The Ultimate SEO Audit Guide for Beginners to boost your Google rankings

Getting high Google rankings can drive more traffic to your business. If you’ve tried every possible trick you’ve known but you’re still not getting results, it’s time to get an SEO audit done. Without an SEO audit, your efforts are possibly wasted as you aren’t sure what is right or wrong with the current strategies. It can be confusing, so we came up with a SEO Audit Guide just for you.

Contents

What is an SEO audit?

An SEO audit is a process that evaluates your website’s performance on Google, in regards to the latest SEO best practices.

Evaluation is carried out into various aspects of your website during an SEO audit. This includes

  • Competitor analysis.
  • Keyword analysis.
  • On-page analysis.
  • Off-page analysis.
  • Technical analysis.

Think of it as performing a thorough health check on your website. Various tools are used to carry out the audit.

At the end of the audit, you’ll get a set of results that detail the strengths and weaknesses of the website.

From the results, you’re able to:

  • assess how your website fares against competitors
  • pin-point technical issues, like loading speed or broken links.
  • formulate a data-driven SEO plan
  • identify opportunities for improvement.
  • have a realistic estimate of traffic growth in the future.

Most Common and Important SEO Issues to Audit and Fix

There are many factors that could affect the SEO ranking of a website. Based on our audit experiences, most websites suffered from the following issues.

  • Slow-loading website.
  • Non-indexable website/pages.
  • Non ‘https’ URL.
  • txt issues.
  • Multiple versions of the homepage.
  • Missing XML sitemap.

These issues are often uncovered during an SEO audit. They also explained the lack of search traffic, despite having a professionally-designed website.

Here are how you can audit and fix these issues.

Check that your site and pages load fast

Many people hit the ‘back’ button if a webpage failed to load within 3 seconds. This makes loading-speed an important part of the SEO audit as it directly affects user experience and Google ranking.

In 2019, Google includes mobile page speed as a direct SEO ranking signal. Therefore, it is important that you check your site’s speed during an SEO audit.

Google PageSpeed Insights is a great place to start. It ranks your site from 0-100 and provides recommendations on how to improve.

Alternatively, you can use Ahrefs site audit or GT Metrix to analyze the loading speed of your webpages.

Here’s a result from GT Metrix:

GT Metrix

It’s equally important to understand that the loading time in seconds is more important than the scores. According to Google, pages are recommended to have a loading time below 3 seconds.

If you have issues with the page loading speed, here are a few things you can do:

  • Compressed image files and use a lazy-loading plugin.
  • Reduce code size by minifying HTML, CSS and Javascript.
  • Upgrade to the latest PHP version.
  • Use a lightweight, speed-optimized website theme.
  • Choose a fast hosting server.

Why is having fast-loading pages important?

It helps pages to rank higher on Google as loading speed is a ranking factor.

Check that the website/pages are indexable.

In order for your website to be ranked, it needs to be indexed on Google’s search engine. If it isn’t, you’ll be getting no organic traffic from Google.

You can check if your site is indexed by using the search engine operative ‘site:yourdomain.com’. If the site is indexed, Google will return a list of indexed pages.

Indexing websites

If you can’t find your site on Google, here are a few things you need to check.

  • Is the robots.txt blocking Google crawler?
  • Is an XML sitemap generated?
  • Are there any manual penalties or security issues?

Why is having an indexable website important?

Being indexable means Google can crawl the pages and rank them accordingly. If a site is not-indexable, the pages will not be found on Google.

Check that the site has SSL cert installed (https URL).

The presence of an SSL certificate indicates that the website is protected by the SSL encryption. SSL encrypted websites have ‘https’ as a prefix to its URL. Your website needs to have an SSL cert installed in order to be secured by the encryption.

If your site has an SSL cert installed, you’ll notice a lock icon on the left. Its URL is also preceded by ‘https’.

SSL certificate

Clicking the lock icon will provide details of the certificate.

SSL certification

If a site does not have an SSL installed, or there are problems with the cert, you’ll find it’s marked as ‘not secure’.

Not secure SSL certification

To have an SSL installed, you’ll need to purchase one and get your hosting provider to install it on the server.

Why is an SSL certificate important?

Installing an SSL certificate ensures that data transmission between the browser and the website’s server is encrypted. Besides, Google also ranks ‘https’ sites (SSL installed) higher than those that are not.

