Independent SEO audit using Google Search Console
Website owners often wonder what they can do to get more traffic from the search engine (especially free – from organic search results). In order to make sensible actions, first check the condition of the page. This is the SEO audit, which allows you to determine what are the strengths and weaknesses of a given website.
An SEO audit is simply an analysis aimed at determining what activities a website should be subject to (the seowcy call this extensive optimization process) to be more visible and more appreciated by search engine robots.
It is difficult to conduct a full, professional SEO audit without access to specialized tools, however there are several free solutions that allow you to analyze many key factors. The most important of these are Google Search Console or GSC (formerly Google Webmaster Tools), which allows you to identify most of the basic problems with the site.
I will describe step by step the most important elements and functions of GSC
useful for SEO auditing, so that each website owner will be able to identify areas that may need improvement to some extent. Such self-audit of the website does not replace the professional SEO audit, but in some cases it may be enough or be a prelude to more advanced activities.
To connect a page to the GSC, go to https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/home and click “add site” and choose one of the verification methods (Google must know that you are the owner or administrator of the site). I highly recommend verification using Google Analytics, because it only requires administrative access to this tool. If you do not have access yet, do not think about the site’s audit, but please attach it to GA first: http://www.google.com/intl/uk/analytics/
Audit based on Google Search Console
Content structure audit
Title tags, or simply page titles, are texts that inform robots and search engine users about what the page is about. This is one of the most important, basic factors that allow the algorithm to assign appropriate results to the user’s query. Each sub-page should have a different, unique title in the site’s scale. The title should contain the most important information about the content of the page, but it should not be written off too much. The recommended length of the title is 75 characters. This is what will appear in the search results. The title should contain the most important keyword, but should not be written for robots, only users.
Page descriptions do not affect the positioning, but also play an important role in obtaining traffic from organic results. They can influence the user’s decision whether to click on a given result or not. The descriptions should also be unique. They can be used for a fuller description of the page content, but you can also include marketing content in them. In the case of commercial websites, I usually suggest that the descriptions contain the following elements: USP, CTA, and, if possible, a carrot!
USP (unique selling proposition) is something that distinguishes the site (or the entire brand) from the competition – for example, the only pizzeria in the city open 24 hours a day. CTA (call to action) is a call to action, that is, a direct return to take action – for example, check our offer / learn more / order today. Carrots are simply a promise of what the user will get if he / she uses the offer (eg a test version for 14 days for free) – this information should be clearly visible also within the target page.
The “search analytics” view is a great tool to check regularly (not only by performing an SEO audit). Allows you to check (over the last 90 days) how often the page appeared in the search results, with what frequency was clicked, what positions it achieved and which subpages are the most popular.
What to look for in this place:
See what queries your site appears most often.
See if you achieve satisfactory positions for key keywords. If you do not see the page in high positions, you may not have content / sub-pages matching those queries. If you have one, you should strengthen it (more optimize, get links etc. – more about independent positioning), and if not, just create them.
Check what CTR (click-through rate) your page has. If the page is often displayed, it appears high, but it is not clicked, it may be worth constructing a different description and title.
Click on the “pages” option to see which pages are most likely to appear in organic search results. If the query is popular enough and the subpage is often displayed for many similar phrases, you can also check its statistics for individual keywords. The exact way to check in the video below:
It is also worth using the filters (option available above the graph) and, for example, check how the page and CTR positions differ between mobile devices.
SEO audit of incoming links
Google Console Console is quite an imperfect tool, but if you are not an SEO specialist or do not want to allocate large amounts of money to access professional commercial solutions, then you must be enough to start with. The “Links to your site” view allows many page owners to tell if they have any links at all. In this view, you can check how many links lead to your website, where they come from, what content they indicate and what they look like. People who start their adventure with positioning are often surprised that their site does not have any links at all. In this situation, actions should be taken to obtain them.
SEO audit of internal links
Internal links are also an important element of website optimisation. In a simplified way, they allow robots to determine which content within the site is the most important. In addition, they facilitate indexing of all content on the website. Internal links can be found in the menu, but also other navigation elements (eg breadcrumbs) as well as in the content. When conducting an SEO audit, check whether the home page stands out from other subpages (it is usually the most important one), also look at the offering websites where the conversion takes place.
Audit for manual penalties
Any page in the Google index can be punished for practices that are contrary to the webmaster guidelines. Look in the handbrake view to see if you and your site did not get hit. If you find any disturbing message there, it’s best to contact an SEO specialist.
Audit for mobile devices
We use the Internet more and more often (including from the search engine) using smartphones. Google ensures that results for mobile users are tailored to their needs. Therefore, he warns against websites that are not responsive and favor those that are suitable for viewing on the screen of the phone. See if Google has any suggestions for your site in this matter. What’s more, a report has recently appeared on AMP’s accelerated mobile sites, which should be emphasized by people who use the AMP standard (ie fast-tracking mobile websites). It contains a graph of successfully indexed pages and AMP standard errors.
In the tab Indexing -> Fetch as Google there is another option to download the page as Googlebot.
download as Googlebot
To get traffic from Google, your page must be in the index. An index is simply a virtual list of all Google known websites (ie those for which crawlers have gained access). Go to the “Crawl status” view to see if there are enough subpages visible for Google. It may happen (eg as a result of the error of the webmaster starting the website) that many subpages of the website are not indexed at all. In this case, consult a specialist.
Analysis of indexing errors for SEO
Google does not like pointing out to users of pages that work in a defective way. In the “Crawl Errors” view, you can see if and what errors have been identified. The most common mistake is error 404 (HTTP 404 / Not found). Refers to addresses that point to non-existent pages. This can happen when website addresses have been changed and no redirects have been set – this should be avoided because it can have a negative impact on Google’s website rating.
SEO and security
It is also clear that Google does not want to direct its users to websites that it perceives as dangerous. Your SEO audit should take this into account. In this view, you will check whether the search engine has any objections to the security issues on your site. You may not be aware that, for example, there is a dangerous piece of code in the page template that infects users’ computers. If you notice any disturbing signals in this section, contact a specialist.
SEO audit – other helpful tools
As I have already mentioned, Google Cheese Console does not allow you to carry out a full audit (although it allows more than I wrote in 10 points above – it is worth to read all the views). Ultimately, I recommend using specialised software (for example in the field of backlink analysis) and the help of professionals. However, if someone decides to self-audit and optimize their site, I also recommend the use of moz.com