If you start to see a decrease in traffic or are experiencing a traffic plateau, it’s time to do some investigation in the form of an SEO audit.
And to keep up with the fast pace of the web, completing SEO audits regularly is important even if you aren’t experiencing issues.
But just running your site through an auditing tool is only a small part of a real SEO audit. If you really want to improve your site not only for those search engine bots but your user too, then pay attention to this common-sense audit.
You will get the opportunity to:
- Find and then fix any technical issues
- Improve your sites user experience
- Create a content strategy your users will love
All of which results in higher volumes of organic traffic visiting your site and increasing your revenue.
And the good news is… it’s actually really easy to carry out.
Let’s go through the steps you need to take and I will show you exactly what that looked like for my website as we go.
Stage 1 – What Do Your Visitors Think?
The first step is about taking off your SEO hat and finding out what your visitors like about your site and what frustrates them.
As I mentioned earlier, auditing your site isn’t just about fixing technical problems, it’s also about improving your site to create a better user experience for your audience.
And it is so easy to get this information…
Create a reader survey or just get on social media and ask some simple questions.
I asked my readers:
- What content do you want to learn about?
- How would you like to consume that content?
- What do you like (or dislike) about my current site?
You will probably be surprised by what you hear when you stop and listen to your followers.
I had a very long list of feedback with things like…
- Lots of free information
- Real-life case studies
- Video tutorials
- Transparency and brutal honesty
- Low frequency of articles
- Hard to find and refer back to tutorials
- Design looks dated
- Some content is out of date
You need to swallow your pride (I know I had too) and take all feedback on board. But don’t do anything with it just yet, the next stage is important.
Stage 2 – Manually Observe All Feedback
Now it is time to not just review but experience each point of feedback from the list you collected in stage one.
Work through the list putting yourself in the shoes of someone visiting your site.
You can then identify what problems are actually causing a negative experience and what works well. You’ll probably find yourself adding things to the list yourself.
I found that my blog had really become outdated and needed a lot of structure work done. It certainly wasn’t the attractive, sleek site I had pictured in my head.
From this exercise, you will be able to finalise a list of issues to work on. But it’s not time to start yet.
And if you are wondering where this fits in with SEO… well, search engines are becoming more and more focused on user experience so if your site is sending out positive user experience signals you are certainly gonna improve your chances of ranking well in the SERPs.
Stage 3 – A Few Technical Spot Checks
Next up we are going to look at some of the most common issues that affect struggling sites.
All can be carried out very simply and you can record any results as a benchmark and to make tracking easy with this handy spreadsheet. (You will find it on my full SEO audit case study)
Start by collect 5 URLs from your site. Always use your homepage, a generic category page and then the heaviest page (highest word count and multimedia). Also pick a couple of extra pages at random.
1: Mobile indexing
Ensuring your site is mobile-friendly is vital. If it isn’t then you’ll struggle to reach page one in the SERPs.
Use Google’s mobile-friendly test to find out. Enter your homepage and run the test. Mine passed and hopefully yours does too:
2: Page Speed (Mobile vs Desktop)
Website speed is a massive focus for search engines, so much so that they made it an official ranking factor.
Your site is considered slow if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.
Every second counts!
With Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool you can gauge whether you have got work to do. Do this for both mobile and desktop.
My mobile results were disappointing:
3: Page Speed (Individual Pages)
Now you need to test each of your 5 URLs.
I recommend using GTMetrix to get accurate results and if you decided to use my spreadsheet you can record the results in there.
My results weren’t great…
4: Check Your Sites Structured Data
Structured data isn’t a direct ranking factor but it does make your page easier to understand keywords and crawl so you can consider it an indirect ranking factor.
You can make your SERP result more attractive by organising and displaying data like:
- Opening hours
- Telephone numbers
So as part of this audit, you should check your structured data and see if it causing any issues on your site.
And Google has just the tool for the job – Structured data testing. Enter in each of your URLs to see if you have any issues.
If any pages look like this:
Then you’ve got some problems to fix.
Stage 4 – Use An SEO Audit Tool
Now for the easy part… scan your site with an SEO audit tool of your choice.
I would recommend:
An SEO expert may prefer an advanced tool as opposed to someone who is starting out. Choosing is a tool is in your jurisdiction but I have full tutorials which demonstrate how to complete this for each tool. Essentially you just need to run your website through one (or more) of the tools and make a note of the problems highlighted.
Stage 5 – Build A Smart Plan Of Attack
Building a smart plan of attack is crucial if you want to execute this in the timeliest and cost-effective way. You are going to bring everything you have learnt from all the previous stages together.
This stage doesn’t need over complicating…
Simply rank each point on your list in order of importance. I recommend you prioritise the jobs by what is going to make your visitors the happiest.
After suffering a steady decline in traffic I carried out this audit and was able to increase traffic by 45% compared to the worst month!
I was ranking my website better than ever before.
After listening to the feedback from my audience and running my site through various tools I needed to carry out some pretty intensive work on my site including:
- Auditing and refreshing all my content
- Re-designing my homepage
- Improving site navigation
- Improving site speed
- Getting all the technical SEO issues fixed
Your action plan will look different to mine depending on the set of issues your site is facing however the important thing is to get this audit carried out and create a plan of attack to get these problems fixed and use what you have learnt to work smarter going forward.
This is a guest post by an amazing SEO expert, Matthew Woodward. He is an established SEO and marketing guru who started his blog with the aim of helping anyone with an online business. Since 2012 he has helped thousands of people achieve their goals and the blog has picked up 8 awards. Check him out:
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