Join Brad Batesole for an in-depth discussion in this video The 17 minute SEO, part of Marketing Tips.
- Hi, and welcome to another episode of Weekly Marketing Tips. I'm Brad Batesole and this week I'd like to show you how you can leverage several tools to perform a fairly comprehensive SEO audit in a short time frame. Now, a quick disclaimer, I'm not in any way suggesting you can learn all the intricacies of SEO in this marketing tip. Instead, I want to give you a way to understand what's going on with your site so you can decide if you want to learn more about how to improve your SEO, or if you're considering bringing in professional help.
I'm going to show you what I consider a quick audit. It's a good way to get a gauge of how a site is doing and where some of your weaknesses are. We're going to move fairly quickly so if you feel lost, feel free to pause, rewind or watch me in half speed. Actually, maybe skip the half speed idea. I can't imagine I sound all that great. I'll also point you to some excellent SEO resources here on lynda.com at the end of this tip, should you want to expand your learnings even further. To speed things up as you've noticed, I've already opened up all of the tools in the tabs here in my browser.
Now it's often easiest to just do a Google search for the resources but I've opened them up and we'll share the direct URL with you as we interact with each one. The only tool that isn't a website is the Screaming Frog SEO Spider. This is a really powerful tool and you can download it for free and use it with some limited features. They do have a premium option. You'll find that at screamingfrog.co.uk and you'll select the SEO Spider and then choose Download from the menu in the upper navigation.
So, let's talk about what our plan is. The goal of our SEO audit is to identify three main elements: how we're doing technically, how we're doing with our content, and how we're doing with our exposure on the web. For this example, we're going to be using the site explorecalifornia.org to perform our audit. So the first thing's first is I like to go to the site and just take a quick glance at what it is that's going on, make sure the site loads, and just get a general sense of how it's navigated and any of the information.
Now, I do this because I'm not familiar with this site and you might be doing this quick SEO audit on one of your competitors. The first thing I like to do is to check if there's a robots.txt file and a sitemap.xml file. So first things I'll do is I'll go to the URL, explorecalifornia.org/robots.txt. Oh, you'll notice here that the site says "Woah. That's odd." which indicates to me that this robots.txt file is not there, and that's no good.
What you'd expect to see is something similar to this. I'll go to lynda.com/robots.txt and here you can see there's some instructions that is given to the Google Crawler. This file tells Google and other crawlers what to do. We don't want the crawler wasting time browsing sections of our site that don't need to be indexed so we could disallow those sections here. Next, I look for a sitemap.xml file and I would do that again by going to the URL explorecalifornia.org/sitemap.xml.
And there you go, you can see that this site doesn't have one either, another red flag. Here I'll show you again at lynda.com/sitemap.xml what you'd expect to see. The site map is a specialized file that helps Google navigate all the sections of your site. It's an important component and the fact that we didn't have it there is not a good sign. So I'd make note that Explore California needs to create a site map. Next, I would like to dive into the technical considerations so we'll start with the Mobile-Friendly Test, and you can get here at google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly.
Simply enter your URL: explorecalifornia.org and choose "analyze." With the latest changes to Google Search algorithm, sites are being penalized if they're not mobile-friendly and this prevents you from appearing prominently in mobile searches, and mobile is a major element to your SEO success so if you get this error that says "Not mobile-friendly" you need to fix it right away. Here on the left hand side, Google's going to tell you why it's not mobile-friendly and you can even get some instructions on the far right hand side on how to improve the particular site.
Next, I want to dive into more of our technical considerations and I'll do that by visiting Google's PageSpeed Insights. You'll get there at developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights. Same idea as Mobile-friendly, we'll enter our URL and choose "analyze." The idea here is that we get a list of concerns that Google has. The better we score, the better in theory our SEO opportunity will be.
Here we can see a mobile tab and this is telling us that our User Experience is 68 out of 100, and it says we need to use legible font sizes, and if I choose the drop down to see some details, it's going to give me a list of all of the specific errors that are on my site so I can right away start finding these problems and resolving them. You'll notice that you can also tab over to Desktop. In this case we score a 96 out of 100 and that's actually great. You probably don't even need to worry about fixing any of these other issues at that point.
Typically a score above 75 is going to be okay. Anything below that and you really want to start following the instructions that Google has here for you. Now, at this stage, we have a good sense of how we're performing technically and with our mobile optimization. Next, we're going to pop into the Google Search console which is formerly Google Web Master tools for some additional insights. Now, you can't do this if you're looking at a competitor, but you can do it for your own site.
