Because search engine optimization (SEO) best practices and procedures change all the time, business owners should conduct periodic assessments to determine whether or not adjustments need to be made. If a business website isn't properly optimized for search, it's most likely missing out on a significant amount of traffic from the search engines, including from potential customers.
To properly audit your site for SEO, carry out the following steps at least once or twice a year:
1. Check on-page tag optimization.
One of the easiest ways to quickly improve your website's SEO is through on-site changes. While it can take time to build high-quality backlinks, another hallmark of good SEO performance, on-site tweaks require just a few hours of effort.
Begin your SEO audit by asking the following questions. Identifying weaknesses in this area could provide an easy place to begin future website improvements:
- Are my title tags (headlines) written to appeal to both website visitors and search engine visitors, or are they "keyword stuffed"?
- Do my title tags contain relevant SEO keywords and brand mentions?
- Are my title tags no longer than 65 characters?
- Do my meta description tags (which display a preview explanation for a page in search results) provide interesting content that will appeal to viewers of search engine results?
- Does each page on my website contain a naturally written, keyword-rich <h2> tag (headings within posts)?
- Does each page on my website include high-quality, original content?
- Do my pages contain internal links to facilitate visitor and search engine robot movement throughout my site?
- Are my images optimized according to current SEO best practices?
2. Check for broken links or dead pages.
Avoid broken outbound links or links to internal "dead" pages that have since been deleted from your site. They can be detrimental to your site's SEO performance, so be sure to identify such problems.
If your website runs on a content management system (CMS) or an e-commerce platform, you may be able to install a tool that can check this automatically. For example, if your site runs on WordPress, installing the Broken Link Checker plugin can notify you whenever broken links are detected.
Alternatively, simply navigate to a site like BrokenLinkCheck.com and run the service's free link check to identify any issues on your site that need to be resolved.
3. Make sure your site can be indexed by the search engines.
Beyond making sure that broken links don't trip up the search engine robots while they're on your site, it's also important that these automated programs can access your site in the first place.
Any number of issues -- from improperly installed code files to hacked site content -- can prevent the search engines from reading your content correctly. To determine whether or not this is occurring on your site, head over to WebConf's free Search Engine Simulator and enter your site's URL. If you can see your content displaying correctly as text, the search engines can as well.
4. Examine your link profile and compare it to competitors.
Once you've finished with on-site elements, check the state of your site's backlink profile. The number and quality of links pointing at your site play a major role in your content's performance in search engine results.
To do this, use a link explorer tool like Majestic SEO (free version available, with paid plans starting at $49.99 per month) or the SEOMoz Open Site Explorer (free version available, with paid plans starting at $99 per month) to view a list of all the links pointing at your site. Pay particular attention to:
- The types of links that your site has received, such as directory links, press release links, social media links and more.
- Whether or not the sites sending you links are reputable.
- Whether or not the sites sending you links are related to your site's content.
Then, run this same assessment on your competitors' websites. This process could turn up backlink building opportunities for your future off-site SEO efforts, as well as uncover link-building patterns in your industry that you should be paying attention to.
5. Test your site's speed.
Examine your site's average speed and page load times, as Google has unequivocally stated that it intends to prioritize site speed as a ranking factor in its natural search algorithms.
To find out whether your site is fast, slow or somewhere in between, head over to Google's Page Insights tool and enter your URL. This tool will then analyze your site's load times and provide suggestions on making improvements. You can either make changes on your own or enlist the help of a developer if they require technical expertise.
These steps should give you a general overview on how well your website is performing from an SEO standpoint. If you go through the steps, make changes but still don't get the search results you'd like, consider working with an SEO expert to improve your site's natural search performance.
AJ Kumar is co-founder of Single Grain, a digital marketing agency based in San Francisco. Single Grain specializes in helping startups and larger companies with search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media and various other marketing strategies.