How To Do Your Own Basic SEO Audit
As laying solid search engine optimisation (SEO) foundations can deliver decent results with comparatively little effort, I am a huge advocate in encouraging every business to get the basics of their digital strategies well and truly covered. Conducting a simple SEO audit will help you to determine which areas of your strategy would benefit from additional refinement and obtaining the skills to do this yourself is extraordinarily empowering. – Translated, do the basics and you’ll get some low hanging fruit.
I gave myself a headache writing these tips, techniques or whatever you want to call them purely because I have been doing SEO for so long it was difficult to pin down those simple golden nuggets that would allow you the business owner to implement without needing to run to a dark room with a glass of something strong.
Here’s my attempt to give you the basics….
Firstly, Here Are the Tools You’ll Need to Hand
There are an array of tools that promise to help in the SEO auditing process, but for this check list you’ll only need:
– Google Analytics
– Google Search Console
– Screaming Frog SEO Spider, I have subscriptions to MOZ and SEMrush but for beginners the free Screaming Frog will do.
Google Analytics and Google Search Console are both completely free, and the free version of Screaming Frog will crawl a whopping 500 URLs. If you do need the additional capabilities of the paid version, you’ll likely find that it provides more than enough value to justify the yearly license fee.
The First Step of your SEO Audit
Open Screaming Frog and let it crawl your site. I’ll run through how to use the data this displays as we progress through the following steps of our SEO check list.
Consult Google Analytics
As this is an invaluable data collection tool that will inform an array of key business decisions, you should endeavour to:
– Ensure it’s correctly installed and functioning efficiently on every page.
– Check that it’s configured correctly for HTTP and HTTPS.
– Ensure important actions are set up as conversions.
Although these are very basic checks, as well as helping you to ensure that your analytics data is accurate, this information will also highlight areas for potential improvement.
Turn Your Attention Towards Google Search Console
You need to know that accurate diagnostic data is being displayed within your Search Console. To do this I advise you to:
– Ensure that your Search Console is set up with the right protocol and URL.
– Check that the coverage tab displays an accurate number of indexed pages. Don’t worry about being precise, an educated estimate will be close enough.
– Make sure that your current sitemap is listed under the sitemaps tab. If it isn’t, please submit it ASAP!
– Check that the links tab doesn’t display anything out of the ordinary.
Examine Response Codes
Open the ‘Response Codes’ tab on your Screaming Frog crawl and look closely at the ‘Overview’ section that you’ll find on the right-hand side of the page. If you see a large number of 404s, redirects or other problems, click on each one in turn and investigate their cause.
Understanding Your URI
Your next task is to review the ‘URI’ tab of your Screaming Frog crawl. In the ‘Overview’ section you ideally want to see a set of lower-case URLs that describe the content on your site accurately.
Size Up Your Structure
Sticking with the URI tab for a moment, next you want to ensure that the URLs displayed here are organised. Related pages should be grouped together and a filing cabinet structure should be implemented. Everything should be exactly where you would expect it to be, which will help you to ensure that the relationships between key pages are easy to see.
Pay Attention to Your Page Titles
Your next Screaming Frog related task is to dive into the ‘Page Titles’ tab to ensure that everything is properly optimised. Ideally, you should see:
– The primary keyword.
– The specific section of the site.
– And, potentially, your location. Particularly if your business is a local one.
Keep in mind that your page titles should be somewhere between 35 and 65 characters in length. You might find it helpful to export your page title data from Screaming Frog into a spreadsheet before making any relevant changes directly in your CMS.
Let’s Get Meta
As search engines will use your meta description text when displaying your site in search engine results pages (SERPs), don’t miss this chance to entice people to click through and engage with your content.
Heed Your Headers
Screaming Frog also allows you to evaluate your H1 and H2 tags. You should aim to align these with page names, titles and meta descriptions to ensure that search engines and users receive clear messaging about the focus of each webpage.
The Need for Site Speed
Audiences don’t want to wait to access the information they are looking for. Use Google Mobile Speed Test or Google Pagespeed Insights to understand whether your site would benefit from a process of dedicated site speed optimisation.
Small technical problems can greatly affect the overall efficiency of your site. Here are a few technical tests to add to your SEO check list:
– Check that error pages display a valuable 404 error page.
– Ensure that internal links don’t return 4xx errors.
– Utilise HTTPS.
– Make sure that Robots.txt isn’t blocking any content you want to be properly crawled and indexed.
SEO is undoubtedly complex, but understanding how to ensure the basics of your digital strategy are running smoothly will help you to maintain a competitive position in your marketplace.