Whether you are new to SEO and looking for a litmus test of your website’s health, or have an ongoing campaign that may need a little refreshing, it’s always a good idea to perform regular check-ups or audits.
If you have complex campaigns that are already in full swing this may seem like a lot of effort. It’s a bit like going to the dentist; you may not like it but it’s necessary. Better to identify areas for improvement or success that can be capitalized on than to continue blindly following the original strategy with more limited results.
This article explores some of the tools that are available to you in order to perform an SEO check-up.Keyword research
With the growing complexity of inbound marketing, voice search, Rankbrain and content marketing, the phrase ‘keyword’ is starting to feel somewhat of a profanity. In fact, Hubspot is even in the process of removing its keyword tracking function from the platform.
However, there is still significant emphasis placed on high value target keywords by clients and management alike. Furthermore, sound keyword research (or searcher intent-led research) can be incredibly valuable as a foundation for a more comprehensive, conversion-driven campaign.
The queries that searchers use to find your business can change over time so it’s always a good idea to audit existing target keywords to ensure that they are still viable. Google’s Keyword Planner should be your first port of call; after all it provides direct access to search data.
If you understandably don’t want to pin your campaign to certain keywords, focus instead on the solutions and value that you are trying to provide for your clients. This will help you analyse the overarching objectives of your campaign and influence how you then track the successes and areas for improvement. Use your analytics data (more on this later) to see whether the campaign is performing according to your original strategy.
Of course, there are other research tools that you can use including Answer the Public, Keywordtool.io or BuzzSumo.Indicative metrics
For many, having indicative metrics can provide peace of mind with regard to the incremental improvement of campaigns. While this can be somewhat of a flawed system, they do provide easily digestible statistics to help with a check-up.
The two most popular metrics used by the industry are provided by Moz and Majestic. These figures should be viewed as quick indicative figures and should not be taken as chapter and verse for the health of your SEO campaign.Moz’s Open Site Explorer
Domain authority (DA) is the most popular of the metrics provided by Moz’s Open Site Explorer, providing a score between 0 and 100. The theory is that according to the factors taken into account by Moz’s analytics, a website with a higher DA is more likely to rank in search. Moz also provides page authority, which is useful for landing or category pages on your website.Majestic
In the same vein as Moz, Majestic provides two main metrics: trust flow and citation flow. These metrics are heavily based on the quantity and quality of linking domains and are potentially more useful for a check-up owing to the specific nature of the metrics. Majestic also provides a deeper breakdown of link factors, allowing users to deep dive into the health of their website’s backlink portfolio.Pingdom, GT Metrix and PageSpeed Insights
With the roll out of Google’s mobile first index, load speed has never been more important. A slow loading website is a slow loading website. It has a dual impact: lower rankings and lower conversion rates, all underpinned by a poor user experience.
Any SEO check-up or audit should evaluate a website’s load speed. There are a number of tools available, all with their pros and cons. Google’s PageSpeed Insights is much like the Keyword Planner; it’s run by Google so pretty hard to ignore. However, the advice provided is reasonably generic. Use it conjunction with other tools such as Pingdom’s Website Speed Test and GT Metrix to really hone in on some of the load speed issues faced by your site and get your site loading quickly on both desktop and mobile.W3C Validator
Websites are like cars: the more you use them, the more maintenance they need. Over time a website is likely to develop errors in the code, which will have an impact on how your website is viewed Google, especially if it then effects the aforementioned load speed. Use W3C’s Markup Validation Service to highlight errors in the code for your development team to fix.
The tools mentioned thus far give an overarching view of your website’s SEO health, allowing you to start to form, or reassess, the foundations of a campaign. However, it’s always possible to dig a little deeper to draw user-based insights into the current performance of a website and therefore not only provide higher value to the user (and therefore increase your chances of being returned in the SERPs), but also have a positive impact on your conversion rate.
User and usage data is essential for any successful, agile campaign. It provides the data necessary to see if your original strategy is paying dividends, or whether you need to start shaking things up!Google Analytics and Search Console
If you haven’t already set up detailed conversion tracking on your site, please do so now. Conversions are often what dictates a campaign’s success so make sure that you can correctly attribute them.
Using Google Analytics for data that can positively influence an SEO campaign is a whole suite of articles alone. However, here are a few quick wins for you.Content analysis
Chances are that you are investing heavily into your own content creation, which is great. The pitfall is that you create on piece of content and then move on to create a completely fresh piece. Use your check-up/audit as an opportunity to refresh existing content by:
- Identifying successful pieces. Can they be improved or updated? Do they have impressive user metrics but are not delivering conversions? Is there a pattern appearing with successful articles that can influence ongoing content creation?
- Improving underperforming posts. Can you spot posts that are failing to rank in the SERPs? They may need to be reviewed for a more focussed value proposition, or maybe your onsite is lacking. These present real opportunities to make the most of time that you have already invested into content, effectively retrofitting to ensure performance.
Keyword rankings are but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to measuring SEO success and they are by no means the most pertinent data. Conversions are the real gold at the end of the rainbow and without a clear user flow you can severely inhibit your conversion rate.
The user flow function in Google Analytics shows you entry and exit pages, as well as the main flow from page to page. Geek out even further with tools like Hot Jar but be warned – you can waste a lot of time watching endless videos of your users’ sessions.Review searches
Google Search Console is invaluable for making sure that all of your onsite optimization, content creation and link building is actually delivering the right type of traffic to your site. Use the platform (you can also sync and view data via Google Analytics) to make sure that the types of searches people are using to find your website are relevant. Another tip is to find those search terms for which you are gaining lots of impressions, but have a low CTR – this can help you refine how your pages actually appear in the SERPs.Conclusions
You only need do a brief search to understand that there are multiple tools for just about every aspect of SEO, although hopefully the ones listed above will get you off to a healthy start in your review. You may already be a premium subscriber to platforms such as Ahrefs or SEMrush, in which case we would advise exploring the functionality offered by these providers. For example, the site audit feature on SEMrush is particularly useful.
Use these tools to provide indicators of success or areas for improvement. Don’t be afraid to adjust your strategy according to the findings of your check-up – you may well spot opportunities in the market that your competitors have not.
Read more about performing a technical SEO audit on Marcela De Vivo’s most recent column.
Simon Ensor is the Managing Director of Yellowball, a London-based digital marketing agency, and a specialist in SEO and social media.
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