If you run a business, you simply can’t compete unless you have a website that performs for you.
That means that it attracts motivated visitors who are likely to buy your product or service. To do this, it must rank well with search engines. You need to make sure that your digital marketing efforts, including website content, design, social media, and email marketing, are all optimized to drive visitors to your website, and you should always be looking at ways to improve.
An SEO audit is how you can make sure that all of your search engine optimization efforts are working together towards that goal. Knowing how to perform an SEO audit and understanding how to read the results are extremely valuable tools for anyone who is marketing on the internet.
What is an SEO audit?
When you run an SEO audit, you are analyzing your web presence to see how it is performing, and whether you are using the best practices. It is only by using these best practices as part of a comprehensive SEO strategy that you can get the measurable results that you are looking for. What is an SEO audit? Much like a financial audit, it is used to find any structural issues with your search engine performance. Using that information, you can make positive changes that get your website shooting up the rankings.
These issues include website structural issues, SEO content issues, technical issues, user experiences problems, and gaps in your content, among other things. An audit can also give you insights into your marketplace to identify where you are missing out. SEO audits should be run on a regular basis.
You can consider them like service visits to your mechanic. They are necessary to make sure that everything is running smoothly. If there is an issue, you can make a tweak and fix it. Also, much like a service appointment, an audit should be performed by an expert in the field, meaning you want experienced and knowledgeable SEO professionals to handle this for you. You do not want to miss an opportunity because you didn’t recognize it.
What to consider when running an SEO audit
When thinking about how to do an SEO audit, make sure that you plan for it to be comprehensive. You should touch on at least all of the components mentioned above, and any more that might affect your search engine rankings. It can give you a high-level view of where you are at with your SEO, and where you can go.
While it should be comprehensive, you also want the results to be simple to understand. That way, not only will you comprehend it, but you can present them to other staff members in a clear and concise way. You and your marketing team should be able to draw a link between what your audit finds and your website’s SEO performance.
Inevitably, an SEO website audit will yield recommendations to make your digital marketing efforts better. You must have a clear strategy to achieve the recommendations. Not only that, but they should be prioritized and take into account the amount of work and budget that they will require. There is little point in running an SEO audit if you do not or cannot take action on the results that you analyze.
What to avoid when running an SEO audit
You should never feel like you are rushing an SEO audit. You need to be patient and take the time to examine every aspect of your online presence to get a sense of how everything is performing. In some cases, it can take up to 6 weeks to perform an audit for a large website. The very minimum amount of time you should expect to spend on an audit is 2 weeks. It’s crucial that you are thorough since you do not want to make changes to your website without the proper data to back up the reason for those changes.
What does an SEO audit analyze?
A good SEO audit goes deep into all of the components that make up your SEO marketing efforts. These can include status codes, meta tags, sitemaps, page speed, crawlability, the structure of your content, and how your site is optimized for mobile. In total, there could be dozens of components that can be analyzed and checked for performance. All of that information can then be distilled into an audit document that you and your digital marketing team can then analyze to create actionable and relevant recommendations to improve the performance of your website.
However, it all boils down to three components: on-site SEO, off-site SEO, and content strategy. On-site SEO includes the components you have on your site that contribute to SEO. These factors include your meta descriptions, title tags, and headers, and other technical aspects, such as your page-loading speed and mobile-friendliness.
Off-site SEO includes references from other sites and the quality of your backlinks. Content strategy involves how you will use your keywords, and creating content that gives your site trustworthiness and authority.
How to perform an SEO audit
When an agency or marketing team conducts an audit, they tend to follow an SEO audit checklist to make sure that everything is covered and accounted for. In general, an audit should follow a thorough step-by-step process.
1. Crawl your website
Perhaps the most important step for an SEO audit is the first one. Doing a crawl of your website can help identify several issues with your website. There are several SEO audit tools out there that you can use to crawl your website for you, which can save you a lot of time. Simply put in your site’s URL and let the tool do the work. It will run through your site the same way that the algorithms for Google or other search engines would, and assess your site in the same way.
Once it’s finished, it will give you a breakdown of several components of your website to help identify problems. These problems could include inadequate word counts for content, missing links, duplication in content, and too many redirects. These are all factors that can harm your search engine performance. Once you get this data, you can make changes to your site to correct those issues.
2. Check Google for indexing issues
Besides using a tool, you can also search your website yourself using your preferred keywords. Count up the number of your pages that rank for those search results, and assess where they appear. Are they at or near the top? This will give you a general overview of how your site is performing.
This is also how you can check if your site is indexing properly. If you do a search for your website’s primary URL, you can see how many of your pages are being indexed by search engines. If you don’t see one of your pages, you can enter that specific URL to see if it comes up.
If there's a page that isn't indexing, then there could be a problem with the meta robots tag. This is a tag that instructs search engines how to treat the content of the page for indexing. If it is broken or used improperly, then your page will not be indexed.
3. Make sure you’re ranking on page 1 for your brand
The key thing to remember when you are creating an SEO strategy is that nothing you do is in a vacuum. Yes, you have to make the improvements to your site and your other digital marketing, but remember, your competitors are probably doing the same things. Search engine rankings are a comparison of how websites are doing within a certain sector. You can’t guarantee that you will get to the very top position for all of your keywords, but by following best practices you can maximize your results.
