SEO Audit: Complete Process Guide with Samples and List of Free Tools
An SEO audit is no joke. In fact, it is an essential part of successful digital branding.
Unlike the traditional audit, a search engine optimisation audit is done solely keeping marketing purpose at the centre. But how exactly one can carry out an SEO audit? Let’s learn more about the complete process in this article.
What is an SEO Audit?
A search engine optimisation audit (SEO audit) is a process to evaluate the friendliness of a website from the search engine’s point of view. In short, this process is done to check the optimisation of your website and improve its search engine rankings.
Generally, you should carry out an SEO audit:
- When you start a new project
- Every quarterly
So, why exactly is an SEO audit important?
You may have heard that the SEO industry changes very quickly – thanks to hundreds of Google updates to the ranking algorithm every now and then. For example, the SEO strategies that were working six months back won’t work anymore that effectively. And, an SEO audit will help you keep your SEO strategy in sync with the latest Google updates.
Let’s take a look at the checklist to stay up-to-date with your SEO strategies.
SEO Audit Checklist
Now that you know why it is important to run an SEO audit regularly, let’s have a look at how to perform it. The SEO audit checklist I have complied with is perfect for any basic audit or small business. So, here we go.
Step 1: Take A Look for Any Google Penalties
Your first step should be to check if Google has penalised your website. Although it is a rare scenario, Google may penalise your website for manipulating the search engine. If you have an algorithmic or manual penalty in front of your website’s name, your rankings will definitely show a negative effect.
How will you check that? There are two ways to check for Google penalties.
1. Google Search Console
Log into your Google Search Console and select ‘Manual Actions’ from the menu options on the left. If your website is under any manual actions, the reasons will be specified there.
2. Compare Your Past and Present Rankings
Another easy way to check for any penalties is to compare the organic traffic for all the dates Google has released a change in the ranking algorithms . If you find a sudden drop in traffic, your website is definitely in a negative light. You can check this from your Google Analytics account.
Solution: If you find yourself in trouble, try getting as many details as possible regarding the problem as well as Google updates.
For example: If you are penalised because of ‘thin content’, it’s time to audit that section of your strategy and rectify it with good quality content.
Step 2: Appearance of Domain Search
SEO Tools You May Need: Google My Business
Your next step should be to check how your website result looks on Google search. So, search your brand name on Google and check the results.
This is how it looked when I searched for my company’s name.
Now, what should you actually check here?
- Is the first result of your home page?
- Are your site links visible along with your brand listing?
- Are the descriptions available below the links accurate to the page?
- Does it show your Google My Business Listing profile on the right side of the search page?
- Is all the information on your GMB profile up-to-date?
- Is the rest of the links and pages displayed on the search results relevant to your brand?
Now, scroll down to the end of the page to the section that says ‘searches related to’
- The ‘related searches’ are relevant to you.
- Check if there are any keywords you can use.
Solution: If you do not find yourself up there, it means there’s some problem with your SEO strategy. It’s time to take out your drawing board again.
The best way is to start with:
- Review and optimise your site structure
- Review homepage SEO
- Claim GMB page and update all the information
Step 3: Time for A Technical Audit
SEO Tools You May Need:
- Google Search Console
- Bing Webmaster Tool
- Structured Data Testing Tool
- PageSpeed tool
- Google Mobile Friendly Test Tool
Now, let’s get into the actual process of a thorough website review. I am starting with technical SEO because it’s an important aspect that helps the search engine crawl and index your pages, which enables you to rank on the search engines.
So, here’s your technical SEO audit checklist:
1. Check if you are registered with Webmaster Tools like Google Search Console and Bing Tool
If not, then make it a top priority. You can use these tools to find information like:
- Pages submitted and indexed
- Top performing keywords for your website
- Keywords that generate the most traffic
- Mobile usability and issues
- Security problems
2. Check if you have opted for a specific domain in your Google Search Console
Although you might think you have just one URL for your website, but Google thinks differently. It considers four different forms as four different websites like:
To avoid this problem, you should specify a preferred domain and set the canonical URLs.
3. Check if the robots.txt file is optimised
A robots.txt file lets search engine crawlers know which pages to index. So, if there is a mistake with this file, it may lead to serious indexing issues.
4. Check for SEO-friendly URLs
Although nowadays it is an automated process, it is a good habit to check if all the URLs are SEO optimised. Your URL should:
- Include keywords but not keyword-stuffed
- Keywords separated by hyphens (-)
- Unique for every page
- Should be less than 255 characters
https://www.yourwebsite.com/11/badformaturl/13125 – A non-optimised URL
https://www.yourwebsite.com/11/good-format-url – A good URL
5. Check if you have a breadcrumb menu
It is the menu bar at the top of the website that helps in easy navigation. Make sure that you link the main pages of your website to these menu links.
6. Check if you have enabled the structured data markup
This helps Google to understand the context of your pages and the meaning of your content better. In short, it helps in ranking you better.
Make sure you have a Schema markup audit for:
- Breadcrumb menu
7. Check if your 404 Page is Optimised
A 404 page is shown to your visitors when they reach a page that is no longer available. Make sure that you optimise the 404 pages for a smooth experience and redirect them to a better or similar page.
