10 steps to SEO website success. Things change in the SEO world frequently and what works today may not work tomorrow. Take a look at what you can do now to start.
When I am doing an audit for a client or even as a favor to a friend there are guidelines I like to follow to help me identify weaknesses, strengths, and potential issues more quickly and efficiently. Honestly, I have almost even begun to like auditing websites thanks to this tried and true method…almost.
1) Look For The Redirects
Does a site redirect its duplicate content? For example I would be checking to make sure that all pages on http://customerrave.com redirected to http://www.customerrave.com. If they are not 301 redirected, then I will be looking for the use of a rel=”canonical” tag on those pages. If I find neither of these things – then at least I know what my first suggestion is going to be!
2) Check for Page Titles, Meta Tags, H Tags & Alt Tags
During this step I want to make sure that every page is using unique page titles and meta tags…while intelligently making use of all H tags and alt tags. Once again, if this is not being done, it’s another quick and easy fix that can lead to better rankings.
3) Check for Broken Links
When auditing a site, checking for broken links is near the top of my priority list. With access to applications and software like Google/Bing Webmaster Tools and SEOMoz checking for broken links is a breeze. After identifying the broken links, I simply fix them…end of story… unless of course there are 1,000’s of broken links. That usually signals much larger issues (that I will cover in step 9).
4) Scan for Duplicate Content
While this step is not always practical for large sites with 10,000+ pages, I at least like to start by using different methods to navigate to the same page. For example, in a personalized invitation site I might search by both “occasion” and “product type” to reach the same product. Once there I will check to see if the URL is consistent no matter how the page is reached. There are also numerous tools that can be used to check for duplicate content.
5) Examine Link Profile
One of the most important factors of any site audit – the link profile will give you a good picture of what a site is doing right and wrong in the world of online marketing. I usually check the total number of links, number of unique linking domains, distribution of links to the domain, no follow vs. follow links, and the distribution of the various types of links. This step is very time consuming – but it gives me a great picture of where a site may be lacking in terms of inbound links. Tools like OpenSiteExplorer are also great for looking at the authority of each inbound link at other unique characteristics like MozRank and MozTrust.
6) Keyword Analysis – Are they realistic?
This is one of the most important steps of any site audit. Some SEO ignorant sites simply choose to target the wrong keywords. You can be optimized from here to the moon and still not see any returns from certain keywords. Most of the time unrealistic keywords are either: too difficult to rank for, or do not have enough search volume to justify the resources spent in optimizing for them.
7) Check Site on Different Browsers
This step is much easier when you have access to an analytics platform. Simply pull up site usage statistics by browser to identify which browsers are underperforming. After identifying potential issues, simply view your site in the aforementioned browsers to see where the problems lie. Tools like Browserstack are also helpful for identifying trouble areas.
8) Level of Indexation
One of the most overlooked statistics, depth of indexation, can play a significant role in the total amount of traffic. If a page isn’t indexed, you’re simply not going to rank for it. If certain pages are not indexed I try resubmitting sitemaps to Google and Bing Webmaster Tools. If the pages still are not indexed I look at what the problems could be. Are they too deep within the navigation? Perhaps there are duplicate content issues? I try fixing any obvious issues…if none can be found I will suggest to start building off site links to that page, as well as increase internal linking.
9) Site Architecture, URL Structure and Internal Navigation/Linking
This is often the most difficult part of any SEO audit to fix. Problems with information architecture and URL structure can require drastic website reorganization which can often affect conversion rates. This is not something to be taken lightly. But if a problem is identified it needs to be fixed. Remember to have a good game plan when implementing these changes, and test as much as possible before making the switch. 301 redirects will most likely be needed – especially when making your URLs friendlier and less dynamic. Make sure you have a good plan in place so that you do not lose any link value your pages may have.
10) Usability and the Obvious
These are the things often missed in a website audit. Things like “about us”, “FAQ” and other essential pages can be overlooked; though they often contribute just as much to the bottom line as any other pages on a site. Even things like the checkout page should be examined. I once made a recommendation to initiate a credit card option at checkout (other than only PayPal, which by the way takes most major credit cards) and conversion rates have increased 350% ever since. The main concept here is to take a step back and look at the website objectively as if it is brand new to you. Sometimes people who are too close to a site can miss the obvious…
But remember…even the best SEO website audits are useless unless the findings are expressed in a clear and realistic action plan. These 10 steps to SEO website audit success should be performed periodically and not just once a year or less. Things change in the SEO world frequently and what works today may not work tomorrow. Just remember to keep your content fresh and your methods fresher.