Do a Google search for your site using your keywords and see where it ranks. Your goal should be to get to the first page. The more pages back you are, the less likely that searchers are going to click through and find you. If you are on the first page, then you are dramatically increasing your exposure to new site visitors and customers. Aim for that, and good things will happen.
4. Do on-page SEO checks
An on-page SEO check will help to make sure that the elements you need to optimize your website are in place and performing as they should. This involves analyzing all of the content of your page, as well as the source code. If your site is properly optimized, then it will provide search engines with the information they need to accurately index your site. The content will be relevant to what users are looking for so that users will want to engage with it, and it will help search engines identify your page as one with authority.
While keywords are not as valuable as they used to be as search engine algorithms have gotten more sophisticated with time, they are still a key component of any SEO strategy. What is becoming more important is how relevant content is. It must fulfill the need that users are searching for. This means that not only should your keywords be in place, but the content surrounding those keywords must also be useful, readable, and engaging for readers.
Your on-page SEO check will also make sure that your site is running as it should. This means that the user-experience is as good as it possibly can be. Make sure that your website loads quickly, and that it is easy to navigate. You may be using ads for revenue, but if there are too many and it interferes with the usability of your site, then you are losing out on more than you are gaining with the ads. Make sure as well to test out your site on mobile devices. If your website is not just as easy to navigate on a phone, if not moreso, then you need to make big changes.
5. Browse your website for duplicate content
Duplicate content can be damaging for your SEO efforts. If search engines find that there is content on your site that is the same as content from another, then you will be penalized. Part of producing relevant and trustworthy content is making sure it is original. Sometimes businesses don't even realize that they have duplicate content, so it’s important to check your site thoroughly. Delete or rewrite anything that might be deemed as a duplication.
Duplication doesn’t have to be from other sites either. If a search engine finds that your site has duplicate content between its pages, then that will look like you are trying to stuff your site without truly providing useful information. Make sure that you're not simply regurgitating or copying information from your pages to fill space. Take the time to create engaging, original content throughout your site. Search engine algorithms will identify those efforts and reward you accordingly.
6. Check your site and page speed
It may shock you how fast users will click away from a page that doesn’t load quickly enough. You might think you have a minute, or even thirty seconds, but unfortunately you don’t. In fact, in as little as two to three seconds, a user will decide that waiting for your page to load just isn’t worth it. If your site is loading too slowly, you are no doubt losing out on eyeballs.
Check all of the elements that contribute to page load speed. This means that your images and videos should be smaller, and you should be hosted by an adequately fast server for your purposes. If not, then make those changes right away.
7. Perform a backlink audit
A backlink audit examines the links that are pointing to your site. In effect, you are testing them for their own authority and trustworthiness. If the sites that are linking to you are not respected by search engine algorithms, then your site will be less respected as well.
You want the pages pointing to you to rank well in their own right and that have good domain authority. If there are some backlinks from sites that are no longer updated regularly, or that do not have related content to yours, then they are most likely bringing your site down. The best backlinks are those that have exact or close to matching anchor tags to yours on their pages.
8. Analyze your organic search traffic
Organic search traffic is any traffic to your site that gets through without the use of paid ads. This is essentially users who visit through search engines. Organic traffic is much more likely to have a better percentage of conversions, since those visitors are theoretically motivated to consume your content. They would have searched for something related to what you have on your website. There are several web tools that you can use to monitor your organic traffic to get a sense of how your SEO efforts are working.
Once you have this information, you can filter out those who came via certain search terms. This will help you identify which keywords are working, and also which ones aren’t. You can filter for those who came by simply searching your business name as well. Growing your business means finding new customers, and organic traffic that came to your site without googling your name are most likely new to your business. You can tailor your marketing efforts around those keywords that are getting you the most efficient hits.
9. Find and fix broken links
User experience is important when it comes to SEO. If there is anything on your site that is not providing an easy and engaging experience, people will click away quickly. Broken links are frustrating for web users, and can make your page look neglected and unprofessional.
Any link that leads to an error, such as a 404, is considered a broken link. Make sure that you are checking all of the links on your website, both internal and external, to make sure that they are leading to the right content, and content that exists.
10. Look for content gaps and opportunities
Performing an SEO audit is primarily about finding gaps and opportunities. When your audit is finished, you will see just where the weaknesses are in your SEO strategy. It might be that there are keywords that you are not using, or that your page speeds are lacking.
The best thing is, for every gap or issue that you find, fixing it will only lead to better results. Every gap and issue is an opportunity to improve. All you have to do is run an SEO audit and properly analyze the results to get your website to perform how you need it to find success.
Things change quickly in the digital marketing world, and your SEO strategy needs to keep up if you want to keep in step with your competitors. Performing an SEO audit is the perfect way to assess how your website is ranking and to identify what you need to do to get it on the path to page one.
Make sure to use top-tier SEO software as you conduct your SEO audits twice yearly. Equipped with the right tools, your site is sure to rank higher than it ever has before.
Tom Casano is the founder of Life Coach Spotter and Sure Oak. He’s also a public speaker, crypto enthusiast, podcast host, growth trainer and dad. Before all this, he built his first website at the age of 13 (in 1997) and spent 10 years trading in the stock market.