Check that the Robots.txt is allowing/blocking the correct pages

The Robots.txt is a simple text file that tells Google’s crawler which pages to crawl. It also tells Google which pages NOT to crawl.

This is whata basic Robots.txt looks like.

robot txt file

It can be accessed by typing ‘/robots.txt’ to your domain.

How to access robot txt file

If the results return a blank page or a 404 error, you’ll need to fix it by creating a robots.txt file.

Some robots.txt may be accidentally configured to prevent Google from crawling your pages. Check the URL listed under ‘Disallow’ and see if any important pages are accidentally blocked.

You can create the robots.txt by using Yoast plugin if you’re using WordPress. Else, you can use a robots.txt generator and upload the file to your website server.

Use Google’s robots.txt tester tool to confirm it’s not blocking the crawler from important pages.

Google robot txt tester

Why is checking Robots.txt important?

An incorrect configuration may prevent Google from crawling your website or certain pages.

Check that only 1 version of your website is indexed in Google.

You may have noticed that URLs show up in different versions, e.g.:

  • https://mybrandname.com
  • http://mybrandname.com
  • http://www.mybrandname.com
  • http://mybrandname.com

Note that it’s possible to have different versions of your website showing up for each variation and you’ll want to avoid that.

Ensure that you maintain only one version, preferably on https. As for ‘www’ vs. ‘non-www’, there isn’t much difference. If there are more than one versions, you’ll want to perform a canonical 301 redirect to the primary version.

Why is it important to maintain 1 version of your website?

Having different site versions may result in duplicate content, which isn’t good for SEO. It could also yield different results on Google Pagespeed Insights. Besides, your backlink strategy will be less impactful if it’s inconsistently spread between the different versions.

Check that the site has an XML sitemap

A sitemap is a directory-like file that contains the URLs of your website. It helps Google to crawl your site from time to time. Without it, some sites may have difficulty being indexed or obtain the ranking they deserve.

Here’s an XML sitemap created by the Yoast plugin. Sitemaps created by other platforms are quite similar.

XML sitemap

Usually, XML sitemap can be accessed by keying extensions like /sitemap_index.xml on the browser.

Accessing XML sitemap

If you don’t have an XML sitemap for your site, you need to create one and submit it to Google via Google Webmaster Tool.

How to create sitemap

Why is XML sitemap important?

The XML sitemap helps Google to crawl large websites and pages without inbound links. Without an XML sitemap, it may be hard for your pages to be indexed on Google.

SEO audit tools needed for the auditing process

Certain tools are helpful in aiding SEO consultants during the audit. Here are some that will save precious time.

Ahrefs

Ahrefs

Ahrefs is a comprehensive SEO solution with an SEO audit tool. It detects more than 100 possible issues on the website like:

  • broken links,
  • slow loading,
  • content duplication,
  • Non-optimized meta tags,
  • And more.

You’ll have the flexibility to explore, filter and present the results in tables and charts.

Google Webmaster Tool

Google webmaster tool

Google Webmaster Tool allows you to check your site performance on Google search. You can find metrics like queries, pages and click-through-rate for pages that the audience visit. The tool also allows you to check issues that could affect search performance like:

  • Manual penalty,
  • Security issues,
  • Mobile usability.

Google PageSpeed Insights

Google pagespeed insight

Another free tool by Google, PageSpeed Insights inspect speed performances of your webpage and make recommendations for improvement. It rates a page from a score of 0 to 100, with a larger number indicating higher speed. The report provides detailed explanations on what is slowing down the page.

Moz Pro

SEO audit moz pro

Moz Pro allows you to track keyword rankings and detect potential issues in your site quickly. It automatically monitors your site for problems like missing title tags, broken links and more. Each of the issues is then accompanied by explanations and fixes for further action.

SEMrush SEO Toolkit

SEMrush SEO Toolkit

SEMrush SEO Toolkit is an ideal solution for covering various areas of an SEO audit. It provides insights into technical issues, ranking and backlink profile. Results are presented on easily-comprehensible charts and graphs.

Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool

SEO audit Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool

A favourite amongst SEO marketers, Screaming Frog is a downloadable website crawler that detects common SEO issues. The powerful crawler saves precious time as it extracts results from the pages and organized them into reports.

WebCEO

WebCEO

WebCEO is exclusively designed for SEO agencies. It offers various tools that take the loads off in an SEO audit, including:

  • Rank tracking
  • Technical audit.
  • SEO analysis
  • Internal Links.
  • Banklink checker

This solution not only provides reports for your website but also provide handy features that let you spy on your competitor’s metrics.

