Websites perform the best on search engines when they are optimised for SEO. However, often small businesses do not take the time to investigate how to improve their SEO. In fact, many companies still do not implement SEO at all. If you haven’t examined your own website’s SEO recently, you should perform an SEO audit. An audit can assess the level of optimisation and find the areas that still need improvement. You do not need to pay a costly fee to hire someone to audit your site. Instead, start with this free SEO audit that you can perform yourself.
1. Crawl Your Site
A good place to start is with an application called Screaming Frog. This application can crawl your site’s pages to look for the following:
- Errors – client and servers issues
- External links – sites you link out to
- Redirects – permanent or temporary redirects
- URL issues – dynamic URLs, uppercase characters, URLs that are too long, and underscores
- Page title tags –missing, duplicate, long or even short titles
- Duplicate content
- Headings – headings you use (h1, h2, h3)
- Meta description tags – anything missing, duplicate, long or short
- Meta robots
- Rel canonical – in case you are pointing search engines to a different URL
- Page depth level – how many levels deep search engines have to crawl to find all of your content
- File size
- Internal links – what pages you are linking to within your own website
- Anchor text – the link text you are using for both images and web pages
- Follow & nofollow
- Images – the sizes of your images, the alt text length, or any missing alt texts
You can export the data from Screaming Frog to an Excel spreadsheet for examination.
2. Google Webmaster Tools
Google has an excellent set of tools for webmasters which you can sign up for free, and part of it is Google Analytics which is very useful. You can see crawl errors, gather data about your site visits and visitors and a lot more.
Screaming Frog’s data provides you with the meta data that tells you what keywords your site is trying to rank for. Once you compare it to the Google Analytics data for keywords, you can see if your traffic is finding you with the same keywords. You can also use Google’s Keyword Suggestion Tool for new keyword suggestions. It can tell you how competitive a keyword is locally and globally and help you find keywords with low competition to rank for.
Screaming Frog will identify all of your URLs and let you look at how easy they are to remember. Static URLs (that don’t change) should be as user-friendly as possible which includes keeping them as short as you can. If you do change them, add 301 redirects to point people from the old URL to the new one.
5. Title Tags
Guidelines for your title tags:
- Be unique to a single page
- 50 to 65 characters long
- Use the keyword of that page twice if space permits
- Include a geo-qualifier if relevant
6. Meta Description
Meta descriptions need to read well and while you do want to include keywords, stuffing them is a bad idea. A compelling description will result in more clicks to that page.
Guidelines for your meta description:
- Unique and relevant to the page
- Write as descriptive ad text with a call to action.
- No more than 160 characters in length
- Better with 1-2 complete sentences with correct punctuation
- Use the keyword once per sentence
- Add a geo-qualifier if relevant.
Search engines focus on the keywords in the largest font headings first. Therefore, smaller headings do not need to include keywords.
Guidelines for headings:
- Every page should have an H1 tag, as search engines look to the H1 to help determine the topic of a page
- H1 tags should only contain text along with a keyword
- It is best to break up text on your pages with H2 and H3 tags or images for readability.
Google ranks good content better than average or mediocre content. In fact, long pages that offer valuable information are looked on well by Google. A page should at minimum contain 300 words but your site should average at least 600 words per page. Work to increase pages to at least 1000 words if you can. A good rule of thumb is to add informational pages that have up to 2500 words within the context of your site.
The primary goal of your content should be to solve a problem or answer a question for your readers. Relevant, niche and fresh content are all boosts to your website’s ranking.
9. Internal Linking
Linking within your own site looks good to Google as long as the links are relevant. By doing so, you make it easier for search engines to crawl the site. If you can stay under 100 links per page, search engines will like it better.
Anchor text is another area to look at with internal links. It is best to vary the anchor text and refrain from always using keywords. If you can, add at minimum two internal links to each page of your website.
10. Alt Text
Every image should have an alt text to help with SEO. Image search can be a valuable source of traffic for your site. Use descriptive language as your alt text instead of strings of image numbers.
11. URL Redirects
301 redirects are used to redirect traffic from an old or missing URL to another. This is used for deleted pages or changed URLs.
12. Duplicate Content
Duplicate content can ding your site resulting in lower rankings in search engines. Therefore, you need to identify any duplicate content both within your site and on other sites. To handle duplicate content, do the following:
- Fix the URL structure of the site
- Re-write all duplicate content
- 301 redirect the duplicate content to one canonical page
- Implement the rel=”canonical” tag on the original page
13. Broken Links
Broken links occur for several reasons, and many of them can be fixed with a 301 redirect. The issue is when a search engine is trying to crawl your site and finds a broken link, it leaves. You can find any crawl errors by visiting Google Webmaster Tools or installing a plugin that detects 404 page not found errors that you can redirect if necessary.
14. Page Load Speed
Page load speed has become a primary factor in search engine algorithms. With mobile devices becoming more popular, page load speed is a greater issue. Often mobile devices connect to the internet with less than stellar connections causing a more urgent need for fast-loading sites. To determine your own site speed, you can test it by using Pingdom’s tool. Sites that load in under 1 second are ideal, but even if you can get your site down to 1.5 seconds it will improve your bounce and conversion rates.
15. Inbound Links
Inbound links have become much more important since the inception of Google’s Penguin algorithm. It is much more important to have inbound links from relevant sites. Link spam, link baiting and link exchanges will cause your site to be penalised. To get a picture of your inbound links, use Open Site Explorer.