SEO Audit Services | Unveiling Common Errors

SEO Audit Services: The Most Common Errors We Uncover

By Brent SirvioMar 28 /2024

When prospective clients come to us seeking help with their overall digital marketing strategy and, in particular, their SEO and search engine page rank, our team starts with a comprehensive, collaborative review of their respective situations. We’re interested in seeing their existing brand collateral and any existing brand guides or best practices, reviewing their current marketing tech stack, content and overall web presence and website experience.

Our initial findings are the result of a team of experts looking for how we can best identify both quick wins to help them align their sales and marketing efforts with the buyer’s journey, and more long-term plays for how to set these brands up for sustainable and durable success.

Kuno’s SEO audit services are often a critical aspect of these initial reviews and proposals, as they help shine a light on potential technical website issues that need addressing and resolution, identify potential gaps in content strategy, and, of course, seek ways to improve brand presence on search engine result pages (SERPs).

SEO is more than just finding ways to make crawlers happy; it serves as the bedrock for any sound digital marketing strategy. After all, the right keywords used appropriately are a reflection of your company, what you do and who you are. In our years of conducting these audits, we’ve seen a lot of issues – nothing really takes us by surprise anymore.

If your brand is struggling with performance on Google or the other search engines, it might come as some level of comfort to see that some of the errors we’ll note below are commonplace and able to be overcome.

The Main Elements of an SEO Audit

At the risk of overstating the obvious, an SEO audit is a part-automated, part-manual of a website gauging its effectiveness at being seen (indexed) by search engine crawlers and ranked on SERPs. Leveraging tools such as Semrush, our experienced and credentialed team carefully reviews all aspects of a site and identifies areas of strength and opportunities for improvement, laying out a cohesive strategy to best elevate your brand to be seen where your potential customers and clients are looking.

When we conduct these audits, we’re weighing three components of search engine optimization: technical SEO, on-page SEO and off-page optimization. None of these in and of themselves are overly complicated, though the actual work within each aspect can be complex and delicate. Blindspots or oversight in any of these areas will produce suboptimal results – search engine suboptimization, if you will.

Technical SEO Issues

Why Technical SEO Matters

(Or, "Did you ever think that maybe there's more to life than being really, really… really ridiculously good looking?")

Technical SEO is, well, what it sounds like: it’s everything done under the hood of your website to ensure that crawlers – and, increasingly, users – are able to find, index, understand and rank your content against similar sites.

After all, search engines can’t rank what they can’t find. And they won’t rank what they can’t readily find.

This includes all those best practices that come with proper site development and domain management: HTTPS protocol, clean code and site architecture, properly implemented structured data, easy, intuitive navigation, fast page loading and mobile friendliness.

Common Technical SEO Issues Uncovered During Audits

Sometimes, clients come into the sales conversation eyes wide open about the state of their website. Other times, the findings from a SEO audit is a Damascus Road experience. There isn’t much we haven’t seen!

Crawling and indexing problems – Again, crawlers can’t rank what they can’t find.

Many crawling issues occur when a page’s URL has been changed after being published. Most CMS platforms and website providers do not provide automatic redirect functionality, creating a 301 pointing a user to the correct page. Instead, that URL leads to a dreaded 404. Enough broken URLs, links and 404s and a search engine will downgrade your site without so much as a second thought.

Another routine issue is when a page is published, but not set to be indexed or followed either through a CMS or directly to a robots.txt file. There are often good, legitimate reasons for a page to not be indexed or crawled, but there are times when you want Google to find the page, but inadvertently toggled off the ability for its crawlers to do so.

The best way to find these errors is through a tool like Google Search Console, Semrush, Moz or ahrefs. Search Console, for instance, will let you know when Google is unable to locate a page if you’ve configured it appropriately. Our SEO team here at Kuno can monitor and address these issues for you, as well.

Site speed and performance issues – Gigantic images barely constrained by inline styling or CSS, bandwidth-absorbing widgets, unrefined markup and stylesheets, auto-play video, bulky animation…these bells and whistles are entirely counterproductive with crawlers, and run counter to the minimalist aesthetic that prevails in most current web dev practices.

Mobile-friendliness issues – While Core Web Vitals carry less weight than it did a year or two ago, a site’s ability to scale down to mobile devices still matters when it comes to Google and the rest. If a website isn’t responsive, especially now that responsive and mobile-forward web design has long been the norm, it’s not going to perform well on SERPs.

Impact of Technical SEO Errors on Search Rank

Depending on the particular issue, SERP rankings may be seriously affected by technical SEO errors. Unminified script and sloppy markup may not affect standard desktop viewports, but can impact visibility on mobile displays. This may not affect SEO directly, but can be a lurking problem with factors like mobile friendliness. In general, smaller issues alone may not drag rank down, but a combination of smaller errors can easily snowball into SERP ranking issues and penalties.

It’s vital to have a knowledgeable SEO expert on your side able to navigate optimization platforms to not only see a site’s health score, but to drill down into identified issues, as well as stay on top of developing trends in web development and search to make sure your site stays with the tradewinds and your brand is always able to be found by the people who need to see it.

On-Page SEO Issues

On-Page SEO and Its Importance

(Or, "So far, what you've missed is; worried, love will find, unplug the drain.")

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel: on-page SEO is everything done at the surface level to tailor site pages for crawlers. If technical SEO is the foundation, on-page SEO might rightly be thought of as the structure on top.

