If you start working as an SEO Analyst at a company or if you receive inquiries to create and implement an SEO campaign on a company’s website when you work as a freelancer, the first step you need to take is doing a website analysis also known as SEO Audit for the company’s website and make a report/proposal on your findings. A website analysis shows the position of the website initially before starting the SEO campaign and it can be used to compare later.
As a matter of fact, an SEO website analysis report also saves the headache both for the SEO Analyst and the company requesting the campaign because an SEO Audit report shows the areas which can take time and also be used to monitor the progress of the SEO campaign.
When doing a website analysis, there are four most important universal tasks to be done:
- =>Reporting on the current state of the website- as regards to its visibility on Google, the achievements, the type of inquiries it must be receiving at present.
- =>Check the age of site as well as how it performed in the previous years.
- =>An internal analysis of the site
- =>Preparing the final report
Pointing out recommendations in your report will help the company take full advantage of the internet marketing potential.
Here I give you the ultimate, most comprehensive guide to performing SEO Audits/ conducting a website analysis prior to formulating an SEO campaign. Since I want to educate all the beginners as well as point out new insights to the experts both together, this post is going to be a detailed one but I assure you the long read will be worth it!
In this post, I will be discussing all the bits and fragments of a website that’s to be analyzed during an SEO Audit, the contents of a website analysis report and I will be giving you the bonus of telling you which SEO tools you can use to analyze the various aspects of the website- something I guess no SEO blogs have been informing you about.
Part 1 of Website Analysis for SEO- Checking a website’s overall performance in Google
As part of doing a website’s SEO Analysis, you need to check a website’s performance in Google. It shows your website’s position and ranking on Google, as well as the factors contributing to such rankings.
1.Google Visibility: Obviously the first and foremost chore is checking the site’s visibility on Google, the number of the site’s pages indexed on Google. There is a very easy command for this and it’s site:example.com. Note down the number of pages the site has in total and compare it with all the pages indexed on Google. Also check the site’s ranking for the related keywords on Google.
2.URL Analysis: A website’s URL must contain a small description about the web page in four to five words. If the URL is not optimized, the search engine bots can have a hard time figuring out what your site is about and which category/area your site belongs to.
3. Meta Description Tags: Analyze the meta description tag for each page on the website. A meta description is shown as the rich snippet on Google upon the lists returned to a related search query done by the user. You need to check whether the meta description includes the right keywords as well as entices the visitors to click on to the site.
4. Title tags and Headings: Is the webpage title and headings containing all the marketable keywords? I say, marketable keywords, because there is no use targeting keywords that have a high search volume or a click through rate. They won’t or will generate very less enquiries. The use of marketable keywords is necessary considering that the ultimate goal of formulating an SEO campaign is to generate more business and expand one’s market. Record whether the <H1>, <H2>, <H3> and <H4> tags are optimized for the best marketable keywords.
The best feature is that the Alexa Site Overview shows the top 5 search keywords which are sending traffic to your site. This can be really useful to optimize your site’s content incorporating these keywords.
6. Page Authority and Domain Authority: This is important to find out the trust value of the website as far as Google is concerned. Page Authority is an indicator of how a webpage ranks in Google while Domain authority points out how your site domain ranks in Google.
7. Check Spam Score: Many websites have gotten links from low authority or spammy directories, contributing to bringing down their Page Authority, or increasing their spam score. Finding out spam score is necessary to eliminate all the bad links pointing at the website. The Moz Open Site Explorer tool works best to show these. You can also attach a screenshot like the one below supporting your stats.
8. Bounce Rate:Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors clicking on the close or back button of their browser when they come across a website. The bounce rate is to be reported while doing a website analysis. It can be found out via Alexa.com or through the site’s Google Analytics profile, if you are granted the access. While reporting the bounce rate, you should also analyze and state what can be done to decrease- maybe increasing the page loading speed might help or maybe a rearrangement of content is required.
9. Incoming links from other sites: Analyzing the number of links coming to your website as well as the competitors’ websites is necessary to know the amount of work that’s to be done as part of the SEO campaign for the site.
- Using Link checkers/tools online: There are lots of backlink checker tools like Ahrefs tool, the Moz Open Site Explorer which shows the links pointing to your site.
- Using SEO commands: Alternately if you use the link:command example.com on Google, you will get a list of sites having links to the webpage concerned. But Google just shows a few links. So it’s really good to use Yahoo for this purpose as it lists out all possible links. The command has a minor difference and it goes like this linkdomain:example.com.
- How to know if a website has got bad links? The spam score in Moz Open Site explorer can indirectly state the number of spam links you have got. For example, if it is getting displayed in orange, you have 3 bad links. If you’ve got a red spam score, then it means you have got more than 6 bad links. In this case, the only option is to manually analyze each and every linking site, find all the sites with a bad spam score and use the Disavow tool to remove them.
10. Reputation Analysis: So you have got a certain number of links from different domains to your site. But what is the anchor text that’s having the hyperlink in them? In SEO, it’s very important you get links with the relevant anchor text and with this, the surrounding content quality also matters.