8. Check if the XML Page is Optimised
An XML sitemap helps Google know about your website and all its webpages. The CMS generates this sitemap and submits it to the Google Search Console. Make sure that your XML sitemap contains only all the important pages of your websites.
9. Check if your website is HTTPS
Security is one of the major ranking factors. So, if your website does not have one, then it’s time to secure your website and all the visitors paying a visit to your webpage.
10. Check if the website is fast enough
Make sure that your website loads fast or at least faster than your competitors. You can check your website speed on Google tool.
If you are in the lower range, then consider:
- Compressing your images. You can use tools like squoosh or optimizilla to reduce the size of your images without affecting the quality.
- Using cached data plugin to help users revisiting your page.
- Updating to latest PHP version
- Updating the website and all the software to the latest versions.
You can also choose Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) as they loader faster than normal HTML pages. So, try running an AMP compatibility audit too to increase site speed.
11. Check if your website is mobile-friendly
Google’s Mobile Index First feature has excluded all the websites that aren’t optimised for mobiles from searches done on mobile phones. And that is a huge blow considering half of the public uses mobile for Google searches. So, make sure to visit the Google Mobile Friendly Test Tool and check your rankings. If you rank low, follow their recommendation to help your rankings.
12. Check your website structure
A website structure helps a search engine as well as your users understand and navigate easily through your webpage. Things you should look for are:
- A clear content structures
- Contents and pages are grouped together in relevant categories
- Important pages are linked to the homepage
Step 4: On-Page SEO Audit
SEO Tools You May Need:
Once your technical issues are all fixed, move on to the on-page SEO. The main motive of on-page SEO is to make search engines understand your content’s meaning. So, let’s take a look at the on-page SEO checklist.
1. Check if your titles and descriptions are optimised
See if your titles and descriptions for each page are unique. Also, see if your user can guess the content from its title alone. The meta description of the page should also be optimised and summarise your page well.
2. Check your heading tags and text format
Make sure that you do not use plain text on your webpage. Instead make use of heading tags like H1 for the title, H2 for headings of topics on your page, and so on.
3. Check SEO for content
While carrying out a content audit, make sure to check if your content is unique. Use Copyscape to check if you have any duplicate content on your website. If you find such content, either remove it or de-index the webpage.
Other things to check while carrying out content audit are:
- High-quality content
- Content length and freshness
- Use 301 redirects for pages with little or no content
- Updating old, irrelevant content
4. Check Your Image SEO
The importance of alt tags on your images cannot be stressed enough. It helps the search engine crawlers to understand what the image has to say and also understand the content better. So, make sure that your images are optimised.
- Use descriptive names as filenames of the image.
- Tell about the image and content in your alt text.
- Make sure that you compress the images before uploading them on the website.
5. Check the internal link structure
Including internal links is an important aspect of on-page SEO. It is beneficial for your visitors as well as search engine crawlers. So, check if the:
- You have at least two internal links on each page.
- The pages with better rankings are linked to the home page.
- The pages with better rankings have more internal links.
6. Check for broken links
Broken links aren’t good for user experience, and hence, Google dislikes it. That is a clear indication that it can hurt your SEO rankings.
You can check for broken links by:
a. Google Search Console
Check your ‘index report’, and Google will give you a report of 404 error.
b. Use SEO tools
You can find a broken internal as well as external link by using Ahrefs Broken Link Checker or also use free SEO tools like Broken Link Check to view a complete list of all the pages with broken links.
If the page is not of any worth or you have deleted it for some reason, then let it be. But, if it has a high SEO value, try and get that page back as soon as you can.
7. Check if the Website is User-Friendly
User-friendlessness of your website is not only important for your visitor’s smooth experience, but it also helps with SEO ranking. So, make sure you carry out a few checks to check the friendliness of the site like:
- Is the 404-page optimised and user-friendly?
- What happens when someone types a wrong web URL?
- Is your visitor able to find something within three clicks?
- Do you have a clear and defined menu?
- Is site content and advertisements clearly distinguishable?
- Do you have a sitemap?
- Are the format and user interface consistent across all the webpages?
Step 5: Off-Page SEO Audit
SEO Tools You May Need:
Off-page SEO, also known as link building and SEO backlinks, has an important role in the Google ranking algorithm. And so, it has gained a lot of popularity in the SEO field. Here’s how you can analyse your backlinks.
Enter your homepage URL into a backlink analysis tool and get a detailed report on the backlinks to your website. You should check a few things while doing an off-page audit:
- Check the number of websites that are linking to you.
- Take a look at the domain authority of your website.
- Look for toxic links that shade websites. Disavow those links from Google Search Console.
If you have made this far, you would have definitely found a lot of changes to make in your website to improve your SEO rankings. But do not forget that this is just scraping the tip of an iceberg, a full-length SEO audit is a much more lengthy and time-consuming process. Nevertheless, if you are a small business owner, this SEO audit guide will serve its purpose and can be a good way to kick start any SEO campaign.