Raven Tools

SEO audit tools Raven Tools

Raven Tools is an intuitive SEO audit software that is preferred amongst agencies and marketers. It allows you to conduct website audits and benchmark against competitors. The highlight of Raven Tool is its drag-and-drop reporting, which allows great flexibility in generating reports.

The Ultimate SEO audit guide for websites and marketers

Whether you’re doing your own SEO audit or engaging an SEO agency to do so, there are common factors that need to be evaluated. Here are some of the best practices when conducting an SEO audit for your website.

Competitive Analysis & Keyword Research

Check on competitors in the industry

Competitive analysis involves checking on other sites that are competing for the same money keywords. From the analysis, you’ll discover what your competitors are doing, particularly in terms of content, target keywords and backlink profile.

The pages that top the search engine may or may not be your direct competitors in the industry. Tools like Ahrefs allows you to analyze your competitors easily. Alternatively, a quick Google search on the primary keyword will give you an idea of who you’re competing against.

Competitor analysis

Why Is Competitor Analysis Important?

It allows you to assess your competitors’ strengths and authoritativeness. If you’re up against strong competitors, you need to put more effort into your SEO campaign.

Perform keyword research

An SEO audit also involves performing keyword research to identify keywords that could potentially lead to higher conversions. This means evaluating the keywords based on search intent, traffic, relevance and difficulty.

You’ll want to focus more on low-hanging fruits keywords as they are more targeted, have clearer search intent and easier to convert. For example, ‘where to buy cheap flowers in Singapore’ is easier to work on than ‘flowers singapore’

SEO audit keyword research SEO audit keyword research

Why Keyword Research Is Important?

You avoid wasting time and resources on optimizing for low-conversion, high competitive keywords. Identifying search intent through keyword research also helps you to plan your overall content structure around the keyword themes.

Technical Analysis

Check in Google for indexation issues

Getting indexed on Google is the key step to getting organic traffic. You can check if your site is indexed by using the Google Webmaster Tool.

Click on ‘Coverage’ under ‘Index’ on the left panel.

Google indexation issues

You’ll find a chart showing the numbers of pages indexed on Google.

Pages indexed on google

Alternatively, you can use a search operator on Google to find out if the site is indexed. Type ‘site:[domain]’ and Google will return a list of pages that are indexed.

Indexation on Google

Why is getting indexed on Google important?

If your website is not indexed on Google, the pages can’t be found on the search result. This means you can’t get any organic traffic to your site.

Check that the site has a friendly URL structure

URL structure is a minor ranking factor for Google SEO. In an SEO audit, you’ll need to check through the URL structure of your web pages.

A good SEO structure is easy to read for humans and search engines. It includes characteristics like:

  • Contain relevant keywords.
  • Words separated by ‘-’or ‘_’.
  • Reflects the title of the page.
  • Exclude stopwords like ‘and’, ‘for’, ‘of’.

Here are good examples of friendly URL structures.

  • https://www.heroesofdigital.com/case_studies/aureus-academy/
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paintball
  • https://www.outsidepursuits.com/how-to-play-paintball/

And here are URL structures that are not so friendly.

  • https://www.example.com/556981
  • https://www.example2.com/notagoodexample

Why are friendly URL structures important?

It leads to better user experience and there’s a boost in SEO when you create friendly URL structures. Your audience is more likely to share and promote easily-comprehensible URL, than one that’s littered with symbols.

Like humans, GoogleBot also favours URLs with a structured hierarchy. It is easier to crawl the pages structured and organized with keywords, products, categories or brands.

Check that you’re ranking for your brand name and major keywords/services you are focusing on in Google

Your website should be ranking for its brand name unless you’re using a generic term like ‘electric motor’.

Go to Google and key in your brand name and check if it appears on the 1st position. Here’s the result of searching for our company’s name, ‘Heroes of Digital’.

Brand ranking

Sometimes, you may not get your site on 1st position even with an exact brand name search. For example, when you search for local Singapore fashion brand Collate, it is 3rd in the search result.

Google keyword ranking

In the case of Collate, there are more works to be done for it to take rank on the top for its brand name. This may include creating more keyword-optimized content, improving on technical SEO and building more high-quality backlinks.

Besides ranking for the brand name, you’ll want to find out how your website is ranking for the major keywords.

