If you are an SEO expert working in SEO industry then you must have known Google gets more strict with its penalties for everything from obvious link spam to having too high of a ratio of ads to the content or duplicate page, content etc. Besides, there are more than 200 Google ranking factors to decide a website’s position in SERP. So performing a full website audit is very important from SEO’s perspective. In this article, I will discuss the process of a full website audit and how to do it.
What is Website Audit?
A website audit is a total analysis of all the features that decide your site’s visibility in search engines. It gives a complete insight into any website, its indexed pages, page errors, site speed, backlinks, social signals etc.
In SEO industry things change very quickly. What is working today may not work in 6 months from now. So it is very important to perform regular website audit to ensure that your website is up-to-date with the latest rules and regulations.
Importance of Website Audit
The purpose of a website audit is to help webmasters to understand and identify any flaws that might not have been picked up on their website. Here are some of the reasons why auditing a website is very important:
- Analyzing a website can give you insight into new detailed and strategic ideas.
- Identify the elements that are hampering your website’s performance.
- Give insight into your website’s traffic, ranking, bounce rates, and search percentages.
- Help you find HTML errors and resolve them.
- Check the file size of your website and optimize them.
- Look for broken links on your website.
- Help you find out the on-page and off-page SEO mistakes.
- Last but not the least improves the ranking of your website in SERP.
Procedure of a Full Website Audit
Auditing a website is not an easy task. Website audit need both your time and patience because you have to go through hundreds of web pages inspecting different elements. Here I will take you through a systematic website auditing process that will help you check a website very easily but effectively. So let’s start –
This is the first thing that you need to inspect while auditing a website. Check these elements for branding error:
Color: Make sure the color of the website matches and accentuates your company’s logo and corporate color palette. If you buy a website theme then change its color or create a custom color scheme.
Font Style: Different companies follow/use different typography. It helps them distinguish themselves from their competitor. So inspect your site and make sure it has used same font style and size consistently according to your branding standards.
Images and Videos: Check images and videos of your website and make sure they are unique and appropriate with your content. Use those images that best represent your brand, service and your industry.
Favicons: Favicon also known as shortcut icon is a 16X16 image. It helps users while they are reviewing bookmarks for a particular site or link. Check your website for favicons.
The tone of Voice: Ever company or person has their own/unique way of expressing their thoughts. So make sure your website has the right tone of voice throughout the website and stays in line with your branding standards.
Next part of website audit is the design of a site. Check these elements for design error:
Website Format: Check for consistent website formatting. Make sure navigation, headers, text, typography, hyperlinks etc. has the same format throughout the website.
Layout: Try to show the most important content according to the layout of your site. Make sure you place critical content above the fold and allow less important content to follow.
White Space: It’s very important to have enough white space on a website as it makes it much easier for users to segment and digest the information that is presented. Moreover, it also reduces the cognitive load of visitors.
Control the Bling: Many website owners like to have “sparkle” or “pop” at the cost of the user experience. So audit the website for this kind of error.
Content Organization: Organize content is very important for a website. Because it gives users a clear and consistent structure they can follow. So make sure every content flows from one block to another without overwhelming the visitor.
Call to Actions: Call to action buttons are one of the most important elements of the website, especially for an e-commerce site. It makes the visitors take the desired action, improve conversion rates etc. It’s wiser to plan for a CTA button early in the development process; so that it can be included in the design in an organized and non-obstructive manner.
We are done with design and moving to the next part is coding. Examine these elements for coding error:
Headers and Subheaders: Check every headers and sub-headers very carefully. Make sure the website has used H1 headers and H2-H6 sub headers properly. Note that you can only use one H1 header per page.
Use Canonical URL’s: This is a very important part of website audit. Canonicalization is a method of selecting the best URL from several choices for your website. Best practice is to set a preferred URL structure for the search engine.
Use a Sitemap.XML File: Check and see if your website has an XML sitemap. XML sitemaps help search engines discover new or updated pages and posts on your website. Make sure your XML sitemap is dynamic.
