In recent years, SEO practitioners have become too accustomed to looking for “tricks” to deceive the Google algorithm for ranking increases. This is never going to be a long term strategy and will result in huge losses, just like we’ve seen with Panda and Penguin updates over the last couple of years for those practicing bad SEO. As a business we’ve always focused on long term, high quality SEO to ensure our clients rankings improve as those around them fall.
So having said that, our first step when starting with a new client is to conduct a thorough SEO audit to make sure that the foundations of the site are of the best standard possible. This should be a core part to any SEO strategy or activity, as you’ll never achieve the best results possible by jumping straight in to building links or employing tactics without fixing what’s wrong in the first place. The days of building hundreds of links to rank a low quality page are over!
So here’s 10 factors you must take into account when conducting an SEO audit on yours or your client’s website (in no particular order).
1. Duplicate Content Check: Internal and External Pages
Any good SEO should know that duplicate content is a major issue for websites and this also relates to similar content. Your website shouldn’t be using templates to generate content across pages or anything similar to this, each page needs to be unique. If you’re looking to detect external websites with duplicate content then Copyscape is a great tool to use. If you’re looking to detect duplicate content issues within your own website then the Moz.com suite of tools is a good one to use.
2. Keyword Research
It might sound like something pretty obvious, but a lot of people make the mistake of wanting to optimise their website for terms that they choose themselves, based on their personal knowledge of the industry. It’s a great place to start, but never base your decisions solely on what “you think” people are searching for. There’s some great tools to use for keyword research and ideas including Ubersuggest, Google Keyword Planner and Market Samurai. Make sure that you base decisions on actual search volumes and you’ll be sure to see the direct benefits. Ranking 1 for “eskimo igloos in brisbane” isn’t going to help you sell igloos if no one is searching for it!
3. Domain Duplication
I’ve previously written a post on getting your domain settings right for SEO to ensure that you don’t have two versions of your website being crawled (one with “www” and one without). This can cause some serious duplicate issues and is a very common problem for most websites. Follow the post linked in this paragraph and you’ll find all the info you need for setting up the right redirects.
4. Folders Without Pages
Another common issue that websites have is folders within their website structure that don’t have a page on them. An example below:
- Developer sets up the site with website.com/products/mens-products
- If you remove the mens products page in the URL and visit website.com/products there is no web page present (often goes to a 404 error).
This is a very common occurrence on websites and an issue that should be resolved. This creates an inconsistency in your website hierarchy which creates issues with passing authority correctly throughout your website. There are two solutions for this, which is to either create a page at the folder level OR remove this folder from your website structure.
5. Page Title & Meta Descriptions – Targeting & Character Limits
Page Titles and Meta Description character limits (or pixel limits) are of great importance to a website when it comes to being shown within the search results page. These are your first two opportunities to capture a user’s attention and drive the click to your website. Maximise the use of the characters and space you have, and ensure that the messaging is clear, relevant and contains a strong call to action, just like an Adwords ad!
6. The Use of Headings
Heading use is also another issue we come across regularly with websites that we audit. A few standard guidelines that should be used:
- Only 1 H1 Heading per page (should be unique and targeted to the topic)
- Maximum 3 H2 Headings (only used for headings that are relevant to targeting the page or key points within the body)
- Utilise H3 and H4 Headings for anything on the page that isn’t relevant to helping you rank (think sidebar headings or when there’s many products listed on a page)
7. Page Speed
Page Speed is a factor of relevance to SEO, and lends itself to much debate as to how important it really is. That being said, we often recommend that it may not be essential to employ every possible speed improvement tactic, however you must know if your website scores badly. A good check to run is to use the Google Page Speed tool to identify potential improvements that could be made. Google provide some suggestions that could be slowing your site down and I would suggest that you aim for a page speed above 80. This is of course going to be more difficult for a large ecommerce website than a small 10 page informational site, however it’s good to have a goal.
If you have multiple folders on your website, you should have breadcrumbs implemented, simple as that! If your website doesn’t have breadcrumbs, add them today. If you’re using an open source CMS such as Drupal or WordPress, there’s loads of plugins that you can use. The next step is to add schema.org markup to your breadcrumbs.
9. Google Webmaster Tools
We also have many websites come on board that don’t have a Google Webmaster Tools account set up. This is also a must have, as it gives you greater control over how Google sees your website, and provides some great insight into improvements that can be made. Ensure you do the following within your account:
- Set the correct Geographic Target
- Submit an XML Sitemap
- Review HTML Suggestions within a few weeks
That’s just a few of the useful features, but there’s much more to be utilised as you will see when you log in!
10. Social Media Sharing
One other easy-to-implement factor that comes up regularly is the lack of social media sharing buttons on Australian websites. Now this is not your social media profiles, but “Like”, “Tweet” and “+1” buttons on the website pages themselves. Increased social media mentions continue to correlate with increased rankings, so it is important to make it easy for your website visitors to share your content. Addthis and Sharethis provide great solutions for customisation and easy implementation of social sharing.