An SEO audit is vital for uncovering SEO issues and to verify if your website has all relevant SEO elements in place. I generally undertake a SEO site audit for my clients every 2 months, just to make sure there is no SEO risk to the business. Site Audits are crucial for SEO health and can help you quickly fix SEO issues which, if left unattended, might lead to serious consequences.
For this SEO audit, we will be using the Google Search console, which is free. If you haven’t set up a search console, you need to do it on a priority. Without the search console, you are essentially flying blind in the land of SEO. Although there are a huge number of third party tools which can help in your website audit, search console should be your focus, because it is your window to what GoogleBot sees on your website.
The search console shows you a key stat for your website which many webmasters are unaware of. This is a simple but crucial stat and it is important to monitor it. You can find it under Google Index > index status.
This shows the number of pages Google has indexed for your website. If your index count is similar to the number of pages you have on your website, then all is good. If your index count is lower than the number of pages on your site, that means Google hasn’t indexed all your pages and there might an issue with your URL structure, sitemap etc. If the index count is higher, you have index bloat, meaning lot of useless/duplicate pages are being indexed and diluting your website authority.
In the above example, you can see a sudden dip in the index on Sep, 2017. This is where a number of pages of client’s website had been deindexed because a section of the website was mistaken redirected to the homepage. It’s a big SEO red flag, and since I check my client’s index every day, we were able to fix this fairly quickly, and the index returned to normal.
Also, if there is a sudden increase in the index count and you haven’t created lots of new pages, that indicates there is an issue with your website and it is either generating lot of useless/duplicate pages or your website is hacked. In a nutshell, a sudden increase or decrease in index count is sign of SEO issues which need to be fixed quickly.
Use this site search function to check what pages are included in the Google index. Go to google.com, then in the search box type
Google will show you a list of pages which has indexed for your website. You can troubleshoot from here. If your index count is higher or lower and see what pages are missing or what pages should not be on the index.
We are living in the mobile first world. Google is rapidly shifting websites onto mobile first index and mobile has become a critical factor in rankings, so much so that your websites should be built for Mobiles rather than desktops. You have to make sure your website is ready for mobile, otherwise your rankings will suffer.
Your website might look great on a mobile device, but does Google think it is mobile friendly? You can run a simple test to find this out using Google’s own mobile friendly tool. If you website is not mobile friendly, it will affect your rankings. Make sure you check a couple of pages of your website to make sure they are mobile friendly. In case the test results indicate that your website is not mobile friendly, you can implement some of Google guidelines below-
Pro Tip – Also check the mobile usability section in your search console. This will show you specific pages which have mobile issues, which needs to be fixed.
Google introduced the speed algorithm in July, 2018, which uses speed as a ranking factor for mobile devices. Speed was already a ranking factor for desktop. Needless to say, Speed is an important SEO and UX factor. Your page load up speed has direct effects on your rankings and traffic. It also has indirect SEO effect. Slow speed means more bounces and less engagement, which will effect your rankings. In the mobile first world, speed is crucial for SEO.
Use Google page speed insights- https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/
This will give you an optimization score and common speed bottlenecks. I would aim for a 85+ score. If you are in the nineties that is great though. You might have to hire a developer to fix certain speed issue though. Also do make sure your hosting is fast.
Use Google’s mobile speed tester – https://testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com/
This tool shows you how fast your site loads up, and how to optimize it further for speed. Google recommends a loadup speed of 3s or less.
If you have Google analytics installed, you can check the site speed for all your pages, with various breakdown. This is very useful for troubleshooting page level issues, like login pages, checkouts etc. in Google Analytics, go to Behaviors Tab on the left and then go to site speed.
Make sure your sitemap is updated regularly and it reflects the URLS you want Google to crawl. Sitemap helps Googlebot easily crawl and index your website.
Your Sitemap will generally be found here – www.yoursite.com/sitemap.xml
In Google Search console, go to Crawl and then sitemaps. If there are any errors with your sitemap, they will show up here. It is a good idea to keep your sitemaps free of err
Not all broken links are bad for SEO. But if the page is an important services or product page, it might affect both SEO and UX. Try and fix as many 404 you can. They are vital for UX and if they are important pages, can affect your SEO as well.
Search console gives you a list of 404 pages under Crawl>crawl Errors. Use this report to fix the broken links.
If you click the individual 404 link in your search console, it will display a pop up with details of where Googlebot found the 404 page. It is very nifty feature and helps you find pages where the broken links originate from.
Make sure there are no duplicates or missing Title Tags. Title tags are vital for relevant ranking signals and also help in your Click through rates.
In search console go to search appearance->HTML improvements. You can find a list of pages which have duplicate or missing Title Tags.
Same as with the Title tags, make sure all meta description tags are unique and each important page has a meta description. Meta description has no direct SEO implication, but they are crucial for click through rates, which indirectly affects your rankings. In search console go to search appearance->HTML improvements. You can find a list of pages which have duplicate or missing meta description Tags.
Fetch and Render
How does Googlebot see your page? Is it able to crawl the entire page without any errors? Search console gives you a great tool to check that. If Google cannot see certain sections of your content, then your rankings might be affected. Go to search console and under crawl- fetch as Google. Use this feature to see how Googlebot renders your page
Use both fetch and render to see how the page was fetched and how it was renders. Then use this for both desktop and mobile agent. You might be surprised to see that your desktop version is rendered fine, bit your mobile has issues or visa versa.
As you can see, SEO audit can give you a wealth of information regarding what needs to be optimized on your website for better rankings and traffic.