Not a day goes by that I’m not doing a website audit on a site somewhere. There are many reasons for a site audit. It may be for a prospect or client wondering about the specifics of their website’s strengths and weaknesses, a client’s search competitor who is doing better than they are and I need to learn why or simply because I’m down one of the many rabbit trails my day takes me and something about a website has my curiosity piqued.
For whatever reason, being able to quickly assess a website is crucial to me and my clients. So what am I looking for? I’m looking for all the ways that a website can help or hinder its pages to rank high in search results. I’m also looking for ways the content on the pages can be doing the same.
I recently compiled a review of web site auditor tools and for that I used the following matrix of audit information that each tool should be able to report:
- Meta tags (duplicates, missing, long/short)
- Duplicate content
- Link anchor text missing
- Broken links
- Image alt/title tags
- Broken Images
- H tags
- Load time
- WWW vs non-WWW resolve
- Analytics in place
- nofollow meta
- Long URLs
- 400/500 Errors
- Canonical conflicts
- Compare Crawls
I realize for most of you this list is gobbledygook but to someone seeking to determine how to improve your website’s rankings, why another website is outranking yours or how changes have affected your website these components of your website are very important. I’m not going to go through the entire list but here’s why we’re interested in some these items.
Things we call “meta tags” are back-stage elements of each page of your website that guide search engines into a better understanding of what the page is about so they can then confidently refer people who are searching for just that. They also contain information that search engines can use in their search results to better “sell” your page to the prospective visitor.
Put yourself in the search engines’ shoes. If you see two pages that contain identical or nearly identical content what are you to do? Which one do you promote to people looking the information found on both pages? Is one better than the other? When search engines lack confidence the end result is both pages not being ranked very well or even at all.
Believe it or not, humans aren’t the only ones who have a short attention span and hate to wait for a web page to load. That beautiful and enormous picture across the top could be adding a couple seconds to your page’s load time. When that’s the case, even the search engines’ bots run out of patience and skip the page. This means it will never show up in search results and that’s bad.
Over time it’s not unusual for pages at the other end of links to go away. This is even true when linking to pages on your own website (internal links). But seeing this is disheartening to the search engines because they want everything on a page to be working at its best if they’re going to be sending visitors to it. Broken links make the search engines lose faith and start ranking those pages lower.
So that’s a little about what you can expect to find in a website audit from someone interested in your website’s SEO and why they’re so important.