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Checking the basics
This section lists the steps for a basic website audit.
This will get you started, but it is just sorting out some of the more obvious issues that we see on people websites.
To really get the best from SEO, once the basics are sorted, you need to go the extra mile and give the search engines everything they are looking for.
We have additional courses available that will show you how to do this. Please see the final section of details.
This is the number one error that we find when auditing websites. You click on a link within the website and you see an error message telling you that the page cannot be found. This delivers a very unprofessional impression to people visiting a website.
It is likely that Google will also mark you down in the search engine rankings, as Google expects technically perfect websites. There is no excuse for broken links within a website.
It is vitally important that you regularly check your live website for broken links. You can download a popular free live website checker called Xemu.
The program will check for different types of broken links including hyperlinks and links to images. A typical link report is illustrated below.
There is absolutely no excuse for broken links in the modern website and it is depressing how often you find them on other company’s websites. Sometimes a broken link is because there is a link from your website to another website and the second website no longer exists, or it has changed the name of its web pages hence the broken link.
Often however it is sheer lack of attention to detail that is causing the broken links. I have seen numerous examples of websites created by professional website designers which contain a link at the bottom of the home page back to the webpage of a Web designer, and even this link does not work.
Google takes a dim view of broken links and you may find your search engine visibility is impaired especially if you have lots of broken links.
This is a free tool from Google which allows you to analyse visitors to your website and track how they interact with your site. Has your website been enabled to show Google analytics data? If not you are missing out on a vital source of information about your website.
Google Webmaster Tools
Search Google using the phrase ‘Google Webmaster Tools’ and when the Google Webmaster Tools pages are displayed use the usual Google login to display the main Google Webmaster tools page as illustrated below.
You should spend time investigating the full scope of the Google Webmaster tools. It is a case of the more you look, the more you will find. The list below gives you some idea of the range of features available within this fantastic set of tools from Google.
Firefox SEO tools
If you are using Microsoft Windows then your default Internet browser is a piece of software called the Microsoft Internet Explorer. You can use alternative browsers and one of these is called Firefox.
To install Firefox go to a website at the following URL.
Follow the instructions to download and install a copy of Firefox on your computer.
Once Firefox is installed click on the Tools menu within Firefox and from the drop-down menu displayed click on Add-Ons.
You will see a search box displayed over to the right allowing you to search for add-on software.
Type in the word SEO Quake into the search box.
Follow the instructions to install this particular add-on and you will then find an extra menu is displayed within your Firefox browser.
You will find that if you start using Firefox with SEO Quake, it is a brilliant way to start looking at your own website and establish what’s good, what’s bad and what needs improving.
You can also use it to investigate your competitor’s websites and this might provide insights or ideas that you can apply to your own website.
Are you using the right keywords to optimise your site?
In many cases websites are optimised for the wrong keywords. You need to do the research to find out what keyword phrases people actually use to search for businesses in your particular field.
In many cases, you will discover that the keyword phrases that you thought were important are in fact rarely searched for; the opposite may also be true.
How well does your website show up in Google, Yahoo and Bing?
You should test the effect of searching for your keywords on a regular basis in all the major search engines. Your website position in the search engines will fluctuate over time and needs regular monitoring, so that you know when extra SEO is required.
Do not use automated position checking programs, as this is against Google’s terms of service.
Website loading speed
You should check the loading speed of each page in your website, especially the home page. There are numerous websites that will check the loading speed for you, just try searching for them.
An easy way to increase the loading speed of a webpage is to reduce the amount of text on the home page, by splitting up the information amongst a number of smaller pages.
The same applies to graphics within your web pages. Try reducing the number of graphics files used, and use graphic file size optimisation programs, to reduce the size of your graphic files.
If you are using Flash, there are a number of programs available that you can use to optimise Flash files and reduce file size.
Number of back links
Do you know how many other websites link to your website? Google does. The more quality back-links you have to your website, the better. Also the quality and source of the links is important to Google.
If you suddenly gain hundreds of links overnight, this can trip the spam alert at the search engines and you can end up in a worse position within the search results than before you started any SEO activities on your site. For this reason beware of using companies that offer to add thousands of links to your site in exchange for a fee.
Counting links to your site
Before you start trying to attract new links to your site you need to know how many people already link to your website.
This is very easy to do. For instance to see how many websites Google knows about that link to a website called ‘example.com’ you would type in the following within the Google search engine.
As you can see in this case, Google knows about 2300 other websites that link to this particular website.
Investigating inbound external links
It is important to know how many other websites are linking to your website and also where those links are originating from. This is easy to do with many search engines.
For instance within Google to find out how many links there are to a particular website you would type in the word “link”, followed by a colon, followed by the address of the website. An example is shown below.
In this example you will see the results are displayed as below, in this case there are 68 links to that particular website.
What is your home page Google PageRank?
Do you know what your Google PageRank number is? Google rates all sites using hundreds of different criteria and comes up with a number for your website. 0 is bad while 10 is the highest value. The higher the PageRank the more likely that your website will show up higher within the Google search engine results. Many websites we audit have a PageRank of 0 or 1, which is not good!
