SEO Site Audit – Here’s How to in 16 Steps

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Steps 1 -4 SEO Stuff – Big and Boring (sadly)!

Step 1 – How Many Websites do you Have? 

How many URLs do you have as the home address for your website? If it is more than one, then you need to check whether you have multiple versions of your website out there on the internet. A few years ago, we upgraded our site and the web developer uploaded a draft version of our site to Flywheel. Unbeknown to us, it stayed there for three years. Google was happily searching for it and indexing it. We were getting spam emails to it. Also, old, old blog posts were getting attention – when we had long moved on.

So how do you check whether you have multiple websites being indexed by browsers? List how many domains you have. We have:

tcc.international (no www)

www.tcc.international

https://tcc.international (no www but secure)

http://tcc.international (no www but not secure)

http://www.tcc.international (www but not secure) – and so on…

Then we have our old website address www.thecopycollective.com. Plus we have NZ, UK and AU versions. Too many, but that is fine as long as all those addresses are pointing to the one website and Google and its friends are searching a single website.

To discover, go incognito on your browser. In Chrome, click on the three dots top, right-hand side and select “new incognito window” (Control+ Shift+ N). This means that your browser will not be referring to your cache to load the site – it will start from scratch (mostly).

Then type in each of your addresses, one at a time. Ensure that where you land is the same place each time. If you find a sneaky site has hung around when you thought it was long dead, then get in touch with your web manager to retire it. If you watch, you can see the domain change from what you entered to your main site URL.

 Step 2  – Crawl your Website Graphs displaying data on website health

I love crawling websites; I will not lie. You set your spider free and say “Fly my pretties” and back they come having woven a web of amazing data about your website, or your rival’s site (if you are doing a sneaky look at their site).

I use a few tools for web crawling. SERPStat is a favourite, as is SEMRush. I use both, although I prefer SEMRush’s site audit overview to SERPStat’s.

Your site audit will review how many of your pages use structured data markup, its crawl depth (click through depth – you do not want more than 3), HTTP status code, canonical tags, accelerated mobile pages (AMP) links, site map, and internal links. If your site is in multiple languages, the audit will also show your language reference attribute, if in use.

Your crawler will highlight the “must fix” errors and give you a lot of advice on how to optimise your site for SEO. For now, note the errors and have your web manager review them. The issue with tools, is that something that they say is a problem MIGHT be a problem, or it might not matter, or it might be something you cannot fix anyway. We use HubSpot, which loads the pages slowly for mobiles. Every crawler tells us our page load speed on mobiles is too slow but it’s a HubSpot issue (which they know about) and we can’t fix it.

Once you have handed over the technical issues to your web developer, the real beauty of crawlers comes from their in-depth analysis of your keywords and keyword ranking. Read our previous two blogs on keywords and keyword planning for more on this.

Step 3 – Check for Google Indexing

Google crawls and indexes your site, if you are lucky and it is been built correctly. To ascertain if all is well with Google indexing your site, you can ask Google to run a URL inspection.

If you have not been down the rabbit hole that is Google tools yet, there is a parallel universe awaiting you. If all of this sounds too difficult, you can ask your web manager to conduct this test and let you know the results. If you want to learn how to do it yourself, then Google has a stack of resources to help you. I recommend you watch this video first.Screenshot of a youtube video thumbnail reading "URL inspection tool in search console"

Step 4 – Purge any Plagiarism

Plagiarism is when someone else copies your content and re-posts it on their own site. At least that is one way it can happen. What often happens, is you pay a cheap copywriter to draft your content for your web pages, and they give you a variation of a site they have written before. If you are in a field such as accountancy, law, plumbing, real estate, then you are quite likely to have the same content on your pages as dozens of other concerns.

To find out if your website is “plagiarised”, copy and paste your content (one page at a time) into Grammarly. Grammarly has a free online tool to improve your writing. You can ask it to check for plagiarised copy and it will report what sites have similar content to yours and what percentage of your content matches the other site or sites. There are several other plagiarism tools. Search for “free online plagiarism checker” and you will get a dozen. We like Grammarly because we use it for improving on-page SEO, as well as for improving grammar.

Steps 5 – 8 On-page SEO

I read in a Facebook group where a client had been advised to achieve on-page SEO by repeating the same phrase 8 times in 400 words of content. Yeah, nah!

The best tool for on-page SEO is well written content. Your copywriter should be able to include your keywords enough times for them to register. You do not want your to sound like it is only written for search engines.

A word cloud with the words "team, vision, contetnt, digital, stratagy, book, brand, blog, search

One way I like to check what your actual keywords are in content (rather than what you hope they are), is to use WordArt. Go to WordArt, click create (they have a free online tool or you can subscribe, like we do because we save ours) and import your words, then visualise the content. It will show you how many times you have used each word. It suppresses words like “and” and “the”. The image above shows that vision and team are the most used words in the page of content tested. The page would rank better if the words content, digital, website and marketing were more frequent.

