A holistic search engine optimization (SEO) strategy is one of the most effective ways to make sure consumers can find your brand online. As we explained in part one of our SEO series this week, optimizing a website for search results requires analyzing, adding and improving hundreds of factors that determine the site’s health, relevance and credibility.
Unfortunately, there’s no standard path for optimizing a site. Your brand’s SEO strategy should work to accomplish your specific goals, which makes it difficult to outline the perfect plan. But as we explained in part two of the series, SEO is far too important to ignore. So, knowing all that, where do we even begin?
Simple, by running an SEO audit.
An SEO audit will help you identify the most important issues facing your brand’s website and develop a customized strategy to improve your presence in organic search results. Here’s what you need to know to get started.
What is an SEO audit?
An audit is an essential first step in developing a successful SEO strategy that drives results that really matter for your brand (e.g., improved rankings, increased website traffic, more on-site conversions, etc.). When done right, an SEO audit accomplishes a variety of objectives:
- Evaluates how easy it is for search engines to discover, crawl and index your site’s pages
- Gives you an idea of your website’s health, quality and authority
- Helps you determine and prioritize what you need to do to improve your pages’ rankings in search results
What will an SEO audit uncover?
The purpose of the audit is to identify as many issues affecting organic search performance as possible. Running a full SEO audit will reveal:
- Technical issues impacting the health of your site
- On-page SEO issues impacting the usability of your site
- A profile of the off-site elements that determine the authority of your site
How often should I audit my site?
SEO audit frequency depends a lot on the size/purpose of the site and the scale of the audit. In my experience, I’ve found it’s best to conduct a comprehensive SEO audit every six months and run smaller, mini-audits each month.
There are several factors that make regular SEO audits mandatory:
- The constant evolution of search engine best practices
- How often you add new content to your site
- How frequently search engines crawl your site
- The possibility of new security issues
How do I run an SEO audit?
Full SEO audits can include a checklist of more than 100 individual items to review and analyze. SEO pros rely on a multitude of specialized tools and methods to crawl websites, scan for issues and evaluate their ability to rank in search results.
With SEO audits, it’s important to crawl before you run (pun intended). If you’re new to SEO, you probably won’t have the tools or resources to conduct a large-scale audit but you can run a high-level scan to get a general idea of how your site is doing.
High-level SEO audit checklist
Make sure there is only one version of your site
Here’s a simple step to ease into a high-level SEO audit: head to your browser of choice and try to access your site using different versions of your domain like:
If your site is operating correctly, you should only be able to access one of these URLs – your canonical version. The other versions should all redirect to that URL.
See if your site ranks for your brand name
Head to Google and search for your brand’s name. Then, go to Settings and select Hide private results to prevent Google from using your search and browsing history to dictate the results.
Does your website appear in the search results (ideally in the top position)? Perfect.
If you don’t see your site at the top of results, this could mean a few things including:
- You’ve chosen a common word as your brand name. This isn’t the end of the world but it means you’ll have to put some extra work into your SEO program to find your way to the top of the results.
- Your site hasn’t established enough authority or relevance to rank above third-party sites that feature your brand (e.g., social media sites, review sites, etc.). This means it’s time to up your site’s cred with a holistic SEO strategy that includes a link building program.
- Your site isn’t indexed by Google, which is not good. But don’t worry, we’ll explain how to check for this in the next steps.
Set up Google Search Console
Search Console is a free tool from Google that helps you check the index status of your site and identify common SEO issues. If you haven’t verified your site in Search Console yet, follow this link to get started.
Make sure your pages are indexed
If Google can’t index a webpage, it can’t rank the page in its search results. To check if Google can index your pages properly, go into your Search Console account, click the Coverage tab and review the results.
- Error: These are pages Google couldn’t index for some reason
- Valid with warnings: These pages have been indexed by Google but there are issues on the page that may need some attention
- Valid: These pages have been indexed by Google and don’t have any identified issues
- Excluded: These are pages that you don’t want Google to index
Check for manual actions
While you’re still in Search Console, navigate to the Manual actions tab to see if your site violates any of guidelines that would prevent it from appearing in Google’s search results.
Make sure your site hasn’t been hacked
To make sure your site hasn’t been hacked, navigate to the Security issues tab under manual actions in Search Console. If Google suspects your site is in danger, or someone has already corrupted your site’s code, you’ll see a notification explaining the issue.
Run a mobile-friendly test
With more than half of all website traffic today coming from mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, having a mobile-friendly site is crucial for SEO. To test if your site is mobile-friendly, head over to Google’s aptly-named Mobile-Friendly Test tool, enter your URL and click RUN TEST.
If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, you can view a list of fixes to improve your site. And, even if your site is mobile-friendly, the tool will provide you a list of steps you can take to make it even better.
While the steps above are more of a high-level scan than a full SEO audit, they should give you a good idea of how much SEO work your site needs and what you need to do to get started. If you’ve gone through the exercise and uncovered any technical SEO issues you can’t fix, or if you think you may need a more in-depth audit, Mindstream Media is here to help. Contact us to learn how we can get you started down the path to a healthier and more optimized website.