SEO

SEO Audit: An essential guide

BigAppCompany

Published on Nov 9, 2018

As a digital marketer, it’s probable that you’ll be tasked with making technical recommendations for a client’s website, most likely at the start of the campaign. The cornerstone of this process will be the SEO Technical Audit. Identifying and drawing insights for the many technical elements will inform next steps in terms of what will allow the valuable pages of a website to be more visible in search results and accessible for users.

Some of the fundamental aspects of SEO are:

  1. Meta data:
    With reference to Title Tags and Meta Descriptions, these snippets of HTML code are two attributes that serve to inform users and search engines of the page subject. If optimized correctly, the information provided should relate to a users’ search query, which should subsequently improve click-through rates.
    1. Title tags:
      • Lead with relevant keywords at the front of Title Tag
      • To leverage brand awareness, incorporate the brand name at the end, maintaining a uniform layout site wide
      • A Title Tag should not exceed 50-60 characters. Search engines may cut off additional characters if the length is exceeded
      • Overall, they should be unique and compelling to enhance visibility and user experience
    2. Meta descriptions:
      • 1 or 2 focus keywords should be included and consistent with those used in Title Tag, Header Tags, and in most cases the URL
      • The text should align with the page subject
      • The optimal length is 150-160 characters
      • Meta Descriptions should be unique
      • A Meta Description should be written as a compelling piece of ad copy
  2. Crawling & Indexing:
    Search engine bots crawl webpages and then store copies of these pages in their indices. The crawling of a page is one of the many driving forces that determine which pages are returned following a Google search. If a search bot is unable to crawl a page then it won’t be able to show that page to a user.
    1. XML sitemap:
      This document provides an easily digestible menu of the value driven pages. As per your discretion, that you’ve chosen to tell search engines about which will streamline the crawling and indexation process. Furthermore, it’s a quick way to tell Google when fresh content has been published to a website, and which content pieces are originals which will aide in ranking improvements, in time.
    2. HTML sitemap:
      Unlike the XML Sitemap, the HTML Sitemaps are written for human consumption, not search engines. Therefore, if a user can’t find particular content, this sitemap will help improve that user experience.
    3. Robots.txt:
      This file lives in the root directory of your site and tells search engine bots which pages to access and index and which pages it should avoid. The functionality of this file is essential for not only the SEO aspect, but also for the privacy of areas of a site.
  3. Structure of the URL:
    The structure of a URL will help describe a page to visitors as well as search engines, much like the Title Tag of a page. Dependent on where a page lives within a site, the paths and taxonomy of the URL should align with the site navigation and page subject. Some additional guidelines to adhere to are as follows:
    • URLs should be kept as succinct as possible, avoiding excessive use of folders
    • Keywords that best represent a page are still useful
    • Words in URLs should be separated by hyphens
    • Unnecessary punctuation characters should be removed
    • Use of certain prepositions or ‘stop’ words should be
    • Dynamic parameters may be excluded, if advisable
    If any areas of a website are misrepresented in their URL formatting, it’s important that recommendations are made as the user experience can be compromised and search bots may be confused during the crawl & indexation phase.
  4. Canonicalization:
    Ensure that if a website contains multiple page variations they all point to one common URL, which is assigned via the Canonical tag. Duplicate page version examples are listed below:
    1. Pages with filter parameters
    2. Paginated pages
    3. Secure, https pages
    4. Non-secure, http pages
    5. www pages
    6. Non-www pages

Remember that the SEO technical audit is only as valuable as the dedicated research that goes in to them.

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