An SEO audit is a deep dive into a website’s ability to rank on search engines.
It’s one of the first things your agency should do when you start working with a new client.
Before you develop a strategy or set any goals, you need to know exactly what the client needs.
An SEO audit provides a roadmap for getting better results, faster.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to do an SEO audit. You’ll learn what to do and why you should do it.
- What an SEO audit is and why it’s important
- How to perform a technical SEO audit
- How to perform an on-page SEO audit
- How to perform an off-page SEO audit
What Is An SEO Audit?
An SEO audit examines how well a website is set up to rank in search engine results. It details any problems that might be holding it back and suggests ways to fix them.
There are four key areas an SEO audit should cover:
Core Business Stats
While the out-and-out SEO audit features are, of course, the focus here, analysis should always start with a website’s current business performance, including conversions and competitor analysis.
These will provide a benchmark for you to measure the success of your SEO efforts.
An analysis of the website’s technical performance. It focuses on user experience and making sure the site can be found and indexed by search engines.
A deep dive into the website’s content. It looks at the keyword strategy, images, and other elements that impact search performance.
Evaluation of the website’s online reputation. It examines the existing backlink profile, customer reviews, and mentions on the internet.
After an SEO audit, you’ll know which parts of the website work well and which aspects need to be improved.
Why Is An SEO Audit Necessary?
An SEO Audit is essential if you sell SEO services. Here’s why:
Before you can fix a problem, you need to know it exists. An SEO audit helps you identify issues that could be limiting visibility in search engine results.
Some problems have a bigger impact on SEO performance than others. With an audit, you can get an overall understanding of the website’s SEO health.
This helps you decide where to focus your strategy to make the maximum impact in the shortest time possible.
Show Value to Clients
Clients want to know how you will help them achieve their goals. An SEO audit is your opportunity to highlight what’s wrong AND how you can fix it.
If your audit doesn’t have any actionable insights, then it’s useless.
The client should get a sense of:
-Why it happened
-Clear expectations if you don’t act directly
-What’re the next steps
— Henedy (@HenedyVP) November 17, 2022
You can’t measure improvement if you don’t know your starting point.
An audit gives a baseline. It makes it easier to track progress and show the impact of your SEO efforts.
Technical SEO Audit
A technical SEO audit should be the first thing you do.
While content and backlinks are key ranking factors, they won’t make a difference if search engines struggle to crawl and index the website.
Here’s what it involves:
Check Website Performance and Site Speed
When a website loads fast, visitors can quickly access the information they need. If it’s slow, they’ll get frustrated and bounce.
Daily Dose of SEO 🧰 #50 – Website Speeds
Website speed is more important than ever. Fast-loading pages lead to better user experience and higher conversion rates.
Ignoring website speed can lead to poor UX and failing Core Web Vitals.
— Sammie Ellard-King (@EllardKing) January 16, 2023
Page speed is also a known ranking factor:
You can test website speed using a tool like GTmetrix.
Enter your website’s URL, and the tool will do the rest. It gives a detailed breakdown of the website’s performance and ways to improve it.
If the website has some performance issues, include recommendations on how to improve them in your SEO audit.
That could include compressing images and large files, removing redundant code, and using minification tactics.
Analyze Site Architecture and Internal Linking Structure
Site architecture is how all the pages on your site are connected through internal linking.
An organized site structure helps visitors understand your website. It also plays an important role in how search engines crawl and index your pages.
The most underrated thing in SEO is internal linking?
It’s powerful, free, and you have complete control over it.
— Alek Asaduryan (@Ldnbox) June 2, 2022
Search engines allocate a specific amount of time and resources (crawl budget) for each site.
If your site structure is messy or disjointed, your crawl budget can be wasted.
A clear website structure makes it easy for search engines to find and index your pages.
First, you want to list all the pages on your website. This helps you see the big picture.
You can check the website’s existing sitemap to get this information.
Next, you want to audit the website’s internal linking structure.
Screaming Frog is one of the best SEO audit tools for internal links.
Run a crawl and check the ‘Inlinks’ for each page. This will show you the other pages on the website that link to the page.
You can also see the anchor text used for each link. The anchor text should be descriptive of the linked page.
Provide actionable recommendations based on your findings. For example, if you find orphan pages or over-optimized anchor text, advise on how you will fix the issues.
Evaluate Mobile Usability and Responsiveness
The latest data shows that 65% of internet traffic now takes place on mobile.
Google also uses mobile-first indexing. That means the search engine uses the mobile version first when deciding where it should rank in search results.
