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How To Measure the Success of Your SEO Efforts

There’s no doubt that Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is critical for any business looking to drive traffic to their website.  However, unless an individual has experience with SEO, they find the terminology in SEO website audit reports confusing.  This confusion results in clients either just “trusting” that whatever their Digital Marketing Agency or SEO Specialist is doing is working, or giving up on SEO efforts altogether. This is why understanding SEO is so important.

In this blog, we will break down the audit into chunks with simple explanations to help you gain a better understanding of the reports. Whether you’re interested in getting a website SEO audit or you already have one, we hope this content will help you understand the findings.

Note: This specific post is based on an audit from SE Ranking, one of the SEO tools we use.  There will likely be variations between different tools, but the checks are relatively similar.

What Is An SEO Website Audit?

Essentially, an SEO audit is a SWOT Analysis of a website’s SEO health, to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to the website’s visibility in search engine results, and the website’s overall performance. If you need any help deciphering these SEO terms, check out our SEO dictionary.

Key aspects of an SEO website audit typically include:

On-Page SEO

  • Evaluation of title tags, meta descriptions, header tags, and other on-page elements to ensure they are optimised for relevant keywords.
  • Assessment of content quality, relevance, and keyword usage.
  • Examination of URL structure for SEO-friendliness

Technical SEO

  • Analysis of website architecture, crawlability, and indexability.
  • Checking for issues such as broken links, redirects, and duplicate content.
  • Reviewing the website’s XML sitemap and robots.txt file.

Off-Page SEO

  • Assessment of the website’s backlink profile, including the quality and quantity of inbound links.
  • Evaluation of social signals and other off-site factors that can impact SEO.

User Experience (UX)

  • Examination of factors influencing user experience, such as page load speed, mobile responsiveness, and overall site usability.

Keyword Analysis

  • Researching and analysing relevant keywords to ensure alignment with the website’s content and business goals.

Competitor Analysis

  • Studying the SEO strategies of competitors to identify areas where the website can improve or differentiate itself.

After conducting the audit, a detailed report is usually generated, outlining the audit results, and providing recommendations for improvements.  These recommendations may include technical fixes, content optimisation strategies, and suggestions for building a stronger online presence.

Regular SEO audits are essential to adapt to evolving search engine algorithms, address emerging issues, and maintain or improve a website’s search visibility.  We recommend auditing your site monthly to ensure your SEO efforts are working.

Understanding SEO Website Audits

measure seo success digital marketing

It’s not uncommon to find the following things in your SEO website audits.  Often these are shown at the top of the report and offer you some additional information on your site.

  • Pages Crawled: The tool lets you know how many pages on your site Search Engines looked at using robots, known as “web crawlers”, to determine if the content is relevant for searches.
  • Health Score: Most tools will give you a score to let you know how healthy your website is, and how it compares to others.  This is usually out of 100.  Typically, a score anywhere above 60 is good.  But the higher, the better – though achieving 100 is a long process, and you need to ensure that you continue all SEO efforts.
  • Domain Metrics: Some tools will also look at your domain authority.  It’ll let you know about off-page factors like website backlinks, referring domains, domain trust, and how many pages are indexed in Google.

Errors vs. Warnings vs. Notices vs. Passed Checks

When most SEO tools crawl a website, they’ll divide them into four sections.  This will vary based on the website audit tool used.

Errors

These are critical issues that need immediate attention and resolution, as they are factors that are likely harm your SEO efforts by significantly hindering the performance and indexing of the website by search engines.  These include broken links, server errors, missing meta tags, or other critical SEO elements.

Warnings

Once you’ve fixed all the errors, it’s time to move on to the warnings.  These are things you need to fix as they are potential issues that might negatively impact SEO, but they are not as severe as errors.  However, if you want your site to be competitive and rank in the search results, you’ll need to try clear all errors.  Warnings include duplicate meta descriptions, missing alt attributes for images, or non-optimised title tags.