You can use the Google Toolbar to check the PageRank of a webpage. If you have the Google toolbar installed you can display a Web page and then move the mouse pointer to the PageRank tool which will display a pop-up indicating the PageRank for that particular page. Below is an example using our computer courseware site and as you can see the homepage has a PageRank of 5.
You will hardly ever see a website with a PageRank of 7-10, so a PageRank of 5, due to the non-linear scale involved, is actually a lot more impressive that it might sound!
The illustration below is zoomed in on the PageRank tool, which makes the PageRank easier to see within this document.
Alt tags (short for Alternative tags) are a way of telling Google what a picture is about. As far as Google is concerned a picture is just a picture. Google does not know what a picture is about, unless you specifically tell Google using an Alt tag. It is amazing how few website designers go to the bother of using alt tags, which is a pity, as proper use of alt tags can have a big influence on your listing within the search engine results.
You can view the Alt tags within a webpage by moving the mouse pointer over any picture that is displayed. After a short time, if the picture has been configured with an Alt tag, you will see a pop-up displayed as illustrated below.
The web page title is very important. It should be relevant, the correct length and different on every page within the website. It is surprising how often we see inappropriate web page titles, no titles at all or a title that says something stupid like ‘HOME’ or in the case of really lazy website designers ‘TITLE GOES HERE’.
It is also vitally important that every single webpage within a website has a unique title that relates specifically to the content of that particular webpage.
Many sites will use exactly the same title on every single page of the website. Having the exact same title on every single page is a bad idea for many reasons. Firstly, using duplicate titles will not impress Google and secondly if you have a different title on every page, you are taking full advantage of the opportunity to include more important keywords within your Web page titles. Just make sure that the keywords and phrases match the content of the page and also remember to use natural sounding text within the title, not a list of keywords.
As with the web page title, in many cases the description is missing or incorrectly used.
Website Meta Keywords
While many search engines no longer use Keyword Meta tags, some still do and they should accurately reflect page content, but you must be careful not to use too many of them.
Ease of Navigation and menu issues
Many websites are hard to navigate. This means that it may be difficult to move from page to page, or back to the home page. This is such an important aspect for your website visitors and it is a shame that we see so many poorly constructed menu systems.
Site map web page
A site map page is incredibly useful for visitors to your website, especially if it is a large website, with a wide range of products or services on the one website. A site map, properly formatted can also be used by a search engine to more efficiently index your site, so that all your website pages are listed within the search engine. It is also important to have properly formatted XML site map files to help the search engines index your entire website.
XML Site map web page
This even sounds complicated but I assure you it is not. There are many tools available that will automatically create an XML site map for you. This will create a special file on your website purely for the benefit of Google and other search engines. This special file will be automatically updated and contain a list of all the pages on your website. When Google visits your website it will look for this file and if it finds it, it will easily be able to see what pages are contained on your website and it will start indexing these pages so that each page can be displayed within the search engine results. If you don’t have an XML site map is not a disaster but it is just another one those things that makes it easier for Google to get a better understanding of your site and it will help promote your site within the search engine results.
Are all your website pages indexed by Google?
Do you know how to see exactly how many pages that make up your website are listed within Google? You would expect Google to know about your home page, but the more pages within your website that Google knows about, the better. The example below shows a site promoted by us, and as you can see Google has listed data for about 10,300 pages within the website.
SEO friendly file names
The name of a file can be a valuable clue to Google, as to what the file contains. For instance if you have a picture of a motor car and the picture file is called 0001.JPG this does not tell Google anything. On the other hand if the file was called CARS-FOR-SALE-IN-PERTH.JPG, then this can help considerably with your website SEO. The same principle applies to the naming of all files and folders within your website.
File size issues
If you use PDF files, there are many ways of reducing the size of the final PDF file. The larger the file size the slower the PDF file will load on the screen or download to a hard disk.
Do all the major search engines know about your website?
Remember that apart from Google there are a few other search engines that your website should be listed in, such as Yahoo, Bing and ASK.
Does your website use Flash?
Even a short time ago a technology called Flash was very popular with website designers. Flash would basically take a fairly boring website and make it interactive. Many people used flash to display banners across the top of the screen which will display a scrolling list of pictures or information. Even the drop-down menu system could be designed completely using Flash technology. Unfortunately Apple doesn’t like flash. If you use an iPhone or iPad when you display website built using Flash you will see big gaps displayed within the webpage rather than the fancy effects that Flash should have displayed here.
The bottom line is that many people have abandoned Flash use within websites. If your current website uses Flash you should consider alternatives.
Google Places Page
This is a fantastic way of getting your website listed in the local service or products section within the Google results. The majority of websites do not use this feature at all, and many of those that do use it, do not take full advantage of the SEO opportunities afforded by the ‘Google Places’ feature.
Does your body text actually contain your keyword phrases?
If your website content fails to mention your product or service, then it is not surprising that your website ranks poorly within Google. There are lots of tricks relating to where you place your keywords on a page.
