If you aren't on the first page of Google search results, you don't exist.
But don't have an existential crisis yet: search engine optimization (SEO) can get you there. SEO involves everything from content strategy to competitive analysis to keyword research and beyond. But none of that will pay off if you don't do an SEO audit. It's decidedly less painful than an IRS audit, and it will serve as a foundation for all of your SEO efforts.
What is an SEO audit?
An SEO audit is the process of analyzing your website and seeing how well it follows current SEO best practices. You could hire a digital marketing agency to get the job done, but you can also take the reins with an SEO audit tool like WebSite Auditor, Ahrefs, SEMrush, or Moz.
With an automated auditor tool, you can check every single page of your domain and get a full analysis of your website's overall SEO health. How many pages contain 4xx and 5xx codes? Do you have .xml and robots.txt files present? Are there broken images? How many pages simply can't be seen and indexed by a search engine—and why?
Basically, an SEO audit is like a physical exam with your primary care doctor. It measures your website's overall health and lets you know if you'll need to see a specialist for any major issues.
By way of disclosure: I am the developer of WebSite Auditor. That's why, when giving examples, I'll be talking about this particular tool: it's the one I'm most familiar with and can personally vouch for. That said, the work done at places like SEMrush and Moz is impressive, and of course, you can also use the usually top-notch Google Search Console.
Monitor your index and crawlability
First things first: you need to know how much of your website is "crawlable"; that is, how much of your website can be seen and indexed by a search engine. If a search engine can't see it, people can't find it. The end.
There are tons of reasons for a page to disappear from search: from a noindex meta tag, to an X-Robots-Tag, to JS and CSS files that influence your page's crawlability. Even missing a single, tiny element can make your page uncrawlable, which means it'll never show up on search engine results pages. Given the large number of variables, you need to use specialized software for a thorough analysis. Any audit tool will be able to give you a precise indication of how many pages are indexed in Google and other search engines right now. In WebSite Auditor, it looks like this:
You can also analyze your domain to see if any of your pages were made unavailable for search engine bots, either due to 4xx status code like the infamous 404, or 5xx like the opprobrious 503. You also get to see if your 404 error page is set up correctly and see a list of your pages that couldn't be indexed due to the robots.txt instructions you specified in your robots.txt.
So-called "orphan" pages are pages that, for some reason, don't have any internal links. That means there's no way to get to these pages from another spot on your website. Your SEO audit tool will check for orphan pages, at which point you can connect your pages in a more logical, convenient way, which makes it easier both for bots to index them and for humans to navigate them.
By regularly checking that all your pages are crawlable and indexable, you can eliminate problems as soon as they appear.
Monitor the optimization level of your content
After you've made sure that all of your pages appear in search, the next logical step of an audit is to analyze the actual content on your website. There are hundreds of on-page SEO metrics: optimizing headers, titles, and descriptions; checking if there's structured data markup present; and so on.
Most SEO audit tools will be able to run a full analysis and give you a summary of your on-page successes and failures. You'll also get a detailed analysis of each individual page, with ranking factors like your pages' overall optimization rates, number of tags from H1 to H6, word counts, and any and all tags and notes you might create for your pages.
Here's what the summary of your on-page issues looks like on WebSite Auditor:
And here's what the more in-depth look at each page looks like:
Having properly structured content on your website makes it easier for people and bots to read. It can also help get you that coveted featured snippet on Google. You can turn to the free project Schema.org for a web standard on how data is structured. Then use the Structured Data Markup Helper, and when you're done adding markup, test it by refreshing your pages' info in your SEO audit tool.
Keep an eye on your page speed
It's pretty simple: Google ranks faster pages higher. And just like with other factors that help with your rankings, faster loading pages are better for user experience: slower pages convert worse and their bounce rates are a lot higher.
There are lots of metrics that influence the speed of your page. An SEO audit tool will let you see how fast your pages load, and what can be improved—things like compressing images and getting rid of redirects.
In WebSite Auditor, you'd input the URL you want analyzed, along with the keywords that you're interested in. Then you'd see if there were any page speed issues.
With the right tool, you can have a full analysis of the crucial SEO metrics for your website in minutes. And in hours, be done with the entire assessment of where your website stands in terms of optimization. Of course, you need to act on these analyses—and continue to analyze. SEO isn't a one-off thing: to do it right, you have to make it into a routine.
This was a guest post from Aleh Barysevich, Founder and Chief Marketing Officer at companies behind SEO PowerSuite, professional software for full-cycle SEO campaigns, and Awario, a social media monitoring app. He is a seasoned SEO and social media expert and speaker at major industry conferences, including 2018's SMX London, BrightonSEO, and SMX East. Want to see your work on the Zapier Blog? Check out our guidelines and get in touch.