A quick search on Google will return the top results for a keyword like ‘Fashion Singapore’.

Google website ranking

In order to find out how a specific site ranks for the keywords, you’ll need to use tools like Ahref Rank Tracker.

Why are checking rankings for brand name and keywords important?

You get to know your brand authority in terms of SEO and the visibility of your pages for the primary keywords.

Check for broken links, 404 and GSC errors

Websites with broken links are bad for user experience and SEO. Broken links happen when you’ve removed a page from your site that is linked to or you’re linking to resources that have been removed.

Either way, you’ll need to check for broken links.

You can use Google Search Console to check for 404 errors for pages that are missing from your sites. It also highlights other errors that your site could be experiencing.

Google Search Console

For broken external links, you’ll need tools like Ahref, which can scan for both internal or external broken links.

Why is it important to check for broken links?

Broken links and 404 errors affect user experience. This may result in a relatively high bounce rate and may affect SEO.

Check that the site is using Hreflang Tag

If your site is serving audiences in different languages or region, you’ll need to set the hreflang accordingly.

The Hreflang tag is an HTML markup that helps Google to redirect users to the respective page based on their regions and language.

Here’s an example of the Hreflang tag for a site that serve the homepage in in American English, Chinese and Malay version.

link rel="alternate" href="http://example.com" hreflang="en-us" />

link rel="alternate" href="http://example.com/zh" hreflang="zh" />

link rel="alternate" href="http://example.com/ms" hreflang="ms" />

Why the Hreflang Tag is important?

It helps direct users to the page with the right language or regional preference, which reduces bounce rate.. Setting Hreflang tags also prevents Google from evaluating the different versions of the page as a duplicate content.

Check that the site is using structured data/schema

Structured data or schema are HTML codes that help Google to understand a web page better. It can enhance the information of webpages like reviews, products, events, recipes and local businesses in the search result.

Here’s how structured data allows additional information to be displayed on the search result.

structured data schema markup

Generally, you can create structured data for the following types of content.

  • Articles
  • Book Reviews
  • Datasets
  • Events
  • Job Postings
  • Local Businesses
  • Movies
  • Products
  • Question & Answer Page
  • Restaurants
  • Software Applications
  • TV Episodes

 

The markups can be created in the following format:

  • JSON-LD
  • Microdata

However, it is advisable to stick with JSON-LD as it’s recommended by Google. Creating schema markups requires some HTML knowledge if it’s done manually.

A typical markup for a local business will look like this:

<script type="application/ld+json">

{

"@context": "http://schema.org",

"@type": "LocalBusiness",

"address": {

"@type": "PostalAddress",

"addressLocality": "Singapore",

"addressRegion": "SG",

"streetAddress": "44 Kallang Place, #06-09, Four Star Building"

},

"description": "Leading digital marketing agency in Singapore.",

"name": "Heroes of Digital",

"telephone": "65 6802 3658"

}

</script>

If creating schema markup code is not your forte, you can use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper.

It guides you through a step-by-step process and allows you to tag the elements on the page as markups.

Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper.

Why Structured Data/Schema Is Important?

With a visually-enhanced search result, structured data can increase visibility and click-through rate.

Check that the site is mobile-friendly

Mobile responsiveness is a huge factor in SEO ranking and it isn’t surprising. With more than half of searches coming from mobile, Google has shifted to mobile-first indexing for all sites.

Your website is considered as not mobile-friendly if:

  • The fonts are too small on mobile.
  • Your need to zoom/scroll horizontally to access the content.
  • Images are larger than the screen size.

Google has a free tool that checks for mobile-friendliness.

Google mobile friendliness tool

Why mobile-friendliness matters?

Mobile-friendliness is a major SEO ranking factor. Google is now ranking websites according to how they perform on mobile devices. You stand to lose ranking if your website is not mobile-optimized.

Check if the site has chains of redirect loops

If you’ve migrated your site to different domains a few times, or have gone through structural change, you may have set up chains of redirect loops.

Here’s an example

  • www.oldsite.com  →  www.currentsite.com →  www.futuresite.com

While 301 redirect is a common practice to retain SEO authority and user experience, a lengthy chain of redirects can be detrimental.

Thankfully, redirect chains can be easily identified through Screaming Frog crawler.

Why It’s Important To Reduce Redirect Loops?

Each redirect will increase the loading time of the page and also reduce the link-authority passed down from the original domain.

