Even without access or knowledge of the traditional tools that are commonly used to perform site audits, there are still plenty of tricks that you can perform that will give you a sense of how well your website is performing. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to get into the habit of breezing through these steps every week or so. You’ll be surprised to find out how much you can uncover about your site in an afternoon.
Do a site search. This tactic is useful for a few reasons. First, it is a simple way to discover how many pages of your website Google has indexed. Simply search “site:” followed by (no space) “yourwebsite.com.” It will look like what is shown in the image below. Of course, I’m not sure how many pages are actually in Mr. Ross’s website, but as the webmaster of your own site, you should be aware of that information. Searching for your own site can also give you an idea of what people see when they type in particular keywords. Ask yourself, “Would I click this?” Title Tags and Meta Descriptions that are irrelevant, misleading, or vague aren’t likely to attract clicks. The reports we run on SEOmoz tell us which pages are missing these components. You can also search similar keywords and check out what the competition is doing.
Finally, a site search is an easy way to look for duplicate content within your site. You can also do this sans “site:” to see if any of your content exists elsewhere on the WWW. If it does, maybe you should consider updating your content!
View your site as a visitor. The data-driven parts of SEO Audits, which we find through tools like site search, SEOmoz, Google Analytics, and Raven Tools, are easy to deal with because they are factual. It gets trickier when you have to deal with subjective components like content and layout. We urge you to strip your mind of all biases and examine your website from a visitor’s perspective. Can you easily navigate through the sales funnel? Is there an abundance of information that proves the brand’s know-how and interest in customer relations?
Do some keyword research: Find out which terms you should be striving to rank for organically. For new or struggling brands, it’s best to start with “long tail” keywords as opposed to highly competitive terms. For example, continuing with the Bob Ross theme, “acrylic paints” is a term that will take a long time to rank for, while “acrylic paint lessons in Milwaukee” would be more attainable. Open Google’s Traffic Estimator to get a grasp of what kind of terms are circulating your industry and expertise, then start strategically optimizing your website for those terms. Keywords are as valuable as magic fairy dust; they illuminate how your potential users are searching for you, providing you with the opportunity to answer questions. Examine site architecture: URL structure can make a huge impact on how a search engine perceives your site. Keywords should be incorporated into the URLs (as close as possible to the root) so the search engines understand that certain pages apply to certain topics. Because engines are perpetually tweaking their algorithms, they are starting to see websites as humans do. In other words, if certain aspects of a site attract or repel users, then search engines are likely to react the same way. There used to be a distinct difference between optimizing for search engines and optimizing for humans; now those two worlds are merging, and “white hat” SEOs like us at Evolve are happily toasting this long-awaited union. After all, it makes sense that the most useful and relevant sites should have the best rankings. Referring to various search engine webmaster tools (Google, Bing, Yahoo) or paying for software subscriptions to sites like SEOmoz and Raven Tools will provide a great deal of insight as to those particular search engines crawl your site. Some of the information you will find is:
- Crawl errors: what’s keeping Google and the other engines from creeping every inch of your site?
- 404 errors: are visitors trying to access pages that don’t exist?
- Site performance: is it loading too slowly? This is a huge indicator of whether or not your site will retain visitors.
- Bounce rate: are visitors leaving a split second after landing on your home page?
Stay tuned for more posts that dig way deeper into what you can use those tools for. The benefit of doing business online is that you have the potential to uncover so much information about your website’s success. Don’t miss out on this critical insight! If you haven’t checked out our SEO Guide for Beginners, make sure to do so; there is a lot of helpful information that can assist you in conducting your own site audit.