Most people who contact me regarding their website’s performance worry about their rankings in the search engines. The website may not be ranking at all or may only rank for a few keywords, which affects the quality and quantity of traffic they receive. Most, however, don’t know how to evaluate their website in terms of it’s current status in the search engines and what to do to improve it’s rankings. Enter the SEO Audit. An SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) Audit will help you evaluate your website’s search engine friendliness and show you where it needs improvement.
Conducting regular SEO Audits is vital to any SEO success, in fact I recommend you conduct one every 3-4 months. While utilising the services of a professional internet marketer to perform your SEO Audit is ideal the following will hep you get started and show you the main areas of your website that need improving.
Are Your Targeting the Right Keywords?
Selecting the keywords to use when optimising your website is a vital part of the search engine optimisation process. Select the wrong words and it doesn’t matter how well you rank. Select just a few of the more obvious words and it will minimise your chances of attracting a wide range of visitors at different stages of the buying cycle.
When selecting keywords for your website you want to target a wide range of phrases. Select both easy (longer phrases) and hard terms (shorter more competitive phrases). This will allow you to work towards both long and short term goals. It’s also worth including locations, if relevant, synonyms and singular and plural versions of your keywords.
To see what keywords visitors are using to find you study your log files or web analytics data. This will show you what search engines your visitors are coming from and what keywords they used to find you.
Are Your Website URL’s Search Friendly?
There are two types of URL’s: dynamic and static. A dynamic URL is a page address that results from the search of a database driven website or a website that runs a script. The content on this page will change depending upon the query being run (variable strings). Static URL’s, or pages, on the other hand have content that remains the same.
A dynamic URL generally looks something like this:
A static URL on the other hand, is a URL that doesn’t change, and doesn’t have variable strings. It looks like this:
Dynamic URL’s can be difficult for search engine spiders to read. If your website utilises dynamic URL’s I’d recommend rewriting them to appear as static “search friendly URLs”.
Does Each Page Have a Unique Page Title?
From a search engine optimisation perspective page titles are one of the most important factors in getting pages indexed and visited. Each page should have a unique page title that describes the specific content of that page and contains the main keyword phases used on that page.
Search engines give the words in page titles great weight, especially if the words in the page title are also in the copy on the page.
It is recommended that your page titles be approximately 63 characters long. Some search engines, in particular Google, cut off the page title after about 63 characters. There are two main reasons to ensure a search engine displays a complete page title:
- It tells the search engine what the page is about.
- When listed in the search results it tells potential visitors what the page is about.
A page title should not be just a list of keywords. Instead it should include the main keyword phrase related to the page it’s on and should be as compelling as possible to encourage potential visitors to click on your listing and not those around it. No two pages on your website should have the same page titles.
Does Each Page Have Unique Meta Description and Keyword Tags?
There are two main meta tags that should be included on every page of your website:
- Meta Description Tag: <meta name=”description” content=”Your description here”>
- Meta Keywords Tag: <meta name=”keywords” content=”keywords here”>
Meta Description Tag
The meta description tag has varying levels of relevancy in each of the search engines. Many search engines still support it and some will use it as a text snippet when showing their results.
Your meta description tag should be between a sentence and a paragraph, include your main keyword phrase, and describe what the page is about. It should also be compelling to encourage searches to click on it.
Your meta description tags should be unique for each page on your website.
Meta Keywords Tag
At this point in time the meta keywords tag is not supported by many major search engines. Of the top three search engines (Google, Yahoo! and MSN Live,) Yahoo! is the only one that gives it some credence.
Whilst it is not currently supported that’s not to say that this will change down the track so it’s still worthwhile spending a few minutes on this tag.
Your meta keywords tag should be unique for each page on your site and should include the keywords relate to that page as well as common misspellings, synonyms and alternate versions of a word.
Are You Using H1, H2 and H3 Tags Correctly?
H1, H2 and H3 tags create different sized heading on your pages such as the main page title (h1), sub heading (h2) and small heading (h3). As well as being a great way to break up the text on the page search engines also take note of them so it’s important to use them and incorporate your keywords into these headings.
Does Your Website Have a Site Map?
A Site Map page, linked to every page of your website, and using html-based text links, provides another pathway for search engine spiders to find all of the pages of the site, and index them.
Google and Yahoo! Both recommend the use of a Site Map. From the Google Information for webmasters page (http://www.google.com/intl/en/webmasters/guidelines.html):
“Offer a site map to your users with links that point to the important parts of your site. If the site map is larger than 100 or so links, you may want to break the site map into separate pages.”
From Yahoo!’s search help (http://help.yahoo.com/l/us/yahoo/search/indexing/indexing-10.html):
“Our crawler isn’t always able to follow dynamic links, so to make sure that content is included, provide a static link to new content. If your site navigation is normally done only with dynamic links, you can create a site map page with a static link map of your site so robots can discover all of your content.”
An example of a Site Map page is this one from Google:
It doesn’t link to every page on the site, but it does link to the most important ones, and it is organised to make it easy for people to find the information that they are interested in.
Do You Check Your Website’s Statistics Regularly?
Website analytics, the process of analysing your website’s visitors, is a powerful way to understand what is going on with your website. It enables you to see who is visiting your website, where they are coming from, what search terms they used (if applicable) to find your site, how long they stayed on your site, what pages they looked at and so on.
Website analytics can be handled in two ways:
- By analysing your website log files with a software program.
- Installing a small piece of code on your website.
There are many applications out there ranging from free to extremely expensive. I’ve listed some of the more popular in the resources section on our website.
Conducting an SEO Audit of your website is an essential part of the SEO process and vital for ensuring your ranking on the search engines and attracting targeted visitors to your site. As your site grows it’s easy to overlook these elements so make sure you audit your site regularly.