Blog


Wednesday

06

Feb 2013

In this digital age, websites have become a major platform for businesses to reach out to their customers as well as generate revenue. Every business wants to get visitors to its website and drive conversions. And if they do not get the desired results from their website, it might be because their site is not well optimized and hence it does not rank well among the search results.

Hence, before the business loses out on many customers, it is  better to find out what’s wrong with website, and test its performance by checking whether it has broken links, whether it is browser compatible and many such issues. Now, you may be wondering how one can check for these issues? You can get these issues checked with the help of a SEO (Search Engine Optimization)  Audit of your website which is usually performed by SEO consultants or Digital Agencies.

Why we go for an SEO Audit?

SEO Audit is just like a health check for your website, it finds out the Positive and Negative sides of your website. It helps to find out the performance of the site and gives a detailed overview about the website. It also helps in finding out if the site is penalized being by the latest Panda and Penguin updates. These updates have made SEO audit tougher.
To make it easier to understand, I have classified the SEO Audit into the following 4 stages:

1. Basic Audit

2. Technical Audit

2.1  Google Webmaster Audit

3. Content Audit

4.  Competitor Site Audit

In this post, I will be focusing on Basic as well as Technical Audit.

 1. Basic Audit:

A basic audit tells us about the overall ranking and performance of the website in search engines. It also gives us a quick overview about the Domain Age and other SEO factors like Traffic Rank, Load Time etc. Here are the results for the basic audit of www.happymarketer.com

Domain Check

Domain Name

Home

Domain Registration Date

22-jan-2008

Domain Expiration Date

22-jan-2015

Domain last updated on

23-jan-2013

SEO Factors

Home

Traffic Rank

692729th most visited website in the World

Google™ Analytics

Yes

W3C Validity

Invalid: 9 Errors, 2 Warning(s)

Safe Browsing

Yes

Indexed Pages

261

Robot.txt

 Yes

XML Sitemap

 Yes

IP Canonicalization

Yes

Load Time

0.95 second(s) (36.72 Kb/s)

Traffic Rank – It shows Traffic Rank of your website according to the number of visitors.
Google Analytics –
Checks whether Google Analytics is implemented or not?
W3C Validity  –
Helps to fix Syntax, HTML, and CSS Errors using W3C validation service.
Safe Browsing –
Finds out whether our website is safe for browsing and also detects phishing and/or malware in the site.
Indexed Pages –
Number of pages indexed by search engines of your website.
Robot.txt
Is used to restrict pages, specific folders, documents from search engines robots.
XML Sitemap
is created to help search engines to crawl your website easily.
IP Canonicalization –
Checks whether your website’s IP address is forwarding to your website’s domain name.
Load Time –
The time your website takes to load.

Some of the commonly used tools for basic audit are whois.net ,  betterwhois.com, checkdomain.com

2. Technical Audit

Technical Audit is usually done to analyse the technical issues of the site. For instance, checking whether the URL Structure is right, finding out the number of broken links or checking whether unwanted pages are indexed are some of the techincal issues the site might have. If one doesn’t focus on these issues of the website,  it may lead to the website getting penalised or losing visibility from search engines. Given below are the 7 main parameters to check for in Technical Audit:

  • Redirects
  • URL Structure
  • Flash and JavaScript Navigation
  • robots.txt
  • XML Sitemaps
  • Broken Links
  • W3C validation
  • Google Webmaster Tool

Redirects
Redirect is a process of forwarding one page to another page. In case the page is removed or changed the visitors are redirected to another page using 301 Redirects or any other Redirects methods.

Preferred tools for checking 301 Redirects: webconfs.com , redirectchecker.com, internetofficer.comragepank.com.

URL Structure

Using a friendly URL Structure is one more technique for search engines to crawl your website.  Here are few points for analysing your URL Structure

1. URL should be unique and keyword rich.
2. Use Hyphens (-), Not Underscores (_). (As Search Engines see Hyphens as a separator and use them to recognize separate keywords)
3. Use of JS Pop-ups, iframes is not good, as Search Engines cannot read them.
4. Try to limit using dynamic parameters in URL Structure.  For instance , instead of using a long URL like http://www.example.com/shop/index.php?product_id=32&highlight=green+dress&cat_id=1&sessionid=123&affid=431 something like http://www.example.com/<category-name>/<proudct-name>.php will be more search engine friendly.


Canonical Issues

Canonical issues are major hurdles for the website in eye of search engine crawlers. In the video given below, Matt Cutts explains about Canonical Link item.

