Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a crucial component for most companies as they look to grow their company. However, if you’re running a company, understanding the nitty-gritty realities of SEO is a daunting task. The field is full of jargon, proprietary tools, endless numbers, and intangible concepts that influence the final result.
Furthermore, trusting a digital agency (or even an internal team) can be hard. With SEO moving at a glacial pace, how can you be sure that the work they’re doing is setting you up for success?
Even if you aren’t currently using an SEO platform to track your site’s performance, there are ways to assess if your site is set up properly for organic traffic. Don’t be swindled by companies dealing in modern day snake oil, if you have 15 minutes, you can find out if the SEO basics are covered on your website:
Steps for an SEO Site Audit in 15 Minutes
Robots.txt (2 Minutes)
The file SEOs refer to as robots.txt is a technical SEO component that acts as a quick benchmark on good (or bad) SEO work. This file is a public facing webpage that acts as a guide to help search engines to most efficiently crawl your site. To check if your site has a robots.txt file, simply type “/robots.txt” after your domain. For example: http://www.forthea.com/robots.txt. This will show pages that have been blocked from the search engines as it crawls your site. While there are plenty of advanced uses for this file, for the purposes of this audit, what you can check is simple.
What to look for:
- Does it exist? It should.
- Is it blocking key parts of your site? If a line starts with “Disallow: …” then Google isn’t viewing any page that match that command. We’ve seen some robots.txt files that accidentally block the entire site from being indexed (this is worst case scenario). If your robots file looks like the image below, your site is disallowed, and you probably aren’t getting any organic visitors.
Meta Tags (7 Minutes)
The term meta tag is often thrown around without context. Put simply, when SEOs refer to tags, we’re talking about things like page titles, subtitles, and descriptions. These are critical ways for a page to tell search engines what’s important. Let’s start with the two primary tags: meta title and meta description.
When a user is on your page, they won’t see these pieces of information, but it is how Google determines what will display on a search engine results page (SERP). The first sign of a neglected site is missing or duplicate information in these vital meta fields. Here’s an example of what an optimized vs non-optimized meta information looks like in Google. It’s vital to use that space to communicate with users. Write a title that both tells users what the page is about, and entices them to click to learn something further.
You can also use tools such as Screaming Frog and SEM Rush to check this information. Missing title tags is a great way to get penalized by Google. Missing titles can be tracked with tools such as Google’s Webmaster Tools Optimization menu. If you’re looking to The HTML improvements section can greatly aid in title tag ideas.
To see if meta description tags and meta title tags are optimized, enter your site domain into Screaming Frog, a free tool that allows you to see things such as header tags, links, meta titles and descriptions.
What to look for:
- Is data missing? If most of your pages are missing Title and Meta Description information, something’s wrong. This should be the first thing addressed on an SEO optimized website.
- Are things duplicated? Unless you’re operating an e-commerce site with thousands of pages, every page should have unique information. This is how Google begins to understand where to best send inquiring users. If every page has the same information, you’ll end up with traffic directed to the homepage.
There are dozens of ways to use the information found in a tool like Screaming Frog, so for a deeper understanding, visit our advanced guide.
Site Speed (3 Minutes)
Site speed is a critical performance factor, especially with the increasing volume of mobile users. Google’s Page Speed Test or a quick scan on GTMetrix can check a variety of variables and then provide helpful insights for page speed improvement.
What to look for:
- Are there warning signs? The reasons behind a slow website are varied and unique to your website, but most page speed tests will provide a rudimentary grading system that should give you a decent idea how your site is performing.
Audit Your XML Sitemap (3 Minutes)
Our final technical SEO audit component is to check the XML sitemap. An XML sitemap essentially provides a map for search engine crawlers. In order to make sure that the crawlers don’t get lost, a few things to be checked.
What to look for:
- Does your website have a Google Search Console account? If the answer is no, that’s a red flag. Verification is simple and this free platform can provide great insights into the performance of the site.
- Has a sitemap been submitted to Google? Once you log into Google Search Console, there’s a panel that contains sitemap information. Ensure that a sitemap has been uploaded and doesn’t have errors.
When it comes to performing an SEO audit, these steps are helpful places to start. If you’re unhappy with the SEO health of your site, running a basic SEO site audit is crucial in knowing what aspects of a site need the most help.
If you’re a business owner, you should be aware of your site’s organic state in order to develop effective strategies for growing visitors and sales. For experts in organic search performance, contact Forthea.