Audit, from above, we can say that it is an official examination to know if things are correct or not. We will discuss the SEO audit more than business and financial records. Before jumping into the SEO audit topic, here’s basic information about SEO to make it easier for you to understand the audit process.
What is Search Engine Optimization?
Search Engine Optimization refers to the procedure for improving a website’s presence in the search engine so it ranks higher in SERPs for specific keywords. The main objective of SEO is to appear in organic results so that more people see the website and the online business’ products and services when they perform a search on their preferred search engine.
The SEO process involves creating unique and relevant content, including blog posts, news articles, product descriptions, implementing keywords, and phrases into these items, linking popularity to social media, and optimizing images for better visibility.
SEO operates to rank your website higher, and it deals with every aspect of your website, which is why you must carry out an SEO campaign for your website. And it would help if you didn’t forget that before starting an SEO campaign, you must know about your website’s condition first. And you will only know it through the SEO audit report, which is the first step toward SEO campaigning.
What is an SEO audit?
It is the report prepared to evaluate the condition of your website. This report is prepared to point out the activities going on your website and separate them as good practice and bad practice. Bad practice gives the website issues that you would solve after the auditing process.
So, it is a detailed report to learn about the situation and know the issues affecting the website’s performance. This audit generally resolves both on-site and off-site issues, if there are any. Knowing the condition of your website helps to make it better. It would be best not to ignore mistakes and errors on the website. It would help if you corrected them.
Therefore, if you want to know how well your website is doing, then get an SEO audit. Not an automated one, but the one created manually and with thorough research and experience.
What are the main objectives of the SEO audit?
It is to guide you to make a better decision for your website. It lets you know both extensive and accessible issues on your website and mentions the possible way to fix them. As you can realize, its main objective is to find the best strategy to enhance your website so that search engines can notice quickly and your website can perform better than before from an SEO perspective.
Why is it important?
The main point of an SEO audit is to inspect the rank factors to give attention to the site to manage it properly. You should always know why anyone gets an audit and why it is essential.
Some of the importance of the audit are below.
1. It helps to find the performance of the pages on the search engine.
2. It provides the list of competitors, how and what they are doing to get ahead, compares your performance with them, and gives a better strategy for you.
3. It researches and gives you a report on all the keywords used in the website.
4. It lets you know what the users are experiencing while using your website and whether search engines can access your website properly or not.
5. It analyzes the content, length, and ratio and helps you optimize it concerning keywords and related topics.
6. It guides you through building links and backlinks with functional and quality websites and businesses.
What do you need for the auditing process?
Before you get started, it’s essential to figure out what your end goal is. You will want to know if you are looking for an increase in organic traffic or simply better visibility. Its importance and objective are in one place; you should know what you expect from the audit.
Before starting the process, you need to know the goals and ready a checklist.
Elements of the auditing process
While preparing for the audit, there are a lot of topics and sections to cover. And every individual or company has developed its templates with the general elements to generate a complete audit.
Some of the general elements required to look over in the process are as follows:
1. Web Analysis
Web analysis includes the site’s name, size of the site, traffic it gets, and keywords used in it. CTR is Click Through Rate, which lets you know how good your ad copy is, and high CTA (Call To Action) is only achieved through high CTR. The web analysis shows the average CTR data to predict the effectiveness of the copy used for the website.
This part also displays the website’s average position, which determines the work of the site on the Google search result page. A value between 1 to 4 tells us that the page is on the front page of SERP.
2. Stale content
It means the pages which are internally or externally linked to the site but are returning errors. The website has different DNS errors, server connectivity errors, robots.txt fetch errors, server errors, etc., creating obstacles for a search engine to crawl inside.
For example, A site might have URLs in the site crawl that are returning 4xx HTTP header statuses. This message might indicate either the page URL isn’t found or the content from that page has been removed intentionally. Audit mentions all these kinds of errors with their solutions.
3. XML sitemap
It contains a list of the essential pages with a site structure that Google should crawl. A search engine must be able to go through all of the web pages and links to your website. You should update your sitemap and set down all the pages which are canonical, or non-canonical, returning a non-200 HTTP header status.
The auditing process mentions and correctly discusses XML sitemap crawl issues. It distinctively states URLs you should list, URLs you should remove, canonical PDF URLs you should add, subordinate blog pages you should remove, etc.
4. Robots Meta tag
This tag is responsible for unveiling the content of a page to the search engine. It is directly used in the head section of the HTML code. The part of the code informs the search engine crawlers about something important in your website.
The robots in the meta tag refer to a crawler that allows search engines to access the web page and index it. A site must check these meta tags for different web pages like blogs, accounts, users, etc. For example, the Robots Meta tag can use attributes like “noindex” to hide the webpage, which is important.
Content is a prominent part of the website, and it is essential to maintain this section correctly. The content part includes examining the title, headings, meta descriptions, primary body copy, etc., of all site pages and optimizing them accordingly.
For example: Let’s say there is a site that is going under auditing. While processing the content, it checks the titles first as it is the first that anyone sees about the site in the SERPs. The excellent title is precise, relevant, and clickable.