There are 2 types of Canonical Issues
1) Domain Level
2) Content Level

1) Domain Level Canonical Issues –  Check whether website has different versions or not for instance, you can access same version of  website at www.example.com/index.php, example.com and www.example.com/home.php. Search engine crawlers consider them as duplicate content versions of all these domains. Hence, it is always better to redirect all duplicate versions of website to one home page.   For instance, all versions given below should be redirected to www.example.com:
www.example.com/index.php, example.com and www.example.com/home.php

2) Content Level Canonical Issues – It is a common practice to have several pages with the same set of products for e-commerce websites. For instance,  some page might display the products sorted in alphabetical order while some other page might sort them according to their price or ratings.
http://www.example.com/product.php?item=jeans&trackingid=1234567&sort=alpha&sessionid=5678asfasdfasfd
http://www.example.com/product.php?item=jeans&trackingid=1234567&sort=price&sessionid=5678asfasdfasfd

Search engine crawlers consider these URL versions as duplicate content listing. Hence it is better to use <link rel=”canonical”>  tag in non canonical version of product listing pages. For example, you can put this  tag <link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.example.com/product.php?item=jeans”/> in the <head> section of all the non-canonical versions of the page such as www.example.com/product.php?item=jeans&sort=price
or www.example.com/product.php?item=jeans&sort=alpha
if you want to learn more about canonicalization then you can refer these 2 links, http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/seo-advice-url-canonicalization/
http://www.seomoz.org/learn-seo/canonicalization

Flash and JavaScript
Though search engines have started to read JavaScript code it is always better to avoid Flash and JavaScript codes at least for the Navigation Menu.

Robots.txt
Robot.txt is used to stop search engines from crawling your pages, for example
You can use Robot.txt file to stop displaying the internal or any other pages that you would prefer not to be shown in search engine results.
Robot.txt codes can be created manually as well through tools like Google webmaster, internetmarketingninjas.com, tools.seobook.com. After the code is generated it should be uploaded in the root directory of the website.

Robot.txt Code for Indexing

Robot.txt Code for Disallow Indexing 

Robot.txt Code for Disallow Indexing a Specific Folder

Robot.txt Code for Disallow Indexing a Specific Folder Except for a Particular File Inside It

XML Sitemaps
XML Sitemaps are the mediators for search engines to inform them that your website is ready for crawling. Like Robot.txt, XML Sitemaps can be created manually or generated using tools like www.xml-sitemaps.com, www.freesitemapgenerator.com, www.xmlsitemapgenerator.org and uploaded in the root directory.
Few points while conducting a XML Sitemaps Audit:-

  • Check whether sitemap is submitted to Google webmaster tool
  • Check whether the URL’s in sitemaps are opening
  • Find out the pages in the website that do not appear in the Sitemap?

Broken Links
Broken link check is done to find the broken URL’s in the site due to various issues which may lead to spam. We have various tools for checking broken links like brokenlinkcheck.com, validatorlinkchecker.submitexpress, Xenu’s Link Sleuth.

W3C validation
Here you can validate all your HTML and CSS Errors using W3C Validators.

There are W3C validators for HTML, XHTML, SMIL, MathML, etc.

These validate your HTML files in your website W3C CSS Validation Service

W3C CSS Validation Service

This validates HTML with CSS or CSS only.

When we talk about finding and resolving technical issues of a website then we can not forget Google Webmaster tool. If you have setup Google Webmaster tool for your website then you might know that it provides diagnosis of technical issues related to your website for instance, the number of pages that give error 404 or pages that have duplicate title or content, etc.  Hence, we can’t ignore these issues if we wish to improve the performance of our website. I think it is crucial to add Google Webmaster Tool setup while doing a Technical Audit.

2.1 Google Webmaster Tools Audit 
Google Webmaster tools is a browser based application from which helps to audit your website and look for both technical and as well content related errors like duplicate issues, crawl errors, HTML errors.

Crawl Errors
Provides details lists of errors in the website which stop search engines from crawling your site. Crawl error can either be “Site Errors” or “URL Errors”.
Site Errors – Provides list of errors in the website which prevents Search engines from accessing your site.

URL Errors –When search Engines are not able crawl specific URLs.

HTML Improvements: 

These are the issues found while crawling your website, but this doesn’t affects you’re crawling or indexing, it just helps to bring more traffic and increase your visitors.

So, I hope that this information about basic and technical audit helps you in improving the quality of your website. I will cover the remaining advanced audit techniques in my next article.

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