An SEO Audit in 30 Minutes?
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a topic that every website owner should be deeply concerned about. Now more than ever before, businesses are having to turn to online digital solutions as a means of promoting their company and increasingly, as a means of generating more leads for their business in order to grow a more sustainable future.
Company websites therefore have taken on an increasingly important role in marketing strategies and rightly so. But of course, now that everyone is focused on getting their website onto page one of Google, the task of achieving that goal has become much harder. This is where your SEO management becomes so important. Only if your website is correctly-optimised will you be in a position to compete.
SEO is a vast subject with many interdependent and constantly evolving activities that all have a part to play in the overall ranking ability of your individual website pages. Agency services are understandably not cheap therefore, and SEO is a long-term game, which typically takes 4-6 months of constant work before your website will start to achieve the traffic that you need. But the end result will be worth it and if you address both SEO and PPC, as I wrote in my previous blog post, you will have a really good digital marketing foundation to build on.
Before you get an agency such as Element79 to manage the SEO of your website however, you may want to just undertake a brief audit of your website for yourself and get a few key fundamental items in good order. This should only take about 30 minutes of your time and you’ll start to get a feel for how good a shape your website is really in. For the sake of brevity, I’m going to skip the fundamental design of your site (although with Google’s new Page Experience algorithm looming large for later this year, you might want to consider that too - read more on website design and development here), and dive straight-in to the key SEO elements that you need to check on your website:
The 30 Minute SEO Audit
To conduct your own SEO Audit, run through the following items on your own website and see if you can genuinely confirm each one as optimised. If you need any help or guidance at this stage, please just email or call us.
Take a look at what you consider to be the most important pages of your website. Do they contain a good and relevant selection of relevant keywords and phrases? For example, if you have a ‘products’ section, does the text of each product page contain all the relevant phrases that you might use to talk about the product in question? If you’re happy that it does, try Googling some of the terms that you’ve identified and see if your page is listed on Page One of Google’s search results. If it’s not, you have work to do.
If you’re serious about your website, you’ll have submitted it to Google Search Console. Log-in to your Google Search Console account and click the ‘Performance’ link from the navigation menu at the top left. Now you can see how your website is ranking for selected timescales, countries, pages, impressions, clicks, and much more. Are your pages ranking in the top 10 or within striking distance of them? And what keywords are finding those pages? Again, if you’re not ranking in the top 10 positions, you have work to do.
Site Navigation Structure
Now consider the navigation structure of the site. Are your navigation titles descriptive? As you click down through the navigation hierarchy, does the resulting URL format make sense to you? If your navigation format provides Google with context, you’re more likely to rank for the terms that you’d like to. Using a typical ‘products’ section as an example, check and see if your URL structure resembles ‘mycompany.co.uk/products/blue-widgets’ or just ‘mycompany.co.uk/products/widgets’. If it’s the former, then Google will have a better understanding of the context of your widgets and you will stand a better chance of ranking for them (assuming ‘blue widgets’ are a high-volume keyword term). Also, can you get to where you want to be anywhere on the site within 2-3 clicks? People have very short attention spans when navigating a website. If your navigation is not straightforward, you’ll probably lose visitors.
Meta Title Tags
Pay close attention to this item, as it’s one of the most important aspects of your pages and a key item of focus for your SEO audit. Meta titles are the title tags that you’ll see in the tabs at the top of every web page. Take a look at the tab of our Digital Marketing page. You’ll see that it is formatted in a particular way:
First, there is a particular layout to adhere to. This is ‘Page Description | Company Name’. Note that unless your brand is very well known and commonly used to describe the product generically (as in a ‘hoover’), then the company name should always follow the ‘pipe’ (some websites use a hyphen instead of the pipe).
Next, so that the text in the meta tag fits most browsers (desktop and mobile) you should make sure that the text (including spaces) is no longer than 65 characters (for both the description and the company name).
The descriptive text should concisely convey what the topic of the page is and should be a close match to the navigational page name and the H1 tag of the page.
It’s worthwhile spending a little time on your Meta Titles, as this is just about the most important on-page SEO element to optimise for. It is a fundamental part of all your other SEO activities.
Meta Page Description
This is another important on-page SEO element, as this is the text that Google will display in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS) when you enter a search term. Again, a certain length is recommended (165 characters including spaces). The meta description length is an important element because it’s the text that people read about your page before they decide to click-though to it. It needs to sell your page as relevant, authoritative, and useful therefore. The slightly annoying thing that you have to contend with here is that in these days of Google’s semantic search algorithm, if Google decides that part of your page text is more relevant, it will display that instead! However, as long as your page content exhibits Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (Google's E-A-T guidelines), that shouldn’t be a problem – and it’s always best to complete your Meta Descriptions in case your page content isn’t that brilliant!
Page Heading Tags
Are your pages laid out in a logical way that helps Google to understand context? This is where title tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.,) come into play. Think of the way that a newspaper front page is laid out. It’ll have a main Headline (that’s your H1 title), plus a number of other front-page stories (these are your H2 titles). The H2 stories will have sub-headings (and these are your H3 titles) and so-on. Make sure that each page of your website uses the Headings Tags in the same manner.
It’s always nice to be able to use your own graphics and images for your website, as it prevents you from becoming perceived as (for example) ‘just another software vendor’. I say that because many corporate software websites tend to use very similar images of smart business people. Very often, because a lot of companies tend to use stock images, they ultimately use identical images, so to differentiate your brand, invest in some decent photography and unique graphics design if at all possible.
Having got that point out of the way, whether you use your own images or stock images, you should stick to the following guidelines for better search results:
Have you ever clicked on a web page and had to wait an age for it to load? That could easily have been caused by image files that are way too large. For the majority of instances files in the range up to about 160 KB are as large as you’ll ever need to go, and many of the smaller images can easily be useable at 40-60 KB. Megabyte sized image files kill site response times (especially on mobile) and as website load times are a major Google ranking signal, it’s important to make sure that your image file sizes lose some weight!
Be honest – how many of you use image names such as IMG_123456 for your website? This is another piece of information that Google looks for to provide context to a page. So, make sure that every image has a unique file name and is descriptive. If you’re uploading an image of a black dog, name the file ‘Black-Dog’. If you are adding several images of a black dog, don’t add a number to each file (e.g. black_dog_1, black_dog_2, etc., ), find some other way to make the image title unique, such as ‘black_dog_red_collar’.
Image Alt Text
Does your image Alt tag describe the image correctly? This is important for two reasons:
1. If your browser is set to not to display images, or for some other reason the images are not displayed, the Alt text can describe the image so that you know that the image is relevant.
2. Again, Google is looking for context and will also use the image alt text as one of the ranking factors in search results. If you want to get up the search results rankings, get your Alt text in order!
As you’ll have probably gathered by now, context, relevance, and site speed are super-important to Google. Follow the above guidelines and you’ll have a good fundamental site structure on which to base all of your SEO activities. It’s the important foundational work that can pay back big rewards.
If you’d like more insight into your SEO review, get in touch with us and request a FREE site audit, which is usually included in our SEO Consultation service. We’ll look at all of the above points for you and provide you with an actionable report that you can use to improve your basic website SEO foundations.
Mike Flarry is a brand and digital marketer with a career spanning 30 years. He has helped large and small companies alike to generate more income from their marketing activities and has launched large new brands onto the UK market. He specialises in the marketing of B2B Tech and Software organisations. Follow Mike on LinkedIn