In a recent blog we explored the importance of conducting a website audit before developing a new site, making significant improvements to an existing site, or to identify ways in which your website could produce greater results.
The piece touched on a second audit document that is essential to the process, the Search Engine Optimisation – SEO – audit. In this blog, we delve into conducting an SEO audit, and the impact this fundamental document can have in helping you achieve website success.
The importance of conducting an SEO audit
A successful website is your digital storefront, and the home of your business online. It’s where you drive customers to, via social channels, email marketing, PPC and physical collateral, to generate leads or sales of your products/services.
However, without optimisation, websites can become tumbleweed wastelands, losing businesses valuable organic traffic, and costing them leads and new business.
You see, SEO is at the centre of any successful digital business. Is yours letting you down?
Turn your website into the silent salesperson and lead generating machine it could be and begin conducting an SEO audit today.
For those embarking upon an SEO audit before designing and developing a new website, you should follow this guide from the top. For those auditing a website’s existing optimisation, you could choose to ignore the earlier steps (if you’re sure you have the fundamentals covered), or use them to help improve your existing optimisation.
Pages and audience
Each page of your website pages holds enormous possibility, and with effective optimisation, you can make each a different ‘search pathway’ to your site, bringing in organic traffic.
Selecting the right keyword or key phrase for each page is essential to achieve this, but it’s paramount that you understand your site’s range of likely visitors first.
Your business likely has multiple types of customers
Not only must your keywords reflect these different customers and the things they might search for in order to find your products or services, but when it comes to SEO, the level of understanding these potential users may have at the point that they begin seeking out your type of business, products, or services, must also be considered.
The relationship between audience and keywords is different for every business.
Ensure you carefully consider the different likely users of your website, each of your pages and the value they provide to the user, and the variety of terms you could utilise to ensure these pages rank for searches made by your likely users, including those with less understanding about your industry or specific area of expertise.
Create keyword lists
With this is mind, begin making a list of possible terms.
Become your typical customer, and consider the issue they’re experiencing in order to require your services, and the need they have for your products.
What might they search for?
Think about keywords that articulate what kind of business you have.
For a B2B business providing PR services, for example, you might consider “PR firm”, “PR consultancy”, “Digital PR Agency”, “PR Services” etc.
Think about your services/products, and the kind of terms that might be searched for to find the pages of your site related to them.
For our example PR Firm, these might be “Local PR”, “National PR”, “International PR”, and more specific terms such as “Property PR”, “Pharmaceutical PR”, Manufacturing PR” Etc.
Don’t hold back, fill a page full of these terms. For relevant businesses, remember to consider if can you help to bring in search users with less industry knowledge by using more general terminology.
For blogs and more informative pages, you should also note down some “long tail keywords”, and even questions your likely users may use in search.
Sticking with our same example business, these might be terms like, “How to reach a wide range of industry publications”, or “How can PR benefit my business”.
Optimise your blogs for searchable queries like these, and you can create further pathways from search engine results pages to your website, increasing organic traffic.
You should also note a few variations of each keyword you come up with, as this will be helpful in the next stage.
Those improving a website’s existing optimisation should begin by making a note of the terms they’re trying to rank for already, and begin to extend their list in line with the above guidance.
Conduct your keyword research
At this stage of conducting an SEO audit, you should have a sizable collection of keywords, an amount that surpasses the number of pages on your website.
This step is where we begin to identify the most effective and valuable terms from your list.
Google is a great place to start, helping to provide a clear idea of the most effective terms, however, at The Marketing Optimist, we also use SEO tools available via Moz, an industry-leading SEO tool. We’d advise you look into a similar tool yourself, to ensure you act upon trusted insight.
We also use the Moz toolbar when conducting keyword research on Google to enable us to see the search results that would be returned to users in specific locations.
To start with, begin entering your keywords in Google.
Do you see businesses like yours? Are your competitors there in the search results?
Does this look like a particularly competitive search?
Try the variations of this key term. Is this a less competitive term, while still bringing up fitting results?
These are the questions that help guide you towards identifying the most effective key terms.
With tools like Moz’s Keyword Explorer, you can confirm this initial research and make your decision based on current search metrics.
Pulling through an analysis of the search results for the term entered into the tool, the Keyword Explorer also provides an estimated monthly search volume for this term, a metric indicating how difficult it will be to rank for this term, the estimated organic clickthrough rate for the term, and a fourth metric that combines the others.
The Keyword Explorer also generates related keywords to the one entered, which, together with the insightful metrics it provides, can guide you to identify the most valuable key terms from your initial haul in the previous step.
Mapping keywords to pages
At this stage, you should have scaled your list compiled during your initial keyword haul down to those returning fitting results in search, preferably supported by good search volume and a high estimated click through rate metrics.
This is your keyword list.
Now it’s time to focus in on your website pages again, and the list of valuable key terms you’re left with.
For those conducting an SEO audit ahead of the development of a new website, begin mapping the key terms that clearly and directly correlate to website pages.
In our PR Firm example, the keyword “PR Services” would be mapped to the Services landing page, and “International PR” to the relevant page dedicated to that specific service.
At this point, the more general terms on your list, which are usually the ones that best articulate the kind of business you have, are likely the ones unmapped to pages.
Considering the terms that are competitive but not too competitive, balanced with their search visibility metric and estimated click through rate, begin to map these to your more general website pages, such as your Home, About, Team pages, and even Case Study landing pages.
For those conducting an SEO audit for a site with existing optimisation, can you now see ways that you could improve the keywords your pages are ranking for? Are some of your keywords better served elsewhere? Under closer scrutiny, are your keywords hurting your site’s optimisation, costing you organic traffic?
Beyond the keyword
Of course, optimisation isn’t just about entering your page’s keyword into your site’s SEO plugin/tool. There are a number of other factors you must meet.
Your page’s keyword will need to be weaved naturally through the copy multiple times, feature in H1 and H2 headings, and each of your pages should feature images alt tagged with your keyword.
An SEO description and SEO title is also an essential factor of optimisation, and your keyword should feature here too, as well as in the page’s URL/slug.
Finally, internal, and outbound links are key in helping to optimise your page.
You can read more about the page optimisation process in our Top 10 SEO Tips for WordPress Website blog.
If you’re about to embark upon designing and developing a new website, make significant changes to your existing site, or begin the process of helping your site achieve greater results, this guide, along with our guide to conducting a website audit, are essential reading.