Understanding a free SEO audit
Do you worry about your SEO? Have you had a free audit or thought about one, but then don’t really know what to do with the results or the guidance?
In this blog, I explain some of the common SEO audit recommendations and what you can do to help improve your SEO and rankings.
Free SEO audits
Before we get started, you may be thinking, “What is an SEO audit?”
There are lots to choose from, many come as part of a free trial, but there are also some that are completely free. You simply enter your domain (website URL) and it scans what it can. It then gives you a brief ‘report’ or set of recommendations about errors or areas of improvement.
I recommend: https://app.neilpatel.com/en/seo_analyzer/site_audit (also known as Ubersuggest) from the wonderful Neil Patel, for a simple and easy to use approach. It is completely free for just 3 searches per day…which is plenty if you are focussing on your own website. There is also https://www.seoptimer.com/ – again free at point of use and pretty instant.
For a more sophisticated option, there are free trials you can take advantage of, including https://www.semrush.com/lp/seo-ideas/en/ and https://moz.com/seo-audit-tool . You can access the SEO audit via a free trial and then cancel, or continue to pay monthly, if you feel it’s for you.
Common SEO audit errors and recommendations
When you run an audit, you are likely to see a list of some (or all) of these SEO problems or enhancements suggested below. Let me take each one in turn to explain what they mean.
A H1 heading is the main title on a webpage usually. Heading tags (i.e. H1, H2, H3 or <h1>, <h2>, <h3> as you would see it in HTML coding) not only dictate format (usually) but they also tell Google the ‘importance’ of the written content on your page. You should have just one H1 heading per page. It often matches the page title and sits ‘above the fold’ on your page.
It is a great place to put your keywords related to your business.
If the audit tells you a H1 is missing, identify which pages this refers to. You may find that the top heading has a H2 tag by mistake or the page doesn’t have a clear title/top heading for some reason. Simply add a new heading and check any formatting or tags to ensure it now has a H1
H2-H6 bad usage
Just as you should only have one H1 heading per page, many SEO audits will also recommend you use your heading structure wisely.
You can have more than one H2. These usually identify different sections on your webpage. Beneath these you may have one or a series of H3 and possibly H4 – like smaller subheadings.
Think about layout, navigation and ease of reading. Your main body of text should be <p> tag (paragraph format). Don’t try to cheat the system by using <h> tags for lots of text, as Google knows this is not natural. However, you can also be savvy and use H5 or H6, rather than bold, for example, to make a certain sentence stand out that you do want a search engine bot to take note of.
Low word count
Google likes words! Why? Because it gives plenty of content and context to ‘learn from’. Google constantly wants to improve its search results so that its users find exactly what they are looking for on page 1 (ideally in the top 2-3 results). Therefore, Google wants to feel like it knows exactly what a webpage is about so that it can match it perfectly to a search string enquiry.
If there are not many words on a page, Google struggles to do this. It’s why it is important to have a paragraph or two on every page – even a blog page, product category page or gallery, which informs not only your visitor, but also Google too what the content and page is all about. Don’t forget alt text and captions for image heavy pages on your website too.
Missing meta descriptions
A meta description is like an ‘index card’ for each page. It usually consists of a page title and a description of your page, as well as some tags.
Most websites and SEO plug-ins create an automatic meta description by taking the page title (or H1 heading) and using this as the meta title alongside your domain name, and taking an ‘excerpt’ from the opening lines of your the copy of the webpage.
This is fine in most instances, but depending on the design of your website, some meta descriptions may be missing – for a myriad of reasons.
Find out where your meta descriptions are found for each page, and check they are accurate and clear. They should only be a sentence or two (170 characters).
Duplicate meta descriptions
If you have duplicate meta descriptions, it is likely you have cloned or copied a page to make another. Duplicates simply confuse Google as it doesn’t know which page to recommend. Therefore, this damages your SEO.
As above, identify where there are duplicates and rewrite the descriptions so that they are unique and hence more clear about the content of that specific page.
Long load times
You should know by now that load times affect SEO. If you have images that are very big and take a long time appear, then it is likely a website visitor will bounce back (hit the back button!) to the search results very quickly. We have no patience!!!
Find out what is causing the long load time on a certain page. If it is an embedded image or video, look at compressing the file size and re-embedding.
For videos, I’d actually recommend putting them securely on Vimeo or YouTube, so that your website itself isn’t hosting any large files.
Once again, Google likes simplicity and clarity. Therefore, if your URL (the webpage address) is a clumsy mix of number or letters then Google loses interest fast!
Your URL, along with H1 headings and meta descriptions, are amongst the first thing that Google ‘looks at’ when registering what a web page is about…so don’t let the bots lose interest even before they’ve got to the “good meaty content” (i.e. the <p> tag content).
In most websites, you can easily change and update the URL of a page. Don’t forget that if you have linked to that page from another page you will have to update the link and/or set up a redirect.
Lack of SSL certificates
I don’t really understand SSL certificates, but I do know it’s about security and it’s about having a https:// at the beginning of your URL and not a http://
For most website users, if you visit a http:// site you will be warned that it is not secure and the unlocked padlock icon will appear in the address bar – which is not very reassuring for your customers and clients.
If pages on your website switch between the two or all pages are http:// (especially if your website is quite old and not updating) then speak to an expert website developer or designer to sort it out!
Broken links and 404s
Finally, you will also be notified of broken links or links that lead to a 404 page – where you get the ‘oops this page can’t be found’ type message. Find out where the broken links are and fix or remove them. Simple! It may be internal links, where you have moved things or changed URLs (as above) or it may be external links that no longer exist.
Without running a whole SEO audit, you can do a simple broken link checker of your whole site using: https://www.brokenlinkcheck.com/ if you wish.
More SEO audit and support tools
I know it’s a mine field, so if you want any extra help with understanding your SEO audit, do get in touch.
If I’ve not completely overwhelmed you, you can also check out:
I find this more easy to understand and navigate than Google Analytics and I get sent a simple summary each month about how often my site is visited and where users go, which is great for comparison and to see how different blog posts and pages are performing.
There is also an analysis tool from Yoast (a SEO plug-in provider). It let’s you paste in your web page content (or a section of it) and it analyses it for you. It’s a bit of a faff but might be useful if you really want to get a paragraph or two “totally optimised”, for example for a landing page or sales page:
Hope they help!