slowly for a number of reasons. Too much code or multi-media is a big culprit – embedding multiple YouTube videos on a single page or using an array of plug-ins could be causing a longer loading time. Stripping away some of the videos and plug-ins could help your site to load faster.
Alternatively, you could consider switching to a different web hosting server. Unfortunately, many cheaper web hosts tends to be slower due to sharing servers with many other websites. That said, there are some affordable hosting services out there that offer fast speeds, we are a big fan of Siteground here at In:link. Their services and support have always been outstanding we can’t recommend them highly enough!
Remove duplicate content
Duplicate content is one of Google’s biggest pet hates. This includes duplicates of the same page on your site and duplicates of other people’s content (the latter is much worse as Google views it as copied content).
Free tools like Siteliner can help you to find duplicate content on your site. Errors can happen and content can get published twice or there can be multiple versions of a page, so it’s worth double-checking for.
Meanwhile, tools like Copyscape can ensure that you’re not copying anyone else’s content. If all the content on your site was written by yourself and you’re certain that it’s original, there may be no need to use Copyscape. However, if you accept guest content or employed someone else to write all the content for your site, you may want to check that they haven’t been copy and pasting other people’s work.
Consider removing low-performing content
Finally, you should consider content that isn’t getting many hits. Google takes into account the popularity of your content when ranking it. Having lots of under-performing content could be dragging your entire site’s rankings down.
By removing some of this content, you could find that your rankings improve. This goes against what a lot of people are taught about SEO – that having more content means better rankings, when in fact too much unread content could be having the opposite effect.
These 12 steps should help to boost your site’s rankings. Don’t worry if the effects aren’t immediate – Google may take a few weeks to register the changes you have made.
There is more that you can do to further improve your website audit – there are a number of SEO website crawl tools out there that can give you more in depth stats when it comes links, keywords, loading times and other important factors.
However, if you’re on a budget, you may not want to invest in these SEO tools or even have the time to use them. If this is the case you can always contact us for a free SEO audit or even a full Website audit.
From there you have the blueprint you need to outrank your competitors and make the search engines work for you!
If you’d like a free SEO audit please click here.