Simply creating a website and hoping that it performs well is not going to be enough. Sure, some have struck it big with pure luck, but the real thrill of keeping your website functioning and profiting lies in the details.
To make sure that you’re not overlooking any potential problems, it’s time to learn how to do an SEO audit of your website. It’s possible that you have carried out some of the essential audit process by coincidence, but that can’t compare to doing a dedicated SEO audit.
Do you know how to do an SEO analysis of your website? Do you know why you should have already done one?
A complete analysis of your website gives you the opportunity to keep your website up-to-date, find the problem areas, boost your traffic, and even increase your sales conversions. It might be hard to imagine that a single analysis can do all of that, but an SEO audit is a very thorough process.
Today, you can learn the best way to perform an SEO audit that will truly make a difference in your website’s quality, traffic, and overall performance. The included checklist and step-by-step guide will help to ensure that you can make it through the process with confidence.
What Is An SEO Audit?
Are you still wondering what is an SEO audit is?
An SEO audit is an analysis done to determine how search engine-friendly your website is. The goal of doing this type of audit is to determine where the weak points are on your website that may be affecting your traffic and sales. With the right tools, an audit can optimize your site so that you earn higher rankings as well.
How Searches Work
To understand why an audit can be helpful, it is important to understand the root of how search engines work.
When a search engine checks your site, the entire site is crawled by the programming. This is done to figure out what type of content is on the site, whether or not it is legitimate, and if the site may be useful to a specific search.
Additionally, the search engine will measure the site’s speed, security, and user-friendliness. The search is about more than just the content, so there are other aspects of your site that need to be checked even if you are very confident in your content.
At the end of the crawling process, each page is ranked to appear in a certain order on the search engine results page, also known as a SERP.
Audits consider the way that searches work and then work through each facet of that crawl to ensure that the site will be read and ranked as positively as possible.
How Frequently Should You Do An SEO Audit?
A large number of people report that they try to do an audit every six months, and there are some people that say they do an audit monthly.
The right answer should probably rest somewhere between those two. Doing a complete audit monthly is overkill, but waiting six months to evaluate your site’s performance isn’t good, either.
Bridge the gap by doing a short audit every few weeks and a complete audit every quarter.
Major Benefits Of The SEO Audit
The number one reason that SEO audits are necessary is that the SEO industry is constantly changing.
What you write today with the latest SEO optimization rules in mind might work well for a few weeks, but those techniques could be out of date in as little as six months. Algorithms are constantly changing, and your site needs to change to keep up.
Beyond the concerns of changing search engines, you should also consider that competitor sites are going to be working to improve their search rankings. As they do, they might outrank you. To ensure that you’re keeping up with the Jones’s, you’ll need to work on your site as well.
Finally, it’s possible for things on your website to break and cause connection or speed issues. Think of an SEO audit like a tune-up for your car. It’s better to do preventative maintenance than to wait until it completely breaks down!
Top 5 Tools For Better SEO Audits
While working through your SEO audit, you’ll find that there are many tools that can help you to do the audit work more quickly and effectively. These are some of the top tools that can be useful during a complete SEO audit.
- Google Tools: There are a few Google tools that can be helpful for various aspects of the SEO audit. These tools include Analytics, Search Console, PageSpeed Insights, and Structured Data Testing Tool. You might not use all of them, but having a basic knowledge of how to use them can be beneficial.
- Screaming Frog: Many auditors use this tool to set up a test crawl of their website, and it can be very helpful for identifying whether or not the site can be easily and properly crawled by search bots.
- Long Tail Pro: Long Tail Pro is a great tool for working with your keywords, checking ranking, ensuring links are working properly, and otherwise analyzing what you have going on with your major SEO practices.
- SEO Analyzer: This site can give a full technical SEO audit as well as immediate tips about your site’s speed, optimization, and other essential factors such as backlink checking.
- Ahrefs: This is another comprehensive SEO audit tool that can do site crawling, speed testing, keyword research, and more. In particular, it’s great for identifying slow pages and problematic backlink practices.
SEO Audit: Essential Elements Checklist
The main things that you need to look over while you are doing an SEO edit can be divided into three main categories:
- Front-end: content, keywords, metadata
- Back-end: indexing (including mobile-first indexing) and hosting
- Other: link quality
Here is the checklist of what you will learn to work through when doing your SEO audit:
- Crawl your website
- Search for any potential indexing errors
- Search for any technical problems
- Remove or rewrite low-quality content
- Check for gaps in content
- Identify speed problems
- Confirm that mobile pages load quickly and accurately
- Check and test meta-descriptions
- See where organic traffic is coming from
- Improve on-page SEO
- Optimize internal linking
- Optimize backlinks and off-site SEO
While this checklist can be useful when ensuring that you didn’t skip any steps, it makes more sense to use the complete step-by-step guide we’ve created to ensure that your audit is done properly. You can find it below.
