I admit that my freelance writer website hasn’t been my top priority when it comes to generating leads or increasing my industry reputation. I enjoy networking on LinkedIn and using freelance sites such as ClearVoice and even People Per Hour.
Just as my freelance writing career has evolved, so too has my website. And that means it’s likely to be inefficient, cluttered and even disorganised.
So, when Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest added their Site Audit feature, I jumped at the chance of giving my website a thorough critique. I know that my website has very low traffic and probably doesn’t rank for much on Google. In fact, according to Ubersuggest, the only keyword I rank for is “locum pharmacist invoice” and I don’t want to rank for it.
What follows is an honest account of the results of the audit, the gaps in my knowledge of websites plus my process of working through the improvements.
What is Ubersuggest?
Ubersuggest is a free keyword tool from Neil Patel that just keeps getting better and better. If you’re interested in learning more about SEO and how it can help your business, I can’t recommend Neil enough. He’s one of the big SEO Marketing players and provides great tips and advice through is regular blogs and videos.
Ubersuggest not only helps with keyword research but has many juicy additional features that make it my No. 1 choice for keyword and content ideas:
- Domain Overview – info on traffic on any domain – including competitors
- Top SEO Pages – shows data on which pages are working the best for a site so you can create more similar content.
- Keyword Suggestions – volume and difficulty in ranking for various keywords, keyword ideas and longer tail keywords.
- Content Ideas – shows social share data on pages that help you decide what to write about.
- Backlink Data – backlinks data highlights which of your content people are linking to.
- Site Audit – That’s this post is all about: audit your website to find out where the errors are and improve your SEO.
Problems I may encounter
My site is a WordPress.com website i.e. this isn’t the self-hosted wordpress.org that gives you much greater functionality and control over your website. I have a paid plan and my own domain but that paid plan doesn’t include plugins – your only route additional features if you’re using WordPress.com.
So I already know I have a limited ability to influence the SEO of my site.
I am no expert on websites and off-page SEO (but I may revisit this statement after I have made the site audit recommended improvements to my website).
Let’s get started.
Starting the Ubersuggest Site Audit – Pass 1
From the menu on the left-hand side, I selected “Site Audit” and entered my website into the search box. Ubersuggest then trawled by website, which took a couple of minutes.
Here are the results:
So good things first:
- I have Great On-Page SEO score (79/100) which I expected as I provide SEO content as one of my services.
- My website has Excellent load speed for desktops and Good speed for mobile devices.
- There are 11 “healthy” pages.
Not so good things:
- Of my 68 pages, 57 of my pages “Have Issues” and 41 of those issues are critical.
I didn’t know my website even had that many pages but I have my starting stat – 57 issues to correct.
Pages with SEO issues: 57
Deleted old tags, categories and blog posts
Looking through the list of pages flagged by Ubersuggest, there are instances of old, irrelevant or duplicate categories and tags. Plus my blog posts from my early days as a writer were included in the audit despite them being marked as ‘Private’ pages.
These categories, tags and blog posts are no longer relevant to my freelance writer niche. They don’t add any value but worse still, they are negatively impacting my SEO score.
I started with a declutter:
- Ditch old, irrelevant or duplicate tags (e.g. freelancer and freelancing)
- Strip down the categories to only those I think my ideal clients would be interested in seeing (e.g. pharmacy marketing)
- Delete old blog posts that were previously marked as ‘Private’. They may not be visible to a site visitor but they are to Google (e.g. product descriptions for a jewellery retailer).
Oh, it feels good to delete.
By removing the irrelevant content, I can give my attention to the relevant content.
After re-running the audit I had:
Good. My quick declutter resulted in reducing critical errors by around 25% (but I have created a 404 error – eek).
Pages with SEO issues: 47
Each of the issues has a grade for the ease of fixing (Easy, Moderate and Hard) plus a rating the impact it has on the SEO of your website (Low, Medium and High).
I’m new to site audits so I’m going to start with the easier fixes and work my way up. Some of these easy fixes also have a moderate effect on SEO so, hopefully, these should provide some quick wins.
Site Audit Easy Difficulty Fixes
Issue: Poorly formatted URL for SEO
There are several reasons why a URL is not great for SEO. The URL length could be too long (more than 60 characters), it may have too many subfolders or it could include characters that are neither numbers, letters or dashes. Or, they may not be keyword-savvy.
Ubersuggest gives decent explanatory callouts so you can understand what the issue is. Often, there is also a link to one of Neil Patel’s blog post on how to fix the issue.
I have just the one page with this issue:
Basically, this page has a rubbish name that no-one searches on i.e. they don’t contain keywords. However, the is going to be page a tricky page to fix.
