Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a necessary part of blogging and can make all the difference when it comes to whether or not your blog will be found via Search.
Many new bloggers assume that SEO is a “one and done” deal. In other words, they believe that as long as they include their keyword in their blog title and write a unique description for each post, they are finished with SEO.
The truth is, SEO is an ongoing process that needs to be reviewed and tweaked on a regular basis. This process begins with an SEO Audit.
What is an SEO Audit?
An SEO Audit is a process or checklist that you would use to identify any problems that might prevent your website from being crawled or indexed in Search.
The purpose of conducting an SEO audit is to uncover these problems so that you can correct them.
An SEO Audit can also help give you better insight into your website’s performance so you can make improvements which can help you rank better in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
Who is this SEO Audit Guide intended for?
Everyone needs to conduct an SEO audit on their website, from beginner blogger to professional fortune 500 companies.
One of our goals here at Warfare Plugins is to help new bloggers figure out which things that they can do on their own (because we know you want to be a DIY bootstrapping blogger) and which should be outsourced to a professional.
There is a lot that you can do on your own if you understand some of the basics. That is why we put together this quick and easy to understand SEO Audit Guide, targeted towards beginners, but “good enough” for 95% of bloggers.
On the other hand, if you have an e-commerce website with thousands of products and pages, then you will likely want to hire an SEO Professional to do a more thorough audit of your site.
How often should I conduct an SEO Audit?
Most SEO professionals recommend that you conduct an SEO Audit quarterly and/or on an as-needed basis, such as when you notice a sudden drop in traffic.
For the average blogger, once per year may be good enough. Just keep an eye on your website traffic, making sure you don’t see any sudden drops in traffic.
What does an SEO Audit involve?
An SEO Audit can be broken down more or less into the following parts:
- Technical Analysis
- On-Site Analysis
- Off-Site Analysis
- Competitive Analysis
In the first part of this guide, we are going to focus on the Technical Analysis, which will take a look at the general health of your website, and the On-Site Analysis, which will ensure that the pages of your website are optimized and performing as expected or better than expected.
In the second part, we will cover Off-Site Analysis, as well as a Competitive Analysis.
With that said, let’s go ahead and dive in!
SEO Audit: Part 1
Grab a sheet of paper or enter your email address to download the most updated version of our FREE SEO Audit Worksheet (pictured below).
We will divide the sheet into the four sections listed above, and under each, we will check off items as we complete them, and make notes so that we can correct any problems that we uncover during the process.
To get the free worksheet, just add your name and email below. This will also add you to our blog newsletter where you’ll get occasional updates whenever we publish something new and helpful! You can unsubscribe any time.
SEO Audit: Technical Analysis
During the Technical Analysis part of our SEO Audit, we are going to look at the Accessibility and Indexability of your website. This will help us get a good idea of the general health of your website and a list of items that need to be corrected. One of the first things you will want to do to get started is to:
1) Check if your site is indexed in search
Tools: Google Search, Bing Search
In order to do this, simply open Google and type site:YOURSITEHERE into the search bar. For example: site:warfareplugins.com (do not include any spaces between site: and your website address). Repeat with Bing.
Pro Tip: You can perform the search on a whole domain or limit to a certain subdomain or subdirectory. Ex: site:warfareplugins.com/blog.
If you do not get any results, then your site has not yet been indexed. If your site is new, that is likely the reason and you probably just need to submit your sitemap to Google, which we will cover in a few minutes; however, if it is not, then you will want to dig further to find out why it hasn’t been indexed yet. Read on.
Oh, real quick, check your WordPress settings under the “Reading” tab and make sure that you have left the box next to “Search Engine Visibility” unchecked!
2) Check your robots.txt file
Tools: robots.txt Tester
Note: You will need to set up your website in Google’s Search Console in order to use the robots.txt Tester.
Oftentimes, when a web developer is building a website, they might block Google from crawling the website before it is completed. Sometimes, they forget to unblock Google when the site goes live.
If Google and other search engines are blocked from crawling the website, it will likely not be indexed, which means it will not be found in Search. This is why the first step is always to test your robots.txt file. It is an easy test and you are looking for a pass or fail. If you fail, you just need to make a simple correction. Here are some examples of what you most likely would want to use:
To allow all robots complete access:
User-agent: * Disallow:
To allow all robots access to everything except your wp-admin folder:
User-agent: * Disallow: /wp-admin/
The robots.txt file should be found in the root directory of your site and you can edit it with a text editor, such as Notepad. Click here to learn more about the robots.txt file.
3) Check for robots meta tags
Tools: Meta Tags Analyzer
In addition to blocking access to a site using the robots.txt file, meta tags can also be used. They are placed in your website’s HTML code in the <head></head> section. Here are the values that can be included in the robots meta tag:
To exclude the page or site from the index, but to allow the robots to follow links:
<META NAME=\"ROBOTS\" CONTENT=\"NOINDEX, FOLLOW\">
To include the page or site in the index, but to disallow following of links:
<META NAME=\"ROBOTS\" CONTENT=\"INDEX, NOFOLLOW\">
To exclude the page or site from the index and to disallow following of links:
<META NAME=\"ROBOTS\" CONTENT=\"NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW\">
To include the page or site in the index and to allow following of links:
<META NAME=\"ROBOTS\" CONTENT=\"INDEX, FOLLOW\">
Note: The absence of robots tag, or an empty value of the “content” attribute is also equivalent to the default
index, follow value. Also, don’t confuse this NOFOLLOW attribute with the
rel=\"nofollow\" link attribute.
