In many small- and medium-sized (SME) B2B organizations, search engine optimization, using American inventor and marketer, Ron Popeil’s famous slogan for his Ronco Showtime Rotisserie & BBQ, is a “set it and forget it” function.
Business owners erroneously believe that once they’ve “done SEO”, it’s done forever, and requires no further attention on their parts.
But to do effective SEO, they have to establish where they are right now, and to do that, they have to do a SEO audit.
And when they look up what a B2B SEO audit is, they realise it’s a pretty complex process.
The good news is that you can do a scaled down mini-audit, and in this article, we outline what you should check.
So, let’s start with…
Some Serious Technical Problems
Because of this “set it and forget it” attitude, many websites show serious SEO neglect, with the top 10 problems, according to Semrush, being…
- 1. Duplicate content
- 2. ALT attributes missing
- 3. Duplicate title tags
- 4-5. Internal and external link rot (broken link)
- 6-7. Duplicate and/or missing meta descriptions
- 8.Low text to HTML ratio
- 9-10. Missing or multiple H1 tags on one page
The reality is that SEO is changing very fast, and we haven’t even talked about Google’s recent “Fred” manoeuvre.
It means that companies that get a significant portion of their customers, thus revenues, through their web presence, have no option but to consider SEO as an ongoing business function.
If they want to reap, they have to sow first.
When b2b businesses realize that they should do SEO on an ongoing basis, they start as if they always had been doing it without any interruption.
It means, they start doing various SEO tactics, without strategies and another key component.
So, if you belong to the SEO “set it and forget it” camp and now want to re-start, the first step must be to declare that your website suffers from the SEO “set it and forget it” syndrome, and then perform a mini SEO audit to evaluate the search engine friendliness of your company’s website to see where actually you stand.
So, let’s move on to…
Preparing For The SEO Audit
The first question right out of the gate is…
Who Should Do The Mini Audit?
Just like in every kind of audit, there must be checks and balances in place, which means that the audit must not be done by one person. Ideally there are two auditors to avoid random acts of naughtiness and mischief.
They should be people who are somewhat web-savvy but are not involved in web work on a daily basis – People are reluctant to criticize their own work.
So, ideally, it’s a dual role between the marketing manager and marketing coordinator.
In sub-$10M companies, it’s often the VP of sales and marketing with another sales and marketing manager.
Where To Start?
Continuing with your preparation, you have three key questions to ask…
- Check which accounts do you need unrestricted access to?
- What exactly do you need to know about your website to audit it properly?
- What audit tools do you need to do the job?
Please note that many of the following tools and services are provided by Google, so if you have one Google account, may that me Gmail, Google+ or any other Google tool, you can use that login info to with most Google tools.
Access to all web analytics login information: It’s common problem in many companies that certain people have the nasty habit of keeping login information to themselves, and in doing so believing they have made themselves fire-proof. But it’s also a crime. As the business owner, or the business owner’s representative, you must have unlimited access to any login info.
Access to all social media accounts: Social media can have a serious impact on any company both in positive and negative way. Within four weeks after breaking Dave Carroll’s guitar and wiggling out of responsibility, due to backlash on YouTube (16,347,776 views and 99,139 likes), United Airlines’ stock price fell 10% and stockholders lost about $180 million.
Access to payments systems accounts: If your company takes online payments or does online banking, you need this access.
Access to Google AdWords and all other PPC accounts: If your company uses PPC marketing, then you need access because you need key numbers from the PPC dashboards.
Access to Google Search Console (previously Webmaster Tools) accounts: This is many of the tools your webmaster uses on a daily basis to keep your website in good working order.
Access to business accounts: This includes access to CRM, email management and distribution program, project management program and any cloud-based account that has anything to do with your company’s performance.
List Of Tools to Aid Your SEO Audit
Here we look at a list of tools you need for your SEO mini-audit.