This is where good web practices meet sound content and marketing strategy: all that effort that goes into making a clean, fast, secure site should only be coupled with a thoughtful strategy that compellingly highlights who you are, what you do and why you do it. From there, clearly identified keywords act as a framework to connect your brand, products or services with the marketplace of ideas out there on Google.

Common On-Page SEO Issues

A lot of on-page SEO are layups, easy ways to triangulate a page so that it can get the proper attention. As easy as they are, the truth is that everybody misses a layup from time to time. Here are some common mistakes when it comes to on-page optimization:

Missing meta tags and descriptions – Meta descriptions, alt text and page titles are often misused, missing keywords (see below), run too long or empty altogether. Sometimes, these pages are rich with compelling content: transformative case studies, dynamic product offerings, even a powerful day of company volunteering. If a site has great content and doesn’t have the proper meta data to point crawlers to it, does any of it make an impact?

Poor keyword optimization – The backbone of great content strategy is a sound approach to SEO utilizing keywords and topic clusters to demonstrate credibility and authority on a topic. Sometimes, the content strategy looks great: it executes multi-channel assets with appropriate syndication on social and even is buttressed with paid and earned media. Without a solid keyword strategy implemented and executed, these efforts will always have a governor on them, able to perhaps get a limited short-term bump but seldom long-term run.

Duplicate content – While duplicate content itself may not be penalized by Google, it can be a negative signal for crawlers, which indirectly may affect site quality and ranking. When syndicating content off-platform, be sure to use canonical tagging. On your own site, it’s best practice to avoid duplicating content primarily from a user experience perspective, and secondarily for concerns regarding rank.

How On-Page Errors Affect Search Engine Visibility and UX

Without adequate on-page optimizations, your site will lack the clustering and authority needed to properly rank, not to mention that the value you offer to prospective clients and customers is lost because there’s little if anything for crawlers to work with, gauge and place on SERPs.

As mentioned before, on-page SEO is the building atop a solid technical foundation. It needs curb appeal for people to stop and notice!

Off-Page SEO Issues

Off-Page SEO and Its Effect on Rank

(Or, "This is worse than the time the raccoon got in the copier.")

Off-page (or off-site) SEO is how your site is recognized by indexers elsewhere online. Some of this is outside your control; link aggregators are out there gathering pages and links all the time. As much as it is up to you, though, there are ways to leverage off-page links in ways that can move the needle and create brand uplift and move the needle.

Common Off-Site SEO Problems Uncovered During Audits

Low-quality and toxic backlinks – This is almost entirely out of your hands, and as such, Google even takes that into consideration and only factors backlink quality as one of many variables when considering site quality and page rank. If your web tool shows a lot of links from a few low-grade sites, Google’s experts say that, if you want to bother with it, contact the site and see if they’ll remove them.

Disavowal is always an option in more severe situations, such as having gotten into a pay-for-play deal with a sketchy third party, but that’s typically the method of last resort.

Imbalanced backlink diversity – If you’re running digital marketing for a bookstore, you want to develop links and backlinks within the realm of books and your community: other bookstores, literary journals, publisher websites, author’s blogs, local events.

It’s also important to strike a balance between the amount of internal and external linking taking place, keeping internal and external linking as strongly relevant and appropriate as possible and avoiding practices like link sculpting, which only serve to dilute the overall SEO value and equity afforded to links.

Off-Page SEO Errors and Website Authority and Reputation

“Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.” That’s what I heard growing up, and while I don’t necessarily believe it as absolute truth, there is some merit to it when holding the idea up against something like off-site SEO. Keep an eye on your spam score and backlink records through your SEO or website monitoring tool of choice, and act as needed to keep things tidy.

Combining All the Right Elements to Deliver SEO Success

"That’s a Bold Strategy, Cotton."

Wrapping things up, there is no magic formula for SEO that gets results – a well-developed website designed with speed and mobility in mind, coupled with a compelling keyword-centric content and marketing strategy, will produce quality, authoritative topic clusters people in your target audience will want to see and share.

It’s also important to note that SEO is a long-term play: it’s important to stay the course, committed to good practices and quality work both under the hood and on the site. It’s tempting to chase trends or try to hack the algorithms, but what search engines are learning and prioritizing is what inbound marketers have known for quite some time: consistently treating the customer with respect and giving them something of value matters.

At Kuno Creative, we’ve been all about inbound marketing since its inception, and we apply the inbound approach to everything we do for our clients. Our SEO audit services are just one way we provide value: by identifying ways your site may be underperforming with search engines, we highlight ways our team of interdisciplinary marketing experts can not just correct issues, but develop a comprehensive strategy that promotes site health, a vibrant multi-channel content strategy that allows your brand to get noticed by web crawlers and, more importantly, the people who need to see what you have to offer.

Contact us and have a conversation with a member of our team about the SEO challenges you’re facing. An audit can help you figure out where to go from here, and how we can help you get there.

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The Author

Brent Sirvio

Brent brings a marketing strategist's perspective and an incisive eye for language to ensure all content deliverables for Kuno's clients are compelling and accurate, adhering to brand guidelines and best practices. Prior to joining Kuno, he held several roles in digital marketing, from web development and support, to account management to HubSpot onboarding and implementation, to content strategy and copyediting. A member of ACES, Brent holds a BA from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and a MA from Bethel University (St. Paul, MN). Sisu.