If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
If a website is developed, designed, and published to the internet, yet nobody ever visits it, does the website exist at all?
“It’s not enough for a business to have a website. In 2019 and beyond, visibility is one of the primary factors in online success. And if you want visibility, you must pay attention to the technical aspects of SEO and how Google, Bing, and other search engines rank websites and deliver search results to their users.
A full SEO audit is a service that can help you obtain the first spot on Google’s search engine. The audit looks at your entire web page and measures different aspects such as your domain name, links, tags, content, images, navigation, keyword optimization, CSS codes and social network sharing icons. The auditor will check your page load time to see if slow page loads might be preventing visitors from sticking around. He or she will search for malware and spam, which is another huge deterrent.
Local SEO with third-party review sites, guest posts on external blogs, ongoing content marketing, and social media community building get all the attention, but make no mistake—onsite optimization is still crucial if you want your site to rank in Google.
Appealing to search engines and the users thereof is more important than it was in years prior. More people rely on popular search engines like Google, Yahoo! and Bing to find information, products and services than ever before.
This places a greater importance upon ensuring that your website takes and maintains key positions in search results vital to achieving success for the digital part of your business.
Without it, you’ll see fewer customers each day until your digital business puts you in the red.
Ensuring that your website stays as near to the first search result as possible is as simple as ensuring that you have the proper SEO. The first step in doing that is to have someone perform an SEO audit of your website.
If you’re new to SEO, or it’s been a while since you’ve thought about it, your website may benefit from an SEO audit and competitor analysis to see where things stand and to identify opportunities for positive change.
It depends on who you talk to, but we consider an SEO audit to be the process of analyzing your website through the context of current SEO best practices and how it’s performing in terms of SEO rankings, traffic, conversions, and other key metrics. It also involves an in-depth analysis of your competitors’ websites and the opportunities they’re leveraging and/or missing out on.
At the end of the day, an SEO audit will give you an idea of how your website stacks up, what issues need to be addressed, and which areas can be optimized and improved upon. It’s like shining a flashlight into the shadows of your website to discover what’s in the cracks and crevices.
Full SEO audits should be conducted regularly – ideally according to a documented schedule. But if you’ve never conducted an audit before and aren’t sure if the timing is right, we’ve compiled a list of relevant symptoms that indicate it’s time. Here are a few warning signs that your website does, without a doubt, need an SEO audit and competitor analysis:
As time progresses, the various metrics search engines use to measure how relevant your website is to search engines queries changes. The information they use updates, key statistics like the “freshness factor” of your website diminish, and off-site factors like links from external sites to your own fade.
These are just a few of the reasons that your website may have dropped in search engine rankings, which will lead to less people being able to find your website from search engines.
If you’re experiencing less traffic than you used to, then something likely changed. A full SEO audit can be crucial in finding out what factors changed, because it also lets you know what factors that you can influence to make your website king of the SERPs once more.
Search engines are constantly trying to upgrade their algorithms to provide more succinct and faster searches for their users. This results in anything from small tweaks to dramatic changes to algorithms, which are the kinds of things that can move your website from the first spot in a search to position 500 or lower overnight.
When there’s been a massive change in search engine algorithms, it’s time to perform a SEO audit. This will enable you to maximize the compatibility of your site’s current SEO with that of any new algorithms.
The objective of your website should be to maximize the number of potential customers you receive from new sources. While you can gain a number of visitors to your website from links on other websites, you should see search engines referring most of the traffic your website receives.
If you aren’t seeing that, then it’s likely that your website is underperforming. For every visitor you receive from another website, you could be receiving as much as 100 visitors from search engines.
Increasing the amount of traffic your website receives from search engines isn’t the only thing SEO can do. It can play a vital role in ensuring that your pay-per-click costs are as low as possible by optimizing the elements commonly used to see how related your PPC campaign’s target keywords are to your landing pages.
If your PPC costs are too high, then consider a SEO audit. Re-examining your on-site factors and correcting them can make your PPC campaigns more profitable.
The main reason you want more visitors to your website is so you can increase the number of sales your business conducts, which in turn should increase your profits so that you can reinvest more into your company. If you have plenty of visitors coming to your website but few sales, then it’s possible that your SEO isn’t working for you.
Things like your page headers and meta descriptions can heavily influence who visits your website and what expectations they have. An SEO audit can look at this to ensure your website brings in more customers and fewer visitors.
To achieve maximum visibility and traffic potential, your website needs to show up on the first or second page of Google when someone enters one of your keywords as a search term. People who are searching for your products or services will be likely to click on your page if they can see it in the first two pages of Google results. If you have not yet achieved this status, then you may need a full SEO audit.
