Search Engine Optimization

What is an SEO Audit? The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide in 2021

In today’s business world, technology is changing the way we interact with customers. Everything your business offers is just a click away. You open the business website, find the product or service you need, and order.

But in this age of competition, how can you influence a buyer to choose your business for their purchase?

It’s up to you to win the trust of your buyer. Businesses can demonstrate credibility and build trust with their target audience with quality content, but people need to find your content in the first place!

Here is where an SEO audit comes in handy.

What is an SEO Audit? 

A search engine optimization audit, or SEO audit, is a deep analysis of your website to evaluate various components’ performance.

These components are important because they affect your website’s ability to rank in the search engine results. Using this analysis, you can fine-tune your website almost to perfection. 

The three parts of an SEO audit include:

  • On-page SEO
  • Off-page SEO
  • Technical SEO

Why is an SEO Audit Important?

Do businesses stop promoting their products or services after they have achieved a sales target? (No!)

Or, do they set new goals for even higher sales? Yes, they want to focus on growth so they can expand their offerings and reach even more customers.

In this age of competition, when every new business is offering competitive rates, better features, and facilities, you can’t afford to sit and wait for someone else to take over the market share.

For this, the business conducts regular SWOT analysis that enlists their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

In digital marketing, an SEO audit is just like that of a business SWOT. It helps you identify areas where you are weaker, and the potential can make or break your business in the long run.

An SEO audit will help you:

  • Identify site architecture problems
  • Analyze backlinks
  • Examine duplicate content related issues
  • Scan keyword density

With SEO auditing using an authentic SEO service provider, you will be able to:

  • Get a lot of opportunities to optimize your site
  • Learn where your competitor’s ranks in the search engine and what strategies are working for them
  • Get more targeted traffic
  • Increase conversions by applying the right SEO strategies

Types of SEO Audit 

There are three main types of SEO audits to executive your search engine optimization strategy in an organized manner, namely: 

  1. On-Page SEO: Optimize individual pages through content and source code.
  2. Off-Page SEO: Using outside factors, such as backlinks, you improve the ranking of your website.
  3. Technical SEO: Improve the technical aspects of your website to influence your website ranking positively. 

Let’s discuss each of these SEO audit practices below in detail.

Technical SEO Audit

As you know, there are several technical aspects of a website that affect your website ranking in search engines.

When you undergo a technical SEO audit, you analyze all the technical elements of an SEO.

To be honest, that’s not a very easy thing to understand. Here’s the breakdown:

Technical SEO involves:

  • Improving website performance. In short, you want your visitors to be able to quickly and efficiently navigate your site.
  • Making your website easier to crawl. Your site should be understandable to search engines.
  • Fixing broken links. This is confusing to search engines and frustrating to readers. You want their navigation to be seamless and predictable.
  • Reducing duplicate content. This is important because it may confuse the search engine as to which page it should prioritize in the rankings.
  • Securing your website. If your website cannot guarantee your user’s privacy, the search engine won’t rank it higher. SSL is a must-have.
  • Implementing structured data. This will help search engines better understand your content. The easier it is for a search engine to understand your site and content, the better the chance it will rank your site. 
  • Ensuring your website is mobile-friendly. More and more people are accessing the website through their mobile devices.
  • Managing redirects. If you don’t handle your redirects correctly, it can destroy your SEO.
  • Structuring your sitemap, which is the list of your site URLs. These sitemaps act as a roadmap to inform search engines of the availability of desired content and how to reach it.
  • Fixing keyword cannibalization. Keyword cannibalization means your website contains too many similar keywords throughout your website content, leading to conflicting search signals.

On-Page Audit 

On-site SEO refers to the practice of optimizing your web pages in a manner that you succeed in getting more and more traffic by ensuring the expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness of your website.

This includes:

  • Placing high-quality content and images on your web page. High-quality content for search engines means it’s up to date, easy to understand, answers the questions authentically, and is free of errors.
  • Delivering focused content that is highly relevant to the search term.
  • Optimizing the titles and headers. This helps search engines better understand your content and makes it easier for your audience to read.
  • Optimizing meta descriptions. If your meta descriptions are not within certain word limits or don’t contain the main keyword, it can decrease your clickthrough rate (CTR).
  • Analyzing website performance. Overall, website and page speed is a sign of website performance. Google uses this factor to rank pages. Pages that take more time to load and high rate to bounce back. 

Off-Page Audit

Off-page SEO refers to SEO elements that are outside of your website.  Simply put, this is any search engine optimization related to your website that assists search engines in determining the level of trust and value of your website.