That’s why mobile usability is such an important part of technical SEO.
You can use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to assess mobile usability.
Enter the site URL, and the tool will provide a rating and information on any issues it discovers.
This can give you an overview of mobile performance.
But you should also manually test the site on different devices to see how it looks and works. Check if everything fits on the screen and if CTA buttons and navigation options are easy to press.
Identify Broken Links or 404 Errors
Broken links lead to a poor user experience and higher bounce rates. They can also waste your crawl budget and dilute link juice.
You can use Screaming Frog to check for broken links.
After running a crawl, click ‘Response Codes’ in the top menu and then ‘Client Error (4xx)’ from the left-hand dropdown menu:
This will give you a list of the URLs returning 404 errors. You can see the source of the broken links by clicking on the ‘Inlinks’ tab in the bottom menu:
You can also use Google Search Console to check for pages that return a Not Found (404) error.
Make a list of the broken links and your recommendations for fixing them. You could remove the links altogether or point the link to another page.
Monitor for Duplicate Content Issues
Duplicate content happens when you have the same or very similar information on more than one page of your website.
When Google finds multiple web pages with the same content, it often struggles to determine which one to show in search results. This can lead to keyword cannibalization.
You can find duplicate content using Screaming Frog.
After running a crawl, select the ‘Content’ tab in the top menu. In the left-hand dropdown menu, click ‘Exact Duplicates.’
This will show you where the same content appears more than once on the website.
You can also click ‘Near Duplicates’ from the dropdown menu to discover pages with very similar content.
Once you’ve found duplicate content, you need a plan to deal with it.
That could involve removing pages, combining content pieces, or using canonical tags to tell search engines which version of the page you want to rank.
Perform PageSpeed Insights Analysis
PageSpeed Insights is a tool that checks how fast your website pages load.
Like GTmetrix, you simply type in the URL of your website, and you’ll get a performance score and breakdown of issues.
A high score means your website is fast. A low score means there are things you need to improve.
The tool will also give suggestions on what to fix.
The biggest benefit of using PageSpeed Insights is that it’s a Google tool. It gives you a clear picture of how Google views the site’s performance.
On-Page SEO Audit
On-page SEO focuses on the elements on individual pages that can influence search engine ranking. It’s about making your content as valuable as possible and ensuring Google can understand it.
This is an area where you can get quick SEO wins. According to a survey by Databox, 38% of SEOs see on-page tactics as having the fastest impact on ranking:
Review Keyword Research and Targeted Keywords
The first step is to review the keyword strategy.
Once you know the current strategy, you need to do some keyword research to see if these are the best terms to focus on.
You can compare the keyword coverage to competitors using Semrush’s Keyword Gap tool.
This will show you how the keyword coverage compares to competitors.
You can see which keywords both websites rank for. It also shows you terms the competitor ranks for, but the client’s website doesn’t.
After gaining a deep understanding of the current keyword strategy, draw up a list of focused recommendations. This could include high-potential keywords the website is not yet targeting.
Analyze Title Tags and Metadata for Each Page
Title tags and metadata describe the content of a page.
Search engines use this information to understand the topic and context. It contributes to how Google views the relevance of a page to a search query.
They also have a significant impact on clickthrough rates and search traffic. A compelling title and meta description can make more people click on a page when they see it in search engine results pages (SERPs).
You can use Screaming Frog to quickly check the metadata of multiple pages in bulk.
Chrome extensions like SEO Meta in 1 Click allow you to check the metadata of individual pages.
There are a few key things to look for:
Titles should be under 60 characters to avoid truncation on the SERPs. Meta descriptions should be under 160 characters.
Each page should have a unique title and description. Look out for pages using the same meta descriptions.
The title tag should use the page’s target keyword. While meta descriptions do not have the same impact on ranking, you can naturally use the keyword to help search engines understand the page’s content.
Evaluate Content Quality & Optimization Opportunities
Comprehensive, high-quality content is the backbone of SEO performance.
Search engines want to show users content that offers the best information for their search query.
No amount of keyword research, UX design, and/or fast performance scores can make up for lack of quality content.
— Shawn Hill (@shwnhll) January 22, 2023
The key thing here is relevance and value.
Assess the content of each page and whether it is relevant to the target keyword. Does it match the search intent and provide what searchers are looking for?
Think about what questions visitors might have. If a user landed on your page, would they get all the information they need, or would they have to return to the SERP and click another result?
