An SEO audit is an analysis that aims to understand the reasons for a website's poor ranking in search engines. The SEO audit is thus useful to identify and solve the problems that hinder your ranking on search engines, but also to discover opportunities for improvement in SEO.
It is a fundamental step in a company's SEO strategy.
Performing an SEO audit is crucial if you want to avoid the following:
In short, performing an SEO audit of your website can uncover problems that could cost you dearly in traffic and sales.
An SEO audit is therefore an essential analysis for all professionals who want to improve their visibility on the Internet and acquire more traffic, whether they are e-tailers, online sales sites, but also MSEs, self-employed entrepreneurs, web agencies, digital marketing, etc.
In this complete guide, we will give you the 14 essential steps to follow to perform the perfect SEO audit.
But before we get to the heart of the matter, let's see when it's necessary to do an SEO audit and the tools you'll need.
There are many reasons why a company might decide to audit its website, not necessarily because there seems to be a problem.
Here are some situations in which you would be wise to perform an SEO audit of your website:
Before you embark on your SEO audit process, there are a few useful tools you should consider, to make your analysis and verification work as easy and smooth as possible.
Most of the tools listed below are free, and they can really help you do a complete and quality SEO audit:
Once you've found these tools on the web, it's time to perform the SEO audit of your site to boost your organic traffic.
Here's a 14-step SEO audit checklist that covers all aspects and goals of a full SEO audit:
Even in 2022, fundamental technical SEO problems are more common than you think, and one sure way to find these problems is to crawl your website.
Among the web pages you will analyze, you will find pages with duplicate content and indexing issues, broken image and alt tag issues, or broken links, for example.
There is a wide range of free and paid tools you can use to crawl your site.
For example, you can try SEO Spider from Screaming Frog to start your SEO audit, which is free for the first 500 URLs.
Once you've created an account with Screaming Frog, you'll need to configure your crawler to behave like the search engine you're focusing on (Googlebot, Bingbot, etc.).
When everything is finalized, enter your URL and click "Start". Depending on the size of your domain, this may take some time.
The result should look like a large table listing all scanned web pages and providing information spread over several columns of the table.
Use this information to quickly find and resolve issues related to your technical SEO audit.
Here are the most common problems you will encounter:
And since the tool is able to identify the specific URL of each problem encountered, you can easily access and solve them one by one.
Let's see for example how to solve a duplicate content problem, i.e. present twice on your website.
Duplicate content is a common SEO technical problem caused mostly by the content structure coded in your CMS (Content Management System). If you are using WordPress, for example, you will have a default publication of category pages. When you create separate category pages, Google may index both of them, resulting in duplicate content in the SERPs.
If you have the SEO by Yoast plugin installed, you can easily hide category pages and other taxonomy pages (WordPress-specific topic groups that categorize content) from search results.
Go to SEO/Search Appearance/Taxonomies in the WordPress dashboard and edit the category and tag settings.
If your category pages are flagged as duplicate content, you need to set the "Show categories in search results" setting to "No".
When you're done solving this and any other issues reported by your crawler, it's time to move on to the next step.
Google has stated that its algorithm does not value posting frequency or content volume as a ranking factor.
And that's a fact that holds true. Over the past few years, a lot of websites have managed to improve their rankings by removing hundreds of pages from search results. This strategy, sometimes called "Content Pruning", can result in a significant increase in traffic of up to 40%.
Content pruning is a process of removing unnecessary content from your website to maximize results.
You should therefore start by removing pages that serve no purpose and do not adequately answer search queries on Google.
SEO tools are only able to detect a part of the problematic pages. So you need to do some manual research.
To check the total number of pages your website has, enter "site: (website URL)" in Google search engine and you will get all the pages indexed by Google for your site. Check how many pages Google has indexed, and if the number seems too high, start pruning all unnecessary content.
If you're unsure and don't know where to start, use Google Analytics to find your pages that are generating little or no traffic. You can get this information by logging in, then selecting Behavior/Site Content/All Pages.
From there, you'll be able to see the traffic of each of your web pages over a period of time, which can be adjusted.
Any pages that are underperforming should be placed on a list to be either updated, not indexed or removed altogether.
Robots.txt files tell search engines like Google which sections of your site you want them to crawl and index and which you don't want them to crawl (these pages can still be indexed, however, if something - like a link - points to them).
Your robots.txt file is fundamental when it comes to indexing your website, as any mishap can lead to unfortunate SEO problems.
To avoid this, use a service like TechnicalSEO's robots.txt Validator and Testing Tool, which automatically checks for changes to your robots.txt file and alerts you if it detects any changes.
If you want to de-index specific pages, Google recommends using robots meta tags.
All you have to do is add the robots meta tag to your header.
By adding this meta tag, you are telling search engines that they should not use this page on their SERPs.
Another option to perform this step in your SEO audit is to use "Noindex:" in the robots.txt file. This trick is not officially recommended by Google, but it works very well.
One of the essential steps you can take to improve your SEO during an SEO audit is to optimize the loading speed of your pages.
Page load speed is indeed an official ranking factor designated by Google, so it is important.
To check the loading time of your website and its pages, nothing could be easier: use a free tool such as Google PageSpeed Insights
Just type the URL of the page you want to check and run the test.
With more than half of all searches done on mobile in 2022, fixing mobile usability issues should be one of your top priorities, especially if they affect one of your main pages.
With the update of Google's Search Console tool, it's become easy to check if your website is mobile-friendly.
Create a Search Console account, if you haven't already, log in and click on "Mobile Usability" in the sidebar.
From there, Google will tell you which pages have mobile compatibility issues. Click to see what the problem is, how to fix it, and then click again to commit the fix so Google can verify that your pages are now optimized for mobile.
If you don't have the expertise to fix the problem, it's best to contact a developer.
Once you've fixed the errors designated by Google, test the result yourself, checking to see if your main web pages and landing pages load well on your cell phone and tablet.
This can also help you see if there are any optimizations you can make to improve your conversion rates on those landing pages that are so important to your online business.
There are a wide range of pages on your website that can benefit from the inclusion of "structured data", such as your product/service review pages, your news pages, product or service description pages, pages that announce an upcoming event, etc.
Structured data is information that helps search engines better understand the structure and content of your web pages.
With these lines of code, you provide Google with detailed information about the content of each page of your website.
This is why it is essential to detect any structured data errors during an SEO audit.
To validate this step, go to the structured data testing tool offered by Google and enter the URL of a web page you want to check. Click "Run Test" and Google will not only evaluate the structured data, but also provide you with any errors it found.
If any errors were found, try to correct them to complete your technical SEO audit.
If you developed your site yourself, go back through the code and make the necessary changes. If you hired a developer, give them the report you just received so they can fix the problem.
Title tags and meta descriptions are the information that shows up in Google's SERPs.
To boost your organic traffic and CTR, it is essential that your title tags and meta descriptions are unique and attractive.
Testing your title tags and meta descriptions and rewriting them if necessary is one of the easiest actions you can take to improve your SEO, as it requires no technical knowledge.
First, check that none of your web pages display the same title tags or meta tags.
Then, your goal will be to make your title tags and meta descriptions of your main pages as attractive as possible to increase the likelihood that people will visit your website from the results page/SERP.
Keep in mind that the meta description information is designed to give people a very clear idea of the content you are offering, and encourage them to click through.
So keep your descriptions short, to the point and effective.
Here are some tips for writing your title tags and meta descriptions:
But the work doesn't stop there. Even if you think you've created good meta tags for your pages, you need to check their performance and analyze your CTR after several weeks, so that you can continuously optimize your title tags and meta descriptions to get more and more organic traffic to your site.
Understanding which keywords generate the majority of your organic traffic can help you in two ways: you can find out which of your pages are the most important - and focus your SEO audit on those pages in particular, - but also understand what types of keywords work for your audience and implement a winning keyword strategy, the goal being to find similar keywords that can drive even more traffic to your website.
Your best performing keywords may not be the ones you think: many websites get the majority of their traffic from minor keywords.
You should also know that long-tail searches account for over 90% of all web queries, and over 50% of queries are for three or more words.
This trend means that most of your traffic is coming to your website by searching for queries composed of low volume, long tail keywords.
The first step to making the most of this trend is to perform a thorough analysis of the keywords that are already driving traffic to your site.
If you have Google Analytics connected to Search Console, you can analyze your keywords from within Google Analytics.
Click on the "Acquisition" tab, then on "Organic Search".
Once you get to the channel breakdown for organic search, select "Landing Page" as the main dimension.
This will give you an overview of the most important pages on your site for organic search. Then, you can cross-reference these results with the query breakdown in Search Console.
Since Google does not link queries directly to landing pages in Search Console and Google Analytics no longer displays the keywords used by users on Google, this is still the best option.
There are other powerful tools at your disposal to connect your organic traffic to the best performing keywords, like SpyFu or SEMrush.
If you're using one of these tools, all you have to do is type in your URL and you'll instantly get a list of your most valuable SEO keywords, i.e. those that generate the most clicks.
You can also see if there are other areas you could explore that would bring you even more relevant search traffic.
Ask yourself the following questions:
Watching your competitors' keyword strategy is still an effective and easy way to find keyword opportunities among the billions of possible search terms imaginable.
So how do you know what your target keywords are? To get an idea of the answer, don't hesitate to take a look at what your competitors are doing.
With a tool like SpyFu, SEO competitor analysis becomes a breeze.
Just go to this keyword research and analysis tool and enter your URL, hit enter, and you'll get a list of your "Top Organic Competitors".
You can then use SpyFu Kombat's "Kombat" feature to instantly find keyword opportunities that your competitors are using.
This feature compiles targeted keywords in three distinct areas, including yours. Then it filters and sorts the keywords into three lists:
The second list is the most interesting and contains keywords that you can test in your content.
Google's message to SEOs in 2022 does not change: create clear, authoritative content that audiences want to read.
On-page changes (i.e., content optimization) can yield very good results at reasonable costs.
Recent studies have shown that on-page optimization alone can increase organic traffic by over 30%.
Work on your content, optimize your text to keep it fresh, and your SEO will reap the benefits.
MarketMuse is a great tool that can help you improve your content, helping you find a good balance between SEO criteria and what should be in your content, according to your industry, your topics and your keywords.
It analyzes all the pages of your website and identifies areas where the content could be improved.
You can also analyze individual pages of your website against the competition.
MarketMuse automatically suggests topics and themes that you should include in your content and publications to have a chance of ranking well in search results.
However, there are many things you can improve manually in your web content.
Go through your web pages and make sure your content has the following characteristics:
Start your on-page optimization work with your most important pages, such as your homepage and your main pages that concentrate your organic traffic, and then improve the rest of your content as you go along.
Internal links are a bit of a poor relation in the SEO audit process. SEO professionals tend to underestimate them and focus on backlinks.
This is a mistake, because the optimization of your internal links is likely to boost your traffic, and requires much less effort than the creation of backlinks.
To properly understand this step of your SEO process, you first need to list the links present on your website. This can be done easily with Google's Search Console.
This tool offers you to examine your internal links via a table in which all your web pages are displayed in a decreasing order, according to the number of internal links they receive.
About your internal links, here is the key question you need to ask yourself: do you have too many internal links pointing to content targeting low volume keywords?
The goal of your SEO will be to add relevant internal links within your content to connect your pages in the most logical way possible.
Once you've done your SEO work, the hierarchical structure of your site should resemble a pyramid, with your home page at the top, your category pages just below it, and your individual pages that make up those categories at the very bottom.
To give your website this general shape, you should group similar content together via internal links. Whenever possible, make sure the anchor text describes the content it links to.
Also, make sure that each lower-level page links to your top-level core content to give it an SEO boost and make it easier for users to navigate your content.
Finally, whenever you add new content to your site, you should prioritize improving your internal links by linking to relevant pages.
There are many tools that can help you optimize your internal links, such as SEO by Yoast, in case you use the WordPress CMS.
This solution will suggest internal links to include in an article based on the relevance of the topic.
Once you have a solid and optimized internal linking strategy in place, your search engine rankings should improve.
Backlinks, also called "inbound links", remain in 2022 one of the most important factors to make your web pages climb in the first positions of SERPs.
But once again with Google, it's not the quantity that counts.
The search engine is primarily concerned with whether the website linking to yours is in the same category, authoritative and gives you a backlink from its own content.
So you need to create real backlinks from other websites that link to your content to get real results, and don't rely too much on buying links.
One of the easiest ways to get backlinks is to contact site owners who have linked to your content in the past. You can find a list of your internal links by clicking on the "Links" tab in Google Search Console and then on "External Links".
If you spot relevant, high-quality domains, you can contact them to see if they are willing to link to some of your content again.
There is another solution: you can "steal" backlinks from your competitors.
The link profiles of your competitors are an interesting source of backlink opportunities.
Tools like Moz or SpyFu make this process very easy. Just enter their URL and check their backlinks.
If you find content that has backlinks, but is outdated or of poor quality compared to what you can offer, you have a real chance of getting those backlinks back.
First of all, make sure you offer content that is much better than the competition and contact the sites that have granted a backlink to make your case. This is a tedious process, with uncertain results, but it can allow you to recover some precious backlinks here and there, especially if you work on your SEO on a regular basis.
Finally, don't hesitate to link to influencers, bloggers or journalists specialized in your business sector.
It's a strategy that doesn't necessarily pay off immediately, but it does pay off in the long run.
To find this type of people, you can use a tool like Buzzsumo.
Then, you should regularly inform them about your news, updates, etc., and even meet them if possible.
As part of your SEO audit, you need to evaluate your current URLs and make sure that all necessary redirects are in place and being used correctly.
When it comes to your redirects, you'll want to make sure to:
In some cases, good content can be penalized by a poor URL. Unfortunately, modifying and optimizing these URLs can sometimes do more harm than good.
For this reason, make sure all your new URLs follow the best practices described above (short, descriptive and optimized with keywords).
In order to achieve better SEO in the future, it is essential to track and analyze your audit results, before you consider changing anything.
Simply setting up a system of analysis and tracking the results on a regular basis is bound to pay off.
It will improve your conversion rates without negatively impacting your budget.
If you can perform a regular SEO audit, implement good practices, track the results, learn from them and improve your SEO in a progressive way, you have all the assets on your side to get organic and sustainable traffic and quality leads.