Notices

These are used to make you aware of specific things.  Notices are informational messages that don’t necessarily represent issues or problems but provide insights or suggestions to improve your SEO efforts.  They are not detrimental and might even be intentional.  Common places you’ll find notices are around pages that are marked with a “no-index” meta tag, no AMP pages used and external links to 3XXs.  You don’t have to worry about these things too much, but, if you have no errors and warnings, work towards clearing these notices.  Notices included advisories on mobile-friendliness, page speed suggestions, or recommendations for improving user experience.

Passed Checks

This is the section you don’t have to worry about.  These indicate that certain elements or criteria meet the desired SEO standards, and include properly implemented canonical tags, optimised images, or valid structured data markup.

Elements Of SEO Website Audits

In a website SEO audit, you’ll likely see a variation of the following elements compiled into an error report.  Below is a description of each of these elements.

Website Security

In the website security section of the site audit, the tool explores things related to the security of your site.  To safeguard user data, your website must operate using HTTPS.

Most of this section looks at factors relating to the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and highlights issues with HTTPS functionality and HTTP link usage.  An SSL is a security protocol that encrypts data during online transmission, ensuring secure and private communication between websites and browsers.

The following checks are conducted at this phase of the audit:

  • Security certificate expiration
  • Security protocol version
  • Certificate name mismatch
  • Outdated encryption algorithm
  • HTTP URLs in XML sitemap
  • No HTTPS encryption (lack of SSL certificate or incorrectly installed)
  • rel=”canonical” from HTTPS to HTTP
  • Redirect from HTTPS to HTTP
  • Mixed content (ensures all elements are loaded on the correct protocol)

If your SSL is properly installed, you’ll probably pass all these checks.

Crawling

No matter what changes you make to your website, your SEO endeavours will be fruitless if web crawlers can’t scan your site correctly.  This part of the SEO audit looks at things like sitemaps, canonical URLs, robots, and indexing.

All the checks in this section of the site audit report outline errors preventing proper scanning and indexing by search engines like Google.

Common checks include:

  • XML sitemap available
  • XML sitemap size
  • Non-canonical pages in XML sitemap
  • Noindex pages in XML sitemap
  • XML sitemap not found in robots.txt file
  • Robots.txt file available
  • Frame is used (search bots can’t find or crawl content on pages with the <frame> tag)
  • URL length
  • HTML and HTTP header contain noindex
  • HTML and HTTP header contain nofollow
  • Canonical chain
  • Blocked by robots.txt
  • Blocked by noindex
  • Blocked by nofollow
  • Blocked by X-Robots-Tag
  • rel=”canonical” from HTTP to HTTPS
  • Timed out

Duplicate Content

Duplicate content (the same content across two pages) hampers website SEO and affects rankings on certain pages. These pages can then end up competing for placement in the search results, reducing your overall rankings.  Therefore, it’s important to rectify these errors by removing duplicate content from your site.

This section dives into things like www/non-www redirects and trailing slashes:

  • Does the site redirect to the correct WWW version
  • Multiple rel=”canonical” tags
  • Is the same content repeated across pages?
  • URLs with double-slash
  • No trailing slashes
Measure the Success of Your SEO Efforts

HTTP Status Code

A great rule of thumb when it comes to HTTP status codes is that you want to return a status code of 200.  When your website’s pages, links, or files return status codes other than 200, it can lead to ranking issues and potential removal from search engine indexes.

You want to ensure all links go where they are supposed to.  Otherwise, it’s extremely frustrating for users and sends bad signals to Google and other search engines.  No matter if it is a 3XX, 4XX or 5XX, you should prioritise fixing all internal links, external links, and images.