However, as mentioned, it is not just about writing your keyword many times. It has to occur so that Google reads it as original content and rewards it with a higher ranking.

While we think that good copy is the most important thing for on-page SEO, there are a lot of technical issues that can let your copy down. That is where a tool like Yoast is your friend.

Step 5 – Eliminate SEO problems – Yoast is your friend

There are checklists all over the internet about how to fix technical on-page SEO. What we do, is use Yoast – a WordPress plugin – that tells you what to do (step by step) to fix your on-page SEO.

So yes, ensure your keyword is in the URL for the page, make sure your URL is short enough so the whole URL shows in Google search, embed your title tags, use your keyword at least 3 times in the first 4 paragraphs, make sure your images are right-sized (low enough res but not so low they are blurry), use your keyword in your first heading (your H1), and again in your subheadings (H2 and H3), put your keyword first (if possible) in your title tag (the title of your web page), use internal (to other pages on your website) and external (to other websites) links, and use long-tail semantic index (LSI) keywords. Do all that, or just follow the instructions in Yoast when you post on your WordPress site.

If you don’t have a WordPress site, then use the tools available in your content management system (CMS), whether it’s Wix, Weebly, Shopify or Squarespace. Most CMSs don’t make you go it alone these days.

Step 6 – Thin Content, Wrong Keywords

A chocolate labrador with a red and green collar

On-page SEO will suffer if your content is thin or you’re ranking for the wrong keywords.

A blog post written by one of our contributors two years ago ranked No. 1 in Africa for the terms “monitoring” and “evaluation”. The post is about a technique, which is used in charities on the front line. The post is excellent and offers real assistance (I am not linking it here because I do not want it to rank any more than it is). However, it is a bit off topic for us. All these lovely people coming to our site and asking us for more resources are not the customers that we are looking for.

The other issue with content is that it’s not of sufficient depth to assist you in your SEO ranking. It might be too short (make your posts and pages at least 350 words), or it may be too generic. If your content reads a lot like other people’s content then you will not get the ranking you are hoping for. Alternatively, you might be in a sector where there is numerous competition.

In this instance, tell stories – long, detailed, emotive stories about clients and the problems you solved for them. There are words that create connections and strong reactions. Use these when you write to evoke a response. HubSpot wrote the best blog on words that sell –  ever, and you can’t go wrong following their advice.

Step 7 – Retire Old Content that Doesn’t Rank

While some of your content ranks well for SEO, you will find other content that doesn’t rank at all. If more of pages rank poorly than rank well, your overall ranking will be dragged down. You can use Google Analytics to discover which of your pages are ranking. After logging in, if you navigate to Behaviour, then Site Content, then All Pages. You can then see your unique page views for each page of your site.

Once you know which of your pages are ranking for SEO, you can decide which ones you will update to make more relevant and which ones to retire.

Step 8 – Broken Links

These happen to everyone. To fix broken links you can do 3 things:

  1. Update the link to another relevant resource
  2. Delete the link (and any reference to the link), or
  3. When you add a link (in the first place), download and cache a copy of your resource and link to that.

Number two is the easiest and quickest. If you use WordPress and Yoast, there is a handy tool to unlink the broken links, which saves numerous time.

If you have broken links on your high ranking pages, fix those first.

Steps 9 – 12 SEO – Now we’re Getting Sparky

Step 9 – Meta Descriptions

Directly from our friends at Yoast: “The meta description is a snippet of up to about 155 characters – a tag in HTML – which summarizes a page’s content. Search engines show it in search results mostly when the searched-for phrase is within the description. So optimizing it is crucial for on-page SEO.”

Step 10 – URLs

Birds eye view of two women snorkeling.

What’s in a domain name? Our URL used to be https://www.thecopycollective.com.au. I cannot tell you how many people got that wrong. Between not adding in “the” to misspelling “collective” to not knowing whether to add the “au” or not, things were not going swimmingly.

Now our URL is https://tcc.international. This has the benefit of being short and most people can spell “international”. Yet, “thecopycollective told you what it was that we do. No one knows what tcc.international means.

That said, if you keep your domain name shorter and easier to spell, without hyphens and without special characters you have a better chance of your visitors making it to your site. Shorter also helps when you are writing blog posts. Google and others shorten URLs to fewer than 60 visible characters – after that they add an ellipses…

So when you write your title tag (the title of a web page), make it fewer than 55 characters.

Step 11 – Organic search

Organic search is when search engines serve up your content because it is the most relevant – not because you have paid for it.

What influences organic search results? “Organic or word-of-mouth buzz is what helps build your site’s reputation with both users and Google, and it rarely comes without quality content.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself! Thanks, Google.

“Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any of the other factors discussed here. Users know good content when they see it and will likely want to direct other users to it. This could be through blog posts, social media services, email, forums, or other means. .”

Step 12 – Load speed – mobile, desktop

Your website load speed will impact your bounce rate. According to our friends at DiiB, “Having a fast website is critical both for visitor experience and for rankings.

– Studies show that for every extra second a website takes to load visitor bounce rate increases by 10% (meaning the person leaves before the page loads).
– In ecommerce, Walmart found that decreasing load time by one second increased conversions by 2%.

Common causes of a slow loading website include heavy JavaScript files, unoptimized video content, large images, and unneeded or poorly written CSS files.”

You can also have different load speeds for your desktop site versus your mobile site. Have a chat with your web manager about ensuring your site is optimised for both desktop and mobile. If they tell you it is your plugins slowing you down, then consider

Step 13-16 SEO is about Content, Content, Content

Step 13 – Low-hanging SEO fruit – your friends DiiB & Moz

We use DiiB to provide shortcuts to what we could be doing to improve our site content. Our other go-to tool is Yoast, the WordPress plugin. Between these two tools, we are able to see what is impacting the website’s SEO as a whole, and what is a negative for on-page SEO. And then there is Moz, but more on that later.

As a minimum, a site map will help both SEO and your potential customers find their way around your site. Your keywords we have addressed extensively, and we have talked about backlinks and site load speed. Having a secure site (SSL certificate) is important. If your web address starts with https rather than http, then you have a secure site. If not, add this to your list of discussion points with your web manager.

The other two issues that DiiB reports on are backlinks authority and domain authority.

Backlinks are sites that you link to and that link to you. Developing a backlink strategy is something you need to address but it is not the first cab off the rank.

Domain authority is developed by Moz and reflects how well your site is  to perform in search engine results pages (SERPs). Moz have a free domain SEO analysis tool, which is very handy and we recommend that you use it to find out your domain authority.

It will give you insights into key issues that your site has and you can add them to your ever-expanding list.

Step 14 – High-volume keywords

By now you will have read our two blogs on keywords – keyword planning and keyword research. So, we will focus on your high-volume keywords – that is your keywords for which people most commonly search. As we’ve said, you can get some weird rankings for search terms that you don’t want to be the star (for us it’s true blue Aussie). , we’re ranking  for monitoring and evaluation for NGOs, which isn’t ideal either. We also rank for story boarding and screenwriting, which is preferable.

To ensure your site ranks for your preferred keywords, you need to focus on the words you want to highlight. Writing a series – for us, like this one on SEO – gives you a chance to press the reset button and generate some traffic around your preferred keywords.

You could also plan a paid campaign, but we recommend you do everything you can organically first, and then try paying for results.

Step 15 – Broad appeal or Top of Funnel

A funnel illustration with four layers labeled "awareness, interest, decision, action"

The sales funnel has been around for a while now. The one depicted above is from Mailmunch. It follows the concept that you have content that focuses on awareness or your brand – broad level stuff that appeals to lots of people (top of funnel). Then there is more educational stuff (like this piece), which explains what people can do that solves their issues (it also demonstrates your expertise in the area). This is middle of the funnel, and then there is compelling content that converts. This is the stuff sales are made of. People read your content, believe you know what you are doing, and buy your product or service.

While you are building your brand awareness, it’s good to focus on top of funnel content because it gives you the chance to review what works for you. As you go down the funnel, the content you need is more complex (and more costly).

Step 16 – SEO – Narrowing Content for your Niche

, I attended a Zoom workshop run by a digital marketer who was super-excited that they ranked No. 1 for their business name and town (a regional town in Victoria). Having the broadest appeal is not always a winning strategy. Sometimes, being No. One in your chosen niche is far more appealing than having a big following of potential customers who will never buy from you.

Success, then, is ranking for what you want to rank for, where you want to rank, and where you appeal to the clients you want to attract. If that was not hard, then everyone would be doing it.

One of our writers, Damian Clarke, wrote a great blog on how he makes sure he stays competitive on what is a bustling market – that for copywriters. He distinguishes himself as a medical or technical copywriter. Just adding those words, means that he gets more clients that pay for his specialist skills.

What is your niche? What can you do to stand out? , look at your keywords that you do not rank for and that your competitors do. SERPStat and SEMRush can help you with that. Or you can try iSpionage. Compare your keywords and those of your competitors. Then build a content strategy about high-ranking keywords that you are not addressing.

We hope that you have gained from our 16-step SEO audit for your website. Our next blog on the topic of SEO is 9 easy link-building strategies. Look out for it soon.

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Maureen

About

Maureen Shelley is CEO and owner of TCC. She is an experienced digital and content strategist and was a nationally-syndicated journalist. Our all-round guru. Maureen manages corporate, digital and government projects for TCC. She loves helping clients and, with three masters degrees, knows lots.

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