Before any SEO campaign can officially begin a complete audit of the site should be completed. There’s many steps to completing an SEO audit and each step is important to properly setting up a website. This guide will help site owners run an initial SEO audit that will set the site up for ranking on page 1.
Tools to Help Run a Site Audit.
First thing to do is to gain access to both Google Analytics and Search Console. If these are not setup on the site the first thing to do is get these running.
- Raven Tools – Now there are hundreds of different site audit tools, but Raven Tools is one of the most thorough out there. The tool will return a list of issues that were found with the site, including missing title tags, broken links, missing meta descriptions, etc. This will be your starting point when it comes to optimizing the site.
- Webmaster Tools – Webmaster tools, now called Google Search Console, is a tool that will be very important going forward into your SEO campaign. However, for the initial audit the tool is great for examining your link profile. You may find there are harmful links pointing to your site which will need to be removed to help the site rank better. Within Search Console users can review the XML Sitemap that has been submitted.
- Google Developer Tools – These tools are great for two reasons, testing mobile friendliness and site speed. These two issues are related to user experience which can influence how a site ranks. Google has emphasized how important having a mobile friendly site will be in the future. Don’t lose rankings and traffic because your site is too slow or tough to view on a phone or tablet.
- Google Keyword Planner – A key part of the SEO planning process is determining which keywords the site should be optimized for. Site owners often have an idea of what keywords they think they should optimize for, yet find out that the terms are unobtainable or do not offer much search volume. By using Google’s keyword planner you can get an idea of what people are searching and how difficult it will be to rank for the keyword.
On Page Optimization
Before a site can rank on the search engines, the site needs to show the search engines the site is optimized to rank. This means optimizing all the pages on the site to meet the search engine’s guidelines. The following tips shows how to optimize a page to rank on page one of the search results.
- Title Tags – Title tags are incredibly useful making it important that they are properly filled out. These tags are the main point where your page will influence the user to click on your listing. Your focused keyword should be used in these positions, the tag should be different than your header tags, and should be between 50-60 characters in length. Avoid stuffing keywords into the tag and make it relevant to the content on the page.
- Meta Description – Beneath your title tag your meta description will show users additional information about the page they may click on. This description goes into further depth of what the pages is offering, the description should be approximately 150 characters in length. It’s best practice to use variations of your keywords within this field as well.
- Header Tags – Many content management systems (CMS) will auto generate your h1 tag as the field of your title tag. It’s best to avoid duplicating your header tags and your title tags. Use the header tag to let users know what they are about to see/read. It;s often similar to the title, but different. As far as h2 and h3 tags goes, these should tell users what they are about to read about in the upcoming paragraph. Don’t forget to utilizes your keywords within these tags as well.
- Image Tags – These tags are often overlooked even though they are important to ranking. There are two primary image tags that should be utilized within your site, alt image and image title tag. The alt image tag’s main use is to let users know what is in the image’s place if they are using a browser that does not load images. Now this may sound like a small percentage of people, yet it is something Google wants to implement. The title tag lets users know what they image is, or the name of the image. When the user hovers over the image the title will pop up showing users what the image is titled. As always, make sure to use keywords within these tags and be honest when describing the image.
- Keyword Density – This is a term that is a bit outdated, however it’s important that you avoid keyword stuffing. The best practice is to use variations of your keyword within your pages. For instance, if you are trying to rank for the keyword ‘snowboards’ you should use variations of the term such as ‘all mountain boards’, ‘snowboards for beginners’, or ‘boarding gear’.
- URL Structure – This can be tough to complete with an old site, however if the site is new it can be much easier to create proper URLs. URLs should be pretty basic, the domain, followed by the category page, followed by what the page is about. www.examples.com/services/SEO-services is an exmaple of a good URL, now here’s a bad URL, www.examples.com/5563/pages/new/3. URLs and title tags often have the same phrasing.
- Internal Linking – Internal linking should be done on each page, however it needs to appear as organic. This means no forcing links, just to have links within the page. A good rule of thumb is to have about one link per 300 words or so. Sure it’s fine to have more, but again, don’t force anything and don’t over do it.
- Social Sharing – Although this does not have a direct correlation with rankings, it gives users the opportunity to share your articles and pages. This can help build traffic through referral and social means, along with giving opportunities for new links.