Onsite SEO Audit
Hello and welcome back to the Search Engine Optimization Podcast with Tim Jennings, your go-to source for all things SEO! As the Head of SEO at Soulheart for almost a decade, Tim has been the driving force behind countless businesses and nonprofits achieving their goals using organic traffic from search engines like Google.
In the podcast episode “SEO Website Audits Pt. 2,” Tim Jennings we continue our discussion on website audits for SEO. Join us as we explore what goes into an onsite SEO audit. Tim talks about some of the things you should be auditing and how to fix them when performing an onsite audit.
What to Listen For
Welcome back to a new episode of the Search Engine Optimization Tips and Tricks Podcast! I’m Tim, your host for today. With over ten years of experience in Search Engine Optimization, my aim is to guide you through the sometimes daunting world of SEO. My goal is to help you create a successful website that not only gets recognized by Google but also enables you to achieve your objectives! So, let’s set sail together and explore the exciting journey of SEO!
Today, we will be picking up last week. In this episode of our Website SEO Audit series, we will be exploring the world of Onsite Website SEO Audits. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this concept, an Onsite SEO audit is a comprehensive review of your website’s structure, content and how it is presented to the search engine crawlers. It excels in pinpointing potential weaknesses that may hinder your ranking on Google or other search engines.
Today, we will take a look at titles, metadata, duplicate content, thin content, and phrase diversity. Then I will share with you how you can get even more items that you can audit on your website for SEO. So get on board, batten down the hatches, and let’s battle the storm of SEO until your website is plain sailing!
What to Check During an Onsite SEO Audit
An Onsite SEO audit is an essential step to take when you want to make sure that your website’s content is fully optimized for search engine rankings. During a website SEO audit, certain elements are checked to ensure that they are properly configured and set up for optimal visibility in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
There are many different items to check when running a onsite SEO audit but today I will specifically talk about titles, metadata, and a few others. If you are interested in an entire list to check while doing onsite website audit then head over to soulheart.co/seo and sign up for my exclusive resources that I don’t share anywhere else.
The first thing that needs to be checked is the titles. Titles play a critical role in Search Engine Optimization as they directly influence a website’s search engine rankings and visibility. One key aspect is their relevance to search queries. Search engines utilize titles to understand the subject matter of a web page and its alignment with specific keywords. Crafting titles that include relevant keywords increases the chances of your content appearing in search results when users look for those terms. Moreover, search engines often give significant weight to the keywords present in the title when determining the ranking of web pages for relevant queries. Therefore, a well-optimized title can positively impact your page’s positioning in search engine results.
In addition to improving rankings, titles significantly affect the click-through rate (CTR). When titles are clear, compelling, and descriptive, they attract users’ attention and encourage them to click on your link in search results. Higher CTRs indicate to search engines that your content is valuable and relevant, further bolstering your rankings. On the user experience front, titles also serve as previews, allowing users to understand the content’s context before clicking. By providing clear and relevant titles, you can reduce bounce rates and enhance user satisfaction, which search engines interpret as positive signals.
Titles are equally important for social media sharing. When your content is shared on social platforms, the title is often the primary element people see. A captivating title increases the likelihood of shares, thereby expanding your content’s reach and potential to earn valuable backlinks. Additionally, well-structured titles can be used as main headings in rich snippets and featured snippets, which enjoy prominent positions in search results. Being featured in these snippets can further boost visibility and CTRs for your content.
Beyond user-facing aspects, titles also influence the search engine crawling and indexing processes. Search engine crawlers use titles to comprehend the content of a page, categorize it accurately, and determine its relevance to specific search terms. Because of this, it is important that you use heading structure very carefully. Each page on the site should only contain one h1 title in most cases and then from there you should use your h2-h6 subheadings and style them with CSS if you want them to look different rather than using another h1. When you don’t use titles and headings this way, you are confusing the search engines and killing your SEO efforts.
Moreover, when other websites link to your content, the anchor text of the backlinks is often based on your page’s title. This reinforces the relevance of your content for specific keywords and can positively impact your rankings.
When it comes to creating titles for your website content, there are several best practices to consider. Crafting effective titles is essential for attracting readers, improving SEO, and making your content stand out.
Here are some tips for creating impactful titles:
- Clarity and Relevance: Make sure your title clearly reflects the content of the page or article. It should be relevant to the topic and accurately represent what readers can expect to find in the content.
- Conciseness: In most cases, keep your titles short and to the point. Aim for around 50-60 characters so that the entire title can be displayed in search engine results without being cut off. If you cannot do that, it is not the end of the world but you will want to change it in your Meta Title area. More on that in a few minutes…
- Keywords: Incorporate relevant keywords in your title that people are likely to search for. This can help improve your search engine rankings and attract the right audience.
- Uniqueness: Avoid generic or overused titles. Try to come up with a unique and eye-catching title that sets your content apart from others on the same topic.
- Emotional Appeal: Consider using emotional language or appeal to the reader’s curiosity to make the title more engaging and compelling.