How to find these anchor texts? To find out the anchor text of every link coming to your site, you can use the SEMRush Backlink Analysis tool. If you are signed in, you can see all the backlinks to your site, classified as links coming from domain and root domain and most significantly the anchor text which gave the link.
11. Social Media Profile: This states the company’s outreach on social media platforms. The number of +1’s on Google+ profile, the amount of likes on the company’s Facebook page as well as the twitter followers all indicate a company’s social media presence and as we all know, social signals matter a lot in improving a site’s rankings.
Part 2 of Website Analysis- The website age and its performance in the past
Even if knowing the age of website has no significance of its own, it can work wonders to make impressions on your employers. It can also help you know when the site was started and the keywords and headings used on the site’s content previously.
Suppose you get an enquiry wherein the owner of the website tells you that he was receiving a lot of enquiries/having higher conversion rate before, going through the previous version of the website can make you understand the keywords which led to conversion.After that you can formulate optimized content strategies for the website.
How to check the age of a website? If you have installed the SEOBook toolbar on your Mozilla Firefox browser, click on the “Archive.org site age” button when you are on the site. Alternately, you can go to http://web.archive.org/web/*/example.com, from your browser and a data which looks like a calendar appears. If you click on the dates marked in blue, you can get a screenshot of the site as on the date. So, the catch is to go to the oldest date available by clicking on the year and then the first date marked in blue. There, you get the oldest, the first version of your website! Interesting, right?
Part 3 of Website Analysis- A complete internal analysis for the website
A complete internal analysis of the website is mandatory if the company is planning to go for an SEO campaign. A website’s internal analysis reveals the underlying errors in its design and structure. One of the best tool to analyze all the internal aspects of a website is the GTMetrix tool. Besides offering a detailed comprehensive overview of the website’s structure, it has a grading system that gives you scores on the various aspects of the website. It also gives you suggestions as to how you can optimize or fix certain issues like page speed. Here is a sample analysis report from GTmetrix.com for Softloom IT Solutions.
1.Number of Requests made: A website is built up of a number of files. More the number of files, higher will be the number of requests made to the server by the browser program. When there are a large number of requests to be made, it affects the page loading speed and this can be a big turn off to the visitor trying to access your website. Note the number of requests to be made to the website’s server and make recommendations on how you can combine similar files and java scripts.
The Waterfall: You can view the waterfall diagram of your site on clicking the “waterfall” tab on the menu below the scores. This can also be viewed on another website analysis website which is the Pingdom Website Speed Test tool. The waterfall shows the number of requests made by a browser to the server and the time taken for each request in a cascading form. The length/height of the waterfall indicates the number of requests and the width denotes the time taken for the request to receive a response that’s to be downloaded on the browser.
2. Page loading speed and time: GTMetrix gives a clean summary of your website’s loading speed in Google and Yahoo browsers in the form of PageSpeed and YSlow scores respectively. Below you can see all the reasons and options listed below neatly. You can click on each of the options and work on the suggestions given.
Leverage Browser caching gives the user many advantages like saving data because already a certain amount of the website data is stored in the browser’s cache the first time he visits the page. For the website owner, the advantage leverage browser caching gives is that it doesn’t send the user away from visiting his site as the page loads with great speed and less time.
How leverage browser caching is done?
Go to Google and search for “leverage browser cache htaccess code“. You will find many pages which have the code. It should look like something below. Copy the code and paste it to the file having the .htacess code of your website. You can ask the site’s developer to do the same for you.
5. G Zip Compression: The G Zip compression code helps you transfer files easily. Just like you compress files into a ZIP for easy transfer on your computer, websites can also use the G Zip compression code for doing the task of transferring the files from the server to the user’s browser easily. The advantage of this code is that compresses the many files on the server into a ZIP file and then after the ZIP file has been transferred to the user’s browser, the Zip file is extracted and uncondensed and displayed on the browser in the original form. All these happens at a speedy rate and the user doesn’t get to know them.
How to enable G Zip Compression? Google “G Zip compression htaccess code“. Out of any of the webpages mentioning the code, copy the code and paste it to the file having the .htacess code of your website. You can ask the site’s developer to do the same for you.
6.Keep Alive: Just like the G Zip and leverage browser caching codes, the Keep Alive code, if added in the .htacess file for your website, it helps in achieving faster page loading speed. The Keep Alive code is used to allow a persistent connection between the server and web browser. Usually, every time a new request is made for each file on the server, a new TCP connection has to be established. With Keep Alive, just one TCP connection is required to send requests for all the files altogether.
How to enable Keep Alive? Google “Keep Alive htaccess code“. Copy the code from any of the webpages having the code and paste it to the file containing the .htaccess code of the website. Again, if you are not familiar doing this for your website, seek help from the developer who has developed the website. It is rather better not trying to break your website for this.
7. Serve Scaled Images: If you have a low score against this point, you need to resize all the images on the website and place them in the appropriate sections of your website.
8. Optimize Image: Having a defined image size that’s optimized both in terms of resolution and is very important for a website, especially when it comes to page loading speed. The “Optimize Image” option in GTMetrix.com not only tells you which images you need to fix on the site, but also provides you with the optimized image samples which you can download and save for use in you site.