Step-By-Step: How To Perform An SEO Audit
Now that you know what tools you need and why this audit matters so much, it’s time to learn how to perform an SEO audit.
Step 1: Review Google Penalties
The first thing that you want to do is make sure that there haven’t been any manual penalties put against your account. While it isn’t always easy to see if your page is being punished by the algorithm, there are some things that you can check.
Manual penalties are penalties that are imposed by a human webmaster, so they have a more serious effect on your site’s performance and should be addressed immediately. To see if you have any manual actions affecting your account, visit the message center on Google Search Console and then check under “Manual Actions.”
Problem: Manual Actions are listed.
By clicking any listed actions to explain the details, you can explore the problem and how to resolve it. Google will review any challenged actions and work with you to resolve them.
Step 2: Ensure One Page Is Active
Did you know that it is possible to access your site from a variety of URLs if you do not redirect them properly?
For example, you could get to Google’s homepage by following any of these links:
If you click these links, however, you’ll notice that they all redirect to google.com rather than remaining as written. In the same way, you want your site to only operate out of one primary URL.
Check that this is set up properly on your site and then check a few side pages as well to make sure that they are all building off the correct base URL. Your preferred domain, which can be called your canonical domain, can be set up in Search Console.
Step 3: Set Up A Crawl
If your website is not crawlable, it will not be properly viewed or ranked by any search engine. An essential part of your SEO audit is to make sure that your site is allowing crawling.
Tools like Screaming Frog, Ahrefs, and Beam Us Up can all do website crawls, and each of them allows you to adjust the criteria for the crawl. The goal of doing a crawl is to see if your page is reviewed properly by the spider and to identify some important pieces of content like backlinks that will be used in future steps.
Step 4: Identify Index Problems
When a search engine crawls your website, it is doing a brief reading of what is there. When a search engine indexes your site, it is categorizing it in a particular way so that it can be easily referenced or accessed when certain search words come up.
If your site is not being properly indexed by search engines like Google, you won’t be getting any organic traffic!
You can use Google Search Console to ensure that your site is being indexed. Select the following options:
- Open Google Search Console
- Click Google Index
- Check Index Status to see the total number of indexed pages.
For those that aren’t comfortable with Search Console, you can also search “site: domainname” on Google and then look at the total number of results.
PROBLEM: No pages are being indexed.
Are there no pages showing up as being indexed by Google? Then you’ve got a problem!
In most cases, a site with no pages indexed has a problem with the way that certain HTTP tags in the text are written. Use a Robots-tag tool to check the various robots-tags. These tags let crawling and indexing bots know whether or not they should include a particular page in their searches, so a rogue robots-tag can be a big problem.
Ahrefs, for example, has a tool that will show you how many pages are tagged for non-index when you look at the Site Audit > Internal Pages details. This can help you determine if you have the wrong HTTP setup.
Step 5: Check Site Map And Mobile Settings
Did you know that you can and should let Google know what your XML sitemap looks like? An XML sitemap shows Google the pages on your site and how they are laid out, and it can be submitted through the Google Search Console. These maps typically contain your most important websites and can be optimized to function best.
If you use Yoast SEO on a WordPress blog or tried out the Screaming Frog tool, both of these tools have great options for creating and analyzing and XML sitemap.
Additionally, you’ll want to make sure that your site is truly mobile-friendly by doing some manual checks and then using Google’s Mobile Checker Tool. This tool will help you get an idea if you need to rework how your page renders on mobile or not.
Step 6: Remove Duplicate Content
One thing that you do not want to have on your site is duplicate content because the search algorithms really hate copycats! Even if the content is just duplicated within your own webpage, it can cause serious problems for your site.
You might be thinking, “But I’ve never uploaded duplicate content!”
Even if you haven’t, there are ways that your hosting tools or even Google itself may be reading content as duplicated when you only intended for one copy to be present.
When using a tool like Ahrefs, you can check this by visiting Site Audit > Project > Internal pages > Content Quality. By filtering the data here, you can check for duplicate pages. Screaming Frog can also show you duplicate content so that you can identify the source and fix it.