It processes whether the page has a title or not, the length of the title, keywords in the title, and distinctive titles for each page, and matches the searcher’s intent. The exact process goes for meta descriptions, headings, and body copy for all the pages.
6. Duplicate Content
Canonicalization is having duplicate content or page for a site. A page is upright if it returns an HTTP status code of 200 and contains a self-referential canonical meta tag.
If not, it generates various SEO issues that affect the traffic density and crawling activity of a site. Therefore, all pages like the homepage, category page, product page, product listing pages, etc., should have canonical tags pointing to URL directories or self-referential canonical tags.
Auditing plays an important role to enlist and deal with various canonicalization issues of the site.
Robots.txt is a file that tells a search engine which page is accessible and which isn’t.
It has the list of the following items:
- Pages that are blocked,
- Pages that aren’t blocked,
- Sitemap auto-discovery directive,
- Site navigation,
- Indexed pages, etc.
It controls and manages the crawler traffic. It also lets the search engine know about the pages it can crawl. Audit for this file is to improve the traffic, control the access request number, and give necessary access to search engines.
8. Structured data
Structured data is data with the standard format that search engines can easily understand and markup.
There are various structured data on the site, and some of them are below:
- Blog posts and articles,
- Product structured data,
- Rich snippets,
- Sitelink search box,
- Knowledge graph
- Social profile links,
- Product feeds,
- Social Rich Snippets
- Twitter cards, etc.
Several tools can check the effectiveness of these structured data in site visibility.
The main objective is to check whether the implementation of these structured data is correct, and after that check, they are optimized appropriately.
9. HTML rendering
A site should render web pages duly so that users can have a great experience while going through the site’s content. It affects HTML rendering when the pages have error resources. Errors resources can be internal or external. A website might often have code issues related to HTML, CSS, or JS, considered internal error resources.
External error resources are from third-party ad services and track, which it can’t solve internally. It should also check the robots.txt file so that the HTML renderer, browser, and search engine won’t face any problems with the website.
Sometimes the site has to be available in more than one language. If that is so, the site should have used a hreflang tag attribute to let a search engine know that it has different language versions and which languages are in it.
It is used in different ways, such as in the head section of HTML with an hreflang attribute, hreflang link in the HTTP header, and the XML sitemap within an XHTML namespace.
The website becomes international, more like global, once it goes live on the internet. The site might become multiregional or multilingual, having an international audience with an hreflang attribute. A site should check the use of hreflang tag in localizing the content of the page.
11. Internal links
Internal links are the connectivity for the pages within site. The total number of pages in the sitemap is noted, along with the pages having the most internal links. Internal links status is necessary for better user experience and website performance. A site should examine each page for the internal links as search engine won’t be able to find the page with no link.
12. Mobile speed
The site must have mobile compatibility. The font size, structured data display on the mobile, speed of page load on the mobile, etc., matter for the site as most users are mobile users nowadays. It is always better when elements which user has to click aren’t together. Every site’s content shown in the desktop browser must offer the same range on the mobile.
It is best if the content fits the screen of the device. There should be a standard implementation of the viewport tag so that a site’s visual on different devices is adaptable. Audit examines the performance of the mobile site, speed, and other compatibility factors.
HTTPS stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure. It executes the authentic and secure protocol for the users and the web browsers, ensuring security. A search engine may flag some web pages, stating that it’s not secure, or sometimes a message may pop on the screen saying that there is no DNS CAA on the site. It appears because the place isn’t safe.
HTTPS built trust and security in users, increasing traffic and conversions. Therefore, it is very necessary to check HTTPS and solve the issues that may arise related to it.
14. Keyword analysis
Keywords are the terms through which search engines find and rank the website. Keywords guide the search engine to find the website with relevant and organic content for the users. Keywords used in the site should be according to the user intent based on the topics so that site can add quality content, get more leads, grow the traffic, build valid links, etc.
Competition exists among the sites based on keywords used, but if they aren’t used carefully, they won’t get any rank in the search engine first, which means less traffic and fewer conversions. There can be more issues like keyword stuffing, cannibalization, keywords difficulty, etc.
According to Google’s algorithm, the site should implement the keywords and their variations in appropriate numbers in those parts of the keywords. The audit report examines and mentions detail information along with the issues related to keywords.
15. Competitor’s analysis
Competitor analysis takes notes on a competitor’s website and analyzes it for SEO weaknesses.
This process helps you see where your competition is ranking, what they’re doing better than you, and how you can improve your own website’s ranking. It will help you get ahead of the competition and rank higher in search engine results pages (SERP).
Backlinks are those links that turn the path of the visitors from other websites to your website. More backlinks mean more traffic and lead, but it also depends on the quality of the backlink. It matters that the backlink comes from a genuine and valid site.
Google forfeits spam and unnatural links automatically. It would be best to be mindful about picking out the site to put up the backlink. Various good practices create genuine backlinks like a guest post, question/answer, image sharing, business listings, blog commenting, etc.