Check the site’s architecture

The overall site architecture serves the foundation for further SEO works. A site with a strong architecture:

  • Has good navigation - pages are easily accessible from menu or sidebars.
  • Uses breadcrumbs - Breadcrumbs are a navigational feature that allows users to easily switch between deeply-nested pages.

website architecture breadcrumbs

  • Has friendly URL structures - URLs are understandable and reflect the content of the page.
  • Is connected with internal linking - relevant pages are linked to each other to form clusters of keywords.

Why Site Architecture Is Important?

A good site architecture organizes the keywords in clusters and makes navigation easy. These are factors that enable Google to crawl a site easily and understand its context.

On-page Analysis

Perform basic checks for On-Page (Meta Title, Meta Description, header tags, alt text)

Some of the basic SEO audits that you need to do is to check out on-page factors like meta title/ description, header tags and the alt-text of the images.

Meta title and description are the text that appears on the search result, such as follow.

meta title and text description

Meta title helps SEO to understand what your page is all about. It’s a common practice to include keywords in the meta title.

As for meta descriptions, Google has grown smart enough to extract relevant text from your content if needed.

While meta description doesn’t directly affect SEO, it’s still important to create one. Having a well-crafted meta description increases the chances of readers visiting your page.

You can use SEO tools to check if you have both meta tags in place. Or, you can manually view the page source, and look for the meta tags.

manual checking of meta titles

 

In the content, you ought to have one H1, which is usually the title of the page. Your content is then structured by H2 and H3 to improve readability.

Properly structured content is also good for SEO. During the audit, run through checks that you’re using the headers appropriately.

It is still recommended to use only one H1 tag within a page, even though Google has clarified that having more than one does not affect SEO.

H1 tag

Alt-tag refers to the alternative attributes of an image. It’s part of the HTML code that describes the image in a website.

Having a keyword-optimized alt-text improves image SEO. In other words, it could improve the overall ranking factor and may even land the said image on top of Google image search.

Instead of using non-descriptive tags like ‘image0001’ or generic terms like ‘lasik’, it’s best to optimize the alt-tag with targetted keywords.

For example, the main image for the above example can be optimized with ‘best clinics for lasik in Singapore’.

Why are basic on-page checks important?

Meta title, header tags and alt-tags contribute to SEO. Meta tags appear on the search result, and according to Google, they are likely to influence the users to decide if the pages are likely to satisfy their search intent.

The tendency of users clicking into pages with relevant meta titles and descriptions indirectly affect Google SEO. They are easy to optimize and you don’t want to overlook any of them.

Identify thin and duplicate content

Thin content refers to pages that are deemed to offer low value and usually associated with a low word count. Since 2013, Google started to penalize sites that have many pages with thin content. Even if you’re not penalized, having thin content leads to low ranking on Google.

You can use Moz Pro Site Crawl to scrape through the pages in your site to identify thin content. The tool flags pages with less than 50 words with warnings.

Once identified, you can either

  • Remove the page.
  • Rewrite the content.
  • Expand the content.

Another issue that’s equally bad or worse is duplicate content. Google absolutely hates duplicate content.

If you’re copying content word-by-word from other sites, you could be penalized by Google. Use Copyscape or similar tools to detect plagiarism on your site.

Plagiarism checker

Sometimes, it could be others who are copying your content, but for some reason, you’re suffering the penalty. In such cases, you’ll want to report to Google to take down sites copying your content.

Why is checking for thin and duplicate content important?

Both factors affect SEO ranking and non-compliance can lead to Google manual penalties. Google is focused on delivering high-quality content to users and this is reflected in the Panda updated in 2011. The algorithm severely penalized sites with thin content, because they often do nothing to add values to the users.

Identify internal linking opportunities

Internal links are links that connect pages within the website. They help users to navigate around related pages and also makes the job easier for Google crawler.

There are a few ways to build strong internal links that distribute the link juice accordingly. The first involved structuring your content according to keyword themes. Organize the content in silos and have them reflected in the menu or your home page.

Another way to link the pages is through contextual links. Contextual links are links placed within the content, usually on related anchor text.

It can be tough to plan out your internal linking strategy when you have a website with hundreds of pages. Use Screaming Frog Site Crawler to aid you in optimizing internal links.

Why are internal links important?

They help Google to understand the hierarchy of the site, crawl isolated pages and improve SEO ranking.

Find content gaps and improve on existing content

Content gaps are keywords your competitors are ranking for but you’re not. They can be identified by using Ahrefs Site Explorer.

