In my previous article, part 1 of the How to perform an SEO audit series, I showed you the steps you could take to evaluate the SEO of your own – or someone else’s – site. The first steps were all about content SEO and user experience. In part 2, I’ll dive deeper into the general SEO part of the audit. Later, I’ll conclude the series with part 3, where I’ll look at site speed and engagement. Enjoy auditing!
There are several things that you can check quite easily in your SEO audit, without any effort – if you use the right tools. Keep in mind that tools are here to help, not replace your common sense and your product/brand knowledge. One of my go-to tools is Screaming Frog SEO spider. Yes, there are a lot of alternatives, like Ryte, but for a quick check-up, Screaming Frog SEO spider suffices. It’s a handy tool that can do a lot of relevant checks, even its free version.
Page titles should focus on a specific topic and be branded at the end. That’s what I would primarily focus on here. In Screaming Frog:
Check for duplicates, missing page titles, and if these are indeed constructed as ‘page title – branding’. Walmart does a nice job at this, as you can see. Read up on page titles here.
The meta description is your invite to your website. SEO value? Well, a good meta description will attract more people to your website from Google or Bing, for instance. Now, please note that your meta description is a suggestion for that search engine, not something it will copy every time your site is shown in the search result pages. It has to be focused and clear, and align with the search query. More on meta descriptions here.
In Screaming Frog, it’s easy to see if meta descriptions are duplicate, like in this screenshot, or missing. Walmart had only a few duplicate meta descriptions, to be honest, in my quick check. Most pages have a unique description.
The canonical URL tells you / Google what the source of a page is. If you copy this page to your website, please set the canonical URL of your copy to this page and Google will understand it has to rank my page, while still very much informing your site’s visitor.
Again, Screaming Frog comes in handy. Check for missing canonical URLs and see (if your site has a ‘processable’ number of pages) if the canonical URLs align with the regular URL for a page.
Screaming Frog can do so much more, but let’s leave it at that for now.
Quick Panda & Penguin check
Panda and Penguin are algorithm updates by Google, focused on serving more quality websites in their search result pages. Panda focuses on thin content and banners, among other things, where Penguin checks if the links to your website are natural links that make sense.
In your SEO audit, a quick check for Panda would be to step back from your computer screen and look at your website. Is there a surplus of banners? Is your sale filling up all the space all the time, before any interesting content? Make sure there is a good balance. I’d say four banners above the fold is a lot.
For Penguin, use for instance Majestic’s SEO tool to do a quick check of backlinks, and see if you find any shady websites linking to your website. Disavow these websites in your Google Search Console.
More on Panda and Penguin here. Note that Google says these are ongoing updates these days.
A lot of SEOs will tell you to fix the foundation of your website, meaning the template. I think content is the foundation of the website and your template(s) should serve that content. I read a comment by someone just last week stating that these template code related things are the only things you need for SEO – think again. As mentioned over and over, we believe in a holistic approach, taking a lot more into consideration. But that doesn’t mean that your template can be crap. Far from it.
Schema.org / JSON-LD
Structured data is essential these days. It’s your page summary in re-usable chunks of content that Google loves. Add schema.org data via JSON-LD, we have written about that before. If you want to check schema.org data for a certain page, use a schema validator. Google that, there is a variety of them. If you want to add structured data, please use JSON-LD as Google prefers that. Google will also inform you about structured data in Google Search Console.
Want to know more about structured data? We have a course on structured data as well – go check it out.
I could have mentioned breadcrumbs when discussing site structure as well, but they are part of your template, right? Add breadcrumbs to make sure people know where in your site structure they ended up, and realize these are also valuable internal links for Google. In your SEO audit, check for breadcrumbs, and see if these are also returned when checking for structured data, so you know they are served to Google the best way possible.
The mobile version of your website
Mobile-first. It’s coming. And I still feel that a responsive website, in addition to all the AMP and so, is essential. One site to maintain. To start off, simply reduce your browser screen’s width and see what happens. Then, open your mobile browser on your phone and visit your website. Click to your main product page, click to your contact form. How does your homepage look? Does everything work like it should? Does it load fast? Make sure you get the mobile experience you want.
We have written a lot about mobile websites, feel free to browse these other articles for more information:
This might be the least of your worries these days, to be honest. HTML5 allows you to add an H1 to every block element and Google will probably figure out your main heading in the blink of an eye. Nevertheless, a good heading structure helps you structure your page’s content and allows Google and your visitors to scan your page and grasp the general storyline. Check if your heading structure makes sense, both visually and in semantics. More on headings here.
Part 3 is next: Site speed & Engagement
This concludes part two of the SEO audit series. In this part, you’ve learned how to analyze the general SEO of your site using several tools as well as your judgement. If you followed along, you’ve probably found several issues on your site that you could improve on. That’s exactly what an audit is meant to uncover, so all is well. Make a to-do list and start working! In part three, we’ll go over site speed and engagement. Stay tuned!