Despite the importance of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), the vast majority of websites on the Internet aren’t optimised for Google and other major search engines. In fact, even some online marketers run websites that aren’t optimised for search engines. If you want to boost organic traffic to your website, you should plan and launch a solid SEO campaign. Before you start planning this SEO campaign, it is important to have a good idea of where your website stands in the eyes of search engines. You can do this by performing at least one SEO audit on your website. Here is a guide that will help you perform the first SEO audit for your site.
Step 1. Use Screaming Frog Crawl
The first thing you should do is use Screaming Frog to crawl your website. Screaming Frog, which is a free application, will identify the following during your SEO audit:
- Errors – 404 pages and other server and client issues.
- Redirects – Temporary or permanent redirects (301, 302).
- External links – All of the sites your website links to.
- URL issues – Uppercase characters, underscores, lengthy URLS and dynamic URLs.
- Duplicate pages – Pages with duplicate content.
- Page title tags – Short, long, missing, or duplicate page title tags.
- Meta description tags – Short, long, missing, or duplicate meta description tags.
- Meta keywords tags – Short, long, missing, or duplicate meta description tags.
- Headings – Duplicate and missing headings.
- Meta robots – What you are permitting to be indexed or not indexed on your website.
- Rel canonical – Checking to ensure you’re not pointing search engines to another URL.
- File size – Smaller files load faster than larger files.
- Page depth level – How many levels that a search engine needs to crawl to reach all your content.
- Internal links – The pages you are linking to within the same blog or website.
- Anchor text – The link text you use for web pages and images.
- Follow and no-follow links – The links on your website that are followed or not.
- Images – The alt text length, missing alt texts and the size of the images.
- Bot crawling – You can use Screaming Frog to crawl your website as a Yahoo, Google, or Bing robot.
It should only take a few minutes or so to crawl your entire website using Screaming Frog. You should export all the data you receive in the report to an Excel spreadsheet, where you can use it to analyse the data and plan the next step of your SEO strategy.
Step 2. Use Google Webmaster Tools and Analytics
You should register your website or blog with Google Webmaster Tools. If you don’t have Google Analytics, you should sign up for it (there are, of course, other alternative analytic tools that you can use). Use the Google Webmaster Tools and Analytics to measure the health of your website and to pinpoint crawl errors that Google is encountering during your SEO audit. You will be able to know how fast your website loads and more. There is a guide that will teach you about all the features of the Google Webmaster Tools.
Step 3: Keywords
Now that you have data about your title tags, meta keywords and meta descriptions from Screaming Frog, you will be able to figure out what your website is attempting to rank for. Use this data along with the keyword data from your Google Analytics to figure out which keywords your website or blog is getting traffic for. Take the keywords from Google Analytics and Screaming Frog and enter them into the Keyword Suggestion tool. This tool will provide you with a list of ideas for keywords – an essential tool in your SEO audit.
One of the main advantages of Google’s Keyword Suggestion tool is that it will provide you with information about how competitive various keywords are. You will also be able to know the number of times the keyword has been searched worldwide. This is referred to as ‘global searches’. You will also know the number of local searches for the keyword every month. All searches for a keyword in your country are local searches.
Both the Keyword Suggestion Tool and Screaming Frog will help you compare the keywords you are targeting with the keywords you could be targeting. Be sure to keep the following in mind when using the Keyword Suggestion Tool for your SEO audit:
- Local searches matter more – Since a U.S. website is more likely to rank well in the United States, you should focus on local rather than global searches.
- Don’t target the most competitive keywords – You should focus on keywords that are not competitive but receive a significant search volume.
Step #4: URLs
When you view your report from Screaming Frog, you will see an entire list of URLs. Here are a few tips that will help you analyse URLs:
- Static – You want to have static rather than dynamic URLs. While a static URL contains letters, numbers and dashes, a dynamic URL contains $, =, %, +, and other random letters.
- Short length – If possible, you should keep your URLs short and under 100 characters.
- User-friendly – You should have URLs that will be easy for users to remember. Eliminate slashes and dashes that aren’t needed.
If your URLs aren’t static, short, or user-friendly, you should think about making new URLs. When you make new URLs, be sure to redirect the old URLs to your new URLs. You don’t want to lose out on the links that point to your old URLs.
Step #5: Title Tags
One of the major misconceptions about title tags is that character limits are how Google and other search engines measure them. However, Google actually counts the pixels to measure title tags. Therefore, you should export title tag data from the Screaming Frog report to your Excel spreadsheet. Change the font type of the data to Arial and the font size to 12. This is what Google does when evaluating your title tags. Set the Excel column width to 520 pixels, which is the cut-off limit of Google. 320 pixels is considered too short while 520 pixels is considered too long.
Here are guidelines you should follow to change your title tags:
- Limit title tags to 50 to 65 characters.
- Use unique title tags for every page.
- Use the keyword for the specific page once if there is enough space.
- Include a geo-qualifier if it is relevant.
Step #6: Meta Descriptions
One of the main mistakes that companies make when it comes to their meta description tags is keyword stuffing. Of course, you should put keywords in your meta descriptions. However, you also want your meta descriptions to be engaging and readable. An engaging meta description will encourage people to click on the link to your website in the search results.
If you don’t have duplicate or missing meta description tags, here are a few guidelines for writing excellent meta descriptions:
- Ensure the meta description is relevant and unique to the page.
- Write the meta description so that it has a call to action and descriptive ad text.
- The meta description should not be longer than 160 characters, including punctuation and spaces; the ideal is 140-150 characters (fewer than 51 characters is considered too short).
- The meta description should consist of one to two complete sentences with proper punctuation and no greater than five commas.
- Use the keyword once for each sentence; the keyword should be closer to the beginning of each sentence.
- Include geo-qualifiers if relevant.
Step #7: Meta Keyword Tags
If you like, you can use meta keyword tags. However, meta keyword tags are not necessary. In fact, the vast majority of major search engines completely disregard meta keyword tags. Since meta keyword tags are just one more thing you will need to maintain and update, it is recommended that you don’t use them at all on your website.
Step #8: Content
Chances are, you know about the saying “Content is king.” Therefore, you want to ensure each page on your website has enough content. Unfortunately, Screaming Frog is not the best at analyzing content on all pages of your website or blog. However, you can simply browse your website to identify the pages that don’t have sufficient content. If a page lacks content, you should add unique content to it on a regular basis. Also, be sure to add content that is valuable. In general, the web pages that rank highest in the search results of Google are those that have more than 2,400 words of content. Since you may struggle to ensure each page has at least 2,400 words of content, you should strive for 400 to 600 words initially.
Once you’ve performed a complete analysis of your website or blog, you can use the data to start creating your SEO plan. Be sure to refer to your data for every aspect of the plan to ensure you put your website or blog on the road to SEO success.