We all want our websites to rank higher on Google. If you are not on page one, you are missing out on the vast majority of clicks to your site.
The only way to get there is with a strong investment in your search engine optimization (SEO).
The first step to success in any SEO program is to conduct a website audit. A thorough audit will uncover factors that are preventing you from ranking well on search. You can then use these findings to strategically optimize your site and content to appear above your competitors.
This post breaks down the steps to conduct your own website audit. Following these steps will put you on the path towards driving more profitable traffic to your website.
How to Conduct a Website SEO Audit
A full website audit will assess your website’s health from an SEO standpoint. By learning where you can make improvements, you can refocus your efforts towards making sure you appear more often in search results.
1. Site Indexing – Assess Your Website’s Discoverability
The first step of any SEO Audit is to set up your sitemap so Google can easily index your website. The easier you make it for Google to navigate your site, the faster any updates you make to the site will be discovered.
You will need to check if your website has a sitemap index file, and if not, generate one. A sitemap helps Google easily understand where pages on your site live. It also allows you to give Google specific instructions for each page of your site, such as the ability to tell Google NOT to index specific pages you don’t want on search such as pages with duplicate content.
Many website platforms such as Squarespace will automatically generate one for you and update it when new content is pushed to your site. For WordPress, we recommend the free Yoast SEO plugin to generate your sitemap.
Here are resources from popular web-hosting platforms and tools to get you started:
- Yoast: What is an XML sitemap and why should you have one
- Squarespace: Your XML Sitemap
- Drupal: Installing and configuring XML Sitemap
The next step is to register your sitemap with Google via its Google Search Console tool. This tool allows you to see if there are any errors when Google is trying to index your website.
Once you set up your web domain and verify that you own it, visit the Sitemaps page in the Search Console menu. It could take a few days for data to start showing up in your Google Search Console profile.
2. Site Traffic – Who is Already Visiting, and How Do They Use Your Site?
Next, you need to ensure you are properly tracking visitors to your site with Google Analytics and look for any potential issues. This analytics platform provides you with powerful insights, allowing you to not only see how many visitors you get, but how they use and navigate your website.
After you set up your web domain, Google Analytics will provide you with a tracking ID and site code. This code needs to be set up on your website to track visitors.
You should now be able to see real-time site visitor data when you visit Google Analytics if the code was properly installed.
What Should I Be Looking at in Google Analytics for SEO?
At a basic level, you should be looking into not just how many users your website gets, but if they find your site interesting enough to stay on site and visit more than one page. Google ranks pages higher if users who visit them stay long enough to have received true value.
On your site overview, you will see data for your website as a whole, by default over the last 7 days. On every Google Analytics report, you can adjust the time range you want to view data for.
The overview page shows you these important metrics for your website as a whole:
- Users: How many unique visitors came to your site
- Sessions: How many times your site was accessed. This number will usually be higher than Users as it takes into account multiple views by one person.
- Bounce Rate: The percent of people who leave your website without visiting another page.
- Session Duration: The average amount of time users spend on your website before leaving.
For SEO, you will want to make sure you look specifically at Organic Traffic to see who finds you via search.
In the Acquisition Reports section, you can see how much of your traffic comes from Organic vs. other channels. You can also link up your Search Console profile to Google Analytics to see what search queries resulted in clicks to your website.
The Behavior Reports section allows you to see which pages are being viewed most often and if they are being accessed via search engines.
By accessing the Site Content section, you can see which pages on your site are the most visited. To view only Organic traffic, you can set the secondary dimension to Acquisition > Source/Medium and view all of the google / organic results.
You can learn a lot from these reports. Low organic traffic in general likely means that your site needs to be further optimized for technical SEO.
If certain topics are drawing more traffic, you can determine if you should be producing more content on that theme to boost your overall rank. If the bounce rate is high on your popular pages, you might want to look into click-rate optimization to get users to visit your product or services pages.
On the other hand, pages on topics that you want to rank for but are doing poorly might need some stronger on-page optimization for SEO, which we discuss below.
3. Inbound Links – Who is Linking to You and Why it is Important
One of the main ways search engines assess the authority of a website is by how many inbound links you get from other reputable websites. All else being equal, a website that has a lot of backlinks will rank more highly on search.
If you are serious about boosting your ranking in Google, you need to earn more backlinks. To do so, you will need to develop a systemic strategy of acquiring those backlinks.
Ahrefs is a paid SEO tool that offers a free backlink checker. Enter your website URL and it will provide you with the top 100 backlinks to your site. This information will help you determine which of your webpages have authority, and also identify targets similar to the ones who already link to you for backlinking opportunities.
It should be noted that links from sites like Wikipedia, directories, forums or social media are usually considered “nofollow” links. These sites can also provide value in traffic but have a minimal impact on ranking.
Also, be wary of any services that promise you quick backlinks or web traffic. These days it is very easy for Google to penalize your ranking when they detect any shady web activity bringing artificial traffic or links to your website.
4. Website User Experience – Identifying Slow Loading and Mobile Page Issues
Another major consideration for Google ranking are factors that the algorithm views as integral to a user’s browsing experience: website loading speed and mobile optimized pages. Both are very important in 2019.
Google has a tool you can use to test your website loading speed called PageSpeed Insights. Enter your URL and the tool will generate a score out of 100 both for the desktop and mobile versions of your site. It provides you with specific fixes you can make to help increase your scores.
Google also has a Mobile-Friendly Test tool that will determine if your site is optimized for mobile. If it discovers problems, you should consider changing your website design to be more mobile-friendly.
5. On-page Optimization For SEO – Some Best Practices
From a technical SEO standpoint, Google and other search engines like to see certain factors on your webpages. Ensuring you optimize all of your pages for SEO makes it much more likely you will rank higher.
Heading Tag Structure
Using your H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, and H6 tags appropriately helps search engines understand the importance of page sections and also help users with accessibility needs. Many people construct their pages using the heading tags purely for font-size and weight, but this can lead to trouble when trying to rank.
Think of your heading tags as if they were a table of contents. The text in your H1 is a primary indicator to search engines of what your page is about.
Each topic subheading below an H1 is an H2, and any additional subheading within a topic should be one level down.
When you write a webpage you need to consider keywords and keyphrases you would like to rank for. These need to be strategically used throughout your website and on blog posts in order for search engines to directly associate your page with that topic.
Conducting keyword research will help you discover opportunities to rank with different related keywords.
Keywords need to be strategically placed within the page title, headings, URL and body copy. However, Google is smart enough to determine if you are trying to rank by overstuffing your content with keywords, and as a result, you can be penalized.
Need to Go Deeper? Consult With Ex-Google SEO Pros
The research, remediation, content production and optimization required in any SEO program is time-consuming. What we have gone through in this post just scratches the surface of how to optimize your search presence.
A well-executed SEO program will help you rank above your competition on Google and drive sustainable and profitable traffic to your website. At Pedestal we utilize our 4-stage LIFT SEO program that has translated into marketing success for our clients.
Our SEO System has generated 600% – 1000% ROI on many of our clients’ investments in only 6-months.
To start a conversation with us on how we can LIFT your business higher on search, contact us today.