I do have a tip and there are some other videos on Lynda showing how to get set up with the Google Search console but if you're already in here, a couple things I'd like to point out: first things first is in the "Search Appearance" tab on the left hand menu, I'll choose "HTML Improvements" and here I can get a quick glance at any HTML improvements my site needs. Here I can see that Google says I have 14 pages with short meta descriptions. If I select that link, Google's going to show me all of the pages and I can select those and go ahead and update those meta descriptions.
Also on the left I'll point out that you can check your "Index Status" under the Google Index Heading. This will give you a quick sense as to if Google is increasing your index or if things are staying about the same. In this case I don't really see anything up or down that indicates much of a problem. Under "Crawl" the first thing that you want to look at is "Crawl Errors." Right away you can see if Google is having any trouble crawling or seeing your site. Here, I can see there's some spikes and some plateaus, about five errors on average, and if I scroll down the page I can see what each of those errors are and if you select into it, Google's going to tell you that it couldn't crawl the URL for whatever reason.
If you have these 404 response codes, that means Google can't find the page but you're linking to it, which is a big problem, so you want to go figure out what's happening there and resolve those problems. You can also use the robots.txt Tester to see if that robots file, if you have one, has any problems, and Google will tell you down below if there are any errors or any warnings. Same thing with "sitemaps." You can see if you sitemap is available and if you select into it, you can choose "Test Sitemap" in the upper right hand corner, or "Resubmit Sitemap" after you resolve your problems to Google.
One thing that's really important is structured data, and structured data markup is a standard way to sort of annotate your content so that machines can understand it. When your webpage includes structured data markup, Google can use that data to index your content better. It helps Google understand more of what's on your page, things like phone numbers, and images, and your company name all become indexable in their own way and that really helps your SEO. If you're using Search Console, you can find the Structured Data under Search Appearance and you'll get a sense if you have any errors, so in this case, this site has 45 items with errors, and as I scroll down I can see on the far right that 45 next to an exclamation point.
I'll select it and I can review those errors. So here Google is saying you're missing the author tag, you're missing the updated tag for this page. I would want to go in and fix that structured data. Now I'm not going to get in to how structured data works, but I will point you towards some resources later. Now I also opened up the Structured Data Testing Tool which you'll find at developers.google.com/structured-data/testing-tool. If you're not using Google Web Master Tools, you can insert your URL here or paste in your source code.
I'll select "Fetch URL" and you can drop in a URL and choose "Fetch & Validate" and on the right hand side Google's going to tell you if there are any errors or in this case "No structured data present." Now, that in itself is an error and I'd like to make note of that as I think about some improvements to this site is I should go back and find ways to introduce structured data because there isn't any. It's at this point that I'll fire up the Screaming Frog SEO Spider. This is a tool that allows you to crawl your site like Google and get some information about what's going on under the hood.
Now, there's a tremendous amount of configurations you can make to SEO Spider, but remember, we're just trying to get a quick overview so I'm only going to leave everything as the default. So I simply opened up this window and I'm going to add in our URL here at the top of the page. I'll choose start, and now it's going to crawl the entire site. Depending on the size of your site, this could take a while. It could take anywhere from five minutes to five hours so you'll want to allow it some time until you see the bar get all the way to 100 percent.
You can always stop it early if you feel like you've got enough information. The first thing you're going to look at is all of the URLs that the Crawler found, and basically it did this by clicking on all of the links and looking at all of the elements starting with the page you gave it. The first thing I like to look at is just to scroll through and see what's being crawled. You'll notice on the left, the address, and the type of content. If you see a lot of CSS files and java script being crawled, it means that you're not excluding those things from robots.txt and Google's wasting time crawling them.
In the Status Code section, you really want to see the number 200, that means everything's okay. These 404 errors are problems. That means that I linked from somewhere on my site to somewhere else on my site and the page that I linked to doesn't exist. That's a big red flag to Google because it means that you're not totally sure what's happening on your own site. So, by selecting into that, I can see again that status code and down below, if you look at the "Inlinks" you can see where those links are coming from, and the "Outlinks" will help you see where they're going.
In this case, they're not going anywhere so you've just used the "Inlinks" to figure out where you're linking from and where to. So the "findTour" page is being linked to from my home page, from the index page, which is identical, and it's 404-ing so I would need to go resolve that link. Along the top you have some tabs and you can go to the "Response Code" section and filter for those 404's, and what that'll do is give you a list of all of the content that is 404-ing. You'll also notice that it's going to show you content that is off of your site, so if you link to a page off of your site that is no longer there, it's going to give you a 404 error.