When it comes to website metrics, your bounce rate is among one of the most important things that you should keep as low as possible. It represents how often visitors click on your website in the search results only to hit the back button.
The problem with your pages could be anything from misleading meta data to a lack of interactive media. An SEO audit can help you find the source of high bounce rates.
Your website should having a growing number of visitors. Depending upon the size of your business, you should generally have around 2-10% more traffic with each progressive month.
If you’re not seeing that kind of increase, then it’s time to perform an audit on your SEO. This can help determine what you need to do to increase your holdings on visitors from search engines.
A long-tail keyword is a keyword phrase that states something specific. The presence of a large number of these types of referring words can indicate that your SEO efforts aren’t as efficient as they could be, or that you need to begin targeting these phrases.
The only way to decide upon what you should do when it comes to these keyword phrases is to perform an audit. You’ll see how easy it is to rank for these words, and you can begin developing a strategy to target them. This may result in more visitors, which in turn means more business for you.
Sites like Facebook, Twitter and even prominent news websites tend to append “nofollow” attributes to links. This means that these links don’t pass as much authority as they should, which in turn means that your website may be inadvertently set up for a back link profile that can end up hurting your SEO efforts.
If your links primarily come from these potentially sources low in domain authority, then it could make it difficult for you to naturally rank for keywords and phrases. You may find that your SEO efforts take an increasing amount of work to get the same results.
Technical factors, like your site navigation, mobile optimization, design, and speed, all play into how authoritative your site is seen, but don’t neglect the basics; how you present your site through title tags and meta descriptions plays a huge role in how Google views your site.
In case you weren’t aware, “title tags” are short titles you give to the individual pages on your site, while “meta descriptions” are short sentences you use to describe them. These aren’t publicly visible on your site itself (for the most part), but instead are written into your site’s code to feed information to search bots. When users see your web page in search results, the title will appear in blue at the top and the description will be in black text underneath. Additionally, Google uses this information to interpret the pages of your site, and if it likes what it sees, it will increase your authority and categorize you as it deems appropriate.
The requirements for a good title or description have changed significantly following Google’s many quality updates. Back when Google used keywords almost exclusively, optimizing your title tags was a glorified method of keyword stuffing. You would identify a dozen target keywords or so, and use them on a rotating basis in all your titles and descriptions, sometimes using two or more in a single entry. Today, Google’s search algorithm is much more sophisticated, and stuffing your titles with keywords is a surefire way to get a penalty.
If you want to ensure your titles and descriptions lend you the best possible domain authority, make sure they follow these rules:
Now that you know what to look for in your title tags and descriptions, you can audit your site to ensure your full compliance.
Different backend systems offer title tags and descriptions in different ways. In a WordPress CMS, these should be easily editable on the page level for each of your web pages. In other CMS systems, they may be consolidated in their own area. You may need to work with a developer if you cannot find a way to easily edit them.
Beyond that, you can and should rely on Google Webmaster Tools to run reports on your title tags and meta descriptions. Once installed, head to the Search Appearance tab and click on HTML Improvements. Here, Google will give you a handy list of any problems it detects with your titles or descriptions. Overly long, overly short, non-descriptive, and duplicate titles and descriptions are listed, as well as any pages that are missing these entirely. Depending on the number of these that are present, you can open and export a report to show you the full list. This makes it easy for you to learn which ones need changed and then change them one by one.
Chances are, unless you have a full team of people making regular edits to your website, you won’t need to run this audit often. Your titles and descriptions are static, not dynamic, so once you make a change, that change will likely stay. However, if you have a habit of adding new pages or deleting old ones, or if you’re launching a new site, it’s imperative that you run a new audit to make sure that your new site layout is still in compliance with best practices. Generally, running this once every two or three months is ample.
Whether you’re not getting the results you were anticipating or you’re just trying to reevaluate your brand’s direction, a content marketing audit is invaluable in helping you find key areas for change and improvement. While each written post is unique, requiring in-depth research in addition to drafting and revision, most content strategies on the whole run on autopilot. The general direction is set, and the individual moving parts that carry out the work simply repeat the same tasks over and over.
This type of consistency is a strength for content marketing; with the right strategy, repetition breeds familiarity and eventually, a greater impact. But when that strategy is lacking or imprecise, your consistency can be doing more harm than good. Performing a content marketing audit can help you determine whether or not your consistency is beneficial, and if not, how you can drive meaningful change to restore it.
There are two main situations that should trigger you to perform a content marketing audit. The first is a failure, or a set of results that do not meet your expectations. Let’s say you’re evaluating your organic search visits, a key measure of traffic generated by your content strategy, and you’ve noticed your numbers slipping or remaining stagnant over the past two months. This is an indication that something is wrong with your campaign, and should trigger you to perform a content audit to determine the root of the problem. Of course, any metric or indication of lukewarm results can and should trigger you to perform an audit.
