July 29th, 2014 By Greg Rodriguez
Getting your site in top shape for ranking well in search results is a lifelong job that begins with a proper audit of your site’s current SEO health. You can have a wonderful social and content marketing strategy, you can even get some great links, but fundamental problems with the way your own website is structured will always handicap you.
So you want to make sure you are maximizing your site’s potential to reach an audience and don’t know where to start? Well, this blog post will provide a simple guide to giving you the information you need to whip your website into shape from top to bottom. Almost every single page is an opportunity to seize traffic, and more importantly, you can increase the flow of qualified traffic that is more likely to buy into you and what you have to offer. This can’t be stressed enough; a lot of traffic that quickly leaves your site is probably not helping you much, and can actually be hurting you with search engines. Keep your bounce rate in check with a site that accurately labels the content of its pages and makes seeing that content very easy.
What the Website Audit is Inspecting
- All links to and from your site should be examined. Links with websites that promote gambling, porn, and prescription drug sales should be avoided under most circumstances. Even if the site is not ostensibly about those topics, just sharing space on a page with lots of seedy links and advertising should be avoided.
- You will need to discover any black hat SEO tactics that involve your site. Maybe a previous SEO marketing firm did some things you did not know about, maybe you yourself engaged in questionable tactics but are ready to turn over a new leaf. Doing what you can to remove some unethical system in place like invisible text for stuffing lots of keywords may or may not boost you in the rankings, but it will keep you from getting hammered by search engines that discover what you are doing.
- Evaluate the performance of your website. Does everything load quickly? Are there missing pictures or videos present? Do you have dead links on this site? If you answered yes to any of those questions, get to work removing and replacing what needs to be done. The user experience is now being taken into consideration by several search engines when deciding on rank. You want your website to be a fully functioning resource to the public.
- Check what is said about the actual code of the website. Your robots.txt file is used to restrict access by search engines to certain parts of your site. This can be a great idea, but make sure there are no errors here. It is possible to completely close off the whole site accidentally with poor follow and index instructions. You also must check the HTML code for the way redirects are handled (301 redirects are fine). Make sure your XML sitemap conforms to the way search engines want it, and make sure that it is up to date with all new pages.
- Evaluate the content on your web pages. Are they what you would expect to be there based on the URL, meta data, and headlines? IS the content well written and easy to digest? Has it been repeated elsewhere? Freshen up your content if it is old by improving upon the things that you feel were not handled well the first time it was added to the site. You also should be prepared to target some new keywords if this site is old.
- Can you navigate the site easily? Does it internally link in a logical and convenient way? Is there a menu in a place that makes navigation easy? Are the URLs custom? The architecture of your website is a subtle, yet important element of design that you must pay attention to. The horizontal and vertical orientation of the pages and navigation is important, so is being compatible with mobile devices. You want as few clicks as possible between the user and their target content, and you do not want them having to scroll a lot either.
- Last but certainly not least, you want to take a look at the competition and see how your website stacks up compared to theirs. Is there an industry norm that you have missed out on? Is the look of your site dated in comparison to industry leaders? You don’t want to be seen as inferior by prospective customers due to being out of step with your competition.
For a substantially sized website with lots of pages and content to audit, using a crawler will be a godsend. The reports you will receive from a web crawler will index all the important information on your website, allowing you to more quickly identify things that are either really bad or just in need of some work.
Get Started on Your Own Audit Today
I know what you are thinking; the results from a site audit just mean a ton of more things you will have to work on. You do not necessarily have to solve every problem all at once. As a matter of fact, keeping up with good “internet hygiene” is something that should be maintained on a regular basis. Just use the audit for information, and then create a schedule where you take on a different task at a specified period. It will even increase your morale when you start to see improvements either in rank or usability as you continue perfecting your site. So, for a large site with lots of elements that need work, think about your short term priorities and get started on the things that will address those first. For some, improving the user experience is of the utmost importance, for others, cleaning up the link profile takes precedence over all other tasks.
This is a marathon, not a sprint. The only failure is in not getting started.