Running an audit will provide you with a list of keywords that are worth targeting. Then, you’ll need to create new content with the keyword or improving on existing ones.

Google rewards pages with updated and relevant content that matches the search intent. Have that in mind when you’re creating new content to bridge the content gaps.

Why is finding content gaps important?

It helps you identify untapped keywords that could produce significant organic traffic by improving your content’s performance (in terms of SEO and social shares).

Check that the GMB listing is accurate and set up properly

For local businesses in Singapore, you’ll want to be found by nearby residents. This means you’ll want to set up your Google My Business(GMB) account.

Basically, you’ll need to:

  • Sign up for GMB.
  • Fill in your info and claim your business.
  • Verify your GMB account.
  • Optimizing info, photos and/or videos.

Having a GMB account allows you to appear on Google map and local pack, which leads to higher local search traffic.

GMB listing

A valid GMB account also tells Google that you’re running a legit business and it helps with boosting search ranking.

Why GMB is important?

A properly optimized GMB helps your business to gain better visibility and increased local search traffic.

Check for external outbound links to authoritative sites

If you’re writing blog content on your site, you’ll want to include links to relevant authoritative sites.

Doing so associate your site with brands that are deemed trustworthy from Google’s point of view. Besides, it tells Google that you’re being helpful by directing users to trustworthy resources.

Outbound links are particularly important when you’re citing studies or facts that were originally published in other sites.

Why Authoritative Outbound Links Are Important?

Linking to authoritative sites increases the credibility of your content. It also boosts your site’s reputation as you’re providing content that are perceived as valuable.

Check If Content Meets Search Intent Of Query

As Google evolves, it isn’t enough to focus on only keyword research and creating content. Part of today’s SEO audit involves checking the content meets the search intent of users.

For example, an article targeting ‘how to choose baseball bat’ is more likely to rank if it’s written in an instructional manner that covers the various aspects to consider when choosing a baseball bat.

It is unlikely to rank high if it’s lack of detail, or heavily focused on baseball caps or other terms that do not satisfy the search intent of users.

You can create content that fulfils search intent by studying the People Also Ask or Searches Related To sections on Google.

People also ask

Alternatively, use tools like the Ahrefs Keyword Question feature.

Why It’s Important To Identify Ways Of Meeting Search Intent?

Google rewards contents that are most relevant to the search intent, which leads to a higher ranking. The audit result highlights opportunities for creating and improving content to satisfy search intent.

Check if the content includes LSI/semantic keywords

Getting a high ranking on Google goes beyond targeting primary keywords. LSI or semantic keywords help Google to understand the context of the article.

LSI/semantic keywords are synonym or related phrases for a particular keyword.

If you’re creating a webpage on guitar, you’ll also want to include semantic keywords like:

  • Guitar chords
  • Guitar strings
  • Guitar stores
  • Guitar tuner.

You can discover LSI/semantic keywords from Google autofill, or the Searches Related To section.

discover LSI/semantic keywords

Alternatively, you can use Ahrefs Keyword Explorer to do so.

Why It’s Important To Check For LSI/Semantic Keywords?

Using LSI/semantic keywords help Google to understand the content and leads to a boost in ranking.

 

Off-Page Analysis

Identify spammy backlinks that are pointing to the website

Spammy backlinks are links built from low-quality websites and are created to hurt your SEO ranking.

Although Google claimed that its algorithm can detect and ignore spammy links, it’s still recommended to take a proactive approach in addressing the issue.

Ahrefs Site Explorer is helpful in tracking backlinks for your domain. Usually, spammy links are built from sites with low DR, offer low value and function as a link farm.

Ahrefs Site Explorer

There are sometimes identifiable patterns that signify a spammy links attack. Usually, the links are:

  • Built-in great numbers.
  • Having unnatural anchor texts.

Once you’ve identified the spammy links, you’ll want to disavow the referring domains.

Why is it important to identify spammy backlinks?

Spammy backlinks are a form of negative SEO that can hurt your ranking. Google is strict about link-building schemes, where marketers obtain links purely for the sake of increasing ranking. Often, such practices include link-building from PBNs or link-farms, which are low-quality and have high spam scores.

Whether you’re involved in such practices or a competitor is launching a negative SEO campaign on your site, Google will eventually pick up on the abnormal link signals. It is very likely that your site will be penalized, and in some cases, de-indexed from the search engine.