The second situation is more subjective, and has to do with the amount of time that has passed since you last critically evaluated your strategy. The consistency of your efforts tend to degrade over time, and the environment is always evolving with new technologies and new audience demands, so it’s worth auditing your content strategy at regular intervals even if you’re seeing decent results. There’s no set interval that works better than any other; it all depends on your resources and your needs. If you’re just starting out, performing an audit quarterly may be effective for you.
No matter why you’ve chosen to perform a content audit, there are five major steps you’ll need to follow:
If you’ve already planned for this, this step should seem redundant on the surface. But there are two possible discrepancies that could be interfering with your content campaign’s success: first, it could be that new factors have arisen—new competitors, new technologies, or changes in your customer base. Have you accounted for these changes? If not, now is the time to do so. Second, it could be that your ongoing content strategy has meandered away from your initial goals. Even if your primary goals haven’t changed, it’s possible that you’ve lost sight of those goals in the day-to-day execution of items.
This step is very similar to step one, but it has more to do with the execution of your campaign than the high-level vision of it. What channels are you using to distribute your content and why? Are there any new social media or syndication platforms that you could take advantage of? What portions of your audience are you currently neglecting with your current strategy? Are there any channels that aren’t generating the results you’d like? Reshape your syndication strategy from the ground up for the best results.
You don’t have to thoroughly review every piece of content you push out, but do take a random sampling of recent blog posts and social posts, then inspect them for quality. Is the voice in line with your brand? Are your topics original, interesting to your target audience, and searchable? How well-written are your articles? Are they full of details or mostly fluff? If the quality of your content is off, the entire campaign is jeopardized, so in most cases, this is the most important step of the process. Get an outside opinion if you can.
Sketch out a visual diagram of your content creation, publication, and distribution process. Include the members of your team who are responsible for each point and try to objectively analyze the effectiveness of each step in the process. Are there any points where your strategy is being held up? For example, is your content writer only completing posts half as often as you’d like? Are your Facebook updates few and far between? Are only a handful of your posts getting syndicated? Identifying weak points here can help strengthen your entire campaign.
Hopefully, after these first four steps, you’ve been able to identify several key points for improvement in your campaign. But it isn’t enough to simply know about your fault points; you have to actively improve them if you want to see better results. Put an action plan into place, with firm objectives assigned to individuals on your team and realistic timelines for the completion of those objectives. Then, follow up to make sure everything is executed according to your direction and schedule.
Link building is still a viable and necessary strategy for SEO. External links pointing to a domain pass authority to that domain, and the more authority a domain has, the easier it will be able to rank for specific keywords.
Unfortunately, the link building process is more complex than just posting links on external sites; Google’s Penguin update, which originally released in 2012, has made the link identifying components of Google’s search algorithm incredibly sophisticated. Its most recent iteration, 3.0 in October of this year, pushed those changes even further. Under Penguin, your external links need to be diverse, authoritative, and of a high quality. Otherwise, you could face a penalty and suffer a ranking drop instead of a boost.
As a result, it’s important to perform an occasional link quality audit to review your overall strategy, identify possible weaknesses, and preventing the possibility of getting hit with a sudden ranking fall.Many search marketers know this information, but still fail to perform an audit regularly. This guide will help you understand not only when—but also how—to perform a link quality audit for your campaign.
Unfortunately, most search marketers only implement a link quality audit after they’ve already been hit with a penalty. It’s easy to spot a penalty when it happens, especially if you keep a tight watch over the progress of your campaign. Your rankings will start to diminish for some or all of your keywords, and your organic traffic numbers will start to dip.
These penalties are usually not “penalties” per say. Instead, they’re the result of a new update or data refresh rolling out, such as Penguin 3.0. When this happens, Google refines what links it sees and how it sees them, and automatically recalculates the rank for every business on the web. A decline of rank after a rollout is just an unfortunate and automatic drop in perceived significance.
Manual penalties also exist, but these are very rare. In these cases, if a website has committed a particularly atrocious offense, a Google analyst may submit a manual penalty and greatly reduce that website’s visibility across the web. You will receive a formal notification if this happens, and the road to recovery is long and difficult.
Nevertheless, if you have already suffered an automatic penalty, your first step is to respond immediately by performing a formal link quality audit and find the root of your problem.
Obviously, the better way to solve a problem is to prevent it from happening in the first place. If you can identify your bad links before Google can get to them with a data refresh or an update, you’ll never have to experience a ranking drop at all.