Knowing that what you do is a SEO mini-audit not a full 360° SEO audit, and with this in mind, there is no point to flood you with expensive tools, since they would be underused and the extra data would be overwhelming.
It’s like when you don’t feel well. You take your temperature, your blood pressure and maybe your heart rate and that’s all.
But you don’t self-administer ECG, EEG or blood gas analysis. You ask the respective experts to do those procedures.
So, the tools here enable you to perform the proverbial temperature-, blood pressure- and pulse check.
So, let’s see…
For every tool, you can find several makes from different companies, but this list gives you all the tools for a mini audit.
- Google Analytics or some other web analytics: This is where good audit starts. Start with Google and step up later to more advanced tools.
- WooRank has a free SEO audit tool that analyses your website and gives you a prioritized to-do list.
- Google Webmaster Tools: For the price (free), this is an amazing tool and you can perform an almost full audit with it.
- SnagIt: It’s a visual tool that you can use to take screenshot and record videos. Cost: $67
I know it’s not much, but using Einstein’s words, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”
And we shouldn’t hunt for sparrows with AIM-7 Sparrow missiles.
Wow, if chairman Mao Zedong knew that during the Great Chinese Sparrow Campaign between 1958 and 1962!
Look Into The SEO Audit Itself
Checking your domain’s indexed pages
- Do a Google search for your site and see what comes up. In the Google search box, type “site:yourwebsite.com” (without quotes).
- Note the number of returned pages right under the Google Search box: E.g.: “About 416,000 results (0.63 seconds)”.
- Is the first page your home page? If not, it can be the sign of some SEO errors, poor branding, poor internal linking (too many links to home page or too many exact match keywords) or even some form of penalty against your site.
Open your Google Analytics and check for organic landing pages.
- Is this number close to your previous search results?
- This gives you a pretty good idea about your indexed pages.
Run a search on your branded terms
- Make a note of your domain’s pages that come up.
- If the proper pages aren’t showing up as the first result, there could be issues, like a penalty, in play.
Check Google’s cache for your key pages
- Can you see your content with the appropriate navigation links?
- Are there any invisible?
Using this bookmarklet, you can also check the text-only version of the cached page.
Now do a search on your mobile devices
- Is your listing marked up as “mobile friendly”? One good source is Akamai’s white paper, Delivering the Best Mobile Experience. Read How AMP Works for detailed step-by-step instructions on how to make your website mobile-friendly.
- Are your pages mobile friendly? What that means is that both text and images properly scale based on the size of your mobile device and all buttons are recognizable for their functions.
Mobile unfriendliness can cause the loss of organic visits.
A big part of on-page optimization is optimizing meta tags because they are read by both search engines and visitors. And since they make the first impression of a web page, you have to pay attention to them.
Also, Google’s new ranking algorithm uses machine learning known as RankBrain.
It takes metrics from user behavior such as click through rate (CTR) from search results and uses it to determine the site’s quality factors.
- A standalone title tag should be optimized for each page.
- Title tags should be max. 55-60 characters (512 pixels) long. You can preview this with a tool such as Screaming Frog.
- Write down pages with missing title tags.
- A standalone description should be optimized for each page.
- Give a brief description of what’s on the page.
- Description tags can be as long as you make them, but they get cut off at 160 characters. You can check it in Screaming Frog.
- Since 2009, meta the description is no longer Google ranking a factor. However, today’s meta descriptions should be written like ad copy to entice users to click through. This supports SEO by improving click through rate from search results pages.
- All key pages of your website should have a properly optimize meta description with a compelling call-to-action.
To quickly audit your title and description tags, type in the google search box: site:yourwebsite.com
At Search Engine Watch, you can see some both good and bad examples for title tags and meta descriptions.
- Each page includes one primary keyword phrase multiple times and some alternate keyword phrases
- Make sure every keyword has significant amount of supporting content on your website. Write about related themes or more granular points of focus on the subject.
