A search engine optimization audit (SEO Audit) of a website reviews several of the key aspects of the site that are known to impact its performance in search engine results. The audit generally uses commercially available tools to assist in data gathering. These tools use crawlers similar to the search providers crawlers (e.g. Google, Bing, etc.) to search your website and report on their findings. In addition, manual checks are performed using other commercial tools based on the results of the automated searches. If you're a more technical business owner it's possible to use some of the free tools on the web to perform your own audit. We'll discuss some of those later.
What SEO Mistakes are Most Common?
Meta Tags errors are the most common SEO mistake
In 2018 Serpstat reviewed almost 175 million web pages and and found over 300 million SEO errors. This analysis concluded that the most common SEO mistake involves meta tags for title and page description. This is especially true of small business sites developed by novice developers or individuals developing their own sites with website development tools like Wix. The Serpstat study revealed that over 50% of the pages reviewed showed title and description meta tag issues, the chart below indicates the distribution of these problems.
Given the scope of meta tag issues, this is one of the first SEO areas that we review in our audit. Creating effective meta-tags requires a review of your page content and keyword focus to ensure meta tag alignment with page content.
Image Optimization issues are extremely common
Raven Site Audit Tools noted in a blog entry of November 2018 that the most common problem found via their audit tool from mid-2013 through 2015 was image related. In fact, they noted that 78% of the issues found were image based. Although the data is relatively old, if your site was developed 3 or 4 years ago it may well have these issues. Two common types of image issues found, include:
- Missing image alt data - About a quarter of the images didn't have alt text. Alt text is a key search engine data element, as it tells that search engine what the image is about. Missing alt text will mean that the image will almost never be indexed to appear in any of Google's image listing. In addition, missing alt text will not help your page advance on a search results page.
- Missing image title data - The image title meta tag determines what will be displayed to the user as they hover over an image. Although it's not as critical as the image alt tag above it's good practice to ensure it is included. About 53% of the image problems were due to missing image title tags.
Page Heading Tag SEO issues
The Serpstat study also indicated that almost 5% of the pages reviewed were missing h1 tags. In addition, they noted about 2% of the pages had incorrect nesting of heading tags and an equal number had multiple h1 tags. These issues all lead to difficulty in the search engines understanding your page thus reducing its ranking.
Forgetting about local search
Many articles have been written about the importance of local search. In fact Search Engine Journal reported last year on a study that indicated 50% of local searches result in an in-store visit the same day (Click here to read the SEJ article on Worst SEO Mistakes). This means it's extremely important that you ensure you site is optimized for local support. This means including local business schema and ensuring your Google My Business and Bing Business listings are up to date and accurate.
What SEO Ranking Factors Impact Search Results?
Technical SEO experts have identified over 200 characteristics of a web site that impact its positioning in search engine results pages (SERPs). Some of these items are specifically declared by Google publicly through their webmaster blogs and YouTube videos from key employees. Others have been identified through extensive website research into top performing websites by top SEO software providers (e.g. SEMRush, MOZ, etc.) and others. In addition, Technical SEO Consultants have identified and noted others by results of A/B testing and other methods.
Technical SEO Ranking factors can be broken down to the following areas (with a few examples for each one):
- Domain Factors - How long has the domain been registered?, When does the registration expire?, etc.
- On Page Items - Page title, meta-description, HTML headings, keyword density, page load speed, content, etc.
- Brand - Social media pages with likes, Google My Business & Bing Places for Business locations, etc.
- Links - Internal site linking, Links from other sites to your site, URL length, etc.
- Site Level - Contact us match to domain registration, Site Map, SSL Certificate, etc.
- User Interaction Factors - Click through rate, direct traffic, bounce rate, etc.
- Google Specific Rules - Local search, geo-targeting, shopping, etc.
In addition to the items above, it's important to note that content is still king. Your content must be appealing and directly answer the question posed by the user to the search engine. If it's not relevant and engaging, your technical SEO results will be impacted - low click-through-rate, low time on site, high bounce rate, etc. No technical SEO audit is complete without a review of your page content.
What are the top 15 SEO factors reviewed in our Technical SEO Website Audit?
Technical SEO Audit Page Factors:
Here's a quick list of the top SEO Page Factors that we review in our SEO Website Audit: