Auditing your site to identify SEO problems is essential in a good SEO strategy. Your website needs to be a strong foundation for the rest of your SEO efforts to succeed. An SEO audit of your site is likely to be the first step in our SEO strategy where we are likely to discuss:
- Usability: Although this may not be seen as a direct SEO issue, it is a very good place to start. Usability affects many factors, including conversion rate, as well as the propensity of people to link to a site.
- Accessibility/spiderability: The site must be friendly to search engine spiders. Some quick health checks which can be performed include:
Perform a site:yourdomain.com search in the search engines to make sure all your pages appear to be in the index.
- Keyword health checks: Are the right keywords being targeted? Does the site architecture logically flow from the way users search on related keywords?
- Duplicate content checks: Make sure the non-www version of your pages (i.e., http://yourdomain.com) 301-redirects to the www version of your pages i.e., http://www.yourdomain.com), or vice versa (this is often called the canonical redirect).
- URL check: Make sure you have clean, short, descriptive URLs. Descriptive means keyword-rich but not keyword-stuffed. You don’t want parameters appended (or have a minimal number if you must have any), and you want them to be simple and easy for users (and spiders) to understand.
- Title tag review: Make sure the title tag on each page of the site is unique and descriptive. Ideally, don’t waste your time by including the brand name of your organization in the URL. Also check to make sure the title tag is fewer than 70 characters long.
- Content review: Do the main pages of your site have enough content? Do these pages all make use of header tags?
- Meta robots tag review: Check for a meta robots tag on the pages of your site. If you find one, you may have already spotted trouble. An unintentional NoIndex of NoFollow tag could really mess up your search ranking plans.
- Sitemaps file and robots.txt file verification: Use the Google Webmaster Tools robots.txt verification tool to check your robots.txt file. Also verify that your Sitemaps file is identifying all of your (canonical) pages.
- Redirect checks: Use a server header checker such as Live HTTP Headers to check that all the redirects used on the site return a 301 HTTP status code. Check all redirects this way to make sure the right thing is happening. Mistakes do get made, and sometimes the CMS or the hosting company makes it difficult to use a 301.
- Internal linking checks: Look for pages that have excess links. Google advises 100 per page as a maximum, although it is OK to go with more on more important and heavily linked-to pages.
Make sure the site makes good use of anchor text on its internal links. This is a free opportunity to inform users and search engines what the various pages of your site are about.
- Avoidance of unnecessary subdomains: The engines may not apply the entirety of a domain’s trust and link juice weight to subdomains.
This is largely due to the fact that a subdomain could be under the control of a different party, and therefore in the search engine’s eyes it needs to be separately evaluated. In the great majority of cases, subdomain content can easily go in a subfolder.
- Geolocation: If the domain is targeting a specific country, make sure the guidelines for country geotargeting are being followed and make sure your address is on every page of your site. You should also check your results in Google Local to see whether you have a problem there.
- External linking: Check the inbound links to the site. Use a backlinking tool such as Yahoo! Site Explorer, Linkscape, Majestic-SEO, or Link Diagnosis to collect data about your links. Make sure the site’s critical keyword is showing up a fair number of times. A lack of the keyword usage in inbound anchor text is not good either. You need to find a balance.
Look to see that there are links to pages other than the home page. These are often called deep links and they will help drive the ranking of key sections of your site. You should also look at the links themselves. Visit the linking pages and see whether the links appear to be paid for. They may be overtly labelled as sponsored, or their placement may be such that they are clearly not a natural endorsement. Too many of these are another sure trouble sign.
Lastly, make sure that there are enough links, and that there are also enough high-quality links in the mix. How does the link profile for the site compare to
the link profiles of your major competitors?
- Page load time: Is the page load time excessive? Too long a load time may slow down crawling and indexing of the site.
- Image alt tags: Do all the images have relevant keyword-rich image alt attributes text and filenames? Search engines can’t easily tell what is inside an image, and the best way to provide them with some clues is with the alt attribute and the filename of the image.
- Code quality: Although W3C validation is not something the search engines require, checking the code itself is a good idea. Poor coding can have some undesirable impacts. As we previously discussed, use a tool such as SEO Browser to see how the search engines see the page.
For many organizations, SEO brings a higher ROI when compared to TV, print, and radio. Traditional media is not in danger of being replaced by SEO, but SEO can provide some high margin returns that complement and enhance the use of offline media.
Data released by SEMPO in early 2009 shows that organic SEO is considered one of the very highest ROI activities for businesses. With search, everyone’s number is listed—if they have a web site, that is. But not everyone will show up as an answer to a customer query.
Whether you are selling products and services, advertising and looking for branding value, or trying to promote a specific viewpoint to the world, a well-designed SEO strategy can result in a very high return on investment when contrasted with other methods of marketing.