A manual check of the code is generally good enough to ensure that you either don’t have the robots tag at all, or that it is set to the default
index, follow value; or, you can use the meta tags analyzer tool listed above. However, there’s more than one way to noindex a page, and it’s not visible in the HTML code.
So, if you notice that certain pages aren’t being indexed, you need to dig further to check for the presence of the x-robots-tag in the header response. (Of course, you may not want all of your pages to be indexed, such as your utility pages.)
4) Check if SSL is installed and, if not, install it
Tools: Your Hosting Company
The two main reasons why your website needs to be encrypted is for SEO and security. Without going into the technical details of SEO and security, its enough to say that it gives your visitor added confidence when surfing your site, and Google recommends it.
You can learn more about that little green padlock here.
Also, as of July 2018, Google Chrome shows a “Not secure” warning in the browser bar for websites that are not SSL. This is likely to scare away potential visitors to your site, causing a higher bounce rate, which is never good for SEO.
Note: If you migrate your site from HTTP to HTTPS, Google treats this as a site move with a URL change. This can temporarily affect some of your traffic numbers. If you have an existing website with share counts, you will also lose your share counts when switching from HTTP to HTTPS … unless you install Social Warfare – Pro. Click here to buy it now.
5) Check for redirects
Tools: Screaming Frog
Keep in mind that 301 redirects are permanent and 302 redirects are temporary. The best practice is to always use 301 redirects when permanently redirecting a page. We recommend that if your website gets a lot of traffic or is income-generating, that you get someone who knows what they are doing set these up for you or hire an SEO Professional.
6) Check your website’s speed
Tools: GTmetrix.com, Pingdom, Google’s Page Speed Insights, Think With Google
Note how long it takes to load and how it compares to others in your industry. If your website takes longer than 3-4 seconds to load, there is room for improvement and you may want to include some of the suggestions given by the tools used to speed up your site.
7) Make sure your website is mobile-friendly
Tools: Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test
While not all sites need to be mobile-friendly, if you are a blogger, you definitely want to make sure that yours is, so drop everything and focus on this first. Our quick and easy advice for WordPress users is to choose a theme that is listed as “responsive” or “responsive layout.” Here is Google’s guide to mobile-friendly websites.
8) Create your XML Sitemap(s)
Referred to by Michael Cottam on Moz as “the most misunderstood tool in the SEO toolbox,” you might want to read his article to get a really good understanding of how exactly you should create your sitemap in conjunction with the noindex tags mentioned above, so that it directs Google to your most meaningful pages.
However, even if you aren’t ready to get into all the nitty gritty, you can still quickly create your sitemap and then move to the next step.
9) Submit your XML Sitemap to Google
Tools: Google’s Search Console
Now that you have addressed any technical issues that might prevent Google from indexing your site, you are ready to submit your sitemap to Google.
Go to the Google Search Console homepage, click “crawl”, click “sitemaps”, click “add/test sitemap”, and in the text field, type sitemap.xml, then click “submit sitemap”. Simple, right?
10) Submit your XML Sitemap to Bing
Tools: Bing Webmaster Tools
Submitting your sitemap to Bing and other search engines is just as easy. Just follow the directions … you’ve got this!
SEO Audit: On-Site Analysis
During the On-Site Analysis part of our SEO Audit, we are going to look for general content issues, such as duplicate content, problems such as keyword cannibalism, and individual page issues.
When it comes to optimizing individual pages, we find that installing and following the recommendations of the free version of the Yoast SEO Plugin for WordPress can go a long way towards ensuring that your pages are optimized for search.
We also recommend that you read our article: How to Optimize Your Blog for Pinterest and SEO
1) Use a simple URL structure
While not technically part of an SEO audit, your website’s URL structure should be as simple as possible. Whenever possible, you should use readable words rather than long ID numbers. Strive to eliminate unnecessary words (such as “the”, “a”, etc.) and use hyphens (not underscores) to separate words. For example: http://domain.com/red-dress.html is more useful than http://domain.com/reddress.html and should be used instead of http://domain.com/red_dress.html (underscores not search engine friendly).
Note: If you do make a permalink change, you will want to set up a 301 (permanent) redirect and click here to learn how to recover your share counts.
2) Check for duplicate title tags and descriptions
Tools: Screaming Frog
It is important that each page of your website have a unique title and description as this is a major factor in helping the search engines understand what your page is about for indexing purposes. Another huge value of meta descriptions is that they can be crafted to be custom calls to action to entice searchers to click your page from the results.
You should also check for pages with missing title tags and/or descriptions and add them.