The off-page audit will help see if all the external  SEO factors are working up to the mark. This includes things like backlinks and social media shares and engagement.

How to Do an SEO Audit?

Here’s a breakdown of how to conduct an SEO audit:

Step 1: Start by crawling the website.

Crawling is the technical terminology used to access the website through a software program and then retrieving data whenever required.

The objective of web crawling is to learn what each page on the website contains and what the web is all about.  Simply put, it provides you an overview of how crawlers view your site.

Crawling is useful in the sense that it diagnoses less-obvious problems with your website. Unless you know about the problem, you can’t decide where the treatment is needed and what kind of treatment can fix the issues.

These problems can include:

  • Duplicate content
  • Low word count
  • Excess redirects
  • Unlinked pagination pages

For example:

Your audit tool finds ten pages with a low word count. (Usually, less than 300 words, depending on the type of page.)

As we know, the best-known web crawler is Googlebot, but there are many other examples because each search engine prefers to use their web crawlers, like Bingbot, Slurp Bot, and Alexa Crawler.

Let’s now look at how a web crawler works to retrieve information about your website. 

  • It looks through sitemaps thoroughly, crawls, and then extracts all the links.
  • The web crawler then builds a URL list or list of crawled pages.
  • Then, it adds any new links found on each page crawled.
  • Lastly, it repeats the whole process until it finishes crawling the site and scrapes all accessible pages.

Step 2: Identify existing issues.

Crawling can help you identify the number of issues and automatically groups issues according to their particular type. Your website issues will appear as printable reports and colored charts.

You need to check for issues that include but not limited to: 

  1. Website performance issues such as slow pages or HTML
  2. Missing HTML tags such as any missing, duplicated, or short titles, meta descriptions, or H1 tags
  3. Content quality issues, such as low word counts or unconsolidated pages
  4. Inbound link issues such as orphan pages, any problems with no-follow links
  5. Outgoing link issues such as detecting redirects and broken pages
  6. Issues with resources such as images, JavaScript, CSS, or external pages

Step 3: Identify Optimization Spots

Suppose you are trying to perform an SEO audit of your website, and you are going to do it through one of the best SEO tools such as Google Search Console.

You’ll need to:

  • Identify internal & external link building opportunities
  • Build external links
  • Identify thin content
  • Scan for keyword optimization
  • Make sure meta tags are optimized
  • Identify duplicate content
  • Identify page update opportunities
  • Run page speed analytics
  •  Scan for site errors

Step 4: Create an action list-plan.

Once you know that you have some spots that urgently need optimization, you need to develop an SEO audit action list-plan.

Although you need to prioritize according to the severity of the issue, you should be following the given pattern to prepare your action list, such as:

  • Technical issues to handle first 
  • All known content issues
  • Links and promotion efforts

When building your action plan list, you need to consider the time and resources required to fix each issue. 

Step 5: Do the fixes and optimization.

Now you need to fix the issues that you have listed down in your action list plan.

Depending on how you previously developed, audited, and improved your website, this list could now be long or short. Without any website development or website optimization experience, you might not be able to do it accurately or entirely.

You might need to work with a developer.  However, there are some things that you can handle without them, like content length and quality issues.

Similarly,  there are a couple of other quick fixes that you may do yourself without knowing much of the technicalities.

Fixing broken links is easy to do yourself. You can just go to these pages and change the links. This simple thing can help a lot for optimizing your website. Because you are keeping your website up to date, your user will not end up having a 404 page, and your page will now not be ranked lower. 

Another thing is to fix the orphan pages which are not linked to any other page. If there are any such pages shown in your SEO audit, find the appropriate pages on your website to link them.

Step 6: Crawl the website again.

Once you have fixed all the problems, you need to crawl the website again to double-check for any remaining errors.

Best SEO Audit Tools

There are various SEO audits tools available that can make your task super easy. Some of the top ones are discussed as follows:

1. Screaming Frog

Screaming Frog is a powerful and flexible SEO spider. This can crawl both small and large websites effectively while enabling you to analyze the results in real-time. Search Engine Optimization personnel can make informed decisions about the website by gathering and presenting the key onsite data.  There is a free version available, but a paid one can give you even more detailed information to improve your ranking.

2. Ahrefs

Another popular name for an SEO audit is Ahrefs. This crawls all the pages available on your website, assigns an overall score for your SEO health, and helps you find improvements.

You can visualize key data through charts and flag all the possible issues on your website. The best part is that you also get recommendations on how you can fix these issues. 

Ahrefs Site Audit crawls all the pages it finds on your website – then provides an overall SEO health score, visualizes key data in charts, flags all possible SEO issues, and provides recommendations on how to fix them.