- Avoid Clickbait: While it’s essential to make your title catchy, avoid using misleading or clickbait-style titles that promise something but don’t deliver in the content.
- Use Title Case: Capitalize the first letter of each major word in the title (e.g., “Best Practices for SEO in 2023”), which makes the title more readable.
- A/B Testing: If possible, perform A/B testing with different titles to see which one performs better in terms of attracting clicks and engagement.
- Consider Your Audience: Understand your target audience and tailor your titles to resonate with their interests and needs.
- Include Numbers or Lists: Titles with numbers or lists (e.g., “Top 10 Tips” or “5 Ways to Improve”) tend to perform well as they indicate a clear structure and provide value to the reader.
- Be Accurate: Avoid using hyperbolic language or making exaggerated claims in your titles. Be truthful about the content your readers will find.
- Update Old Titles: If you have evergreen content that is still valuable but has an outdated title, consider updating it to attract new readers.
Remember, titles play a crucial role in determining whether users click through to your content or not. Putting effort into creating compelling and relevant titles can significantly impact your website’s traffic and overall success.
Metadata is also important for SEO purposes. It is the information that will displayed in SERPs and is made up of two things: the meta title and the meta description. These two items help the search engines understand the content of your page, and how it should be indexed. The metadata should also always include keywords that help describe the content on the page. This will help make sure that your content is properly indexed and ranked in the SERPs. So while performing your SEO audit, if you find anything that goes against these practices for metadata then you will know what to fix and how to fix it!
Now, before we dive too deep into metadata, I want to be sure and mention two things right up front. The first is that Google has stated SEVERAL times that they do not have to display the information you provide in the metadata on their search results pages. It is only used as a reference.
If you experience Google not using your metadata, don’t panic! That just means that Google thinks that your metadata isn’t as accurate as it should be and because of that, they are using what they feel is best for your page. So when that happens, take note of what Google thinks your content is about and make adjustments to your original meta data to be more like what Google thinks. It may take switching it up 3-4 times but you can usually find a good compromise.
Pro tip: After changing your metadata to be more like Google’s idea, go to Google Search Console and resubmit the url for index. That will usually speed up the crawl process and you won’t have to wait a couple of weeks to see what Google thinks of your latest change.
The second thing I wanted to mention is the meta title and description are NOT ranking factors. They do however directly affect click-through rates (CTRs). That is why you need to use keywords in your metadata and write in a way that compels the reader to click on your page. If you have an interesting or informative title and description that speaks directly to what a user is looking for, they are much more likely to click through to your page rather than someone else’s.
When auditing meta titles, prioritize concise title tags, ideally ranging from 50 to 60 characters. This ensures that the titles are fully visible in search results. Please note: you do NOT have to use the same meta title as you do for your page title. For example, when I have a page title that is longer than 60 characters but I love it and do not want to change it then I just change it in the meta title section to something similar but with less characters.
It is also best to place important keywords near the beginning of the title to give them more weight in search engine rankings. Additionally, having a unique Meta Title for each page helps avoid confusion and improves search engines’ understanding of your content.
You should also avoid keyword stuffing, as it can harm your SEO efforts. Instead, focus on creating a natural and engaging title that attracts users to click on your link. Including your brand name in Meta Titles, especially on important pages, can improve brand visibility. Also, make sure your Meta Titles are optimized for mobile users since a significant portion of internet traffic comes from mobile devices.
Imagine your website is like a big library, and each page on your site is like a different book. Now, think of the Meta Description as a short summary or blurb that you write on the back cover of each book. It’s a little snippet that gives readers a glimpse of what they can expect to find inside.
In the same way, a Meta Description is a short piece of text that you write for each page on your website. It’s a brief description that appears below the title in search engine results when people search for something related to your page. It’s your chance to convince them to click on your link and visit your page.
A good Meta Description should be clear, concise, and enticing. It should tell people what your page is about and why they should check it out. Imagine you’re trying to tempt someone to read your book by giving them a sneak peek of the exciting adventure waiting for them inside. That is what your Meta Description does for your website on Google!
Remember, when writing Meta Descriptions, think about what would catch your attention and make you want to learn more. Just like a well-written blurb can make you want to read a book, a compelling Meta Description can make people want to click on your link and explore what you have to offer on your website. So don’t just copy and paste a sentence or two for your Meta Descriptions. Give it some thought. And if you are experiencing writer’s block or can’t come up with something compelling, copy the article into ChatGPT and ask it to provide you with a compelling Meta Description for the content that you have pasted.
Another essential element to check during an onsite SEO audit is for any duplicate content. Duplicate content can drastically reduce the visibility of your website in search engine rankings, so it’s important to make sure that the content is original and unique.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying duplicate content is a BIG issue on your site automatically but it very well could be. When you have duplicate content on your website then it confuses the search engines because they are unsure which page to show in the SERPs and can lead to your content being ranked lower than it should.