Look for opportunities to enhance content with images and videos. This can be a great way to make information more digestible and engaging.
SurferSEO is a helpful tool for comparing content to competing pages in the SERP. It can show you how the content compares regarding word count, keyword density, semantic terms, and other on-page SEO elements.
You can also use a tool like Query Hunter.
It’s a free WordPress plugin that takes data from Google Search Console to help you find terms you currently rank for that are under-served in your content.
The best keyword research tool is your own data.
Use Query Hunter to run in depth content audits on your website.
Easily find opportunities to add or expand upon sections to gain higher click through on terms your are already being found for.
It shows you clearly if you have… pic.twitter.com/rYZ0RyHuPK
— Joe Davies (@fatjoedavies) July 13, 2023
You can enhance content based on what’s already working to increase your rankings.
Check Image Optimization Status
Images need to be optimized for website visitors and search engines.
Properly optimized images can rank high in image results and drive significant additional traffic. They can also increase the size of a result on the SERP, boosting visibility and clickthrough rates.
If you’re not doing image optimization as a part of SEO efforts you’re probably missing out!
For example, seeing images pulled into PAA from the same page the answer is pulled from.
Well-optimized images provide extra touchpoints to your site & improve the quality of the page pic.twitter.com/qoeqr0Xics
— Dan Shure (@dan_shure) August 11, 2021
Here are the key things to look for:
Anything over 1MB is generally too large and could slow down page speed.
JPEG and PNG are the most used image formats. PNG offers better quality, but it does have a larger file size.
The file name should accurately describe the image to help search engines understand the content.
Each image should have “alt text”. This is a short description that tells users what’s in the image if they can’t see it. Search engines also use alt text to understand the content of images.
Google Search Central has a good breakdown of how to optimize alt text:
In your audit report, give actionable recommendations on how to optimize images for users and search engines.
Off-Page SEO Audit
Off-page SEO refers to the elements outside of a website that can affect how well it does in search results.
An off-page SEO audit examines these factors to see how they can be improved to boost SEO performance.
Review External Reviews And Profiles
What people say about a business or website online can significantly impact search ranking. This is especially important for local SEO.
Lots of good reviews on business directories, social media, and third-party platforms can help your website show up higher in search results.
I’ve talked to many local SEO experts
Listened to numerus podcasts
& the one big tip they all have to improve your local search ranking
is you guessed it… GET GOOD GOOGLE REVIEWS
— julius (@jmventurelog) September 2, 2023
Start by noting down all the places where you know the business is listed. This could include Yelp, Google Business Profile, Tripadvisor, and other platforms.
You can expand on this list by searching for the business online. You may find local citations you didn’t know about.
Next, you want to check the details about the business are correct on all profiles. That includes location, opening hours, services, etc.
The third step is to analyze the review star ratings.
Look at how the website’s reviews compare to competitors. It’s also important to check how the business responds to reviews.
Based on your findings, make recommendations in your SEO report.
This could include updating business profiles, addressing negative reviews, and ramping up review generation strategies.
Audit Inbound External Links
Inbound external links are hyperlinks from other websites that point to your website. These backlinks are a key Google ranking factor.
A high number of links from relevant, authoritative third-party websites can make a site look more trustworthy to search engines.
According to a Moz survey, SEOs view domain level and page level link metrics as the most important ranking factors:
Backlinks can boost search engine ranking. And they can bring additional traffic from other sites to yours.
You’ll need to use a site audit tool like Semrush or Ahrefs to perform a backlink audit. These tools show you which websites link to yours.
You can sort the backlinks based on domain, anchor text, and follow/nofollow status to get a clearer view of your backlink profile.
Not all links are good.
Look for links from low-quality domains, private blog networks (PBNs), and spammy sites that could negatively impact SEO performance.
You also need to evaluate the anchor text distribution.
Too many backlinks with the same anchor text could look unnatural to search engines and damage ranking potential.
A thorough backlink audit should also compare the website’s link profile to its competitors.
You can use Semrush and other SEO tools to compare your backlinks to competing domains. This can give you insights into potential link building opportunities and show you where your backlink profile stands in comparison.
Once you’ve analyzed the data, offer actionable recommendations. That could include disavowing bad links, diversifying anchor text, and building more quality links.
Win New Clients With Actionable SEO Audits
An in-depth SEO audit should be the first thing you do with every new SEO client.
It’s the foundation for your strategy and how you cement relationships with new clients. You can highlight what’s wrong, why it matters, and how you can fix it.
That’s how you show the value you offer.