- Make sure the page’s primary keyword phrase is included in the H1 tag
- Check images for alt text and make sure alt texts include keyword phrases.
SEMrush has a free version, in which you can enter your website and it will spit out all the keywords that the website currently ranks for. First type in your URL and then click ”organic research” under “domain analysis” in the top left side menu (second menu item under Overview).
- Make sure your URL is descriptive.
- Separate words with hyphens not underscores
- Keep the addresses of your indexed pages static
- If you use short URLs (bit.ly, etc.), keep each of them under 150 characters.
Some extra points
- Best Practices for URLs
- URL Rewriting Tool
- mod_rewrite Cheat Sheet
- Creating 301 Redirects With .htaccess
For a long time, conventional wisdom was that no one wants to read long articles on the web. And with the proliferation of smart phones, this notion became even stronger.
However, after a few algorithm changes at Google, even the staunchest short-article fanatics have started realizing that the type of readers who are likely to become customers down the road want deep and meaningful articles.
In “Ogilvy on Advertising”, legendary advertising man, David Ogilvy wrote,
“All my experience says that for a great many products, long copy sells more than short … advertisements with long copy convey the impression that you have something important to say, whether people read the copy or not.”
The former dean of the Graduate School of Retailing at New York University, Dr. Charles Edwards, once said, “The more facts you tell, the more you sell. An advertisement’s chance for success invariably increases as the number of pertinent merchandise facts included in the advertisement increases.”
And finally, in “Tested Advertising Methods,” renowned copywriter, John Caples wrote, “Advertisers who can trace the direct sales results from their ads use long copy because it pulls better than short copy… Brief, reminder-style copy consisting of a few words or a slogan does not pull inquiries as well as long copy packed with facts and reader benefits about your product or service.”
Also, Kevin Delaney, the editor-in-chief of Quartz, reports that articles between 500 and 800 words have the hardest time with being ranked. They are too long for being short and snappy and too short for being deep and detailed. So, in most cases, they get ignored.
Optimizing the home page
According to SEO copywriter, Heather Lloyd-Martin, a page with only 250 words is regarded as thin content, that is, something dodgy. In Longer Is Better for Blog Content: Truth Or Myth?, Julia McCoy, CEO of Express Writers, confirms Julia’s point.
- Does your homepage have at least 500 words?
- Are keywords properly placed in the content?
Optimized landing pages
- At least five paragraphs and 500 words. It enough for search engines but may not be enough for visitors.
- The content has been uniquely writing especially this specific page.
Appropriate keyword usage
- Is there a good match between they pages’ content and keywords?
- Does the page use words and phrases that are semantically similar to the keywords and relevant to the topic on the page?
- Does the page use short-, mid-, and long-tail keywords?
- Do a Google site search for your main keywords and note where they show up?
Available visitor educational content
- Besides search engine-friendly content, do you have enough visitor-friendly content to inform and educate your website visitors about who you are and what you do?
- Content formatted both for easy skimming and reading.
- Content is properly paragraphed.
- Proper H tags are used throughout the content.
- Only one H1 tag on every page.
- H2 and H3 tags are used to make content easier to read.
- Images support the message of the content.
Page headlines and subheads
- Headlines and subheads include keyword phrases
- Skimming headlines gives the gist of the page
Amount of content versus ads
- In B2B, on-page advertising like Google AdSense can undermine the website’s credibility
- Google frowns on on-page advertising
- If you run on-page ads, make sure you have good content too or Google can penalize your page.
You can use Copyscape to find whether or not there is a duplicate version of the content that you’re about to publish. This is important because if your content is already on another web page with good SEO and more and better links, your content has as much chance of survival as a mouse at a healthy diet conference for cats.
- Every URL on your website has its dedicated content
- Do searches for random content snippets (Put the snippet between quotation marks)
- Note the pages where each snippet shows up.
- Is there any content duplication on sub-domains?
