The Internet is constantly evolving and it is therefore essential to conduct a regular SEO audit to ensure that your site meets the latest search engine requirements. Because Google now conducts several hundred updates per year to always offer the best possible results to Internet users. There is a method and a range of tools to analyze your site and maintain your positions in the search results and remain visible to your audience.
> Download this kit to perform an SEO audit” align=”middle”/>
The elements to analyze to carry out an SEO audit
- Exploration and indexing
- 404 error pages and orphan pages
- Robots.txt and sitemap.xml files
- URL parameters
- Structured data audit
- Adaptability to mobile media
- Speed and user experience
- Optimize your internal network
Technical SEO audit
The first part of an SEO audit focuses on the technical dimension to ensure that no blocking element comes to prevent the good SEO of the website. To begin, it is a question of checking the crawling and indexing by Googlebot, the robot of the search engine which identifies web pages.
Exploration and indexing
The exploration of the site will depend on the links from which it benefits, its frequency of update but above all its technical structure. This exploration is limited, it is the “crawl budget”. In order to check that nothing is preventing crawling by Googlebot, you can use Screaming Frog, a free tool up to 500 URLs. Thanks to it, it is easy to identify indexable and non-indexable pages and then correct what needs to be corrected.
Once everything is in order, you must ensure that Google has indexed the indexable pages and excluded the non-indexable ones. This information can be found on the Google Search Console. After creating an account and configuring the website, it will be possible to find in the menu Blanket the number of pages crawled as well as those valid or excluded. It is then a question of checking first of all that the total corresponds to that of the site then that the valid and excluded pages correspond to the choices made.
404 error pages and orphan pages
When analyzing the indexing of a site, problematic pages are often linked to 404 errors or orphan pages. Those with a 404 error are pages that have been deleted without a redirect being set and, often, to which internal links still point.
Orphan pages have the opposite problem: they are pages that are still online but to which no internal link points. In this case, it is common to find that Googlebot does not crawl them and that they are therefore absent from the Google index since it follows the links to carry out its exploration.
Robots.txt and sitemap.xml files
The robots.txt file is used to tell search engine crawlers (like Googlebot) what is allowed and what is not allowed to crawl with the Disallow feature. It is useful for preventing access to technical files but also, and above all, to dynamic pages that should not be referenced. The best example is that of the pages generated following a search carried out on a site. These containing 100% of the content already present on other pages, they should not be referenced. Finally, it is beneficial for SEO to indicate the address of the sitemap.xml file in robots.txt.
The sitemap.xml file, which can sometimes take other names, lists all the indexable pages of a website. It is most often generated dynamically as for example the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress. During an SEO audit, you must check its settings to ensure that only the pages that should be referenced are there, and that they are all there.
To optimize a site’s SEO, the next step in an SEO audit involves URL parameters. By default, these are generated dynamically and the URLs obtained are of the type https://www.example.com/?p=123/. It is therefore necessary to rewrite the URLs so that they reflect the tree structure of the site as well as the subject of the page concerned.
For example, if the page is about SEO auditing and is in the blog section of the site, its URL should be https://www.example.com/blog/audit-seo/. Note that in URLs, only letters or numbers should be used and words should be separated with a hyphen. All special characters are to be avoided as well as spaces. In order to reduce their length, it is necessary to remove the ” stop words “, These linking words like” the “,” and “or” of “.
Some pages are accessible via multiple URLs, such as those with pagination. These are “canonical URLs” that take the form of https://www.example.com/blog/audit-seo/page-2/. These pages therefore contain duplicate content, if only the title, which is problematic to obtain a good SEO. In these cases, it is essential to use the rel = “canonical” tag in order to indicate which is the parent page and thus not to index the following ones.
Structured data audit
Structured data, or micro-data, is used to provide precise indications on a page to search engines. They are presented in a standardized form which is governed by Schema.org and they represent today a major asset to optimize the referencing of a site. In order to verify its validity, Google offers a rich results test tool that can be used during an SEO audit. Its results clearly indicate the validity of the structured data of a site as well as their detail.
