Auditing an Existing Site to Identify SEO Problems
Auditing an existing site is one of the most important tasks that SEO professionals encounter. SEO is still a relatively new field, and many of the limitations of search engine crawlers are no intuitive. In addition, many web developers, unfortunately, are still not well versed in SEO. Even more unfortunately, some stubbornly refuse to learn, or worse still, have learned the wrong things about SEO!
This includes those who have developed CMS platforms, so there is a lot of opportunity to find problems when you’re conducting a site audit. While you may have to deal with some headaches in this department (trust us, we still deal with this on a regular basis), your evangelism for SEO, and hopefully support from key stakeholders, will set the stage for an effective SEO strategy.
Elements of an Audit
Your website needs to be a strong foundation for the rest of your SEO efforts to succeed. An SEO site audit is often the first step in executing an SEO strategy. Both your desktop and mobile site versions need to be audited for SEO effectiveness. The following sections identify what you should look for when performing a site audit.
Page load time
Too long a load time may slow down crawling and indexing of the site, and can virtually eliminate your site from competitiveness in mobile search.
Search engine health checks
Here are some quick health checks:
- Perform a site: search in the search engines to check how many of your pages appear to be in the index. Compare this to the number of unique pages you believe you have on your site. Also, check indexation numbers in your Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools accounts.
- Check to ensure major search engine Search Console and Webmaster Tools accounts have been verified for the domain (and any subdomains, for mobile or other content areas). Google and Bing currently offer site owner validation to “peek” under the hood of how the engines view your site.
- Test a search on your brand terms to make sure you are ranking for them Keyword health checks
The easiest way to do this is to take unique text sections from each of the major content pages on the site and search on them in Google. Make sure you enclose the string inside double quotes so that Google will search for that exact string. If you see more than one link showing in the results, look closely at the URLs and pages to determine why it is happening.
You can also use search operators such as inurl: and intitle: to check for duplicate content. For example, if you have URLs for pages that have distinctive components to them (e.g., 1968-mustang-blue or 1097495), you can search for these with the inurl: operator and see whether they return more than one page.
Do the main pages of the site have enough text content to engage and satisfy a site visitor? Do these pages all make use of header tags? A subtler variation of this is making sure the number of pages with little content on the site is not too high compared to the total number of pages on the site.
Meta tag review
Also make sure every page has a unique Meta description. If for some reason that is not possible, consider removing the Meta description altogether. Although the Meta description tags are generally not a direct factor in ranking, they may well be used in duplicate content calculations, and the search engines frequently use them as the description for your web page in the SERPs; therefore, they can affect click-through rate.
Look for pages that have excessive links. As discussed earlier, make sure the site makes intelligent use of anchor text in its internal links. This is a user-friendly opportunity to inform users and search engines what the various pages of your site are about.