3) Check for H1 tag
Tools: SEO SiteCheckup
There should only be one per page and it is usually used to display the title of the page, which ideally should include the main keyword for the page.
4) Ensure that content is optimized for search
Tools: Yoast SEO Plugin for WordPress
This includes having a decent word count (we recommend at least 1200 words), having a main topic (focus keyword) and using that keyword and variations throughout your content, and including both internal and external links.
As we said above, when it comes to optimizing individual pages, we find that installing and following the recommendations of the free version of the Yoast SEO Plugin for WordPress can go a long way towards ensuring that your pages are optimized for search.
5) Include a social sharing plugin
Tools: Social Warfare
Pages that get lots of shares may perform better in search… that’s why it is important to make it easy for your visitors to share by including social sharing buttons.
Yes, there are studies that show both sides of the debate (correlation or causation); however, it is undeniable that articles being shared organically at a higher volume lead to discoverability.
Also, our plugin is designed to not bog down your page, and faster page loads = positive SEO.
Another advantage to using our social sharing plugin for WordPress is that our pro version allows you to customize your share buttons and the content that is shared. That means your visitors share things exactly the way you want them to be shared for maximum click-through traffic.
And, by sharing the right content, it is far more likely to drive traffic back to your site where more new readers will discover and share your content. Click here to learn more about Social Warfare.
What do you NEED to know about SEO?
If you have read through the first half of our guide and are scratching your head wondering what you really NEED to know about SEO… then who better to ask than SEO expert Mark Traphagen?
In this video, you will learn:
- What is search engine optimization (SEO) and why do I need it?
- Where should I begin?
- Can I do it myself?
- 7 things you must do for your website SEO
- What is the difference between onsite SEO and offsite SEO?
Go ahead and take the time (about 30 minutes) to watch this, click to tweet it, and then continue below to the second part of our SEO audit guide.
SEO Audit: Part 2
In the first part of this guide, we did a Technical Analysis to take a look at the general health of your website; and an On-Site Analysis, to ensure that the pages of your website are optimized and performing as expected or better than expected.
In this second part, we will briefly talk about conducting an Off-Site Analysis, as well providing you a terrific resource to conduct your own Competitive Analysis.
SEO Audit: Off-Site Analysis
According to Moz,
“Off-Site SEO refers to actions taken outside of your own website to impact your rankings within search engine results pages (SERPs).”
This is accomplished by building backlinks to your website from relevant, reputable sources; by engaging in activities such as social media marketing, guest blogging, and influencer marketing; by getting brand mentions; etc. Basically, any activity that is done off of your site that might improve your search rankings could be considered Off-Site SEO.
An Off-Site Analysis is basically an audit to determine which Off-Site SEO actions have been taken as well as finding opportunities to improve and build upon them. For example, you might begin by determining how many back-links you have, the quality of those links, and then create a list of opportunities to gain more links.
Pro Tip: When looking for ways to get more inbound links to your site, one of the easiest and lowest-hanging fruit is to look to your business partners, clients, and vendors. Provide testimonials that they can use on their sites, linking back to yours. Joining your local Chamber of Commerce is also another good way to get a link back to your site.
Since this is a beginner’s guide, we want to keep things simple, so we are going to limit the Off-Site Analysis portion of our SEO Audit to three parts:
- Social Media
Tools: Google Search Console
The Search Analytics tab in Google’s Search Console is an excellent starting point for auditing a site’s search traffic. To see the traffic coming from backlinks to your website, go to: Search Console > Search Traffic > Search Analytics
For more in-depth link analysis, here are 9 tools recommended by Neil Patel.
2) Social Media
While social media is not a ranking factor, many marketing professionals agree that there is a strong correlation between being active on social media and improved search results. Even if social media isn’t a direct ranking factor, it is a great way to promote your content, to build lasting connections, and to be found online.
We recommend Agorapulse to both schedule your social media posts as well as for social listening and to respond to mentions. One of the things we love about it is the ability to create queues to repost evergreen content.
If you own a business, then you probably realize that getting customer reviews is important; in fact, the Google My Business support page says, “High-quality, positive reviews from your customers will improve your business’s visibility and increase the likelihood that a potential customer will visit your location.”
Here is a step-by-step list that I wrote to help you get more reviews on the various search engines.
Probably equally important is responding to the reviews. Again, we turn to the GMB support page, which reads, “Responding to reviews shows that you value your customers and the feedback that they leave about your business.”
In a nutshell, if Google is recommending that you respond to your reviews, then we think it’s pretty important. Implement a process to read and respond to your reviews on a regular basis.
SEO Audit: Competitive Analysis
Tools: [Moz] SEO Competitive Analysis Checklist
Evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of your competition when it comes to digital marketing and SEO can help you find ways to improve your own strategies. Rather than reinvent the wheel, we believe that this article on Moz and the accompanying checklist are terrific tools to help you get started with your own competitive analysis. Simply create a new sheet for each of your competitors and then link the sheets together from the SEO Audit Worksheet that you downloaded from us earlier.
We hope that you have found this guide useful and that you are now ready to begin conducting an SEO Audit for your website.
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This content was originally published here.