Adaptability to mobile media
Google now indexes sites from their mobile version and those that are not suitable for reading on a smartphone or tablet are penalized. To audit a site, simply go to the category Mobile ergonomics from the Google Search Console. This is where all the results are found on criteria such as unreadable texts because they are too small, clickable elements too close together or content larger than the screen. This tool is also accessible via the Google mobile optimization test page.
Speed and user experience
The speed of downloading of a site is a parameter which represents more and more important for the search engines. This is also closely linked to the concept of user experience since 40% of Internet users will not wait more than 3 seconds for a site to load. To measure the performance of a website and its loading speed, two tools are used: GTmetrix and Google PageSpeed Insights.
The second part of this SEO audit checklist now looks at the content on the website. Indeed, they must be properly organized to facilitate navigation for visitors and obtain the best possible referencing.
First, you have to analyze the depth of tree structure (with Screaming Frog for example) and identify the pages more than three clicks away from the home page. Indeed, the further a page is from it, the less likely it will be well referenced.
However, it is not a question either of positioning all the pages of a site at the first level because it would then be impossible to create semantic silos. To obtain the best possible organization, the pages should be grouped into thematic groups.
Then the SEO audit will focus on the markup of each page to verify that each has a unique and optimized meta-title, a meta-description and an H1 tag. Then the content of each page should be structured around Hn tags (H2, H3) and compressed images with a properly specified alt attribute.
Finally, the last step of the SEO content checklist will focus on the DUST: Duplicate URL, Same Text. This term refers to identical content on pages with different URLs, it is “duplicate content”. It is extremely penalizing for natural referencing and it is therefore necessary to monitor this indicator constantly. Online software like KillDuplicate or Copyscape can do this job.
Keywords are at the center of any SEO strategy and the importance to give them during an SEO audit is therefore major. To begin with, you have to make sure that each page has a target keyword and that these keywords do not cannibalize each other.
Once this identification work has been carried out, it is necessary to take an interest in the distribution of the pages and more particularly in the gathering of these by theme. This is the concept of “semantic cocoon”. By grouping together semantically related pages within the same categories, or “silos”, it is possible to strengthen both their overall and individual relevance to search engines.
The SEO audit will then focus on the structuring of the pages and the use of the target keyword within them. Check that it is used in the meta-title and the meta-description. The H1 title must also contain the main keyword and the latter must be used in the following tags as well as in the body of the text, but beware of over-optimization, to avoid this problem, the SEO audit must verify that synonyms or other terms from the same lexical field are used. Always keep in mind that content is written for readers, not search engines.
The media must also show the target keyword and always in a balanced way. The same approach will therefore be used for the naming of these and the choice of the alt attribute of the images.
Search engines follow links to index pages but also to give them relevance and value. This is why the SEO audit must analyze internal links to a site as well as external ones. These, called “inbound links” or “backlinks”, will generate the notoriety of the targeted site.
They can be found in the Google Search Console under the category Connections but specific SEO tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs will provide a more detailed analysis. The criteria to be taken into account are divided into three criteria:
- Relevance: is the site from which the backlink comes on the same theme as the analyzed site?
- Quality: is the referring domain qualitative or is it a spam site?
- Quantity: does the analyzed site benefit from many backlinks from different sites?
Optimize your internal network
The last step in carrying out an SEO audit, the analysis of the internal mesh makes it possible to check whether it reflects the objectives of the site. Thus, semantic siled pages should link together and the most important pages should be the ones that benefit the most from internal links.
To perform this analysis, it is first possible to consult the number of internal links via the Google Search Console, still in the category Connections. Then visualization tools such as Gephi will make it possible to verify that the silo structure has been built in order to compartmentalize the different themes.
Download your copy of this e-book for optimizing and improve the SEO performance of your site to promote natural and long-term growth.