Step 7: Check And Improve Site Speed
For many years now, site speed has been a major factor in the way that Google ranks pages on their SERPs. You need your site’s content to load quickly and without errors if you want to do well on keyword rankings.
To check your site’s speed, you can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights Tool or any number of speed measurements that are available through various SEO tools. In these SEO tools, look for an option where you can filter to only see the slow pages.
Once you have isolated the slow pages, you can more easily identify what the problem might be and how to fix it. Google’s tool will give you some ideas on how to improve your speed if it encountered any hangups, and most crawling tools like Screaming Frog will be able to do this as well.
Problem: Specific pages are loading very slowly, and they’re high search volume keyword pages.
If you have pages that should be bringing in a lot of traffic but they are running too slowly, you’ll want to fix that ASAP. One of the best ways to find the root of speed problems is to use Google Analytics.
You can go to Analytics > Behavior > Site Speed to find information about speed. Then, you can check your most important pages and see what kind of hangups they are encountering.
Some of the most common problems include:
- Image optimization issues
- Too many server requests
- Caching isn’t working properly
- Slow server speeds
Step 8: Remove Structured Data Problems
Structure data markups are specific types of information that you can embed into your content so that your search result on a SERP page looks more appealing, such as including an image. If your structured data isn’t inputted correctly, however, it could cause your page to appear broken or spam-like.
To test your markup on any given page, use Google’s testing tool. If there are any errors, the tool will point them out so you can fix them.
Step 9: HTML Improvements: Missing Meta Tags And Titles
One big gap that you might have on your site may be hiding in your HTML practices. Using the proper HTML for meta-tags and titles as well as subheadings is key if you want your pages to be processed more effectively and positively when indexed by Google.
Problem: I can’t find if I’m missing these things!
Many SEO tools can show you HTML issues after you do a site crawl. In Ahrefs, for example, you can check these in a specific Internal Pages menu. The menu lets you know how many titles and meta-tags are missing and helps you locate those quickly.
You can do a similar analysis for free in Search Console by searching for the “HTML Improvements” menu and then sifting through the problems identified there. Duplicate titles and meta-tags can easily be identified.
Step 10: Improve Content And On-Page SEO
In addition to the technical side of things, you should also take time to review your content quality and on-page SEO practices.
Using a combination of tools, you can check into many different aspects of your on-page SEO and your content’s quality. Depending on what you want to check, you may need to try out some different tools as there are many overlapping options.
Generally, you should check for the following:
- SEObility’s SEO checker can help you check key pages for SEO quality
- Ahrefs can filter your internal pages to show you which are too short
- Free tools like Web Page Word Counter can help you check how long a page is, but you need to select the pages manually
- Use Google Analytics to find low-performing pages and manually check if those pages can have their quality improved or if they should be deleted altogether.
As you can see, there are dozens of ways to approach your content to improve it or remove it. Both options will often help improve your overall site’s performance.
Step 11: Optimize Internal Link Structure
Finally, make sure that your internal links set the right expectation(s) for your site and its content. A page that has many internal links leading to is being identified as important. If you link to a low-quality page too many times, you might be hurting your own performance.
Use Search Console to check your internal linking and see which pages receive the highest number of internal links. Then, use the info from Step 10 to optimize these pages.
Problem: My site’s internal links are very disorganized; does it matter?
When internal links don’t flow property, Googlebot spiders might not be able to move through them as easily, and this could cause the page to be marked as less trustworthy.
Keeping the structure of the internal linking very simple is always a good idea. While the bots are smart, having a simple, flat hierarchy without overlapping categories will be easier for Google to understand.
If you use SEO by Yoast on WordPress, in particular, make sure that you visit the Taxonomy tab to prevent duplicate content and confusing site structure from taking over your site.
It’s Time For Your SEO Audits
Now that you have learned many essential steps for how to do an SEO audit of your website, it’s time to put the key steps into practice:
- Check the front-end (content quality, duplicate content, keywords, HTML metadata)
- Check the back-end (indexing, mobile rendering, hosting, speeds)
- Check other aspects of the site (linking, linking structure, categories)
It will take a few site audits to become comfortable working through all of these areas. Those new to SEO practices are likely to be overwhelmed at first, but time will help you gain more knowledge about why each of these steps matters.
Remember that your SEO audit does not need to look exactly like anyone else’s! As you do your audits every few months, create your own special list of what you like to do. If it works for your site, then it’s the right choice!