 

Identify the quality of backlinks to the website.

Not all links are equal. The authority and relevance of the referring domain can determine the effects of the backlinks for SEO.

Therefore, you’ll want to run a backlink audit and check if you’re getting quality backlinks. Quality backlinks are measured by link relevancy, link authority and do-follow/no-follow tags.

Link relevancy means if the linking site is in any way related to the niche of your website. A link carries more SEO power when it comes from a relevant site.

For example, a backlink from ‘techradar.com’ is better than one from ‘babycenter.com’ for a business dealing with electronics gadgets.

Link authority is judged by the authoritativeness and trust of the linking domain. A site like ‘inc.com’ has high authority while a 6-months old ‘myownbusiness.com’ is unlikely to carry any weight in backlink signals.

Do-follow backlinks are more valuable than no-follow links. Links that are tagged with ‘no-follow’ tells Google crawler not to take them into account.

Why are quality backlinks important?

Quality backlinks are a powerful SEO factor. Getting links from authoritative and relevant sites can boost SEO ranking.

Identify the quality of anchor texts to the website.

The anchor text used for the backlink also contributes to the link power. Linking from “using a wireless mouse” to a page about ‘how wireless mouse works’ is better than a page on “computing devices”.

It’s important to be relevant and yet, prevent too many occurrences of exact keyword match. Google could be suspicious of illegitimate link building practices if there are too many backlinks with exact keywords anchor texts.

Why it’s important to check for anchor text quality?

Google can pick up unnatural anchor texts, which often indicates a link-building scheme is being carried out. This can lead to manual penalties on the site.

Check for local citations

In order to dominate local search results, you’ll need strong local citations. Citations generally mean mentions of your business, on directories, websites, social media and other online platforms.

For Singapore businesses, these local directories are great to build local citations:

Why local citations are important?

Getting mentions and backlinks with local citations tells Google that the business is relevant and authentic. It improves local search engine results.

Check for social signals to the website.

SEO professionals agree that social signals influence SEO ranking. The question is how much does it move the needle.

As more users are spending their time on social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, your business should maintain its presence on these platforms too.

You can use tools like Sprout Social to track engagements from various social media.

Social sprout

Why social signals are important?

Social signals such as likes, shares, retweets and comments are directly influencing Google search ranking.

Check if there are online reviews

Online reviews are a significant SEO ranking signal for Google. Whether it’s on GMB or comparison sites like Yelp, a site with reviews is likely to rank higher than one without.

Therefore, an SEO audit for local businesses will always include a check on reviews.

Reviews, good or bad, tells Google that your business is somehow, functional. Responding to the reviews further increases their value in SEO.

Google business review

Why online reviews are important?

They are a significant SEO ranking factor for local businesses. Reviews indicate legitimacy and trust from consumers and influence search ranking.

Check for branded mentions of your business

The mere mentions of your brand on news, article, and other websites is also a ranking factor. Whether it’s linked or unlinked, Google interprets the occurrences of brand mention in online media or conversation as a hint for the trustworthiness of your business.

Awario is a helpful tool to track brand mentions of your business in various platforms.

Brand mention tool

Why brand mentions are important?

Google takes brand mention into account when ranking a business. Conversations on your brand, particularly positive mentions, will provide a boost in ranking.

 

Disavowing Spammy Backlinks

We’ve mentioned that spammy backlinks can hurt your ranking. Therefore, disavowing spammy links is important to remove their negative effects on SEO.

To disavow, you’ll need to use the Google Disavow Tool. A disavow file, which lists the spammy domain, is then uploaded to the tool.

Disavow spam links

Disavowing links can have a major impact on your site’s ranking. If you disavowed the wrong links, you could suffer a great drop in search traffic.

It’s better to leave the disavowal process to an experienced SEO agency as the links must be thoroughly vetted through before they are categorized as ‘spammy’.

Sites with low authority, or new domain, are not necessarily bad for SEO as they could eventually grow in authority.  The sites need to be manually reviewed for spammy characteristics, like zero-value content, link-farming and other anomalies.

Why It’s important to disavow spammy backlinks?

Google’s ability to automatically detect and ignore spammy backlinks is not perfect. Your site could still suffer from low ranking and penalties from spammy backlinks.

 

What kind of SEO audit services do Heroes of Digital provide for websites?