Robots.txt Files: Robots.txt is a text file that instructs search engine robots how to crawl pages on a website. Check the Robots.txt files and see if they are implemented correctly or there are any errors.
Avoid Frames: Using frames in a website is not a good practice as it can create different problems like support for older browsers, user navigation etc. Moreover, frames reduce search engine’s ability to crawl the page successfully.
Website Optimization: A well-optimized website is faster than other website and speed matters to users and search engines. Make sure your website code is light, images are minimized, and the cache is used where possible.
Use HTML5 and Schema: HTML5 is the new coding standard for websites; on the other hand, schema helps the search engine understand your website better. Check and see if your website supports and uses both of these. Trust me; it will enhance your website’s overall SEO value.
Usability or user experience is a very big part of websites and in this section, we will see how you can audit a website for usability-related errors.
Website Layout: Every website must have these sections: header, content, and footer. Moreover, check for sidebars or sections to the right or left of the content. If there are no sidebars then add sidebars where appropriate.
Website Navigation: Check for website navigation in the header section and it should contain the most important pages. Keep in mind that navigation options should be no more than three levels deep.
Spelling and Grammatical Errors: Check all content of your website for spelling and grammatical errors. Also, check if the content is properly edited and written in appropriate order and language.
Content-Length and Readability Level: If the content is large then make sure it is broken out by the appropriate use of sections or subheaders. Try to use a mix of paragraphs and bullets in content. Also, keep an eye on the readability level of the content. Make the content simple enough so that most of the target audience can understand it.
Check Browser Rendering: Does your website performs well across all major browsers and operating systems? Examine your website with cross-browser checking as many browsers render website differently.
Content is the life force of a website. So examine all content of a website very carefully for errors.
Quality: Provide high-quality content with substantial depth to make it worth reading. Do research on your topic and provide facts to support your words.
Consistency: There should be a consistency on the regular publishing of content. If you provide readers new content, they will return more frequently.
Relevance: Inspect all content and see if they are relevant to your website or niche. Mark all irrelevant post and remove them from your website.
Fresh and Engaging Content: Freshness of a website can boost ranking for certain search queries. Try to provide fresh and engaging content so that your readers will discuss and share them on social media.
Keywords play a very important role in the ranking of a website. Inspect these elements for keyword related errors:
Use Appropriately Targeted Keywords: Use keywords that has actual search volumes. Try to mix regular keywords with long tail keywords as it will provide the best mix of search traffic and SERP position.
Keywords per Page or Post: Because of organic SEO and website optimization, try to use no more than one or two keywords per page or post. Best practice is to focus on one keyword per web page/post.
Check with Keyword Terms: Keyword Stuffing, Keyword Density, Keyword Frequency, Keyword Prominence, Keyword Proximity are the five Important Keyword Terms that will give you a competitive edge. So make sure all content of your website follows the rules of these terms.
On-Page SEO is very important part of SEO. Check these elements for on-page SEO related errors:
Page Titles/Meta Titles: Every page of your website must have a title that effectively communicates the topic of the page’s content. Moreover, examine the page title and see if the title is in H1 header and the targeted keywords are into it. Remember Meta titles should be less than 55 characters.
Keyword in Page URL: Page URL that contains the keyword make the pages rank higher due to the inherent SEO value. Check all the URLs of your website and see if any URL misses the keywords.
Meta Descriptions: Although there is no SEO value of Meta description but a well optimized Meta description with targeted keywords can improve the CTR of your website. The meta description should be unique for every page/post and should be no more than 320 characters.
Image ALT Tag: Image ALT Tag is very important for image SEO. It helps search engines to index an image properly. Best practice is to use keywords as image ALT tag.
Google considers social signal as a good indicator for the website. So check your website and see if social media is integrated or not.
Incorporate Social Media into Your Website: Add your social profile in your website. Make sure people can effortlessly identify social icons and traditional sharing icons. So that visitors can easily and quickly share the page, post or content on social media networks.