You want to make sure that you are avoiding this issue by having unique and well-written content on each page of your website. If you have multiple pages with similar content, consider merging them into one page so that the search engine knows that all of the content is coming from the same source. Additionally, you want to make sure that you are not plagiarizing other content and ensure that your content is unique and interesting enough for people to actually want to read it!
Additionally, you should also look out for pages with thin or no content at all as they can negatively affect SEO rankings as well. Thin content refers to web pages that lack substantial, valuable, or relevant information for users. These pages often have very little content, are low in quality, or are excessively similar to other pages on the same website or across the internet. Thin content provides little to no value to visitors and can negatively impact the overall user experience.
Thin content is bad for SEO for several reasons:
- Poor Search Engine Rankings: Search engines aim to provide the most relevant and valuable content to users. Pages with thin content are unlikely to rank well in search results because they do not meet the criteria for being informative and helpful.
- Penalties and Deindexing: Search engines, particularly Google, penalize websites with thin content as part of their efforts to deliver high-quality search results. In severe cases, the website may even get deindexed or removed from search engine results entirely.
- Keyword Dilution: If a website has multiple pages with thin content targeting the same or similar keywords, it can dilute the overall SEO efforts and reduce the authority of the site for those specific topics.
- Negative User Experience: Thin content pages offer little value to users, leading to frustration and disappointment. Users are more likely to leave the site quickly (high bounce rates) and not engage with the content, indicating to search engines that the page is not relevant or useful.
- Reduced Crawl Budget: Search engines allocate a limited crawl budget to each website. Pages with thin content consume this budget without providing much value, leading to fewer important pages being crawled and indexed.
- Limited Conversion Opportunities: Thin content pages may lack calls-to-action, engagement elements, or conversion opportunities, reducing the chance of converting visitors into customers or subscribers.
- Competitive Disadvantage: Websites with thin content will struggle to compete with others that provide comprehensive and valuable information, losing out on potential traffic and authority in their niche.
To avoid thin content issues, it’s essential to focus on creating high-quality, informative, and valuable content that meets the needs of your target audience. Regularly review your website to identify and improve thin content pages, and ensure each page provides unique and relevant information to visitors. By prioritizing quality over quantity, you can improve your website’s SEO, user experience, and overall online visibility.
Phrase Diversity / Keyword Variations
Keyword variations refer to using different words, phrases, or synonyms that have the same or similar meaning as the primary target keyword. Search engines have become more sophisticated over time and can understand the context and relevance of related terms. By incorporating keyword variations, you can broaden the scope of your content and make it more comprehensive, while still focusing on the main topic.
Using keyword variations in your content can be beneficial for SEO in several ways:
- Avoiding Keyword Stuffing: Keyword stuffing, the excessive use of the same keyword, can lead to a penalty from search engines. By using keyword variations, you can diversify your content without overusing a single keyword.
- Catering to User Intent: Different users may use various terms to search for the same topic. Incorporating keyword variations increases the chances of matching user intent and capturing a broader audience.
- Natural Language and User Experience: Using synonyms and related phrases creates more natural and reader-friendly content. It makes the text flow better and provides value to users.
- Ranking for Long-Tail Keywords: Long-tail keywords are more specific and less competitive. By using keyword variations, you may rank for a variety of long-tail keyword combinations.
- Semantic SEO: Search engines are now better at understanding the context and semantic meaning of words. Including keyword variations can improve your content’s relevance and visibility in search results.
However, it’s important to use keyword variations strategically and contextually. Always prioritize the readability and quality of your content over keyword usage. Keyword stuffing, even with variations, can still harm your SEO efforts. Focus on creating valuable, informative, and user-friendly content that naturally incorporates relevant keywords and their synonyms.
So, while auditing your website for SEO, check to ensure that you are using a good mixture of keyword variations to increase your phrase density levels and increase you chances to get found by users searching for answers to their questions.
Onsite SEO Audit Final Thoughts
By doing an onsite SEO audit, you can make sure that your website meets all of the requirements for optimal visibility in search engine results pages and maximize its potential for higher rankings. So take some time to do a thorough audit and optimize it for SEO success! Find what onsite issues you are experiencing and come up with a game-plan to fix any issues you find.
Remember, SEO doesn’t have to be a daunting task. With the right guidance and tools, you can easily take your website from good to great in no time! Start by doing regular audits of your website to ensure that all elements are properly optimized for higher rankings in search engine results. Utilize the many available resources, such as our own SEO Audit tool, or any of the other website auditing tools mentioned in part one of this series to make sure that you are always up-to-date on best practices and optimization techniques.
By taking the time to audit your website regularly and keeping up with the latest trends in SEO, you can maintain a strong online presence and make sure that your business stays at the top of search engine rankings. So don’t wait – start auditing your website today and set sail knowing that there is nothing but clear skies and calm seas ahead!
Get Help With Your SEO Efforts
Whether you’re performing a website overhaul, creating new content, or looking to boost your overall SEO, Soulheart has the SEO tools and expertise to help you. We’d love to learn how we can help you reach your marketing goals this year! Just sign up below to book a chat with us.