The backlinks to the own site and backlinks to competitors are also important. Audit will guide to make the link-building strategy for the site after it checks and gives report on the backlinks.
SEO auditing tools
We formulate an audit manually, and it is also necessary to go through a considerable amount of data. It isn’t possible to analyze and evaluate the data and make the audit process more straightforward. We can use several tools instead.
It isn’t necessary to use the same tools. There are several free tools and paid tools which have various useful features. It’s up to you to use the tools in your way. Below you will see a list of free tools which help in auditing, and there are many other tools in the market that you can use.
1. Google Analytics (Free)
It is the tool used to study the data traffic that a website gets. It gives a detailed report on how users are using your website and guides to understanding the user intent in a better way.
2. Google Search Console (Free)
It is a tool that lets you know about your website’s position in Google’s search results. It helps you supervise, support, and resolve your website’s issues in search engines.
It verifies whether Google can crawl on your website or not and whether your site has indexing issues. It also works to display your google traffic data, your search queries, spam check, backlink check, mobile-friendly feature, etc.
3. Google Page Speed Insights (Free)
This tool provides detailed information on how fast your website works on different devices. It focuses on the standard of user experience and gives you the data to understand where and how much improvement is required.
4. Google’s Structured Data Testing Tools (Free)
This tool is to check the structured data on your website. It can preview how rich results would be in Google Search using a rich results test and validate the schema for your website using a Schema markup validator.
5. SERP Simulator (Free)
This tool tells you how your website will look on the search results page. It reproduces the lookalike of the SERP and shows you the view of your website after you give away the title, meta description, and URL of your web page.
6. Web Page Word Counter (Free)
This tool counts the words in the website’s content. It provides information about the content and its length and lists keywords and variations used in the range.
7. SEMrush (Paid)
It is one of the popular auditing tools, and it is known for giving a better examination report on all kinds of issues that a site can have with charts, instructions, and directions.
It notes down the errors and provides you with a warning with helpful advice. It also traces every activity to improve performance after implementing the provided suggestions. You can easily subscribe to the audit services in Pro, Guru, and Business plan after the free trial session.
8. Screaming Frog (Paid)
Screaming Frog is an auditing tool you can use for free, but the paid version of screaming Frog offers so much that anyone would want to use it.
Screaming Frog examines every linking, backlinks, crawling, indexing, sitemap, meta robots tags, robots.txt, duplicate content, etc. It also provides free technical support whenever necessary during the paid session.
9. Ahrefs (Paid)
These audit tools can point out all the site issues in an understandable way. It provides a report with colorful charts which are printable. Besides the ahrefs site audit tool, there are other tools, such as site explorer, keyword explorer, rank tracker, content explorer, etc.
You can sign up for free limited access, but you have to subscribe to an ahref plan to use all tools.
10. SpyFU (Paid)
SpyFu is the auditing tool used for all-in-one SEO activities. It provides very efficient SEO services. It is generally known for its keywords and competitor analysis though it provides rich data and solutions on SEO research, PPC research, Backlink research, etc.
While you are in the process, here are a few checklist items that you might need to accomplish to get the audit done.
4. XML sitemap
5. Stale content
7. Structured data
8. Page Speed
9. Mobile Site
10. Crawl activity
11. Indexed page
12. Link equity
13. URL parameter
16. Local SEO
How can you carry out the auditing?
It is crucial to conduct an SEO audit to ensure that you get the most out of your SEO efforts. It will help you determine what works best for your brand and website based on certain aspects.
Here are the steps in conducting it:
1. Determine goals:
What are your plans for the campaign? How do you want visitors to see your website? What do you want visitors to see when they arrive at your site?
2. Research tactics:
Research what your competitor’s activity and what has worked for them. Please make a list of keywords that have been used successfully by other companies in their marketing tactics.
So, research keywords that have worked well for different brands and new keywords that might not be as competitive yet.
3. Creating a strategy:
Now, it is time to create a system. What tools do you need? What content will work best for this campaign? How can you implement this strategy on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.?
4. Implementing tactics:
Now, it is time to implement them into your website or blog. It may take trial and error with different tactics before finding out which ones work best. In a more straightforward form, you can do the following things to do the auditing tasks.
1. The first thing is that you need to know if the website is explorable or not.
2. You should check the crawlability of the website.
3. If the crawlability factor is okay, you should also check the indexability factor.
4. You should ensure that you know your present rank.
5. You should manually do an on-page SEO check first
6. It would help if you researched on-page issues in the crawl report.
7. You should check the content and analyze the content gap.
8. It would be excellent to examine your site’s page speed.
9. Then, it would help if you went through the structured data errors.
10. After that, you should process organic search traffic.
11. You should also keep track of rankings.
12. You should analyze the backlink profile and then find and fix broken links to your site.
In conclusion, an SEO audit is to find the significant issues and the way to fix them. It also resolves easy-to-fix issues. It finds low-hanging and best opportunities for a site to improve and build several good backlinks from the right and simple website. It also audits the content and carries out the content gap analysis for the website.
Get an SEO audit first if you want your site to do better.