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The first SEO audit is the hardest, because chances are that you don’t have an effective framework in place for SEO quite yet–but at the same time, that makes the first audit the most important. Take advantage of your new small business’ blank slate internet presence to build a great SEO foundation from the ground up.

Get a Baseline for the SEO Audit

Before you get started, set up Google Analytics for your website and run it for 14-21 days without making any changes. This gives you a clear idea of how your website’s performing initially, so you have a clear baseline to compare with future performance.

Conduct Keyword Research

After you have your baseline, the very first action you’ll want to undertake is keyword research for the SEO Audit. Again, you can use Google Analytics for keyword research.

Run a Search Analytics report in Google Analytics, and you’ll get a list of all the keywords you’re already ranking for, listed by clicks and impressions. You can try to rank higher for these existing keywords by integrating them naturally in more places, or you can search for niche keywords and competitor’s keywords in the Search Console.

These keywords serve as your most important tool for SEO ranking. It’s easiest to rank for 3- or 4-word long-tail keywords, so that’s where you should focus most of your efforts.

Check Content

Look over your web content for keyword integration. There should be frequent mentions of your most important keywords, but they should always be natural. Google doesn’t reward keyword stuffing as it once did in the past, so you should focus on SEO that reads naturally.

If you have a blog, check old blog posts as well. It may not be feasible in terms of resources to do a full audit if you have an established blog with many posts, but you can identify high-performing posts and audit the ones that are likely to get the most traffic.

Use Meta Descriptions

Meta descriptions are the 160-character snippet that appears describing your page in Google. If you don’t specify a meta description, Google automatically takes a short snippet from the page, which may be to your detriment.

For the best results, write a short meta description for each of your top-performing pages. Write between 135-160 characters, include your most important keyword, and use active voice to implore the reader to take action. An actionable meta description starts with phrases like “Become an expert…” “Learn how to…” and “Optimize your…”

Add Company Information

Google crawls your website for company information so that customers searching for your address or phone number can find it with ease. Make sure that the footer of each page includes your company’s address, phone number, and e-mail.

Track Progress

Set up Google Analytics to run regularly and track important metrics for your target keywords, such as impressions and clicks, as well as changes to your web traffic. Also, consider using tools such as SEMRush to conduct periodic automatic audits for errors such as missing tags, duplicate content, and broken images.

Don’t Forget Apps

Business apps are becoming increasingly common in nearly every industry, so don’t forget to apply the same principles to your app page to increase your app exposure and downloads. Consumers tend to search Google to find apps because it’s the easiest way to find reviews and App Store or Play Store links in one place. Treat your app’s App Store page the same way you’d treat your website’s content, by integrating target keywords naturally and including a meta description.

Remember that just because the initial audit is finished doesn’t mean that the work is done. Google algorithms are constantly changing, and so are SEO strategies. Make it a priority to conduct annual audits at minimum, or even quarterly audits if your resources allow it. With regular TLC, your website’s SEO can be top-notch and give you the visibility your website needs.