I began working with my friend to assist with some SEO on a website for his business that had recently been redesigned. We emailed on October 8, 2017, and set up a phone call for the following afternoon. This gave me some time to review the site quickly in a few tools and run some preliminary reports to start an SEO site audit.
Start with an SEO site Audit
Since I have an account with Agency Analytics, my first step was to just set up a quick campaign for https://www.unitedfinalexpenseservices.com/ and use their Site Audit tool.
While the site audit tool was running, we decided to look into some of the basics and make sure that the website was optimized and ready for a competitive marketing campaign.
Basics that we checked:
- Properly installed WordPress theme and configuration – Yes
- SEO friendly URLs (Permalinks in WordPress) – Yes
- Google Analytics Installed – Yes
- URL verified with Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools) – No
- Sitemap XML file created and submitted to Search Console – No
- Sitemap HTML file created and linked in the navigation – No
Items 1-3 are fairly self-explanatory and were configured correctly so I won’t go into much detail. We just made sure that our account was listed in Google Analytics as a user so we had access to his data. Setting up users is quite easy but can be confusing with all of the overwhelming options. Never give your Google account information to an agency, make sure that you always have the keys to your account. You can read how to setup users in Google Analytics here.
Proper URL structure submission
For item #4, although Google Search Console was set up, it was not configured for their new web address which uses www and https. We added the new domain and verified it through Search Console and then added us as a user (similar to what was done in Google Analytics). Again, never give your account information out to anyone.
Too many SEO plugins
For item #5, we noticed that there was an XML sitemap submitted to the old site in Google Search Console, but since we just added a new one (with the correct https and www) we needed to add it again. We also noticed that the old one only added the pages sitemap (page-sitemap.xml) and not the full index. This would mean that everything posted on the blog, would not be submitted to Search Console. This is definitely not optimal. We submitted the full index to get all content into google (https://www.unitedfinalexpenseservices.com/sitemap_index.xml). While going through this process, we noticed that there were several redundant plugins installed. All in One SEO Pack, Yoast SEO and Google XML sitemaps were 3 plugins that perform some similar functions. We prefer to use Yoast SEO, primarily because we are familiar with it and we like the tools it has for grading the SEO of your posts and pages, plus it has an XML sitemap creator built into the plugin. We uninstalled All in One SEO Pack and Google XML sitemaps and cleaned up the dashboard just a little bit.
Help Google and users find your content
Lastly, for #6, we noticed that there was no sitemap HTML file. Many years ago, a sitemap was very useful for finding content on your website. While site search has gotten much better (and WordPress does a fine job with this) we still like to have an HTML sitemap. 2 reasons we like HTML sitemaps are that they are good for old-timers who look for them and secondly since it dynamically links to all of the content on your site, once a spider, like the google bot, finds the page it can then find every other page on your website with one click, regardless of how deep the pages may go in your link structure. We used the simple sitemap plugin and just added a small shortcode to the newly created page and then linked to it from the footer navigation.
SEO site audit complete and ready to review
By this time, the site audit was complete and we are ready to review and work on some of the technical items which may not be so obvious. We will discuss the initial SEO site audit and our process over forward in the next few weeks.
These 6 items were some of the initial basics that we ran through while the website audit was running. After this, we went into researching H1 tags, Title tags, internal and external links which we will discuss in part 2. Later we will discuss keyword research, backlinks, content creation strategy and more.