Firstly, it’s not a page that I have created using the WordPress interface. It’s an automatically generated page and I don’t know where to go to edit the URL.
Secondly, the URL contains my Gravatar name, ‘nicolahasted’, which is only two capital letters and a finger space away from my real name. And I’m not about to change my real name to “Health Writer” just for Google. So, I don’t know what to do about this one so I’m going to ignore it for now.
Pages with SEO issues: 47
Issue: <Title> tag that is too long
A title tag is a headline of a page that is displayed on a search engine results page (SERP). WordPress has a default format which combines the page title with the site name. E.g. If I have a blog post called “Six reasons to become a Locum Optometrist” and a site called “My Locum Choice”, Google will display this page when it is returned in a search as”Six reasons to become a Locum Optometrist – My Locum Choice”:
A Title Tag is considered too long if it exceeds 65 characters in length. What is really means is that the full name of your page will be chopped off when seen on a search results page. Google wants to make sure that anyone doing a search gets pages of lovely results that are relevant and easy to understand. A clipped page title is annoying for the user so Google doesn’t like it.
I have 22 pages where the title tag is too long. But because my site is currently a WordPress.com site and isn’t self-hosted, I am unable to edit these tags directly.
However, I know that the title tag is a combination of the page title and the site name, which is currently “Health Writer | Nicola Hasted” (all 29 characters of it).
Shortening my site name may help. I can also reword some of the page titles that are a bit too wordy. But without access to the actual Title Tag (which I am always editing on my healthcare client’s websites), I am limited. I don’t want to shorten the titles and compromise the blog post just for the sake of this relatively minor error.
Pages with SEO issues: 47
Issue: SSL certificate that is about to expire
Neil suggests I contact my website administrator to renew the certificate. Since I’m the website administrator, I’ll have to contact wordpress.com support instead.
Pages with SEO issues: 47
So of the 24 pages with “easy” fixes, I have been able to so far fix a big fat zero.
Oh, this is going so well…
Site Audit Moderate Difficulty Fixes
Issue: Page with 4XX status code
Remember that page with a 404 code that I created during my declutter? This means that a page I deleted (an unused portfolio style pages that my WordPress theme supports) must have had a link from another internal page.
What this means to someone visiting my website is that they could encounter this page error “Oops, looks like the page you’re looking for doesn’t exist”. That’s really annoying for the site visitor so Google frowns big-time of this kind of error.
Thankfully, the portfolio pages I removed weren’t permanently deleted so I was able to restore this page. Maybe I’ll find that link one day but for now, I’m happy to just restore this Career Guide for Pharmacists portfolio entry.
At last, a small victory.
Pages with SEO issues: 46
Issue: Duplicate <title> tags
I know that I cannot directly edit my title tags. So let’s look at the pages and see what can be done:
As we’ve already discovered, Title tags should be neither too short or too long. But neither should they be duplicated. However, this can be a problem for system-generated pages where you cannot manually amend the title tag.
In the case above, I have a category and a tag both simply names ‘freelancing’ (not unreasonably). But both these pages will appear as “Freelancing | Nicola Hasted | Health Writer” if they were returned on a SERP.
Without being able to access the title tag editor, I’m just going to rename one of these pages – the category of freelancing – to “Being a Freelancer”. Hopefully, this will fix the issue but I won’t know for definite until I rerun the audit.
Pages with SEO issues: 45
Issue: Duplicate meta descriptions
My website has 13 pages with duplicate meta descriptions:
Of the four meta descriptions shown, three of them have the same issue – pagination. Where my blog posts or category of blog posts spill over into more than one page, the meta description is carried over from Page 1 to Page 2 etc causing a duplication. This accounts for six of the flagged pages.
I will have to do some more research on how to solve this issue if it is solvable.
Of the remaining seven, they have a similar problem:
All the pages listed above are “merged” using a feature of my WordPress theme (Twenty Seventeen). The feature allows me to add separate pages to create Front Page Sections. I probably didn’t consider that these pages as separate entities because they are presented as one page by the WordPress theme. But Ubersuggest’s site audit has shown that they need individual treatment.
Anyway, to access the excerpt and change the meta description, I had to enable the editor via the screen options:
So I will go through each of the flagged pages and add a unique description, keeping the first page listed with the original wording. And I’ll make sure they have a respectable minimum word count.
Pages with SEO issues: 38
Issue: pages with a low word count
How is this of moderate difficulty but knowing something about SSL certificates is ‘easy’? Ah well, Neil Patel – you know more than me.
Looking at this list, they are mostly category and tag pages. Plus they all have a word count under 200 words.
