Credit to the Alexa Blog
So, you’ve just updated your website following SEO best practices. Time to sit back and relax, and take a well-deserved break, right?
Not so fast! The web is not a static place. Google rolls out search algorithm changes daily. Other sites update their content and links all the time. And, you (hopefully) update your site regularly as well.
Whether you’ve hired an SEO consultant, built your site on an SEO friendly CMS, or just tuned up your site, it’s still important to audit your site on a regular basis to make sure all the hard work you put in continues to drive traffic, boost conversions, and deliver sales. Regular site audits also ensures your site is accessible and navigable for customers. Because at the end of the day, a customer-focused site means more traffic for you and less for your competitors.
“The best place to hide a dead body is page 2 of Google search results”
The Alexa SEO audit tool, for example, consists of 30 or so sub-topics. Here are five of the most important topics you should look at on an ongoing basis:
Search Engine Optimization
There are a lot of small, technical things you must do to make sure that it is as easy as possible for search engines to find and understand your site’s content. Though simple, these elements can have a big impact on your site’s visibility.
There are four basic SEO elements on a site: the title tag, meta description, H1 tag, and alt tags. Let’s go through them one by one.
The title tag is the blue link displayed in search results, on external websites, and in browser tabs. Generally, it defines the title of a document and is important for social sharing and for SEO. It’s best practice to keep the title tag under 65 characters so it will fit in the search engine results display. If titles are kept at or under 65 characters, it’s estimated that at least 95% of your titles will display correctly.
The meta description is the text that’s included underneath your title tag. It is a concise description (approximately 155 characters) of the page’s content and is the first interaction a prospective visitor has with your site. Think of the meta description as the elevator pitch for your web page or website. It serves as a compelling description that you hope will entice the visitor to click through.
The H1 tag tells crawlers/bots what to expect on a page. There is only one H1 tag per page, and it should be similar to the page title (title tag). The implementation of Google’s Hummingbird algorithm, which aims to incorporate semantic (or intent) analysis into search, has opened up more opportunity to optimize H1 tags. Think about the H1 tag as the question your user might be searching for, and the associated content is the answer. Optimizing for your users’ questions, in addition to adding appropriately placed keywords, will reward in better search engine placement.
Alt tags are the behind the scenes descriptions of content, like images, on your website. They describe an image when it is unable to be seen, and search engines use them to decipher the image or give context to the corresponding content. Alt tags should use concise, descriptive, keyword-relevant text. This is important so search engines can interpret them properly, but also because visually impaired visitors using screen readers will hear alt text when visiting a website.
Even if your site was initially set up with SEO in mind, as you add new content to your site it is easy neglect technical best practices. These are among the easiest things to get right in SEO, and if you’re not doing them you are needlessly throwing away SEO benefits.
If not handled properly, duplicate content can be damaging to your SEO. Multiple copies of content can dilute the authority of your page, and since Google usually filters out duplicate content from search results, it is possible for the wrong version of a page to be displayed as a search result. In other words, search engines are forced to decide which version of the duplicate content is most relevant to searches.
Duplicate content can show up on your site unexpectedly in many different ways. One way is surfacing the same content with different request parameters, because of campaign tags or session ids in the URL. Another is having printable versions of pages get indexed.
Alexa’s SEO audit tool can identify duplicate content on your site and you can fix it by pointing search engines to a “canonical” version of the page, or by blocking crawlers from accessing it altogether.
Broken links can be a huge detriment to your users’ experience, resulting in lost conversions and sales. For search engines, a broken link is a signal of a poor quality site, which may negatively affect ranks.
Broken links can be caused by renaming or moving a webpage and failing to change internal links, linking to content that has been moved or deleted, or linking to a third party page that changed the URL or changed the page. Even if your own site hasn’t changed, the links or pages on other sites may not longer work. This is also referred to as “link rot.”
A regular site audit will check both your internal and external links to make sure you are not confusing your visitors or search engine crawlers with broken links. Alexa’s SEO audit tool even provides you with a full downloadable list of problem links, including broken references to images and redirects, and exactly where they are found so you can correct quickly to avoid penalty.
HMTL Tags & Certified Metrics
You make business decisions based on the data from your on-site analytics tags. It’s important to make sure that the code for each of your web analytics products (Alexa Certified Metrics, Google Analytics, etc.) are all properly added so you can be sure all of your site’s traffic is counted. Regular site audits will make sure that as you add new content to your site, all pages are covered and your on-site analytics are as accurate as possible.
Your website’s performance impacts both your visitors experience and your search engine rankings. One study reports that 47% of people expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less. With just seconds to make an impression on visitors, page load time is the last thing that you want to stand between you and conversions.
In terms of SEO, Google has reported that page speed is one element factored into page rank algorithms. Not only that, search engines have a designated crawl budget so slow page speeds could mean fewer crawled pages and a negatively impacted indexation.
Alexa’s SEO audit tool will monitor your site for the slowest pages, and make sure that you are not introducing performance problems that could annoy your visitors, and hurt your SEO. You can also keep this 25-Point SEO Checklist on hand, to make sure the essentials are always up-to-date.
The bottom line: No matter how good your SEO is now, the web and how people use it is always changing. Regular Site Audits allow you to assess the health of your website quickly with actionable recommendations to ensure you’re optimizing traffic, driving conversions, and delivering sales.