What is an SEO audit?
An SEO (search engine optimization) audit is an analysis of all the factors that can impact your website’s ranking on Google and other search engines. Audits reveal problems that can impact traffic and sales. They are an important tool to improve web performance and allow you to rank higher in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
You can perform an SEO audit with the help of online tools like SEMRush or Ahrefs. You can get a free online SEO audit report from the website ScreamingFrog. These sites provide a sample SEO audit report template. You should perform an audit at the beginning of each quarter or at the start of a new project.
The goal of an SEO audit is to identify foundational issues that affect your website’s performance and put an end to any historic SEO practices for which you’re being punished.
Types of SEO audits
- Technical SEO – Technical issues will impact how search engines find and index your site, so you need to start with resolving these issues by doing things like crawling and indexing and checking your site’s usability and mobile-friendliness.
- On-page SEO Report – On-page SEO refers to content and keywords. An on-page SEO audit report includes things like HTML improvements, developing a keyword strategy and assessing your site to assure internal links are evenly distributed throughout (this informs search engines that your content is important).
- Off-page SEO Report – Off-page SEO refers to actions taken outside of your website which impact your ranking on SERPS. An off-page SEO audit analyzes backlinks data and develops a strategy to improve them, analyzes social media engagement and, for local businesses, targets local communities through keywords and Google Maps.
Why is an SEO audit important?
In contrast to search engine marketing (SEM), which increases website visibility through paid advertising, SEO drives traffic that is unpaid and driven by algorithms. SEM uses pay per click (PPC) to get your website to the top of search engine results, while SEO uses organic search results to rank your site. Organic (or unpaid) traffic is the main source of the traffic to websites. The best SEO audit report will help you develop SEO strategies that will build your brand’s trust and credibility.
Because SEO is free, it usually creates a high ROI, though it takes a lot of effort and time. Sixty-one percent of marketers say SEO is their main focus when it comes to inbound marketing.
SEO audits are important for many reasons. Regularly auditing your website is important because search engines constantly change their algorithms, which means you need to continually adjust your website accordingly. Audits also ensure that your website is user-friendly and improve its overall web performance.
Steps of an SEO audit
Step One: Decide how SEO suits your overall marketing strategy
What would you like to gain through this audit? If you’re targeting international markets, you should look into international SEO optimization. If you are a local business, you should target local communities.
Enterprise-level companies will need a large-scale strategy that will be drastically different from that of, say, a startup. An enterprise website SEO audit report requires special software and an experienced SEO strategist.
Step Two: Crawl your website and resolve technical errors
Use a crawling tool like ScreamingFrog. The goal of resolving technical errors is to increase your site’s accessibility, both to search engines and to users. One key issue with crawls is the Robots.txt file. If Google cannot access a Robots.txt file, it will not index your site. Make sure your Robots.txt file works by testing it in the Google Search Console.
Check for broken links with a tool like the Check My Links Chrome extension. Broken links impact usability and the website’s reputation by sending users to nonexistent sites.
One often overlooked issue is that search engines see example.com and www.example.com as separate sites (and therefore duplicate content); resolve this by going to Google Search Console to set your preferred domain and redirect traffic from there.
Make sure your domain name is registered and that the registration won’t expire soon.
Search engines don’t recognize underscores, so make sure all your URLs use hyphens instead.
Finally, submit your XML sitemap to Google and Bing. An XML sitemap is a file that shows you all the URLs on your site, which allows Google and Bing to find and crawl them.
Another important accessibility issue is making sure your website is mobile-friendly. This means that your viewport – a meta tag that instructs a browser on how to set page dimensions – should be set properly; Google has a tutorial on how to do this. Google is unable to crawl certain types of content, like flash content, frames and iframes, so try to avoid using them. To ensure your site is mobile-friendly, the Google Search Console can check for any issues.
Step Three: Check Google for indexing issues
After resolving issues with your site’s accessibility, you should then focus on indexability. One major concern is Google Penalties, which are punishments imposed on a website for violating Google’s quality guidelines through improper SEO tactics – for example, keyword stuffing.
The Google Search Console will show you which pages on your site are not indexed by Google. Certain issues can prevent a page from being indexed: 404 errors, server errors, and hints that a page may have duplicate content.
Research your competition – analyzing your competitors can help you unearth new strategies and see how you stack up in head-to-head competition. Online tools like SEMRush can assemble reports of your competitors’ keywords, backlinks, ad campaigns and most successful content.
Analyze keywords and organic traffic – Organic traffic is the number of visitors who arrive at your website through unpaid sites, i.e. search engines. This is important because traffic drives sales. Organic keywords are a type of keywords that drive organic traffic. You can find them using Google Analytics. You can link your Google Analytics account to SEMRush to discover organic traffic insights.
Step Four: Run an on-page SEO audit
The first thing to look at during an on-page SEO audit is title tags. Title tags are the titles that appear in SERPs. First, check that your title tags are unique for every page; then, make sure that they are between 50-60 characters long; finally, include your page’s primary keywords at the beginning of the title.
The next thing to look at is meta descriptions. Meta descriptions are 150-160 character-long descriptions that will appear below the title tag in SERPs. They should draw people in and include the primary search term, which will be highlighted in bold.
The next thing to look at during an on-page SEO audit is the HTML headings (h1 to h6, in order of importance). H1 titles should include the page’s primary keyword, and there should only be one per page, while h2-h6 headers can be peppered throughout.
Finally, when conducting an on-page SEO audit, pay attention to alternative text (image descriptions). Search engines can’t see images, so they rely on ALT text to determine an image’s relevance to a query. Therefore, all your images should have ALT text. Make sure the descriptions are fewer than 150 characters.
Step Five: Improve content quality
One of the most important aspects of SEO is the creation of content that is relevant and not thin or overly biased. Make sure your content is valuable and unique. Duplicate content will prevent your site from being indexed by Google.
First, do keyword research and assemble a list of keywords you want to rank for. Keyword research, which determines which search terms your audience uses, consists of making a list of all the keywords you want to be found for, looking at the search intent, and creating landing pages for all of the keywords. More common keywords are referred to as head keywords, while more specific and longer keywords are referred to as longtail keywords.
Establish a blog and post on it regularly; this will drive traffic to your site. The more frequently you post, the more frequently Google will crawl your pages. If your blog is engaging, it might also benefit from user comments on posts.
One important factor in making sure your content is high value is making sure the content you post makes sense and gels with your website’s main idea. Sponsored content can be lucrative in the short term, but having too many conflicting ideas will harm a website’s SEO optimization.
Step Six: Curate your links
Optimize your existing internal links – If you link your site to important pages or content, this will tell search engines that your content is important and will distribute link juice, or the value passed from one site to another, throughout your site. To make sure your internal links give you maximum value, check for nofollow tags, remove redirect chains and make sure your pages have rel=next and rel=prev.
Remove any unnecessary links from your page. Quality is more important than quantity.
Try to find a new scope for backlinks – Backlinks are the number of external links that lead to your website. The more relevant the links that lead to your site are, the higher your ranking on Google will be. You also want links from reputable, high-authority websites. Links from spammy, non-reputable sites (AKA toxic backlinks) won’t give you the same boost as a mention from a high-quality website. Data from an analysis of your competitor can come in handy.
Your website’s backlink profile determines its Domain Rating – how authoritative your website is on a 1-100 scale.
OR IF THAT SOUNDS OVERWHELMING…
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