- Note that printer friendly versions of pages can cause content duplication. The impact of this is not a concern if it’s on your own domain, but some embedded content plugins or widgets can sometimes be hosted on unique URLs outside of your website. This is a scenario you will want to avoid.
- Check the robots.txt. Varvy has bot the tool and a tutorial to help you check your pages. The robots.txt files specifies which web pages the search engines have access to and which pages hey are barred from. Since this is a rather advanced setting, if you’re not experienced in web coding, seek some help.
- Use the Web Developer Toolbar (a free Firefox add-on)
- Is the content there?
- Are the navigational links operational?
Now change your user agent to Googlebot
- Use the User Agent (a free Firefox add-on)
- Are they cloaking?
- Does it look the same as before?
- Check for 4xx (client) errors and 5xx (internal server) errors.
- txt file includes XML sitemaps. An essential tool to use is Google Webmaster Tools.
- XML sitemaps are submitted to Google/Bing Webmaster Tools
Check meta robots noindex tag on each page
- Check for accidental noindex tagging using SeeRobots for both Firefox and Chrome.
- Are noindex tags applied to the right pages?
- Check your site with Moz or Screaming Frog
Site Architecture And Internal Linking
- How many outgoing links does each page have?
- Are links under 100 per page?
Over 100 links per page, the SEO value of the page can get seriously compromised.
Specific vertical and horizontal linking logic
- Landing on the homepage systematically leads visitors on a pre-planned journey.
- Category and product pages are linked to other relevant category and product pages.
301 redirects used the right way
- 301 redirects are used consistently.
- 301 and Not 302 is used to redirect root to a landing.
- Check your 301 redirects with the Live HTTP Headers Firefox plugin.
- Direct redirects and no redirect chains.
- Is it deliberate page rank sculpting or an error?
- Is any part of the page’s content in iFrames?
- How wide-spread is Flash usage on the page? Does it prevent the page from being indexed?
- The site has an XML sitemap.
- XML sitemaps show indexation problems.
- XML sitemaps follow the established protocols?
- 301s are set up for canonical sites
- Google Webmaster Tools contains the Canonical version of the site
- “Rel canonical” tags are set up throughout the site
Observe mobile behaviour
- How mobile friendly is the website?
- How well does it work on mobile devices?
- Are your analytics ready for mobile?
- In case of separate mobile site, does the desktop site refer to it with a rel=”alternate” tag?
- Does the mobile version canonical to the desktop version?
- Here you can see some examples of the “alternate” tag.
Check all international version of your website
- In Webmaster Tools, make sure that country-based targeting is enabled
- Are your website targeting intentions in synch with your Webmaster Tools settings?
- If you have several versions of the same website, make sure the content is unique on each of them.
- Implement hreflang and rel alternate if necessary as per this documentation.
- Make sure every URL is in the same language as the content is written,
- Analytics codes are inserted on every page. Make sure there is only one code. Google Tag Manager is an excellent tool to do it.
- To avoid self-referrals, make sure your own IP address is blocked from analytics. See details here.
- Internal searches register in analytics
- Analytics is set up for geographics tracking.
- Both Google Adwords and AdSense codes are linked to analytics.
- Event tracking is set up for key user interactions
As we discussed at the beginning of the article, this is a SEO mini audit. I emphasise “mini” because the real SEO audit is much more comprehensive.
Yes, instructions are available by the truckload, but, just like a financial audit, the SEO audit has to be done by someone who is not emotionally entangled with the company. After all, we can often have a bias towards our own content as this is a particular area of subjective opinions.
One of the greatest benefits of an audit is its objectivity because the auditor has nothing to gain or lose by giving you certain good or bad news.
Nevertheless, now you know where your website stands and what needs to be done. And even if you decide to forego a full audit with a reputable agency, I bet you have a massive list of tasks the mini audit has surfaced for you. Even just some implementation of fixes to the areas you audited over time can have meaningful returns to your bottom line. The list may be daunting, but chip away at it over time… you’ll be glad you did.