There are plenty of reasons why you would want to perform an SEO audit on your website. You may also want to audit a client’s website or even a competitor’s website. No matter what your reasons are for wanting to perform an SEO audit, we are here to help.
In this article, we will go over what an SEO audit is, some useful SEO audit tools, how to perform an SEO audit, and all the aspects of an SEO audit.
What are SEO audits?
If you’re new to the world of SEO and digital marketing, an SEO audit may seem daunting. Once you complete your first audit, it will become clear what ranking factors have the most impact on search engine ranking positions.
There are many parts to a website SEO audit and the more elements you thoroughly analyze, the more information you will have to further optimize and increase search engine ranking positions. The main parts of any SEO audit include:
- Checking pages that are indexed by Google and other search engines.
- Make sure tracking codes for tools like Google Analytics and Google search console are working properly.
- Examining a website’s link structure (Both internal links and external links)
- Identify top-performing search queries as well as underperforming keywords
- Market and competitor research
- Usability checks for broken links, 404 pages, image alt text, and element responsiveness
- Checking content length and quality while removing duplicate content
- Ensuring pages have title tags, meta descriptions, and schema markup
- Checking for functioning SSL certificates and robots.txt file
- Ensuring an XML sitemap is uploaded and accurate
These are just some of the many parts of an SEO audit but these are the most common things that SEOs and digital marketers will look for during a typical SEO audit.
Related: How to use Google Search Console
How important is an SEO audit?
A successful SEO audit can shed much-needed light on the value of certain keywords during keyword research and open the door to further on-page SEO opportunities or technical SEO optimizations.
Frequent auditing is important because Google and other search engines often update their search algorithms causing a top-ranking website to suddenly fall in ranks; or a mid-ranking website to rocket its way to the top of search results.
Audits give you the opportunity to address problems with your website or find opportunities to compete against other websites.
Above all else, the information gained from an SEO audit is actionable. Once you have identified problems and opportunities, you can make immediate changes to your website and develop a long-term SEO strategy combining both on page optimization techniques and technical SEO.
What is technical SEO?
Technical SEO refers to the parts of a website that most visitors don’t see. This includes sitemaps, robots.txt files, backlinks, site speed, duplicate content checks, HTTPS protocol, responsiveness, mobile usability, and coding languages like HTML, CSS, and JSS.
While these are the parts of a website that aren’t seen, it can be argued that technical aspects of SEO are just as important as on-page SEO. Let’s start with how to perform a technical SEO audit.
How to perform a technical SEO audit?
Google’s search algorithm changes almost every day. How search engines weigh each aspect of a site’s technical SEO is constantly changing but there are some key indicators that you should look for during a technical SEO audit. Here are the elements of technical SEO:
Site Loading Speed
One of the most important parts of any website audit is determining a website’s loading speed on multiple devices. Wifi speed and mobile signal strength are factors that you need to take into consideration when optimizing your website speed.
To decrease website loading times, you should upload images in .webp or another next-gen image format. These types of image files are significantly smaller than traditional image formats, and use much less server storage space. Loading less data allows your images to be served to your visitors faster.
Another way to speed up your website’s loading speed during a technical SEO audit is to minify your HTML, CSS, and JSS. If you have built your website on WordPress there are many plugins that can do this automatically for you. Doing so will further decrease your page loading speed, leading to a faster user experience and better technical SEO speed scores.
If your website continues to load slowly across multiple devices at varying internet download speeds consider using a CDN (content delivery network) or even changing website hosting providers.
Internal and external links are extremely important when it comes to competing for highly competitive search terms with large search volumes. During this part of a technical SEO audit, you can expect to do an in-depth dive into a website’s internal link structure and backlink health. Let’s start with the internal link structure.
The most important thing to look for when performing an internal link audit is to check for 404 error pages or dead links. Because you can control the number of dead links on your website, Google and other search engines will punish your rankings for each broken link on your website.
There are some free SEO audit tools that you can use to check for broken links, some include SEO Minion, Broken Link checker, and aHrefs. Whenever you come across a dead or broken link, make note of it for the link to be updated or removed.
Next, you will need to take a look at a website’s backlinks; this can be referred to as a backlink audit. To do this you will need a tool like SEMRush or aHrefs to see how many backlinks a website has as a whole and how many backlinks each page has. Combined with a domain authority score, you will get a rough estimate of what you need to do to match or outperform competitors.
Using these tools will allow you to compare your competitor’s backlinks to your own. The idea is to have more, and higher quality, backlinks than your competition.
Usability and Search Findability
When it comes to a website’s usability there are 2 things you should always keep in mind: mobile users and how visually impaired users will experience your website.
Mobile Friendly Design
Mobile-first website design is one of Google’s confirmed most important SEO ranking factors and if your website isn’t at least responsive, you will have a low chance of appearing in the top 5 positions. During your SEO audit, check every page of your website and how it looks on a mobile device. Are buttons too small? Do elements appear off-screen? Do users have to pinch to zoom in and read any content? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should consider a redesign.
Image Alt Text
Image alt text is another usability factor you should investigate during your technical SEO audits. Every image on your website should have alt text describing the image. The alt-text will appear if the image fails to load or if the page is being viewed with a screen reader. Most content management systems allow you to add alt text very easily.
