The first thing an SEO should do when given a new project is to conduct an SEO site audit.
A SEO site audit is a critical first step that SEOs must undertake to understand the state of SEO.
There are two basic options:
- A quick hit site audit where you go through the top level diagnosis with the site in a few hours.
- An exhaustive site audit that can take days.
If you choose perform the exhaustive site audit, there are three critical areas to keep in mind. They are:
- On-page SEO audit
- Technical site audit
- Link audit
An on-page SEO audit will begin with obvious points, such as the title and meta description tags. Depending on your website this can get a pretty exhaustive document, so you're better served by creating an Excel sheet with your pages or site categories in rows and then each element of on-page SEO as your header.
Let's start by looking at few important elements of on-page SEO, why they're important, and tips on what you should look out for during your audit.
The purpose of a title tag is to make each page unique in terms of the page’s content. Since each page on your site should be unique, you need to have unique title tags for each page.
Title tags also carry huge weight in terms of how you rank, so try to spend as much time as possible on writing great title tags. A title tag should include keywords relevant to the page content.
For example, a website that sells shoes online has a page about men’s athletic shoes. The title tag might be written in the following format:
Mens Athletic Shoes: Brand name Athletic Shoes for Men at [company name]
The above example uses variations of the same keyword to account for keyword searches.
Also, the company name appears at the end of the title. This is critical because many sites use their prime title tag real estate (the beginning) with their company name.
However well-known your company and its brand may be, always use a popular keyword instead of your company name at the beginning of your title tag. Ideally, you may want to limit your title tag to be 40-69 characters at most.
The meta description tag should be written like how you would for PPC ad copy. Just as good ad copy on PPC campaigns will increase your CTRs, a good meta description will increase your click-through rate (CTR) on organic search.
Make sure to describe what your page content is about, benefit or value to readers, and then a good call to action. Ensure that you spend some time writing your meta description. As a rule of thumb keep your meta description tags under 200 characters.
Missing Title Tags
In addition to writing unique title tags, keep a list in your Excel sheet on pages that are missing title tags or title tags with just your company name on it.
There are a lot of SEO software options available, but a good free option is Google’s Webmaster Tools. Go to the Optimization menu and then click on HTML improvements. There you will see many suggestions and among those are suggestions related with title tags.
Duplicate Title Tags
In Google Webmaster Tools under the same HTML improvements menu, there is a quick way to look at all your duplicate title tags on your site. Again, auditing duplicate title tags and writing unique title for each page can be a good win. These are on-page SEO factors that are low hanging fruits in nature but provide you with maximum bang for your effort.
Missing Alt tags
Besides having benefits like making your site disabilities compliant, alt tags are an important on-page SEO audit element. They play a big part in optimizing your images as these tags are picked up by engines when including your images as part of image search.
Audit your site well and see if alt tags are missing from your images or they have been incorrectly described.
Missing Image Names
Naming your images correctly plays a big part in image optimization. Make sure that images are named correctly when doing your auditing.
One common mistake companies make is when naming their company logo. Designers tend to name the logo as logo.jpg. Instead add your company name as part of the image name like [company name]-logo.jpg.
If you have products on your site then ensure that you are using accurate keyword to describe that product.
Image optimization can be one of those low-hanging fruits when conducting your on-page SEO audit but can drive good amount of traffic through image searches.
Header tags tell the search engines that this is the headline of your page. While auditing your site look out for H tags – if you’re missing any, or you have too many. Ideally, your main headline should be in H1 and then maybe sub-headings in H2.
Keyword Mapping and Cannibalization
One thing that an on-page SEO audit should uncover are multiple uses of same keyword on different pages on the site. This is not optimal because you're:
- Confusing the search engines as to which page should rank for the keyword in question and as such letting the engines decide.
- Missing an opportunity to increase the number of keywords you're optimizing your site against.
A good keyword to page mapping strategy can help resolve this and it should be a critical part of your on-page SEO audit.
There is no rule that says you must have a minimum number of words on your page. But always keep in mind that you should be describing your content well and your visitors should easily understand what your page is about and what message you are trying to convey.
Think of it as writing good marketing copy. If you can convey your message in 50 or 100 or 200 words then that should be your on-page copy. Perform some guerilla usability and test your copy based on the results.
Depending on your objectives you can do a quick top level on-page auditing or create an exhaustive list of on-page SEO audit to build your recommendations on.
In any case, as easy as on-page SEO auditing sounds, the devil is in the details. Most of the time, on-page SEO factors are easy to fix, as compared to more technical server side SEO, and as a result can provide maximum bang for your buck.
My next article we look at technical SEO auditing factors and how they should also be a part of your overall SEO audit.
As always, we would love to hear your thoughts and what other on-page SEO audit elements you may have included as part of your auditing list.