This is a large section of the SEO audit and contains plenty of different checks, including the following:

  • 4XX pages in XML sitemap
  • 3XX redirects in XML sitemap
  • 5XX pages in XML sitemap
  • 3ХХ HTTP status code
  • 4XX HTTP Status Codes
  • 5XX HTTP Status Codes
  • Canonical URL with a 3XX Status Code
  • Canonical URL with a 4XX Status Code
  • Canonical URL with a 5XX Status Code
  • Internal links to 3XX redirect pages
  • External links to 3XX
  • External links to 4XX
  • External links to 5XX
  • Hreflang to 3XX, 4XX or 5XX
  • 3XX images
  • 4XX images (Not Found)
  • 5XX images (Loading Failed)
  • 3XX JavaScript file
  • 4XX or 5XX JavaScript file
  • 3XX CSS file
  • 4XX or 5XX CSS file
  • External JavaScript and CSS files with 3XX, 4XX or 5XX

Title

The <title> tag clarifies a page’s focus on search engines.  It is often shown in search snippets, making it a factor when it comes to getting clicks.  These checks include looking for duplicate page titles, multiple title tags, as well as length and more.

This section provides tips for optimising your title tags effectively by conducting the following checks:

  • URLs with duplicate page titles
  • Multiple title tags
  • Title tag missing
  • Title too long
  • Title too short

Description

One of the most common things thrown around when discussing SEO is ‘meta descriptions’.  The description meta tag summarises page content for search engines and often appears in search snippets.

Just like the meta title, descriptions influence clicks.  It looks at the length of meta descriptions and if they are missing or duplicated.

This section offers tips to optimise your description meta tags effectively by running the following checks:

  • Description missing
  • Duplicate description
  • Multiple description tags
  • Description too long

Usability

User experience has become more and more important when it comes to SEO.  As such, your website must be user-friendly and intuitive.

This section examines factors that influence and can potentially enhance website usability:

  • Does the site have a favicon?  A favicon is an icon associated with a particular website, typically displayed in the address bar of a browser accessing the site or next to the site name in a user’s list of bookmarks.
  • Flash is used.  Flash negatively affects SEO efforts as Search Engines struggle to crawl and index websites with Flash.
  • Twitter Card tag missing.  Although Twitter (now X) cards, are useful at improving SEO results, they should only be used if you have an effective X (Twitter) strategy and active presence on X.

Website Speed

A fast website is essential in the digital age.  If your site takes too long to use, users abandon your website quickly.

Website speed affects user behaviour, slower sites lead to higher bounce rates.  SEO website audits take website speed into account and give you a guide on how to fix them.

This section focuses on factors that enhance your website’s loading speed:

  • HTML size too big
  • Slow page loading speed
  • Uncompressed content

Textual Content

No matter how often algorithms change, or what the latest and greatest SEO Trends are, content will always remain critically important.

High-quality content is fundamental for SEO.  Correcting errors related to textual content enhances specific content quality metrics.  To improve your website, you should conduct a careful review of your content to ensure it not only adds value but also aligns with your quality standards.

This section looks at page word count and headings, checking the following:

  • Low word count
  • H1 tag missing
  • H1 tag empty
  • H1 tag too long
  • Multiple H1 tags
  • Do you have any Duplicate H1s?
  • Are your Title and H1 tags different?
  • H2 tag missing
  • H2 tag empty
  • H2 tag too long

Redirects

Redirects can be incredibly useful for SEO, provided they are used correctly.  You should use redirects to guide visitors when URLs change to avoid losing website traffic.  It looks at redirect chains, loops, and temporary redirects.

This section addresses issues with malfunctioning redirects:

  • Redirect chain
  • Redirect loop
  • Redirect to 4xx or 5xx
  • Meta refresh redirect
  • 302, 303, 307 temporary redirects

Internal Links

One of the most powerful elements in your SEO arsenal is Internal links.  These links aid in website crawling as they help discover new pages and distribute link equity. They are an essential component of your SEO efforts.  A website audit for SEO can help identify problems with internal links.

This section of the audit can be incredibly useful in enhancing internal linking by correcting errors:

  • No inbound links
  • Too many links
  • Internal links missing anchor
  • Nofollow internal links
  • One inbound internal link

External Links

If you use external links effectively on your website, they can bolster content with authoritative information.  However, when these links malfunction, it harms website SEO.