Title Tags & Meta Descriptions
The next thing you need to do is to record the current title tags and meta descriptions of every single page on your website. This is the text that will appear in the search results of users visiting your website. When this information isn’t supplied, Google will automatically take an excerpt from the page’s copy. This process may negatively impact SEO rankings and make ranking for specific keywords more difficult.
Every page that you want to rank for should have a title tag and meta description that includes the desired keyword.
If your website doesn’t have a sitemap, you’d be lucky to get new pages to rank on search engines. Sitemaps detail every page of your website and when frequently updated, Google and other search engines will know about newly published pages.
During your SEO audit, check if your website has an XML sitemap and if it is up to date. If it isn’t up to date all you need to do is update the sitemap and resubmit it to Google Search Console.
HTTPS Protocol And SSL Certificates
If your URL starts with HTTPS and you see a padlock in the search bar next to your domain; your website is already secured. If the padlock is not there, you should immediately look into implementing an SSL certificate and swapping your website to the HTTPS protocol. This will lead to increased trust from users and a higher position in search results by offering your visitors a secure interaction with your website. If you have purchased your domain through Wix, Squarespace, or Shopify, this will be done automatically for you!
Check For Google Penalties
If your website has been around for several years, it may have some outdated technical SEO techniques implemented before Google defined its new rules for SEO. You can check if a website has any Google penalties by looking at its Google Search Console property. Under the “manual actions” category you can see if Google has placed any penalties on your website. If your website has penalties you will either see a site-wide penalty or a partial manual penalty.
A site-wide penalty means your entire website is being impacted, which could result in many pages being ineligible to rank, while partial penalties only affect certain pages. Partial penalties are more common for websites that purchase backlinks or have low-quality content.
Why is technical SEO important?
Why is technical SEO so important and how does it compare to the importance of front-end or on-page SEO? While the front end of your website is what your visitors will see, the technical aspects of your website are what search engines will use to categorize, assign authority, and understand the relevance of your pages.
You can think of technical SEO the same way a baker sees ingredients for a cake, the buyer only sees the end result but not the many steps in between to get there. Without those steps, the end result will suffer greatly.
How To Do An On-Page SEO Audit?
Now that the technical aspects of your SEO audit are completed, the next thing to look at during your site audit is the on-page aspects of your website. This includes:
- Responsive design / mobile friendliness
- Content depth and quality
- Keyword density
- Heading tags
- URL length
- Image optimization
There are other factors that can be considered but these are the key parts of any on-page SEO audit.
Responsive Design and mobile friendliness
Responsive design can be argued as one of the most important aspect of on-page SEO. Being responsive means that your web page adjusts to the screen size of the person visiting. This gives users a good experience whether they are on a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer. They can even resize their browser and the content will still look good.
Good responsive design will have no elements expanding off screen, no requirement to zoom in, and elements resizing themselves accordingly.
There are many ways to create a responsive website with more reasons to do so. Responsive website design is one of Google’s top ranking factors. Responsive websites will almost always appear at the top of search results. One of Google’s algorithm updates centres around mobile-first indexing. Websites that look good on mobile devices will rank higher and likely first in their search results.
Quality Content, Content Depth & Keyword Density
It goes without saying that your pages need to have content in order to rank for specific keywords. During your SEO audit take note of pages that have less than 500 words. You may want to consider combining the content on two similar pages into a single page. This will increase your word count which will further increase the number of potential keywords your page can rank for.
Keyword density is another part of your on-page SEO that you should be looking at during an SEO audit. The higher your keyword density is, the more focused your page is for a specific keyword. Ideally, you should aim for a keyword density of around 2%. For every hundred words you should try to include your target keyword twice. There are plenty of keyword research tools available for you to use. Each of these tools can help identify which keywords you should be targeting.
H1 through H6 heading tags have been a long-time factor in how search engines rank pages. It is important for text in the header tags to contain keywords that you want to rank for. If they don’t, make a note to rewrite them after your audit.
It is also important that every page on your website also only has one H1 tag. This should be the page’s title / topic of focus. H1 tags are reserved for the page’s title, H2 for subtitles for different subtopics, and H3 and beyond for important information within that subtopic. Warning: a lot of web developers will use heading tags to style a page, but completely ignore any SEO relevance.
A page’s URL length plays a small role in where it will rank in search results. Studies have shown that pages with shorter URLs tend to outrank pages with long URLs. If you have pages with very long URLs, find ways to shorten them. You should also remember to implement a 301 redirect from the old URL to the new URL.
Referring back to our section about site speed, image optimization is another way to improve your SEO. If an image is being downscaled to fit a certain element, re-upload the same image in the exact dimensions required. This will minimize its file size and speed up page loading times.
Tools That Can Help During An SEO Audit?
There are a lot of steps to an SEO audit, even a basic one. Thankfully there are many tools that can help speed up an SEO audit. These tools help identify key problems on your website. Here are a few of our recommended SEO audit tools:
These are some of the most used SEO auditing tools and there are hundreds more. Check out our list of 87 SEO Tools!
Want To Learn More About SEO Auditing & Website Design?
To learn more about SEO audits or new ways to develop jaw-dropping websites check out our blog. Check back for a new blog post about search engine optimization, organic search, and site architecture. We are always sharing new ways to improve your site’s performance.