Creating content that engages and informs your target audience is critical and, by incorporating basic SEO tactics, you can amplify that value. In order to make sure your site benefits from ongoing optimization of content, conduct periodic SEO audits of your website; we recommend 2 – 4 times per year, depending on the amount of content and frequency of updates. This will not only prompt team members to contribute content regularly, but updating content optimization will ensure you’ve given the most important pages of your website the chance to shine in the search engine rankings.
1. Use Google Webmaster Tools – now called Search Console
I am still surprised that some companies don’t use some of the free tools available through Google. One of my all-time favorites is Google Webmaster Tools, rebranded as Search Console. It is a great place to find 404s or other issues.
I like to start an SEO audit by taking a look at a client’s Google Webmaster Tools account to see the number of URL errors. I start by checking out the Crawl errors and 404’s – “Not Found”. I drill into the most recent 404’s and see where they are back-linked from and determine if it’s internal or external. If it is external and there is good SEO juice we are missing, I try to find the former page and bring it back and if I can’t bring it back to life I permanently redirect it. The redirect won’t help SEO but will help relevant traffic find the page and it will be a better user experience for anyone clicking through a decent back-link.
I then move on to look at the number of pages indexed. Does this match the most recent version of the xml site map and recollection of page number? Does the trend line show an increase of pages indexed or show a decrease over time? Does this make sense? This is a good time to review (or create) the xml sitemap and submit it to Google Webmaster Tools. You can create the sitemap yourself or use a tool to generate one if your website doesn’t have too many pages.
I also like to use the data highlighting tool found in Google Webmaster Tools. This can bring some structure and organization to the client’s blog posts by identifying the title, date, author of the articles.
2. Crawl your website
Once I have fixed the 404’s and have a better understanding of the website through the Google Webmaster Tools account, I like to crawl the site using one of the crawling tools. For more information about a good tool to use, Screaming Frog in the UK has a good tool that costs $150 pounds per year or is free for the first 500 URLs. Set the crawlers to the correct User Agent in order to crawl like Google “User-agent: Googlebot”. You can also type “Site:yourwebsite.com” into the Search on Google and this tells you roughly the number of pages indexed, then check the difference between the xml site map and crawl information.
3. Pay Attention to Site Speed
Site speed is an important factor for the organic rank of your web pages. MOZ has some great articles on Page Speed and best practices. This MOZ article discusses research disproving the correlation between page rank and page load times but still makes the point that both front end and back end website performance matters. You can use Google Page Insights to understand what you need to address.
4. Check Your Google Analytics
There is a wealth of SEO information in Google Analytics to help you decide what is priority to work on. Check out the top organic landing pages and find out what organic landing pages are not ranking. For the keywords that aren’t working, type the keyword into Google and find out the top three organic URLs. Visit these URLs and look at their title tag, URL, H1, and content to check out how their site outranks your site. Take a look at all of the organic visits while you are in Google Analytics. There might be opportunities that are waiting to be enhanced. You might be getting the occasional organic visit that could be increased if you made a few changes and enhancements to the title tag or on page content.
5. Create a SEO Plan to Execute
The last bit of advice is to use an Excel file to create and manage your SEO plan. The plan should include all of the most important SEO pages. You should be tracking the home page, major category pages, subcategory pages, product detail pages, blog pages and any other important organic keyword pages. The file should have the URL, the Title Tag, the H1, Alt Text, Image Name, and all of the details so that an assistant or perhaps an intern could input the changes into your CMS. Here is my free SEO planning tool. Let me know how it works for you.