3. SEMRush

This is also one of the high-speed crawlers and best site audit tools to determine how well your website is doing in just a few minutes. It will provide you a comprehensive list of problems. For example:

You will get to know over and above 120 on-page and technical SEO checks using SEMRush.

This includes a surface level and in-depth analysis such as duplicate content, broken link, HTTP implementation, indexability, and crawl-ability. This application also provides on-demand crawling and scheduled auto re-crawls on a weekly or even daily basis.

4. Moz

This Crawler is also one of the best SEO audit tools and crawls large sites fastly. Moz keeps track of any recurring issues. The crawlers present issue categories, new issues, and all issues in the form of colorful charts. Using these graphs, you can quickly figure out the trends, issues, and opportunities. 

5. Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a free tool provided by Google that helps you conduct SEO audits. This tool assists SEO managers in monitoring and fixing technical website issues, checking backlinks,  submitting sitemaps, and much more.

6. Google Analytics

Google Analytics is also used to improve SEO performance because Google Analytics has valuable data for monitoring and improving SEO performance.

You can do this by synchronizing it with your google console account and setting SEO-related goals. You can find a lot of SEO related information that includes:

  1. Top performing content and top-performing landing pages
  2. Track keywords in Google analytics
  3. Figure out referral site
  4. Find out how Google is viewing your website
  5. Compare organic and paid visitors.

7. Majestic SEO

As discussed earlier, one of the SEO issues is backlinks. The Majestic SEO is software with expertise and 100% focus on your website link analysis.

Also, the software provider claims to be the world’s one of the top backlink checkers.

SEO Audit Best Practices

Some points are to be kept in mind while conducting an SEO audit: 

  1. Don’t rush your SEO audits.
  2.  You need to make sure that only one version of your website appears as a result of browsing.
  3. Do regular SEO audits.
  4. Keep learning how to perform some basic level of on-page SEO checks manually.
  5. Keep on diving deep into on-page issues in the crawl report.
  6. Make sure that your meta tags are continuously optimized. You should give your writers instructions, so they draft content according to the criteria.

How Often Should You Run an SEO Audit? 

SEO audit is a long-term process and isn’t a one-time thing. You need to keep regular audits. 

This is because you keep updating your website, adding content from time to time, including pages and blogs, etc. Therefore your SEO report will show you a different picture with each change.

SEO is a time-consuming and detailed process. Therefore doing it every day or every month may be challenging to handle.

If you own a small enterprise, you can do it biannually, but for a large company, adding plenty of content every next day, then you should opt for a quarterly SEO audit.

 What’s Next After Running an SEO Audit?

Running an SEO audit isn’t adequate on its own. You need to take some actions as well. You have to take action right after and learn what else you need to improve on, based on the site check.

These steps include: 

  1. Developing insight about the audit tools, person, or team you will engage in the audit process. While doing this, you need to make sure that you have a  list of all the SEO Audit items in hand. You should have a status report on where each audited item of your site stands compared to competitors. You should have a list prepared on various aspects you need to correct on your website.
  2. The next step is to determine the essential resources you need to implement your plan.  For example, you need to improve certain aspects of content, and you want a content writer who has the skills for that.  You may also want some other technical expertise or budget to implement the recommendation. You or your team can sit together and determine what you will need to take action on your plans. You also need to set your priorities as well. 
  3. Prepare a schedule for each action to be completed. Just like any other project, a timeline helps you monitor your work progress and focus.
  4. The next step is to get started and put your plan into action. Assign tasks to each team member and assign accountability. For this purpose, you can use some project management software or an SEO tool for this.
  5. This doesn’t stop here. You need to continuously monitor your work’s progress after a certain period and make sure things are headed in the right direction.

Summary & Takeaways

Although search engine optimization is a complex process to understand, we cannot ignore its relevance in digital marketing.

We can judge its importance because you can use SEO audit results to improve your marketing strategy and better understand your target customer’s demographics.

There are many tools available that can help you perform SEO audits; however, if you are a non-technical person, you can outsource this to an SEO company. Yet, you must know the basics of the whole process since you need to monitor the progress at one point or another. I am sure the above report helps you understand the critical aspects of the SEO audit process and how to perform an effective audit.

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By Zac Almeida

Before joining the team at Ethical Digital, Izaias built a successful SEO agency in São Paolo, Brazil. With over twelve years of experience providing data-driven SEO, he has worked with businesses of all sizes - from SMBs to Fortune 500 companies. After selling his business to travel the world with his wife, "The SEO Hustler" has been helping companies in more than 15 countries and 6 languages thrive in the digital and search world.


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