That’s right, folks, it’s time to talk about SEO. The white whale of many business owners. The haunting specter of many creative types. The panic-inducing acronym that sends shivers the world over.
But luckily, this article will show you how to start your SEO off on the right foot by performing a mini website audit. Even better? We’re going to explain it without all the technical mumbo-jumbo that Internet marketers love to use.
I’m going to start with the most technical of the list: Screaming Frog.
Despite the silly name, Screaming Frog is an invaluable website audit tool. Not only can you use it to figure out everything you need to know about a site’s technical SEO, but it segments everything into easy to read sections like Internal (links), External (links), Page Titles, Meta Description, and more.
The first thing you’re going to want to do is download the Screaming Frog tool. After downloading and installing it, you’ll be greeted by a screen like this:
Copy and paste the website you want to analyze at the top. (I used Next Level SEM, which is a company we manage SEO for.) You can use your site, a potential client’s site, a competitor’s site, or any other site.
Click “start” and Screaming Frog will go to work. It audits websites of up to 500 pages for free, which is more than enough to get you started and give you a good idea of what’s going on with the site.
After the crawl is complete, you’ll be looking at a screen like this:
A lot to take in, right? You can ignore most of it for now, but pay attention to the Page Title tab, Meta Description tab, H1 tab, H2 tab, and Image tab. Click over to each and you’ll have access to a wealth of SEO data.
We’re only going to take a detailed look at the Page Title tab. All of the tabs are laid out in a similar way, so once you know how to navigate and read one tab, you’ll be good to navigate them all.
So, the Page Title tab looks like this:
Pay attention to the categories listed on the right side of the screen. You can see the page titles that are missing, duplicated, over or under a certain character or pixel amount, and used multiple times on a single page.
Click over to each individual category to learn more and see results like this:
And here you have at your fingertips, like some sort of magical SEO fairy godmother, a way to see all of the info you need about your page titles.
All of this matters because improving your SEO starts with knowing where your problems are. If you have duplicate H1s and H2s, you have an issue. When your meta titles and descriptions go over the allotted pixel number, Google and users do not register it. Images might have broken links or lack the alt text that helps you show up in results. Screaming Frog will flag all of these different problems and more, so you’ll know exactly what to fix.
Here’s a favorite tool of mine: SEMrush. This is one powerful website analysis tool. You can do a lot with it, from auditing your site to spying on competitors to discovering keywords you’re ranking for that you don’t even know about.
Before getting into how you can use SEMrush to audit your website, it’s worth pointing out that all the screenshots below are from the paid version. You can use SEMrush for free, but it doesn’t offer the same level of insight.
Now, on to the fun stuff. The first thing you’re going to want to do is type your domain into the search bar at the top. The results will be a page like this:
Now we’re going to look at the Backlinks section. This is where you can see what websites are linking to you. Click Backlinks on the left and you’ll be taken to a page that looks a lot like this:
From here, you’ll want to check out the Backlink tab, which gives you a more detailed version of the above. Then you’ll want to click over to the Anchor tab, which lists out your links’ anchor text (the clickable portion of links and the most valuable from an SEO standpoint).
After that, look at the Referring Domain tab, which gives you a look at what websites are linking to you from a domain perspective. Finally, check out the Competitor tab, which will show links your competitors have that you don’t. I like to call this the “master spy tab”.
Another cool thing you can do in SEMrush is look at their organic traffic insights. This is SEMrush’s version of Google Analytics, and let me tell you, it is a lot easier to use. This is Google Analytics for folks who aren’t super tech savvy.
The Organic Traffic Insights page looks like this:
The next step of your website audit in SEMrush is checking out the SEO tab. Click over to Domain Analytics on the left, and copy and paste the specific page you want to audit in the search bar at the top. You’ll find yourself looking at this page:
Take a look at the top keywords the page is ranking for, any links pointing towards the page, and more.
Finally, you can use SEMrush to do some more spying on your competition. Type your competitor’s website into the search bar at the top and click “search”. You’ll be taken to this page:
From here, you can learn all sorts of useful info, like what keywords they’re ranking for, where they’re getting their links from, what types of ads they’re running, and more. Pay attention to the tabs on the left side of the page to click through to individual areas.
Moz Open Site Explorer
Moz’s Open Site Explorer (OSE) tool can be used for a lot of different things. We’re really only going to use it here for link analysis, but you can use it for competitor research, PR monitoring, and seeing which pages on your site are the strongest.
To use OSE, you’ll have to create a free Moz account—you can do that here. You’ll also be able to access the Moz forums and use the MozBar after creating an account, so it’s well worth taking the 10 seconds to sign up.
The first thing you’re going to want to do is head over to the OSE page. Then, type your website into the search bar like so:
You’ll soon be looking at this screen:
The first things you should pay attention to are your Domain Authority (DA), individual pages’ Page Authority (PA), and the number of established links. These are measurements of how optimized for organic search your site and individual pages are. The higher your DA and PA, the better.
You’ll also see your site’s Spam Score listed at the top. This number gives you a quick and dirty idea of how many spammy links are pointing towards your website. You want this number to be as low as possible.
After checking these out, click over to the Linking Domains tab on the left side of the page. You’ll find yourself at this screen:
You can scroll through and see where your links are coming from and the metrics of each site. All the info you need to analyze your links is here: the link page’s PA, their spam score, their DA, and the number of sites that link to them.
It’s a goldmine for SEO nerds.
The last part of Moz’s Open Site Explorer that we’re going to look at is the spam score tab. You can get there by clicking Spam Analysis on the left. You’ll end up at a page like this:
This shows you which websites with links pointing at yours are legitimate and which are considered suspicious by search engines. You can also see the distribution of your links. There’s even a section at the bottom (not pictured in the above screenshot) where you can create a disavow file to send to Google for your extra-spammy links.
Google PageSpeed Insights
The end is in sight, folks—just hold for a few more minutes and you’ll be an organic search ninja!
One of the more overlooked areas of SEO is the speed at which your pages load. This area is part user experience (UX) and part pure search engine appeasement. Regardless of which goal you’re most interested in, Insights can help.
To get started, go to the PageSpeed Insights page and enter the URL of the page you want to examine into the Analyze bar. After Google finishes crawling this page, you’ll find yourself looking at this:
The first thing to payattention to is the Possible Optimization list. This shows everything that’s causing your page to load slowly. If you click the “show how to fix” link, you’ll get a whole lot of suggestions on how to improve these individual issues.
Let’s take a look at the next area: Optimization Found. You want to click “show details,” which will lead you to something like this:
These are the areas where your page is doing a great job. Give yourself a pat on the back! Making sure your pages load quickly and efficiently isn’t easy.
The last thing you should know about PageSpeed Insights is that there are separate insight pages for the mobile and desktop versions of your site. The screenshots above are for the mobile version, but you’ll definitely want to click over to the desktop version as well.
And that’s it—you’re all now nothing less than SEO nerds. You have a leg up on your competition and that’s a seriously invaluable asset. Now go out there and start optimizing your site!