A website audit can help you to identify and rectify external link issues:

  • External links missing anchor
  • Nofollow external links
  • External links timed out

Localisation

If your website serves users all over the world, you must ensure it’s working properly.  This means ensuring that your website uses Hreflang and HTML lang attributes.

Through a website audit, you can go about correcting issues with these attributes:

  • Invalid language code
  • Hreflang page doesn’t link out to itself
  • Hreflang to non-canonical
  • Hreflang and HTML lang do not match
  • Confirmation (return) links missing on Hreflang pages
  • Multiple language codes for one page
  • Invalid HTML lang
  • Language duplicates in Hreflang
  • HTML lang missing
  • X-default Hreflang attribute missing

Images

Images can transform a website, making it more appealing to users, and help them to better understand your content. But if your images aren’t optimised, it can hamper your SEO efforts.  And without alt tags, you’re missing out on plenty of SEO benefits.

This section of SEO website audits looks at:

  • Image sizes
  • Alt text missing

Javascript

If you have a dynamic website, you’re likely using JavaScript.  But if you’re not showing up in the search results, your beautiful website is wasted.  JavaScript enables dynamic websites, but unoptimised files slow them.

A website audit can help you identify and correct issues related to JavaScript:

Potential issues in this part of the SEO website report are:

  • JavaScript not compressed
  • JavaScript not cached
  • JavaScript too big
  • Too many JavaScript files
  • JavaScript not minified

CSS

A beautiful website relies on CSS (Cascading Style Sheets).  But if that CSS isn’t optimised, minified, and compressed, your website could be loading too slowly.

Through an SEO audit, you can address any errors related to CSS size to ensure it doesn’t slow down your site.

In this part of the audit, the following factors are considered:

  • CSS too big
  • CSS not compressed
  • CSS not cached
  • Too many CSS files
  • CSS not minified

Mobile Optimisation

Mobile search has increased massively over the last few years.  92.3% of internet users, in Africa, access the internet using a mobile phone.  Thus, a responsive, mobile-optimised website is a must-have.

Ensuring a user-friendly experience on smartphones and tablets enhances behavioural factors, impacting search engine rankings, user experience, and conversion rates positively.

In this section, you’ll find problems and suggestions for optimising websites for mobile devices.

  • Viewport meta tag missing
  • Fixed width value in viewport meta tag
  • Use of incompatible plugins
  • Minimum text to HTML ratio

Performance

Website performance is an imperative element of UX, SEO and online success.  Audits often look at page speed, analysing a collection of user experience-driven website quality metrics.

These metrics encompass Core Web Vitals, which Google uses to gauge website satisfaction.  They encompass LCP (Largest Contentful Paint) measuring content loading speed, FID (First Input Delay) gauging user interaction responsiveness, and CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift) assessing visual stability during page loading.

This section of SEO website audits analyses the following:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) in real-world conditions
  • First Input Delay (FID) in real-world conditions
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) in real-world conditions
  • First Contentful Paint (FCP) in real-world conditions
  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) in a lab environment
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) in a lab environment
  • First Contentful Paint (FCP) in a lab environment
  • Speed Index
  • Time to Interactive (TTI)
  • Total Blocking Time (TBT)

AMP

AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) is a great tool that can be used to boost mobile loading speed.  When they function correctly, they can be extremely useful for user experience.

This part of the website audit helps you to find any problems regarding the technical setup of AMP pages on your site.

SEO website audit success

The Value of SEO Website Audits

SEO audits can be overwhelming, but once you understand them, there’s no doubting their value.  They are imperative in identifying website errors and potential areas for improvement.  Overall, they are an essential element in optimising your technical and on-page SEO as well as measuring your SEO efforts.

Reach out to Digital Squeak to discuss your marketing objectives and see if we can improve your SEO efforts – pippa@digitalsqueak.co.za

Note: Content for this blog is based on Kathryn Donoghue’s post, Understanding SEO Website Audits | Simple Guide for Site Owners

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