Site audits have such a huge role to play in the optimal functioning and experience of your site. For the purposes of this article, I’d like to divide site audits into SEO audits and content audits and tackle each one separately, with marginal overlaps between the two.
If you think about and understand how Google verifies whether or not you’re worthy to feature in any ranking results, you’ll know that your site has to be of a certain quality in order to surface. Google only wants to offer users the best of the bunch when it comes to web content and websites, which makes it easier for those who really put in some effort to see the rewards.
Answering To Ranking Signals
There are hundreds of rankings signals that can make or break the performance of your site when it comes to appearing in results. Lately, a lot of the talk around ranking has been geared towards offering superior content – which is great! But what if the framework that your content is offered through is weak and sub-standard? Your content won’t feature because the strength (or lack thereof) of your site will bring it down in rankings.
Conversely, what if you’ve got the most incredibly optimised site that features all technical specifications but offers really weak content… the same thing is going to happen. You can’t have one without the other, they need to work in symbiosis in order for your content, site and all of it’s features to be present on any ranking results pages.
Hence, the importance of the SEO audit and the content audit. Equally as vital as the other, often completely overlooked for budgetary reasons.
The SEO Audit
I can’t count the number of times people have come to me and said “I want you to SEO my site” but don’t want to pay what it costs to do the foundational work, ie: the audit. What many people don’t realise is that an SEO audit creates the opportunity to perfect the website so that it forms the ideal resting place for all your content and information. This is where the process of optimising a site for SEO begins. If it’s a new site, then the same specifications and ranking factors should be applied on the site build.
A typical SEO audit will cover everything from technical specifications to content, navigation and overall user experience. It delves into the existing website to identify what problems are preventing the site from performing optimally and lists them according to levels of importance. Once these are fixed, the site can operate from a solid and stable platform, where everything is structurally sound for search engine bots to crawl and index easily.
Examples of things that are looked at in an effective SEO audit are:
- Hierarchy of pages – are your pages listed logically and do they feed into one another?
- Page load time – if it’s lagging, your site is probably pushing impatient or time-conscious users away, Google sees this and will penalise you for it
- Formatting of content – is it written in a way that’s easy to read? Have you made use of headings and sub-headings, as well as bullet points and bolding?
- Properly written title tags and descriptions for each page
- Interlinking of pages to keep the flow of traffic smooth around the site
- Inbound links to verify the validity and promise of the site
There are hundreds more! Some really small, but each change – no matter how small – makes a difference to the performance of your site. Once the framework is optimised to perfection, everything you do within the site has that much more of a chance of being noticed and your content will benefit so much more by getting the leverage it deserves.
The Content Audit
Another aspect to the formative work that should be done with a website overhaul is the content audit. Reviewing the content for consistencies, spelling mistakes and grammatical errors is one thing, but there are other aspects to a comprehensive content audit that can make or break how people view your site. User experience is a very real consideration and is something that will contribute to the site’s performance. Whether it be through the number of people visiting your site or via the data offered by Google Analytics that states your site is not relevant or engaging. Both of these are means that can be used to measure the success of your website as a whole.
Other factors that are taken into account when compiling a content audit include:
- Formatting of content for web standards
- Hierarchy of content, is it logical, does it match the general specifics for typical user behaviour?
- Optimisation of content for SEO purposes
- Length of content, tone of voice and intricacy of context
- Does it align with any brand considerations or specifications?
Once a content audit is conducted, a strategy can be implemented and all content can be correctly adapted in accordance with all recommendations. By ensuring your content is of optimal quality that meets all web and SEO standards you’re already setting yourself up for success; provided you’re operating on a stable platform as mentioned previously when discussing the SEO audit.
Ignore At Your Peril
While the above sub-heading sounds ominous, it’s quite valid – especially if you’re hoping to win the ranking race with your competitors.
You can choose to ignore the fact that your site might not be operating to it’s full potential and hope that it will find it’s way up in rankings on it’s own, and it will make some progress. But you can always do better! You can always try that little bit harder to meet the requirements of a properly optimised site and offer content that is beautifully crafted and written according to your brand and best practice.
If all the ranking signals have been ticked off the list and your content is of premium quality, once your site has been indexed, you should already see a movement in rankings. Kicking an ongoing SEO and content plan into gear at this stage is always a good idea, forming the “SEO my site” part of the process that will have you hitting the ground, running.
Think about it in terms of building a house… you wouldn’t simply place bricks and cement on the ground and hope that it remains stable; you’d build a solid foundation first before considering the next steps. Same applies with audits. Put in the work initially so that you can reap the rewards down the line.