The first step, of course, is to build exclusively high-quality links in your profile. If you only submit the best links, it makes sense that you’d never have to worry about a penalty, and a link quality audit would seem redundant. However, it’s still a good idea to go through your link profile occasionally and clear up any inconsistencies. Old links and negative SEO attacks are just two possible liabilities a link quality audit can catch.
You don’t need to perform a link quality audit every day, or even every week (unless you’re running a very high-profile campaign). Bi-weekly or monthly link quality audits are suitable for most businesses.
The first step to any link quality audit is to find any questionable links pointing to your domain. It’s not enough to simply review what links you personally posted and where; you’ll want to take a look at every link on the web pointing back to your site. You can do this using a free tool like Moz’sOpen Site Explorer, or some other external link-based search system.
Once you have a list of all the links pointing back to you, start going through them one by one. If you’ve already experienced a penalty, you can be pretty sure there’s at least one bad link hiding in the others. Keep an eye out for links that exhibit any of the following questionable qualities:
You don’t necessarily have to remove every link that seems questionable. Unless you’re facing a harsh penalty, only remove a link if it truly stands out as suspicious.
If you haven’t found any questionable links in your link profile, then congratulations! Your link profile has passed the audit, and you can relax until your next regular check.
Now that you know the worst offenders in your link profile, you need to work on removing them from the web. Otherwise, they could damage your reputation and make your ranking situation worse. Your first step is to try removing the links yourself through a login and manual removal. If you are unable to do so, you’ll have to go straight to the webmaster.
If you remember building the link in the first place, you should still have the webmaster’s contact information. If not, you can usually find it listed on the site itself under the contact page.
If you’re still having trouble finding the webmaster, do a Whois search in Google by typing “Whois” followed by the domain. This will give you all the publicly available information on a given domain such as the contact information and the hosting company. You can also contact the hosting company directly to try and get closer to the webmaster.
Once you have the information, write a polite email to the webmaster and formally ask that the link be removed. In most cases, they’ll be happy to help.
Asking the webmaster for help removing the link is the easiest and most reliable way to go. However, there may be rare instances when they refuse to help or ignore your request. In these instances, there is a last-ditch effort option available through Google Webmaster Tools.
You can find the tool here, but only use it as a last resort. Google rejects a vast majority of link disavowal requests.
Finally, take a look at the links you removed and determine the fault point that led to their creation. Where was the flaw in your strategy? Make any corrections that you need to make, and get your team up to speed on the adjustments. The more you refine your strategy, the better your link profile will be, and your link audits will be much easier as a result.
Commit to performing a link quality audit at least once a month for your campaign, even if your link building strategy is only a small component of your overall direction. Finding and removing one bad link can save you the pain of dealing with a ranking drop, and proactively keep your site’s domain authority rising over time.
Even the best-laid content plans can go awry, especially if you haven’t touched base with your original vision from the beginning of the year, but it’s not a problem unless you allow it to keep getting worse. This is your chance to evaluate your performance, take note of possibilities for improvement, and start the new year off with a bold new approach.
The problem for most people is scale—“content marketing” refers to a lot of different moving parts, so how can you run an audit of everything all at once? That’s why I came up with this checklist. It’s not perfect, but it will help you touch on the most important points of your campaign and figure out exactly what you need to do to improve in the coming year:
First, you’ll want to get a good idea of where you were at the start of the year, as a basis for comparison.
Next, take a look at the efforts you made to achieve those goals.
With the efforts behind you, take a look at how well your campaign performed overall.
Now, take out the microscope. Take a piece—or several pieces—of content you’ve written recently, and evaluate them for quality.
You now have a solid understanding of what you wanted to do, the effort you put forth, and the results of those efforts. Hopefully, you’ve uncovered some weaknesses to improve and some successful areas to replicate, so let’s formalize those with some questions:
Now that you’ve answered every question in this list and come up with at least a few new conclusions about your content marketing campaign, you should be in a good position to start the new year off right. Remember, year-end audits are nice, but if you want to enjoy continually growing success in any way, you’ll need to monitor your performance and make adjustments throughout the year. Trends, technologies, and user behaviors change too quickly to be ignored, so prioritize your attention to detail and flexibility.
Okay, clearly you need one. The question is, how do you conduct an SEO audit and competitor analysis? Without digging too deep into the technical aspects – that’s a conversation for another day – here are some of the key steps involved in the process:
At SEO.co, we specialize in supplying business with high quality content marketing and link building service. But we’ll also be the first to admit that these services will benefit your company very little if your website doesn’t have a strong SEO foundation to support it.
Before investing in link building, we’d recommend conducting a deep SEO site audit. In doing so, you’ll uncover the issues that are holding you back and come face-to-face with promising opportunities. In the end, this will enhance your link building efforts and give your website the best chance of thriving!