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So you’re thinking about having an SEO audit performed on your site, but you’re not sure what to look for to ensure you’re getting your money’s worth. Every SEO company does audits a bit differently. Some will simply run your website through software that spits out a standard report, while others will take a deeper dive into that data and give you an unparalleled look into your site’s performance, structure, and authority.
The level of detail generally varies depending on what a website auditor charges for his or her services, but at a minimum, you should never trust an SEO audit that does not highlight these eight critical components of your website:
If you are unfamiliar this term, this is the file that is used to prevent search engine crawlers from crawling and indexing pages on your website that you want hidden from public view. Typically, you want to prevent your administration pages and any conversion triggered pages from being accessible to the general public, so that you do not have any unauthorized access to your site or any false positive conversions.
Now this may seem fairly obvious to include on any site, but millions of websites do not have robots.txt files today. A thorough technical SEO audit will first identify whether you have a robots.txt file and then review its contents to ensure that it is formatted properly.
An incorrectly formatted robots.txt file can actually be far more damaging to your site than having no robots.txt file at all. Our SEO auditors have discovered robots.txt files in site audits that were preventing search engine crawlers from indexing all pages except the homepage…making it easy to discover why this particular client wasn’t getting many organic visits to their site!
2. Site Errors
Site errors can have a devastating impact on your website’s performance. If you think of your website like a house, the code of your website is like the foundation and site errors are cracks in that foundation. They send signals to search engines that your site is not trustworthy and thus not worthy of being a premium listing spot.
Common site errors include:
- 4XX Errors
- Duplicate Page Content
- Duplicate Page Titles
- Missing Title Tags
- Crawler Blocked by Robots.txt
3. Indexed Status
Determining the indexing status of a website can be accomplished in two ways. Ideally, your auditing company will set your website up in Google Webmaster Tools to get a comprehensive overview of your site’s indexing status. You want your report to show that the number of pages crawled is relatively equal to the number of pages indexed. If this number is significantly different, your website audit should address the cause of this issue and identify solutions.
If your site is not set up through Google Webmaster Tools, your website auditor should at least do a manual search to see how many pages are indexed on the major search engines. This number should be relatively equal to the number of pages in your site’s sitemap.
An SEO audit should analyze your website’s sitemap to ensure that it follows proper sitemap protocol. Your XML sitemap is a list of all the pages on a website that you want a search engine to index (not to be confused with the robots.txt which tells a search engine which pages not to index).
5. Page Speed
Users are impatient, and search engines know this. This is why search engines introduced instant search results and suggested searches. Even a fraction of a second can impact conversion rate. Search engine providers have vast amounts of data to confirm this and have thus made site speed a factor in how well your website ranks.
An SEO audit should, at a minimum, include an average page load speed for you site. Ideally, you will want an audit to break down your site load speed down by element. This will allow you to better see where improvements can be made.
6. Meta Elements
Duplicate title tags, meta descriptions, and site content can all negatively impact your site’s search engine rankings and click-through-rate. All title tags should be unique with relevant keywords and ideally 70 characters or less. Many websites are built on platforms that automatically generate title tags that are vague or duplicated across the website. Duplicated title tags and site content can negatively impact your search engine rankings by making pages within your website compete against each other.
If you are auditing your website, or having your website audited, this is a vital component that should be included. It should discuss the length of these elements, keyword usage, whether they are unique, and structure.
7. External Links
External links are an indicator search engines use to determine how popular your site is—thus influencing its ranking. Each link to your site essentially serves as an endorsement from the linking site. Getting as many external links are you could was once a great way to catapult your website to the top of search engine rankings in a short period of time, but with search engines now not only analyzing how many links you have, but also the quality of those links, this tactic can now be detrimental to your rankings.
Any thorough SEO audit should give an analysis of both the number of links to your website and the type of links you have.
8. Action Plan
Finally, an audit should conclude with a clearly defined plan-of-action. Simply having a report compiled with no plan to implement necessary changes provides little value to your company. This action plan should be prioritized by level of importance and clearly explain what must be done to correct any issues your site may have—ensuring that you are getting maximum benefit as quickly as possible. Too often, companies focus on problem areas that have relatively little impact on search rankings while ignoring more significant problems simply because priority levels are not clearly defined in their SEO audits.
Do You Need an SEO Audit?
An SEO audit is the most effective way to ensure that you have a clearly defined online marketing plan.
If you want to see how your website stacks up contact us today. Our team of SEO professionals will give your website a thorough analysis with all of this information and more!
About The Author: Hannah is the SEO Team Lead at Blue Corona. If she's not busy daydreaming about the training session for her team, you can find her improving client conversion rates and planning her next trip.
View more blogs by Hannah Nelson