The 6-Step SEO Audit Every Marketer Should Conduct
When it comes to getting your website found in search, little things can make a big difference. But sometimes it's hard to find the time -- or know where to start. Here's an idea: Set aside 15 minutes in the next week to conduct an audit of what you think are 5 of your most influential web pages. (For HubSpot Professional or Enterprise level customers, you can get a list of these via the Conversion Assists report). Then audit those pages with the following six steps to make sure you have all your SEO bases covered.
Step 1: Check Your Meta Descriptions
Every page of your website should have a meta description. Meta descriptions are short summaries of what can be found on that page. For example, the meta description of this page is: "A checklist of items on your web pages that can improve your search engine optimization." Meta descriptions show up in search results along with the link to your page.
When you audit your site's most important pages, make sure you set your meta descriptions and check that the following is true:
- Your Meta Description is Not Too Long: If your meta description is longer than 150 characters, aspects of it may get cut off by search engines. Make sure your summary is brief and front-loaded with good keywords to give readers a sense of what they'll find on the page.
- Your Meta Description is Unique: Remember, the goal of the meta description is to set the searchers' expectations about what can be found on that page. Having multiple pages with the same description doesn't serve that purpose.
- Your Meta Description Does Not Contain the Page Title: Reusing the page title for your meta description is a missed opportunity and can look strange to internet searchers. Instead, use the meta description to elaborate on the promise of your title.
Note: If you're a HubSpot customer, you can use HubSpot's Pages tool -- an analytics report that automatically diagnoses and shows you how to fix SEO errors -- to help you with your SEO audit.
Step Two: Review Your Page Title
Page titles are among the main cues a search engine gets about the content and quality of a particular web page. In the HTML code of your page, your title is found between the <title> and </title> tags. Oftentimes, people assume that the first headline on their page is the title, but to be considered a title in search, it must be between the <title> tags in your page. If you're not certain, go to the View menu of your browser, and select "View Source." Then search for title tag. Titles of pages also show up when the page appears in search results as well as in the browser tab associated with it.
As you name your pages, keep in mind the following tips.
- Make the Page Title Unique: This has similar reasoning to the meta description we mentioned above. If you have multiple pages with the same name (your company name, for example), it will dilute the SEO of your page and may confuse internet browsers.
- Keep the Page Title Brief: Most search engines only show about 70 characters of a title on their results pages. Try to keep your titles within that limit. If you're having trouble, at least try to use the most important keywords toward the beginning of the title.
- Don't Include the Domain Name: Including your domain name in a page title rarely adds value since your domain name is already used in the link. It also tends to take up the character space you should be using for your more useful keywords. If you need to include your domain name in the title, make sure it comes at the end. For example, the title tag on our blog is: Internet Marketing Blog | HubSpot.
Step 3: Optimize Your H1 Tags
Within a web page, your most important headline should get an H1 tag. For HubSpot customers using HubSpot's content management system, the headlines of your pages will automatically be given an H1 tag in the HTML. If you don't use HubSpot, just make sure that in the HTML version of your website, you include the following: <h1>Headline Text</h1>. Within that headline text, use include the keywords you want the page to rank for in search.
The main thing to know about using H1 tags to optimize your web pages is that you shouldn't use too many of them. Too many H1 tags on a web page can get your page sidelined by Google and other search engines. Ideally, stick to one H1 tag and use <h2> or <h3> tags for all other headers.
Step 4: Make Images More User/Search Friendly With Alt Text
Images add to the quality of your web pages. In fact, you may have noticed how HubSpot always includes images in its blog posts. But to get the most out of your web pages, every image you use should include what's called an "Alternative Attribution," or "Alt Text." Alt text is a written version of what appears in the image that displays up whenever the image isn't able to load for one reason or another. Use your alt text to incorporate keywords, but do so in a way that is understandable and useful. For example, the Alt Text on the following image is: "SEO advice on images from HubSpot Pages."
Step 5: Optimize the Anchor Text of Your Links
We all know how important internal and inbound links are to helping people find your content online. When it comes to search, the text that is hyperlinked, also known as "Anchor Text," is just as important. Search engines use anchor text to help determine what's covered on the page that it's linking to. This is true for external sites linking to your content and for your own internal links. Here are a couple of tips to follow as you're crafting your pages' anchor text:
- Beware of "Click Here": Let's say you have 100 links to your page about free unicorns. Knowing what you now know about how search engines use anchor text, would you rather all of those links tell the search engine that your page is about "free unicorns" or about "click here"? In other words, the best way to handle the anchor text for your page about free unicorns would be: "Learn more about HubSpot's free unicorns."
- Make the First Anchor Text Count: The pros over at SEOmoz conducted some experiments on anchor text and found that if two links are targeting the same URL, only the first link's anchor text is used by Google. Therefore, if you link to the same page more than once, make sure the anchor text for the first link on the page is well-optimized for your keywords.
Step 6: Leverage Calls-to-Action
Calls-to-action (CTAs) may not be the first thing you think about when you're trying to optimize your website for search, but they should be a close second. After all, why work hard to generate all that search traffic unless you can channel some of it into taking an action?
Be sure to optimize the pages on your website with appropriate calls-to-action, keeping in mind that different calls-to-action will generate different responses, and that different pages on your website will attract visitors in different stages of the sales cycle. Not sure how to determine which of your CTAs belongs on what website pages? Check out this in-depth blog post to help you select the right CTA for every page on your site. And if you're a HubSpot customer, you can use HubSpot's Call-to-Action module to create and A/B test CTAs. Just be sure to avoid these common CTA mistakes.
Once you've completed this six-step audit of your top 5 pages, you should start to see some improvement in your search engine optimization and the performance of those pages. Then you can use the same set of steps to improve upon the rest of the pages throughout your site. And if you run into questions or experience some early successes, we'd love to hear about them in the comments below!
Image Credit: StuSeeger