Simply stuffing a page with keywords will not achieve the desired result and may even hurt your listing within Google, as it may interpret too many keywords on a page as an attempt to spam the search engine listings. Google takes a very dim view of attempts to spam it.
The other thing you should remember is that if you’re looking for local business you should use local place names throughout your website. For instance if you are trying to promote a website that specialises in offering a plumbing service in Joondalup, then you should make sure the words plumbing and Joondalup both appear within the pages on your website.
Text used within links
The correct use of keyword text within a hyperlink can play a significant part in your on-page keyword SEO strategy. In many cases this SEO opportunity is wasted when the hyperlink contains words such as ‘click here’.
A good website should contain a site map page. This page should contain text links to every other important page within the website.
A site map has two functions. The site map can be used by your human visitors to quickly locate a particular webpage of interest. It can also be used by the search engines so that they can investigate and index all pages listed within your site map page.
It is a good idea to place a text link at the bottom of each page on your website, pointing to a site map page. This will ensure the search engines can investigate and index every single page of your website.
In addition to an HTML type webpage displaying the site map you can also create a special site map file, which is purely for the benefit of search engines, and can be used by some search engines to more efficiently search and index the contents of your entire website.
Site design issues and navigation
An aspect of SEO that is often overlooked is the basic design structure of your website and the ease of navigation between the pages of the website. It is important that you use a menu navigation system that is Google friendly. By Google friendly we mean that the search engine should be able to follow the links within your drop down menu systems, so if you are using Flash or Java technologies include alternatives that Google can understand.
It is also a good idea to include a few text links at the bottom of each page so that if all else fails Google can use these to navigate from page to page within your website and overtime is able to index all the pages within your website.
Spelling and grammatical issues
It is vital that you check the spelling within your website. The correct use of grammar is also important. If your website is full of these types of errors, it gives a poor impression. Your company looks unprofessional. Correct spelling is also important for Google.
Have you optimised your Facebook page?
Many businesses don’t have a Facebook page and often those that do have made no effort whatsoever to actually optimise the Facebook page for that particular product or service. It is important to realise that most social media sites can be fully optimised so you get the full benefit to your company.
For instance did you know you can create a Facebook page using a combination of your important keywords phrases? In many cases you can fill in what is called a profile when you sign up to the social media sites and again this can be optimised and best of all in many cases you can provide a link back from your social media site to your website which your visitors can follow.
Have you optimised your Twitter page?
Just like Facebook you can optimise your Twitter account using standard search engine optimisation type techniques so that your twitter pages are easier to find.
Have you optimised your YouTube site?
Most companies don’t bother creating videos let alone uploading them to YouTube. This is a shame because YouTube is actually a search engine. In fact it is the second most widely used search engine in the world. Also some time ago Google purchased YouTube so this gives you an idea that YouTube is vitally important to your efforts to promote your website.
Did you know that you can provide a link from your YouTube site to your website? Your YouTube channel can be completely optimised to make it easier to find when people search for your product or service within YouTube.
The actual videos that you upload again can be fully optimised. To give you some examples if you’ve created a video and want to upload it to YouTube give the actual video a file name that relates to your keyword phrases.
You can create what are called playlists within YouTube and again each one of these can be optimised.
Incidentally when I talk about videos I am not talking about a professionally produced video created by a video company that will cost you thousands of dollars. The best way to try out YouTube is to create simple slides within a product such as PowerPoint and there are numerous products available that will convert the slides into a video presentation and even allow you to add music. This way you can try out YouTube at minimal cost and you will find that in actual fact YouTube can create an awful lot of new business for your company.
Have you optimised your LinkedIn page?
This is another social media site which you should sign up for and again there are lots of optimisation opportunities within LinkedIn to really get the maximum bang for your buck. Signing up to LinkedIn is free and the great thing is that if promoted properly as well as your website showing up within the search engine results quite often you will find your LinkedIn entry is also displayed in the search engine results.
Are your social media sites integrated into your website?
If you had gone to the trouble of creating social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube you should make sure that these sites are integrated into your website. The easy way to do this is to simply display small icons within your website that when clicked on will take your visitors to your Facebook or Twitter page. Again this may sound complicated but there are many examples of free software that will do this automatically for you once you have specified the name of your social media pages.
Mobile Phones & Tablets
Increasingly people are using mobile phones to search the Internet for products and services. Have you ever checked to see how your particular website is displayed on a mobile phone? Do you have to use scrollbars to scroll across or up and down just to view the pictures?
Another complication is using tablets such as iPads. These have different screen dimensions and different screen resolutions than your average computer and again you should take the trouble to investigate, see how your website is displayed on tablets.
The solution is to have a website that is responsive. A responsive website is a website that automatically responds to the device that the visitor to your website is using to browse your website. This means that if a visitor is using a mobile phone rather than a standard computer the pictures on your website will be reduced in size and also the actual content of the website will be rearranged for the best viewing experience, for the visitor.
Again this all sounds horribly complicated but you can actually use free software to do all of this for you automatically.
You should now have the basics in place
Now take the next step and learn how to dominate the search engine results.