This is also important for SEO because linking to a lot of content that isn't found is also bad for business. Next up, I'd like to look at page titles, and I'll select that tab and go through all the titles of every page. According to SEO practices, every single page should have a unique and informative title. In this case, some of these are actually kind of the same, in fact if I click "title" and "sort" I can see all of the duplicates. So we'd want to at least fix those duplicates. You can see the length on the right hand side and if you scroll all the way to the right you'll notice that in these folders, Screaming Frog has done a good job of giving you some categories.
So, you can click into "duplicate" to see just the duplicates. You can click into "missing" to see where you're missing page titles. And you can see anything that's over 65 characters, which is bad, or below 30 characters, which is also bad. So you can quickly go in and resolve those issues. Next, I would tab into "Meta Description" and I can see that there are no meta descriptions, which is a bad thing in terms of SEO. We want to have a meta description. Now, meta descriptions don't help necessarily with ranking, but they are what Google sometimes uses as your description when someone visits the Google browser and searches for a keyword.
They see that little description under the link. That's typically coming from your meta description. It's sort of a way to drive more traffic to your site. In this case, we don't have them so we could add them. Meta keywords is something that does not happen anymore in SEO so you can completely ignore this section and go instead into heading one (H1). Now the way that Google likes to see a site is that all of your H1 tags should be unique as well because you don't really need to repurpose the content on multiple pages. Every page should be unique, everything you're telling your user should be unique, so if you see lots of duplicate H1 tags, well that in itself is an issue that you want to resolve.
You can go in again to these categories on the right hand side and look for any missing H1 tags, or duplicate H1 tags. In this case, all of our H1 tags are duplicated. Heading two (H2) tags aren't as important so you can kind of gloss over those, but you do sort of want to follow that same pattern, and then I'll tap into "images" and here on the right hand side I like to look at any images that are "missing alt text." This is an important element in SEO, making sure that you have Alt Text associated with all of your images, and you can find that by selecting that link as well.
So, that in a quick, short nutshell is a quick crawl using SEO Spider, and again, you'll be looking for things that have issues. From there, I like to pop over to Siteliner and use this to find duplicate content. So if I add in a URL, in this case I'll go to, say brandedcrate.com, and hit "go" Siteliner's going to analyze that site and give me some suggestions. Here on the upper left hand corner I can choose "Duplicate Content" and now I can see anywhere within the site that maybe has some duplicate content, and when you select a page, Siteliner's going to highlight the content and on the right hand side you can see what has matched and the amount of matching words.
This case, 188, and if I select into that section, it's going to take me to that page with the match. Duplicate content within your website can cause Google to penalize you so use Siteliner to look for duplicate content and then clean up those pages. Finally, it's a good time to take a look at what's happening in terms of your site exposure. That's where the Moz Open Site Explorer comes in. At moz.com/researchtools/ose for Open Site Explorer.
Enter in your URL and choose "search" and right away you're going to get a sense of your site's influence. You can see your domain authority and page authority out of a score of 100. Anything lower than 50 is pretty low and you'll want to work to increase that, and you do that by getting Inbound Links. Inbound Links are links from other sites to your site which tells Google that hey, you're probably pretty credible. You can see the total number of inbound links to gauge a sense of your overall influence.
If you'd like to drill deeper into any of these sections, you can select from the options on the left hand side. The goal of a quick audit is to help you be aware of what things look like to a search engine, and if you have any areas that you may have overlooked. This also gives you a foundation as you evaluate hiring an SEO. If they can't highlight the major issues you've just located in a few minutes, they'll struggle to supply you with a strategy that works. I highly recommend you take a look at SEO Fundamentals and SEO for Local here on lynda.com as your next step.
There you can dive deeper into what all of this means and how to leverage this audit to improve your site. Take a look at your site today and see if you find any issues that jump out at you. You'd be surprised what a few tweaks can do to improve your traffic. I sure hope you've got Google Analytics up and running as well because if not, you know what your next stop is. Thanks for checking in this week. As always, I'd love to hear from you. So, let me know what you thought about this week's episode. Did you find anything when you ran your quick audit? Was anything confusing? Well, tell me with an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or reach me on Twitter @bradbatesole.
I'll see you next week.
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