How To Do My First SEO Audit
You have a website for your business, and you recently heard about SEO and how it can help you attract more customers, but you’re not a very technical person, and you have no idea where to start. So, how about we help you get through your first SEO analysis?
To achieve this, we’ll do a high-level audit – sort of like taking your SEO pulse. We’re only going to take a look at your home page and get a general idea of where your site stands. It doesn’t require any technical knowledge.
From there, you’ll have a better idea of what you should do next.
But first, what is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a series of best-practice guidelines to follow that make your website easier to index for search engines.
In simplistic terms, you’re describing your website for search bots (also known as crawlers) and how it can be relevant to the billions of search queries performed every day. A search bot is a computer program that periodically sniffs through your website and extracts bits and pieces of information to understand your content – by using SEO, you’re helping it.
Why is it important?
About 53%(1) of all traffic coming to your website will be from an organic (unpaid) search. Meaning, someone types a query in a search engine, gets a SERP in return, and clicks on an organic result (the ones without “Ad” next to them). A SERP is a Search Engine Result Page and contains a mixture of paid-for and organic results. The paid-for ones usually show at the top or bottom of the results page. You optimize your site for SEO when you want it to rank higher on those results pages.
What does my SERP snippet look like?
The organic SERP snippet, at its base, looks like this:
It’s composed of your URL, a title, and a description. The information for this comes from your website back-end – more specifically from your meta information. Meta tags are hidden from your users but pass in details about your website every time it loads. Your title and description tags will look like this:
<meta name=”description” content=”Your description”>
A part of your title usually shows up in your browser tabs.
There is an art to writing good titles and descriptions. The title should only be around 60 characters long, and the description should be limited to about 150 characters.
We won’t get too technical in this article, but you can find many good blog posts on the subject with just a simple search. But keep in mind that the title is an essential part of Google’s ranking mechanism, so your title should reflect the content on your page.
How does it relate to SEM?
At its most basic level, SEM (Search Engine Marketing) and SEO are very similar. SEM is the one you pay for and is displayed at the top (and sometimes bottom) of the result page.
Which one should I use?
During your website’s lifecycle, you’ll most likely use a combination of both tactics – each has its function.
For example, let’s say that you’re brewing the best beer in the world, and you have a page dedicated to it in your online store. It might, in fact, be the best beer in the world, but if nobody knows it exists, you won’t sell a lot (let’s leave traditional marketing out for this exercise).
Over time, if you optimize your page with SEO best practices, your page will start showing in the search queries for, let’s say, “best beer in the world.”
SEO works best for static pages, the ones that are more about your branding.
On the other hand, let’s pretend that you have an Octoberfest sale coming up in a few weeks. Then, you might use SEM to promote it because it can appear in searches in a matter of hours. On the other hand, SEO can take several months to rank correctly, and when your promotion is over, the information indexed might be irrelevant.
SEM is for short turnarounds; SEO is for the long term.
Another way to look at it, SEO is a cargo container, and SEM is a speed boat. When it’s on a straight route in the open sea, the cargo container will deliver the most goods for the long voyage. But if you need to do a quick u-turn and drop off a few items without stopping the big boat, the speedboat will be your best solution.
Each has its function.
What about Social Media?
Social media has an indirect impact on your SERP ranking because it creates backlinks. A backlink is when another website points to yours and is an important ranking factor.
What you are looking for in this case are quality backlinks. For example, you post something about brewing on your social media channels, and a prestigious beer publication sees it and subsequently links to it on one of its own pages – this improves your ranking.
But if you pay to have your link added to an unrelated website, you’ll most likely be penalized for it.
Backlinks are built over time, so don’t try to take shortcuts because Google’s algorithm will detect them. Except for a few cases, you should never pay for backlinks – it will most likely affect your ranking negatively. An exception would be something like listings on your local tourism board’s website.
Let’s audit your home page.
To take your website’s SEO pulse, we are going to analyze three things.
- Is the site mobile-ready?
- Is the website fast enough?
- Does the site have SEO elements?
First, let’s make sure your site is mobile-ready. The Google bots are accessing your site as if they were a mobile phone. If your website is not optimized for it, you will be penalized. It’s also good to note that over 40% of Canadian users (2) will be using a mobile phone to access your site – and that trend is rapidly going up. Worldwide, it’s about 55% (3).
Go to this link to assess your website for mobile: search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly
If the analysis returns “Page is mobile-friendly” then we are good. Any other message will mean that your search results will be affected.
The next audit will be a speed test. Search engines don’t like slow sites, and you will be penalized for it: developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/
If your score is under 70 %, it means there is room for improvement. A score under 50 % means your SERP ranking will most likely be affected.
The last audit will check your page for SEO elements specifically. We won’t dive into all the elements returned with this test but focus on the overall score: www.seobility.net/en/seocheck
The same scoring logic applies here; under 70% means room for improvement, and under 50% means your ranking will most likely be affected.
You can repeat the audits for a few more pages to see if it stays within the same margin. You can also repeat the tests for your competition and see where they stand – it might help you decide if you need to invest in SEO or not.
So, how about the results?
Green is when your mobile audit result is “Page is mobile-friendly.” The scoring percentage is an average of audits two and three.
- Green + over 90%
- Your site is fully optimized for SEO, and there isn’t much you can do to improve its quality at this level. Good job!
- Green + 80 – 90%
- Very good! We probably still have room for some improvement – especially if your business relies heavily on your website (like an online store) – but you are in a good position.
- Green + 70 – 80%:
- This is good, but you can probably improve your ranking by applying basic SEO best practices.
- Green + 50% – 70%
- You should consider having someone review your site to get a more detailed breakdown of where your site needs improvement.
Your site is difficult to navigate for search bots, but most importantly, for your users. Your SEO ranking will definitely be impacted. As mentioned above, you should consider having someone review your website.
OK, what do I do now?
If your score is less than 80%, you should consider a consultation with an SEO specialist. In the end, this will save you a lot of time.
This process might be easier than you think if you’re using a content management system like WordPress, as there are many good SEO plugins in the ecosystem. They are time savers.
At the end of the day, you’ll need to decide how vital SEO is for you. Is it crucial for your business? Are you missing out on sales? Is your competition ahead of you in search results? If you are like many businesses, SEO will matter to you – so you should budget for it.
You need to keep in mind that SEO takes time to settle in and that there are no certainties. If someone guarantees you a first position, that person is lying. There are no guarantees in SEO.
By following the many SEO best practices, and after some time, you should start seeing positive results.
In the end, if you are willing to be fully involved in the process, you will find many good articles online to guide you, but if you are not a technical person or simply don’t have time to work on it, you should find someone or a business to help you improve your SEO – someone like your friendly neighbourhood marketing agency.
Data & Search Manager
(1) Organic search market share: https://videos.brightedge.com/research-report/BrightEdge_ChannelReport2019_FINAL.pdf
(2) Mobile market share Canada: https://gs.statcounter.com/platform-market-share/desktop-mobile-tablet/canada
(3) Mobile market share global: https://gs.statcounter.com/platform-market-share/desktop-mobile-tablet/worldwide