10. Combine images using CSS Sprite: If your website has got a lot of images to handle, it can slow down the page loading speed. Combining all the images of the site in a CSS Sprite can reduce page loading time as well as enable data savings for the user. If you have a low score against this option, considering writing a good CSS Sprite for the website concerned. You can seek the aid of the website’s developer for this.
12. Check for Broken links: Broken links or links to a page that do not exist/ has been removed can reduce crawlability of the webpage. If your site has broken links or links to other sites having broken links, Google bots will hesitate to crawl across your webpage.
13. Creating a customized 404 Page: If a person comes against a 404 Page Not Found error when surfing your website, he usually just clicks on the close/back button of his browser. It’s unsure as to whether he will come back to your site or not and chances are he will not visit your website forever! So creating a custom 404 page is mandatory if you want to keep your user on the website itself.
Certain tips to be noted while creating the custom 404 Page are:
- Maintain the same navigation and menus as the rest of the site.
- Inform the visitor that the Page they are looking for is not found.
- Include suggestions for browsing any other pages of the website.
- A search tab can also be included.
13. Content Delivery Network(CDN): CDNs or Content Delivery Network is a worldwide distribution network of proxy servers. The way a CDN works is simple. For example, if you have a website hosted in New York, people in New York and nearby states can load the site faster than the people far away, say India.
CDNs eliminate this difference by storing the website’s data files in its servers which are located in different countries and these are called POP servers (point of presence). So when a person is loading the site from US or India or the UAE, he/she can load the site in more or less the same time because they don’t need to travel all the way to the website’s origin server. Rather they can go back and forth from their browsers to the POP server. CDNs can store content, videos and images.
CDN benefits for your website: Besides playing a huge role in optimizing page speed, CDNs ensure safety as your site as it stores all the website files in its temporary cache which users can access, even if there is an Internet malfunction. It also prevents the site from crashing as the CDNs divide the page load time among the different geographically located servers.
14. XML Sitemap: Having an XML site map for the website enables better crawling by the Google bots. Check if the website has a sitemap and if it doesn’t, make recommendations for the same in the report. One can generate a sitemap from many of the XML sitemap generators available online.
15. Mobile optimization: Being mobile optimized has never been more important before ever after Google made it compulsory through the officially announced Mobilegeddon update on May 12, 2016. Websites which are not mobile optimized won’t show up in mobile search results.
- =>Check if the website is able to be viewed easily on mobile devices without zoom.
- =>Also check the server’s responding time for the website- it tells you about the page loading speed on mobile devices.
Part 4 of Website Analysis- Presenting the Website Analysis/ SEO Audit Report
The last and most important step is making a report on the website’s SEO Analysis. A well presented SEO Report is key to getting hired or convincing your boss that you are one smart SEO Analyst!
Make sure you support all the facts and findings in your report with appropriate screenshots. Also make recommendations or suggestions as to what you will be doing to improve the site’s performance as well as its rankings. So here I give you brief list of contents that form part of a brilliantly prepared SEO Website Analysis Report:
1.Your company profile: Name of your company(or your name), title of the report as well as the date on which you created the report.
2.The profile of the company you are reporting for: Name of the company, URL of the company’s website, Webpage title.
3.Page Authority and Domain Authority
4. Google Visibility: Number of pages indexed on Google.
5. Alexa Rankings
6. Bounce Rates
7. Daily Page Views
8. Average time spent on site
9. Links Analysis: Number of backlinks to the website, the number of domains and root domains
10. Reputation Analysis: The anchor text of the backlinks coming into the website.
11. Internal Analysis: PageSpeed score, YSlow score, Page Load Time, Total Page Size, Requests, Broken Links if any
13. SEO Recommendations: Optimizing the URL, title tags, headings and meta tags of the website; adding Alt tags for images on the company’s website, XML sitemap generation for easy crawl-ability by Google bots, mobile optimization of the website, creating a company page on the social media sites if not done yet.
An SEO audit report comprising all these ingredients is sure to impress the person reading it if it’s presented in a simple but catchy design. Don’t forget to add screenshots wherever required. A picture speaks 1000 times better.
SEO Tools for conducting a Website Analysis/ SEO Audit Tools
1. SEO commands: To show number of pages indexed on Google- site:example.com; To show all the sites linking to the company’s website- For Google- link:example.com, On Yahoo: linkdomain:example.com
4. Reputation Analysis: SEMRush, Google Webmaster Tools (Available only if you have access to company’s google profile: Dashboard>Search Traffic>Links to your site)
6. Alexa Ranking: Alexa Site overview for your website
7. Bounce Rates, Page Views and average time spent: Alexa Site Overview, Google Analytics (available only if you have access to company’s google profile)
I hope my post has helped you with conducting an effective website analysis as an SEO professional. Why not let me know in the comments section? If you have any doubts, leave me a reply and I promise to answer your queries swiftly!
For more awesome SEO tips and website analysis posts, stay tuned to our blogs!