The SEO team at LendingTree works to improve pages across multiple sites in a variety of areas, including home loans, mortgage refinance, auto loans, auto refinance, student loans and home services. Today they share their favorite SEO audit tools and suggestions. On-Site Health Check with Sam Ruiz
"I like to run a BrightEdge SEO site audit to get an overall look at on-site health--duplicate content, broken links and other details that can affect your site's performance on SERPs."
The diagnostic report allows you to set priorities on items, and then breaks down all the issues by priority: severe, moderate, minor. I go to work on the severe problems first and work my way down the priority list. Here are some examples:
- Missing or empty page title, meta description, or H1 tag
- Duplicate page title or content
- Missing or empty H2 tags
- Poor text to code ratio
- Bold and italics tags
- Page size too large
- Page title too short or too long
- Page URL too long
- Image tags without alt attribute
- 404 errors (reclaim links to pages that were moved or removed)
Further Reading: Basic SEO Concepts.
Google Tools with Erika Sturino
"I like to dig into some of the less-used features in Google Analytics and Webmaster tools to find some really interesting things during an SEO audit."
Under-Utilized GA Reports for an SEO Audit Audience:Technology:Network:HostName
Hostnames--the most boring GA report ever, right? Well, maybe not, since I find things like:
- A domain that scraped your entire site and all the code including your GA tracking. This is a good time to send a Cease & Desist letter to some of those very blatant copiers.
- Someone who hand-coded their GA code could have fat-fingered or mistyped their tracking code, accidentally putting in yours. You may start seeing strange lifts in traffic or keywords and pages that don’t make sense. You can reach out to these people and let them know (typically, they’ll be pretty grateful someone told them!).
- Check if bounce rate is similar across device categories
- Do pages/session and average session duration vary by device category? If so, start digging in and seeing how you can optimize your lower performing device category or find some learnings from your higher performing one.
Audience:Mobile:Devices (Mobile Device Info, Mobile Device Branding, and Operating System)
- If a certain brand, device or operating system has a bounce rate significantly higher than the others, you should dig in and figure out if something is broken.
Behavior:Site Speed:Page Timings
- Which pages on your site are the slowest? Find out here. Flip into this report and switch to Avg Page Load Time (sec) in both columns.
- You can see the avg load time for all your pages and how that compares to the site average.
- Try changing the first drop-down to pageviews to see how your top trafficked pages compare in speed to the rest of your site.
Behavior:Site Speed:Speed Suggestions
- Pick your top trafficked pages and put the page speed suggestions in place.
- Pick your top target pages that AREN’T performing as well as you’d like and put the suggestions in place.
Behavior:Site Search:Search Terms
If you use Site Search, jump in and look for terms people are commonly searching for on your site. If you don’t have a great page for those search terms, make one now. Give the people what they want.
I use GWMT regularly. Check your messages and look at the search queries report and links to your site.
Search Appearance: Structure Data
Do you have structured data across a large number of pages? If so, check this report. Even if it was perfect when it was implemented, I’ve found that something usually breaks along the way. Check for errors and get fixes in place.
Search Appearance:HTML Improvements
Here, Google's actually telling you how to improve your HTML to make them happier. They tell you the exact page and HTML to change. Why wouldn't you do this? Also, this is a great way to find accidental duplicate content on your site.
Search Traffic: Mobile Usability
Not sure if your site should be improved for mobile? Google wants to tell you that, too. They tell you the potential mobile error, how many pages have the error, which pages have the error, when the error was last detected and what to do about it. Thanks, Google!
Crawl: Crawl Errors
This is an amazing report and should be used regularly. My favorite use is fixing internal links (I don’t like 404s. 301, 302 or 410 them -- 404s mean you are lazy) and finding opportunities for link reclamation.
Check for errors. Make sure all your pages are there. Don’t send Google to pages that don’t exist. And the biggest thing: what percent of your web pages submitted are also indexed? If you don’t have most of the pages in your sitemap indexed, figure out why. Figure out which pages Google doesn't want to index and make them better. Further Reading: Google Webmaster Tools for SEO Efficiency.
Classy Content with Ralph Miller
Classy content captures the intention of your audience, answering deeper questions they haven't even thought to ask Google yet.
Classy content starts by understanding a searcher's intentions. Ask yourself these questions:
- When you Google "things to do in Phoenix," are you looking for one thing to do or a list?
- When you search "how to become a teacher," are you also interested in teacher salaries?
- When you need to refinance your car, would a refinance calculator be useful?
Your answers help define your intention for these searches. Your website visitors may have a variety of intentions that relate to where they are in your conversion cycle. Failing to provide the type of content and tools they need for the stage they're at is not only a disservice but a killer of UX, rankings and conversion. Therefore, user intention should dictate the content you offer on a page. Words and content that speak to a visitor's needs, along with links to additional content that takes them deeper into what they're looking for ultimately makes visitors feel like you understand them and builds the trust you need to make them a customer. One of the first questions I ask when auditing content is: "What elements are needed on this page to provide the best experience possible when someone searches on a keyword phrase?" This often leads to a lot of work for the dev team, who has to implement calculators, rates tables and other useful features. But if you're thinking like this from the beginning, you'll see a lot of opportunities to improve a page that go beyond just thinking about title tags, meta descriptions, and keyword usage.
Typing your keyword phrase into Google and seeing what comes up is another great way to discover user intention. Look for the related terms that appear in the titles and descriptions and pay attention to the Google suggestions and related searches. Click on the top pages and take a look. Determine what elements on the page are contributing to a positive user experience and either replicate or improve on them for your own page. Classy content starts and ends with the user in mind. Keep your visitor first and foremost in your mind as you audit your content, and your success rate with Google will improve. Further Reading: How to Perform an SEO Content Audit.
Link Audit with Tom Sumrak
Why go through a long list of individual links when you can automatically and neatly sort all of the domains into actionable groups?
I use referring IPs for sorting lists of domains and links. Not only are IP addresses useful for finding dangerous link networks, but they can also help quickly sort through similar websites. This helps you quickly find groups of beneficial domains as well as domains that will need a more thorough inspection. Further Reading: Link Audits: A Qualitative and Quantitative Approach.