A couple of months ago, I went thru an SEO audit. I wanted to write a blog post to reflect on what I learned. This is my feeble attempt to collect my thoughts and jot down some notes. Where available, I’ve tried to list my source links.
What is an SEO audit? In an audit, your website is analyzed and checked (often by an external SEO specialist) to be sure that it complies with SEO best practises.
12 items to consider:
- GWT is your best friend.
I spent a lot of time working my way thru Google Webmaster Tools, cleaning duplicate title and meta description tags. Duplicate title tags are a negative quality feature for Google. Sources of duplicate title tags are
- non-translated title tags,
- content management software settings, e.g. showing the same mono-lingual Drupal view in several website languages.
GWT is the place to find these. Same for missing title tags. Or meta descriptions that are too short. Or the index status, which shows you how many pages are indexed.
- Follow a holistic approach. If you think you’re all set ‘cos you have had your new web design and navigation tested for usability by a user experience expert… Think again. You need to involve SEO early on in your design project. Ask for SEO guidance once you’ve gone thru the card sorting/information architecture steps. Check your designs from an SEO perspective. Write content in close collaboration with your SEO analyst.
- Question the SEO impact of new website features.
Ask your web developers about the SEO side-effects of adding new features and changes. I learnt that website changes to make a website responsive and mobile-friendly may add unintended SEO problems, e.g. ‘cos the changes added a second hidden navigation which Google cannot identify yet.
- Ignore SEO noise.
A lot of the SEO advice that you read on the web is blabla. Avoid link-bait. Hearsay. Look for reputable sources and SEO specialists that really know their field.
- Use the hreflang tag on multilingual websites.
rel="alternate" hreflang=xon all web pages.
- Check the correct usage of heading tags.
Use only one h1 per page. Keep the order h2, h3, or h4. Don’t jump to an h3 after using an h1.
Check thru the design elements (e.g. navigation, footer, search button, contact form heading, teaser text blocks, or similar for hidden h1s or h2s).
- Improve h1 content.
A heading 1 should provide a good summary of what to expect on the web page. Include keywords.
- Internal linking.
Add relevant internal links. Add an on-page sitemap. Use footer links for important landing pages, not to repeat the navigation. Never use any hidden sub-page menus. Make sure you use dropdown menus that can be parsed by Google.
- Clean up any 302 redirects that may have been added by the content management system.
- Repair or replace all internal broken links. Tool tip: I used Integrity for Mac.
- Page speed matters.
Check Google Page Speed Insight to improve the loading time of your site.
- Check the XML sitemap.
The XML sitemap should only include pages with status code 200. Use the real, final URL in the XML sitemap, not the CMS page ID.
What will an SEO audit look like in 10 years? That is an intriguing question. I have no idea which way SEO will go. My guess is as good as yours. I do know that SEO is getting quite complex. And may even be replaced by *something* entirely new. If you are a website manager, my advice is to dig in and ask lots of questions.
Look at all aspects. Take a holistic approach. Try to form a cross-functional team (designer, ux researcher, web developer, SEO expert, content writer).
If you do search on Google, remember the search engine result on page 1 is not necessarily the best content, but the best optimized content. Use Google search operators to get you off the beaten track. And there are alternatives like DuckDuckGo and Wolfram Alpha, which we should support more to avoid monopoly and manipulation.
How to carry out a content audit:
Technical Site Audit Checklist: 2015 Edition:
All mistakes are my own. Please let me know if I got something really wrong. I’m here to learn. These notes help me to reflect and learn.