When you think about the words Panda and Penguin, what do you picture? Do you see a fuzzy bear eating bamboo and an amphibious little bird waddling on ice?
If you get visuals such as those, then you’re probably not familiar with Google SEO penalties.
Panda and Penguin are two major search algorithm updates that have been implemented by the supreme leaders of search engine metaphysics (unofficial title) at Google HQ.
They’re part of the reason that many a skilled SEO expert has pulled their hairs out and signed up for a free trial of Headspace.
Whenever a new update gets implemented into Google’s holy algorithm, we get a large influx of marketing managers and business owners interested in an SEO audit after noticing that their site’s ranking has fallen below their competitors.
But what exactly is an SEO website audit?
Audit is a tricky word, having a negative connotation with the lovely folks at the IRS.
Today I want to unscrew the lid on our jar of secret sauce and dump it all out on your plate.
I will to tell you exactly what we do when a request comes in for a free SEO audit.
My goal in the end is that you’ll walk away with a clearer understanding of the factors that make up your search ranking and that you (or your agency) should be paying attention to.
SEO Audit Meaning
Depending on the company’s needs, there are different depths of detail in auditing that I can do for a business owner.
These are some of the levels that we can get down to in analyzing a website for SEO strength, from deepest to shallowest.
Most Informative Audit
The best case scenario is to have access to your Google Analytics dashboard as a user.
Being Google’s own homegrown platform, it lends the most real-world insight into what’s happening on the website.
You will want to look at your bread n’ butter metrics, such as…
- Number of visitors to the website
- Number of page views (and which are most popular)
- Bounce rate (how many people are leaving)
- Average time on page (how long are they staying)
Google Analytics, used in conjunction with our other SEO audit tools, gives us a personalized picture of the audience engagement happening on your website.
It reveals broad digital marketing strategy insights as well as identifying potential technical SEO red flags.
Moderately Informative SEO Audit
This is the type of SEO audit that we usually end up doing for most new people, because let’s face it — you’re probably a little bit shy about a strange company poking around in your Google Analytics.
I mean, what if an accountant asked you to provide all your financials prior to ever even having a phone conversation with you?
You would be cautious, and fair enough!
“I’m just going to need to take a quick peek inside your accounts…”
With the power of our SEO tools, we look deep into the metrics that impact your website’s rankability.
Here are a few of the trusty systems that we’ve cultivated our expertise in:
- ahrefs – to abuse a cliché, Ahrefs is a robust SEO tool that shows us wonderful information about your competitors and more (which can be…inspiring, let’s say)
- SEMRush – one of the OG SEO audit companies, and a fantastic educational resource. Their keyword analysis tool really helps us make informed decisions for our clients
- Google Webmaster Tools – Don’t ever forget Google! No seriously, don’t. Because they will never forget you either (but I’ll save that for my conspiracy blog).
In a “moderately informative” SEO audit, we start to get a picture of what’s happening on the website and what our next stage of research should hone in on.
Slightly Informative SEO Audit
I’m not going to inflate this blog with deceit and bravado, so here’s what we do for a 15 second “slightly informative” SEO audit.
We will use the HubSpot Website Grader.
Honestly, it gives us a pretty good starting place for understanding where your website is going wrong. See the screenshot below:
Emphasizing once more — this is just a starting place for an SEO audit.
We will always go further into detail to get actionable insights. This just helps us start to see the picture.
Bonus: If you’re the industrious sort and want to grow your skills, download our SEO’s Cheat Sheet for Perfectly Optimized Pages in 2018.
Free SEO Audit: No free lunches?
Well one time, I got a free lunch when I bought my tenth sandwich from the Whole Foods deli. But I suppose that wasn’t totally free if it cost 10 sandwiches to get there.
Why do agencies offer a free SEO audit?
Because they want to help identify what’s wrong FOR you so they can fix it.
It’s like a roofer going door to door offering to clean your gutters for free, but telling you that you have rot on your roof while he’s up there…and how much he’d charge to replace it.
This is just how business is done, and there’s nothing shameful about it.
And it helps to have an SEO expert look at your site.
But to put a little skin in the game, I want to actually go through some common issues we find in an SEO audit, so that the ambitious folks out there can self-diagnose!
After all, you do that already with WebMD don’t you?
“I just found out I’m a hypochondriac, and now I’m panicking about the symptoms!”
Common Issues in an SEO Audit
Consider this an introductory list of the things that you’ll want to look for if you seek to conduct your own SEO audit for your website.
On-site SEO Elements
There’s a great number of things that go into “on-site SEO.” Most people are usually preoccupied with the keyword density alone (which is SO 2008).
Rather, you want to be on the lookout for these sort of red flags…
- Page titles – are they more than 70 characters? You’ve got an SEO red flag.
- Meta descriptions – how relevant are they to the page’s material and what you’re trying to rank the page for?
- Sitemap – do you have one? This tells the search engine how to easily navigate the website and makes it painless for users to do so as well.
We can’t talk about an SEO audit without talking about keyword research. Here’s an easy question that can save you some time:
“Does your company have an actual keyword strategy?”
If you said “yes,” good for you!
If you said no, then…you probably aren’t going to find a lot of things to be happy about as you go through your SEO audit checklist.
The thing is, if you haven’t set up a keyword strategy, it’s unlikely that you’ve had any real focus in putting out content (and optimizing existing content) to get you ranked for what you want.
Here are the sorts of things that we look for in doing the keyword portion of our SEO audit.
- How many keywords are you currently ranking for?
- Are they relevant to your business?
- Are they true “buying” keywords?
- What kind of search volume do they have?
- What position are you ranking for with your keywords?
- Positions 1, 2, and 3 are awesome
- Anything below position 4 or 5 is pretty abysmal
- If you’re on page two or lower, you basically do not exist
- What are your competitors ranking for?
Using our SEO audit tools for keyword analysis, this can start to give us an excellent picture of what kind of keyword strategy would suit your business.
Off-site SEO (Backlinks and more)
I plan on doing another post in the not-so-distant future regarding off-site SEO at large, so consider this an abridged version.
Off-site SEO has to do with what actions your marketing team is taking to get your business’ website promoted in other areas around the web, like through the process of guest blogging.
The main premise of guest blogging is to do a post for somebody in the industry related to you (preferably not an actual competitor) and have them provide a backlink (a link that points back to your website) in return for the act.
You can read more about it here.
The value of offsite SEO is that Google sees other websites talking about your brand, and you will benefit from any authority that their domains already have.
Here are some metrics that we look at for off-site SEO:
- UR (short for URL rating) how authoritative does Google see our site?
- DR (short for Domain rating) how authoritative are the domains that are linking to our site?
- Number of backlinks: quality is usually better than quantity, but major brands can have thousands upon thousands of backlinks.
SEO Audit Summarized
In short, my goal in doing an SEO audit for a prospect or current client is to help them see where their website falls in the grand hierarchy of Google, and start to formulate a plan to get them where they want to go.
Getting the plan together is imperative to the success of any client that we have, and doing the free SEO audit can show us where the most attention is required.
If your search ranking isn’t where you want it to be, there may be a good reason why. Contact me today so we can run an SEO audit