But they also include some front page content. I don’t want my copy to sound padded or to waffle so I will have to decide whether word count or word quality is more important. However, this may be an opportunity to add more keywords.
By including links to all the problem URLs, Ubersuggest’s site audit allows you to view the pages as any visitor would see them. I found this feature useful as I corrected each page, one by one.
Re-run the Site Audit – Pass Number 3
As expected, the following errors still remain:
- 6 pages with duplicate meta descriptions: these are the Page 1 and Page 2 etc versions of the same page.
- 1 page with poorly formatted URL for SEO: ‘/author/nicolahasted’ is a page I cannot access to change even if I wanted to change my name.
- 1 issue with an SSL certificate that is about to expire: somebody who isn’t me is fixing this.
Pages with SEO issues: 26
Four pages still have a low page count: three of them I must have missed so I can add more relevant wording to these pages. However, the fourth page is another of these ‘Page 2 of…’ pages that I cannot access. Not much I can do about that.
The two pages with duplicate <title> tags is a strange one. Do you remember that I updated the category of freelancing to “Being a Freelancer” to fix this issue? Well, it seems either I updated both the tag and the category (I did not) or the system has someone copied the updated Category to the tag as well. This time, I have completely deleted the tag. I hope this resolves this issue.
There are also a couple more poorly formatted URLs that I need to change. I amalgamated a number of blog posts that were thin on content into a couple of “Blog Series on…” and didn’t update the slug very well (if at all…).
Pages with SEO issues: 24
Issue: <Title> tag that is too short
By changing my site’s name to reduce the length of pages where the title tag was too long, I have created 15 pages that now have a title tag that is too short. Some of these are my main pages and some of these are tags.
Without being to amend each and every page’s title tag, the changes I make to the site title or the page title has got me going in circles. To make some shorter, I’m making others not long enough.
I’m not going to amend the tag names but I can reword the page titles (and edit them in the menu settings so they rename as single-word menu options).
Pages with SEO issues: ~20
Dare I do another rerun of the audit? I want to eliminate all the errors I can. Then, I can review what remains and decide on a more technical course of action.
Whilst I haven’t been able to find an exact answer on this, it seems you cannot run an audit for a website more than once on the same day. Instead:
You have to wait 24 hours before repeating the audit. Otherwise, Ubersuggest doesn’t crawl your site but instead returns the same set of data as if no changes have been made.
So each of my re-audits have been performed on separate days. Which is slowing down the process of improvements, which is annoying. But also having to wait a whole day to see if the improvements you have made have had the desired effect is frustrating.
So, anyway, audit #4.
Re-run the Site Audit – Pass Number 4
Here are the results from the fourth and final run of the audit:
So, my final tally is 15 pages with errors (yes, the screenshot above say 16 but it includes a change to a URL from the previous run that I forgot to amend before rerunning the audit. And I don’t want to have to wait another day to run it again).
Of those 15 errors:
- Six errors come from meta description duplication on paginated content e.g. Page 1 and Page 2 of my blog have duplicated meta descriptions. This is from a wordpress.com feature that I cannot control.
- Two pages have a poorly formatted URL – one of which I cannot change because it’s my author name.
- Two pages have <title> tags that are too long. I’m not going to edit any more title tags until I can access a title tag editor directly, such as if using the Yoast plugin.
- Seven pages have a <title> tag that is too short. See above reason for leaving these for now.
- There is 1 issue regarding the SSL certificate. I still don’t know what to do with this one.
At the start of this process, I had 57 errors and now I only have 15 – that’s a 74% reduction in errors that were affecting the SEO of my freelance writer website. Despite still having errors, I would call that a result.
Pages with SEO issues: 15
What next for my freelance writer website?
- To eliminate even more of the errors, I will need to upgrade my site. WordPress.com is not a tool for a business website. It’s great for “just a blog” but if you’re serious about having a website that can bring business to you, go for a self-hosted site that supports WordPress.org.
- Having access to a <title> tag editor, such as Yoast, would have made this process a lot quicker. It would have also prevented many of the ‘too short’ or ‘too long’ tag length problems in the first place.
- Ubersuggest is a great, free site audit tool. It provides you with an insight into how Google sees your website and can flag some bad habits, such as lazy URL names with no keywords.
- I plan to use Ubersuggest periodically to check that my site is not getting scrappy again.
- Via the Google Search Console, I have submitted my site to be indexed.
My site receives around 20 visitors a month and no organic traffic. As I said, I have left it unloved for too long. Hopefully, in a few months, I will be posting about the improved traffic I experience.
If you’re interested in a blog post for your site that has fabulous on-page SEO and internal linking, get in contact with me today to see what I can do for you.