If your website isn’t getting many views despite high-quality content, or if you’re seeing a steady drop in organic traffic, odds are that poor SEO practices are to blame. While plenty of great SEO companies and consultants are available to help you improve your page ranking factors, you might be surprised to learn how much you can do yourself with a minimal understanding of WordPress or HTML.
Before you spend any money on professional services, use this quick DIY audit guide to gauge the quality of your SEO.
SEO involves much more than just keywords. Site speed has been one of the most crucial factors for quite some time – most notably since Google introduced a dedicated page speed update back in 2018. If your site takes more than two seconds to load, it’s likely causing your page rankings to suffer. Data released directly by Google reveals that every extra second that your page takes to load dramatically increases bounce rate (the percentage of users who leave the site after viewing only one page).
Luckily, Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool can tell you exactly how long your loading times are, as well as point out specific areas for improvement so that you or your web developer can make the necessary changes to boost performance, improving both your SEO and user experience.
If your site isn’t optimized for mobile use, it’s time to make that a priority; the majority of online traffic is mobile, and that trend isn’t changing any time soon. In fact, Google now actually indexes the mobile version of websites first, so the lack of an adaptive, responsive, or mobile-first design that makes it easy for people to navigate on their devices will have a sizable negative impact on your ranking.
As with page speed, Google offers free tools to analyze mobile performance and fix any potential problems. Just use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to see how your site stacks up.
One of the most basic and most important checks you can run is to ensure that only a single version of your site is being indexed by Google. In an extreme case, search engines could see four different versions of your site:
While this makes no difference to a user browsing your site, it can cause big SEO problems by making it difficult for search engines to know which version to index and rank for query results. In many cases, separate versions of a site can even be interpreted as duplicate content, which further impacts your content’s visibility and rankings.
If you run a manual check and discover a mix of site versions, the easiest fix is to simply set up a 301 redirect on the “duplicate” versions to let search engines know which one to index and rank. Another option is to use a
rel="canonical" tag on your individual web pages, which is just as effective as a 301 redirect but may require less time for you or your web developer to implement.
While your site’s performance is a major ranking factor, it’s still important to consider ways of improving your traditional on-page SEO. In addition to creating great, unique content that provides value to the user, you’ll want to look at optimizing title tags, meta descriptions, and image alt tags, as well as improving your internal linking and pulling any bad outbound links.
A number of great tools can help you find any problem areas or opportunities you have missed. Popular options that can quickly provide a list of actionable items include SE Ranking, SEO Tester, and SEMrush’s On-Page SEO Checker tool.
Another great SEO audit tool that focuses specifically on internal and outbound links is Dr. Link Check. It crawls your website and gives you a complete list of all its links. You can then filter that list down to show only the links you are interested in, such as broken links or dofollow links to external websites.
Backlinks are one of Google’s top three factors when determining page rankings, and they can be enormously beneficial when it comes to increasing traffic, as long as they’re legitimate, high-quality links. But there are also so-called “toxic” backlinks that can negatively impact your organic traffic and site rankings. In extreme cases, they can even result in a manual action being taken against your site by Google.
These harmful backlinks are usually the direct result of trying to game the system, whether it’s paying for links, joining shady private blog networks, submitting your site to low-quality directories, or blatantly spamming your links all over the web. While it’s an uncommon tactic, there are also cases of unscrupulous webmasters deliberately using toxic backlinks as a way to sabotage competitors. Even if you aren’t using any of these tactics yourself, it’s still worth doing a periodic check to make sure everything’s above board.
By using a combination of SEMrush’s Backlink Audit tool and the Google Search Console, you can determine whether you have any backlink issues to address. If you do find any problematic backlinks, the two main options are sending out removal requests via email and hoping they get removed, or using the Google Disavow Tool to tell Google that you want them to ignore certain links.
Keep in mind that the point of a DIY SEO audit is to conduct some simple checks that anyone who knows their way around WordPress or basic HTML can handle. If you’ve done everything on this list and still seem to be struggling to gain traction, or if you’re seeing a steady drop in organic traffic, the problem might be something more complex.
In that case, it’s important to know the limits of your own abilities. If you start poking around in code that you aren’t familiar with, there’s a very real risk of doing more harm than good. Hiring someone to fix mistakes is a costly headache that nobody wants to deal with. Instead, consider hiring an SEO specialist with more in-depth knowledge on the subject as soon as you know the problem is something you’re not sure how to fix. The good news is that if you’ve already done a basic audit, that means less work (and billable hours) that a professional needs to do before they can diagnose the issues.
While professional assistance is certainly necessary in some cases, the truth is that many of the most common SEO mistakes can be corrected without much technical know-how, thanks to the robust analytical tools and guidelines available. So before you spend your hard-earned money, walk through the steps outlined in this guide to identify your issues and see if it’s something that can be handled with a few minutes of your or your web developer’s time.