At Heroes of Digital, we provide comprehensive SEO audit services that cover various aspects of your website. You’ll get a detailed report on:

  • Website score - an overall score of how your website is faring in terms of on-page, off-page and technical SEO.
  • Website structure & architecture - a chart detailing your site’s architecture arranged in a hierarchical manner.
  • URL structure - a list of the URLs in your site and whether they are SEO-friendly.
  • User experience - a report on factors affecting user experiences, such as loading speed, content layout, theme, plug-ins and typography.
  • On-page analysis - a summary on whether the meta tags, headers, alt-text, canonical tags and keyword densities are properly optimized.
  • Content quality and duplicate content - alerts on low quality, thin content and duplicates.
  • Mobile-friendliness check - a report on whether the web pages are fully optimized for mobile.
  • Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) check - an indicator of whether your site is secured by SSL encryption.
  • Page speed check - tests on each page of your website to ensure they are meeting Google’s recommendation on loading speed.
  • Technical analysis - check on factors like Sitemap, Robots.txt, 303 redirects, 404 eros and more.
  • Backlink profile analysis - a detailed inspection on referring domains in terms of quality, relevance, authoritativeness and the use of anchor texts.
  • Recommendations for improvements - the SEO audit ends with recommendations and changes that ought to be executed based on the results.

 

SEO Audit FAQ

Should I have my website audited?

Google’s algorithm is constantly changing and some of the practices are getting obsolete. If you’ve been losing organic traffic or never enjoyed any, you ought to have an SEO audit done. Often, you’ll discover issues and opportunities for improvements that are not obvious.

It’s proven that an SEO audit is a data-driven effort that increases the success rate of an SEO campaign. We’ve helped numerous clients with their audits and they’ve seen improvements by applying the resulting recommendations.

Is the SEO audit fully automated?

Heroes of Digital has our very own HeroSEO Powersuite - with our secret all-in-one SEO technology, we are able to conduct a comprehensive SEO audit that propels your rankings to page 1, regardless of your competition.

While HeroSEO Powersuite shortens the audit process, we also rely on our SEO professionals to interpret the results and review the websites. For example, the human touch is still needed to determine the right search intent of the keywords, marking spammy links, and recommending an optimized site structure. Experience also comes in handy in responding to Google penalties.

What are the deliverables of the SEO audit?

At the end of the audit, you’ll receive a detailed report highlighting every check that we’ve done. The report contains data derived from the crawlers, tolls and also include recommendations from our SEO professionals.

How often should I get an SEO audit done?

Google’s algorithm changes frequently, with 2-4 major updates in a year. Therefore, we recommend that you have an SEO audit done every 6 months to ensure that you’re complying with the latest practices.

How do I carry out the recommendations in the SEO audit?

If you already have an in-house developer, you can execute some of the recommendations. Alternatively, you can engage our team to optimize your website accordingly.

Some changes, particularly technical SEO, off-page SEO and content optimization, are better carried out by experienced SEO agencies.

Is the audit data confidential?

Every conversation, audit data and report we’ve created for our clients are strictly confidential. We respect the fact that the information produced in the audit is sensitive and could affect a client’s revenue.

Therefore, we’ve taken every measure to prevent leaks and breaches from our system.

Should I perform the SEO audit on my own?

There are tools that help in SEO audit and if you’re an experienced SEO marketer, feel free to do so. However, if you’re a business owner or does not have the latest SEO knowledge, it’s better to leave the audit to SEO agencies like us.

Besides saving costs on premium SEO tools, you can use the time to focus on your business instead of learning SEO from scratch.

What if I need more information about getting an SEO audit done?

Our team is ready to help and we’re transparent about the process and cost involved. Feel free to drop us a message and we’ll respond as soon as we can.

 

19 SEO Factors For Ranking on Page 1 of Google for Any Keyword

Free E-Book
We adopted a data-driven approach which integrates our Facebook digital marketing strategy with machine learning technology to help clients get maximum results from their budget. Over 600 clients have benefitted by trusting us to grow their business.

Our Facebook secrets are compiled within this e-book, download it now before your competitors do.

Get the best digital marketing articles delivered to your inbox on time.




Xavier Tan
Co-Founder
Xavier is the Co-Founder of Heroes of Digital. He started social media marketing and SEM long before it became popular in Singapore. His passion is in helping businesses grow through effective lead generation. He has overseen campaigns for Amara Hotel, NTU, Marina Bay, L'Oreal, and 100+ SMEs.

Find out our superpowers and see
how we can help your business grow with digital marketing

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram