Table of Contents
- What is SEO?
- What is a SEO Audit?
- Are SEO Audits important to perform?
- Types of SEO Audits
- How to perform an SEO Audit? Top 7 things to check
- Additional steps to fix your SEO
- Final words: always keep up with the news
What is SEO?
First of all, let’s start with the definition of SEO.
Let’s say you’re running a website for a software development business, and you want your website to appear first when people search “custom software development” on Google. However, when you actually search the phrase, your website isn’t even placed on the first page - you’ll need SEO to make sure it does.
Search Engine Optimization is a complex process, designed to create optimized websites that rank highly on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) of Google and other popular search engines. There are many factors that decide the ranking, and Google doesn’t make their algorithms public - all we can do is speculate what works, but after years of research and analysis, the industry is certain of specific things that do work.
These factors can take many forms - from using an SSL certificate for increased security, to placing very specific keywords and phrases in your content, to avoiding duplicate content. We’ll learn about them all further down the article. To measure these factors, you'll need to perform an SEO Audit.
What is a SEO Audit?
Even if you know about all the best SEO practices and try to implement them on your websites, how certain can you really be that they work as intended?
An SEO Audit is performed to establish which SEO factors are satisfactory for your website, and which need improvement to boost your SERP position. It’s a long process that includes reviewing and analyzing all of your online presence to make sure your sites are performing as well as they can.
Source: Adobe Stock
Along this process, you’ll discover the strengths and weaknesses of your SEO, as well as some mistakes you might have made that could be the reason your website isn’t positioned as well as it should. There are tons of things to check and tests to perform. SEO Audits can easily get overwhelming if you don’t know what to look for and where to look for it - and that’s exactly why we prepared this guide and SEO checklist: to help you know how to find and fix issues.
Are SEO Audits important to perform?
Imagine a world where a single entity gets to decide which brands are visible to potential customers, and which ones they will not see and ignore. Unfortunately, the digital world looks a lot like that, with Google having a near monopoly on online searches on the entire Western Hemisphere.
To sell an online product or service, you need more than a great design and persuasive advertisements - you’ll also need to make sure your potential customers can actually reach your website through organic search, not only through other advertisements they find online. This organic traffic is the key to growing online businesses - as research shows, more than 60% of all traffic is organic traffic.
A SEO Audit can help distinguish the issues that harm your SEO ratings and limit your access to organic search traffic. This can take away a key competitive edge from you, letting other brands flourish, but causing yours to stay in place. Since there can be only one first-place result for each searched phrase, SEO is a highly competitive field, where only those who do their research properly and take the appropriate actions succeed.
Types of SEO Audits
There are three main types of SEO audits that brands should perform on their websites to confirm they are performing optimally. These include:
- On-Page SEO Audit refers to analyzing all the content that is displayed on your website, including everything that is under your direct control. This includes the use of keywords in your content, internal links, HTML tags in your website’s code, proper page titles, how mobile-friendly your website is, whether you use an HTTPS protocol, and so on. Page speed, Core Web Vitals, quality content, and proper navigation are all checked during an On-Page SEO Audit, giving you direct remedies afterwards to fix any flaws.
- Off-Page SEO Audit is designed to analyze SEO factors that are outside of your direct control, which includes backlinks, social media activity, mentions of your company on other websites, influencer marketing, sponsored content, and similar. While off-site SEO factors are mostly outside your direct control, you can still influence these factors in a meaningful way to improve your SEO strategy.
- Technical SEO Audit is concerned with the things behind the scenes - things that you or your viewers might not see directly, but that still might influence your position on Search Engine Results Pages. These factors might be of no concern to your viewers, but they are definitely important for crawlers trying to index your website. This includes site architecture, redirections, site performance, and more.
How to perform an SEO Audit? Top 7 things to check
We now understand what an SEO Audit is and why it’s so important for online businesses - now we can move on to actually performing one. Page audits are complex and might seem confusing and overwhelming for beginners - follow these steps, and you won’t get lost.
1. Find the right tools
The first thing you’ll need to measure the effectiveness of your SEO strategies is a tool for doing so. Otherwise, you won’t have access to any useful metrics and data about your site and its performance to base on.
Google Analytics is the main tool that online businesses use to evaluate the performance of their websites and obtain customer data. By analyzing this data, you can figure out the most optimal solutions and changes you should implement into your website and content. With Google Analytics, you can see where your viewers are coming from, how effective your marketing campaigns are, or what trends your customers follow. It grants access to important metrics like bounce rate, average session length, total number of users, and so on.
It’s also useful to get familiar with the Google Search Console, previously known as Google Webmaster Tools. Using the Google Search Console to perform a site audit, you can verify whether your website is indexed correctly or not, and how exactly it positions in search results, without having to manually search every keyword or phrase.
As long as Google is your main search engine to worry about, you should always use Google PageSpeed Insights to see how Google sees your web page performance-wise. The three most important metrics are Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), among others. You can learn more about each of these metrics on Google’s web.dev platform.
Finally, you can also use a dedicated SEO Audit tool like the Semrush Site Audit tool that combines powerful features into a single easy-to-use platform. While these tools won’t give you more than Google’s own software, they often do so in a much more approachable way, with solution-driver reports that provide direct solutions to your problems, instead of merely providing metrics and data. However, these tools are not free, and their recommendations won’t substitute a proper SEO specialist.
2. Evaluate your link building
Link building is a huge part of SEO and deals with external links from other pages that lead to your website. While you might think the more, the better, it isn’t so simple anymore. Google has been steadily improving their algorithms, making them more advanced over the years, and now it’s link quality that matters more than link quantity.
While high-quality backlinks can vastly improve your SEO, bad backlinks can just as well harm it. Whenever another website places a link to your site, Google’s crawlers add some of their credibility to yours. That’s great if a reliable, well-known website mentions you - but a lot of mentions from low-quality websites like online business directories can actually harm your SEO, telling Google’s bots that your website is connected with other untrustworthy websites. Don't forget about internal links as well!
3. Look at your website’s architecture
You can use a sitemap generator to find out which of your pages are indexed by Google properly, and which might need work. If you have several pages with duplicated content or ones that redirect to different websites, your SEO ranking might lower.
Using a tool of choice, perform a deep inspection of your website’s URL structure. Are you using appropriate title tags and headings for your content? Do your URLs contain keywords? Keep your URLs short and reduce the amount of redirects to a minimum - unless they are 301 redirects, about which we’ll talk in a moment.
4. Is your content long enough?
It’s okay for a landing page to feature mostly visual content, but make sure your website includes some pages with longer content as well. If you’re running a company blog, make sure your posts are of appropriate length - otherwise, Google’s crawlers might consider them too short to exhaust the topic when compared with other similar sites, which will hurt your positioning.
Source: Adobe Stock
It’s not about making your written content as long as possible, wherever possible. It’s about making the length appropriate to the page’s content. That being said, it might be worth it to identify pages with lacking content and expand them, adding more linking opportunities and fixing keywords wherever possible. Duplicate content should be avoided as well.
5. Analyze your keywords
Content is a huge part of Search Engine Optimization - aside from external links and site performance, it is one of the three most important factors that dictate SERPs. To make sure your target audience can find your website on Google, you’ll have to include certain key phrases and keywords in your content that tell crawlers more about your website. Analyzing your keywords during a site audit can help you make the right choice.
Overstuffing your content with keywords is also a very real possibility - don’t go too hard on your keywords, or Google will penalize you. It’s not 2010 anymore, where you could simply publish content that consisted only of tag lists and keywords, and still see your site's SEO skyrocket. Now, the focus has shifted towards content quality, and keywords are just a cherry on top to help crawlers index more accurately. They are still needed to reach high positioning, they are just not everything that’s needed anymore.
6. What are meta tags? Are they important?
If you’ve ever tried creating your own site from scratch, you’ll probably know what meta tags are. Meta tags help crawlers determine the content of your page even better than the content itself - they are short, information-packed descriptions of elements on your page, be it the title, image description, and so on. By using these tags, you can highlight important elements of your page to Google’s crawlers - and they’re a great place for placing a keyword or two. They’re also important for viewers as well - when doing a site search, your URL, meta titles and meta descriptions are everything the user sees.
Meta tags like meta title and meta description have very strict character limits that shouldn’t be exceeded - otherwise, the tags might not display fully to your users, looking unaesthetically and trimming keywords.
7. Performance analysis
We’ve already mentioned Google PageSpeed Insights before - now is the time to actually use the tool and gather some valuable conclusions for our site audit. PageSpeed shows recommendations for both desktop and mobile versions of your website, and will show you direct suggestions to be implemented in the code to combat poor performance. For more details, you can use Google's search console.
Compressing your images, upgrading to a better host, and resolving browser caching issues can help fix site speed problems. Many best-performing websites use a Content Distribution Network (CDN) to grant users faster and more reliable access to your pages.
Additional steps to fix your SEO
You know the basics - but SEO is hardly a field that can be exhaustively written about in a single blog post. There are tons of additional issues and tons of solutions to those issues that might further improve your SEO - let’s take a closer look at a couple of them that you can include in your next site audit.
Is your website mobile-friendly?
Whether your website is mobile-friendly or not can have a tremendous significance when it comes to positioning. Google is open about being mobile-first, and issues that cause problems for mobile users will quickly lower your SERP ranking. This isn’t unsubstantiated - after all, according to recent statistics from Q2 of 2022, almost 60% of all website traffic comes from mobile devices.
To find out whether your site is mobile-friendly or not, you can perform a free Mobile Friendliness Test from Google.
Use 301 Redirects
Redirects are a complex issue. On one hand, they are crucial to set up to avoid broken links leading to your site. On the other hand, too many of them can harm your SEO score.
One solution to redirects is to only use 301 redirects. A 301 redirect is a type of permanent redirect, most commonly used by websites. A 301 redirect tells browsers that the website they are trying to reach is no longer available, and has been permanently moved to a new address. The browser then redirects the user to the target website, showing them a new version of the site or another source to use. From a SEO perspective, 301 redirects are the most useful.
Source: Adobe Stock
302 redirects are also useful. They mark temporary movement to a different URL, in case of site maintenance or similar event. These redirects, however, are rarely used today, since developers can test changes to a website in a safe, closed environment before they go live, without the need for maintenance breaks.
Don’t let your users find your website only to get a 404 not found error. Broken links will happen whether you like it or not, but try to limit them to a minimum and check frequently for new ones. You can also create your own 404 page that users who try to access unavailable resources are redirected to. This will still present them with a version of your website, even if they access a broken link, and will make it much easier to find broken links through Google Analytics.
Look out for Negative SEO
Let’s be honest - not everyone believes that improving your website is worth the hassle. Instead, these people would aim to harm other websites instead, lowering their SERP rankings and boosting theirs in the process.
This most often includes posting low-quality backlinks to your website from link farms and other shady websites, posting duplicate content online, creating fake social media profiles, and even hacking into your FTP to modify your robots.txt file to stop indexing your site. Always stay vigilant and carefully inspect all inbound links, look for copycat content, and take good care of your website’s security. You can use the Google Disavow Tool to remove harmful backlinks that could hurt your SEO.
Final words: always keep up with the news
Now you know what an SEO audit is and how to perform one - but don’t forget that this industry is in a constant state of flux, ever-changing, and each new day may bring new innovations. Keep up with the latest SEO practices and frequently read the news. You just might find something that will give you an edge over your competitors.
For more industry advice and the latest SEO news, check out our knowledge base. Continue learning and become a SEO master!