Use Proper Social Accounts: There are a lot of choices when it comes to social media platforms. So make sure you use the right network for your audience. Here is some idea:
- SEO – YouTube, Google+
- Business to Business – LinkedIn, Twitter, Quora
- Business to Consumer – Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram
Be Active and Engaged: Social activity influences organic search so you must actively connect with others, communicate, and share third-party content. Try to share your content regularly and encourage others to do so as well.
Build Solid Reputation: Make a solid online reputation. Try to promptly address negative interactions. It will increase your reputation. Don’t ignore a negative comment as it can destroy your trustworthiness.
Google released new mobile-friendly ranking algorithm to give a boost to mobile-friendly pages in Google’s mobile search results. Check these elements for mobile optimization related errors:
Mobile Responsive Websites: It is very important to have a responsive website so that you can keep your desktop and mobile content on a single URL. It helps Google’s algorithms to assign the indexing properties to your content.
Dedicated Mobile Sites for Larger Website: If you have a large, complex website and struggling with the responsive approach then you should go for a separated website that specifically designed for mobile devices.
Device Rendering: Check your website for device rendering. Does it look good on tablets and smartphones? Is content and other resources on the website is easy to navigate? Check everything.
Selection of Images: Careful about the selection of images for your website. If you plan to use text in your image then consider a vertical image and avoid horizontal layouts. Because large horizontal images can be difficult to scale and read on a mobile device.
Avoid Flash: Check if you are using flash on your website as search engine find it very difficult to index a website that has flash. Moreover, most of the mobile devices don’t support flash.
Off-Page SEO helps your website become popular on the internet and improves the ranking of your website in SERP. Inspect these elements for off-page SEO related errors:
Number of Backlinks: Check your website and see how many backlinks your website has. Try to increase the backlinks number by applying white hat SEO methods.
Quality of Backlinks: 10 high-quality backlinks are more powerful than 100 spammy backlinks. Check the backlinks, their source, anchor text, source website’s spam score, everything.
Analyze Competitors Backlink: In website audit, it’s very important to analyze your competitor’s backlinks. From where they get backlinks, how they get backlinks, what anchor text they use etc.
Check Keywords Position: Keep an eye on every keyword that you have targeted for your website. Check their position regularly. Check how many of them indexed and ranked.
Check for Black Hat SEO Techniques
There are a lot of black hat SEO practices available. So inspect your website and see if there are any black hat methods implemented on your website.
Thin Content: Scan your website for low-quality pages with little or no unique content. Although there is no standard word count for a web page, many experts say a minimum of 700 words content is good from SEO’s perspective.
Duplicate Content: Google penalizes a website that has or uses duplicate content. So check your website carefully for duplicate content and remove them immediately if you find any.
Cloaking: It refers to a process where website displays different content to search engines and searchers. Google consider cloaking as a violation of their Webmaster Guidelines. Moreover, because of cloaking a website may get banned from a search engine.
Link Farms: Link farms are groups of websites that provide backlinks to a targeted web page. Their main purpose is to distort search engine results. Keep in mind, this method is a direct violation of Google’s policies and your website may get banned.
Excessive Ads: Having excessive ads on a website create a poor user experience. In addition ranking of these kinds of websites remain downgraded all the time.
Website Audit Tools
Above are the processes of a manual website audit. If you are running out of time or in harry then here is a list of some amazing tools that will audit your website with a blink of an eye. They are:
- Screaming Frog
- SE Ranking
- Google Search Console
- SEO Report Card
Now that you know what it takes to do a full website audit, it’s time to implement these methods on your website and identify the issues that drugging your website behind. Remember website audit isn’t just a one-off process that you conduct once in a blue moon, schedule audits for your website on a regular basis to keep your website up to date with Google updates.
Feel free to share your opinion or point out topics that I might have missed in this guide. I’ll be happy to take a look and add it to the article as soon as possible.