SEO: Using SEMRush to audit my legal translation website
Learning by doing during a free 7-day trial
As part of a free 7-day trial of SEMRush, the professional SEO tool, I did a basic audit on the website for my legal translation business, Spezialis Translations.
SEMRush is a tool made for SEO professionals who may be in charge of analysing and optimising massive websites for large customers. Understandably, the number of functions the tool offers is dizzying.
If you’ve only got a small website, this can seem intimidating and it’s tough to identify which buttons and functions are going to be useful to you. It’s a matter of sorting the wheat from the chaff and knowing what to look at to get the most useful data for your own purposes and objectives.
Here are the key metrics I examined to perform a basic SEO audit on my website:
1. Analysing the keyword profile
After entering the domain of my website, I headed to the “Organic Research” function (under the SEO menu on the left of the screen).
Clicking on the “Positions” tab starts the analysis of how the website is ranking for certain keywords. Here, you can pick up some really useful information about how you can effectively boost your website from an SEO point of view.
For the purposes of clarity and efficiency, it’s best to break the analysis down into blocks.
Step 1: Using the filter function, check which keywords are already ranking highly, but haven’t got to the top spot yet (i.e. those which are ranking in positions 2–15). Making small optimisations for these keywords (e.g. by adding text, creating additional dedicated pages etc.) is a quick and easy way to boost rankings.
SEMRush’s “Keyword Difficulty” rating (“KD%”) and the search volume indicator provide useful information which help you to discern how much work you need to do to rank better for certain keywords and set your workflow priorities accordingly.
Step 1 can be repeated for keywords ranking in positions 16–50 and also for those ranking in positions 51–100. While you’re probably going to gain the most impact from optimising for the keywords which are already ranking highly — these two groups of keywords can provide you with some inspiration for future content/optimisation.
2. Technical audit
Go to the “Site Audit” section under the “On-Page & Tech SEO” tab and run your website through the function.
Again, this turns out a lot of information which can be confusing. Here are the key things you need to focus on:
i) Crawl depth — try and ensure that all pages on your website can be reached in 3 clicks or less. Pages buried any deeper than this in the structure of the website send a signal to Google that they don’t really matter, so their ranking may suffer. They may not even be crawled. This is probably going to be an issue for larger websites, but it’s a crucial check anyway.
ii) Check to see if any pages are blocked from crawling. Should they be blocked, or is there a problem there that you need to address?
You might want to conserve your crawling budget by blocking certain pages from crawling if they are not SEO-relevant. This can be done by (for example) using a robots.text file. However, it is important to ensure that any crawlability problems with important pages are identified and sorted out.
iii) Check the “Issues” tab for errors, warnings, notices etc. Here, you can see whether further text could be added to certain pages, whether meta-descriptions or H1 headings are missing from pages, or if links are broken.
Remedying these things might not have a huge impact overall, but go through them anyway to see what you can fix.
Tip: Beware the “Low text-HTML ratio” error: this will probably always flash up if you use WordPress like I do. Don’t get too wound up about it.
3. Content audit
Go to the “Content Marketing” section in the navigation and then to “Content Audit”. Be sure to link SEMRush up to your Google Analytics/Google Search Console to get all the information you need to perform this part of the audit.
The “Table” tab presents a handy list of the pages which SEMRush suggests working on. Are there blog articles which are underperforming and could be rewritten to perform better? Is there any content which is simply outdated and is better off deleted (don’t forget to do a redirect)? Can you combine certain pieces of content into a single piece (inserting the necessary 301 redirects)?
Go through the suggestions one after the other and decide on an action for each one.
SEMRush turned up 4–5 issues which I could address to optimise my website, several of which I chose to implement.
4. On-page SEO audit
Now go to the “On-Page SEO Checker” — found in the SEO/On-Page & Tech SEO section. Enter the page and the keyword you are trying to rank for in the window and click. SEMRush provides all kinds of ideas for content which you can use to optimise that page.
5. Backlink audit
Go to the Backlink Audit tool and enter the root domain you want to check. Check the results for any abnormal, spammy, toxic or harmful links. The disavow tool can be used to sort out any really nasty looking ones.
Check the overall toxicity score to see how existing backlinks are working for you. If the overall risk is low, you don’t need to mess around too much.
There! A quick SEO audit done on my website at no cost. The process helped me to identify several issues to fix and also a number of ideas for optimising my website going forward.
Verdict on SEMRush: looks fairly intimidating to start off with but once you know what the various functions can do for you, it becomes a nuanced and user-friendly companion for your SEO work.