Even though there are tremendous benefits to conducting an SEO audit, like seeing how you stack up against the competition, it can feel overwhelming deciding just how to get started.

There are tremendous advantages to conducting an SEO audit, including, but not limited to, getting detailed insights into your website’s current standing. However, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the process – just deciding where to start can itself be a challenge. With online marketing continuously growing in complexity, it is up to SEO professionals to stay on top of the latest trends.

What is an SEO Audit?

An SEO audit takes a comprehensive look at the primary factors that drive search performance, especially in regards to how the competition is performing. And now, a mobile SEO audit is increasingly important for users searching on mobile devices.

An SEO audit can be broken down into 3 parts:

With the SEO landscape changing faster than ever before, it’s crucial to set up periodic SEO audits to ensure nothing gets missed. Besides, who wouldn’t want to be best friends with Googlebot?

1. Clean Up the “Technical” Foundation

While content, backlinks, user experience and other SEO factors are important, technical SEO lays the foundation for all that follows. Ensuring a technically-sound website should be at the forefront of every SEO audit.

The following items are among the top benefits to fixing your site’s technical SEO:

Robots.txt:

  • Allow Google to crawl/index as much of the site as possible (including JavaScript, CSS, image files, etc)
  • Only disallow/block what is truly necessary
  • Include a link to your sitemap

Despite its importance, the robots.txt file can often be overlooked. Just ensure you don’t have the dreaded “Disallow: /” command (which blocks the entire site), and everything will be alright.

Indexing/Accessibility:

  • Your site should only have 1 URL per page. For example, you should not have http://domain.com, https://domain.com, http://www.domain.com, and https://www.domain.com all loading properly. This will cause indexing issues for Google as there are multiple homepage URLs.
  • Ensure you also don’t have 2 URLs per page in terms of the trailing slash, like https://www.domain.com/hosting and https://www.domain.com/hosting/. While these pages contain the same content and may be a simple oversight, Google will see a duplicate page and that is not good for SEO. Use the .htaccess file to redirect one version of a URL to the other one (sitewide)
  • Confirm in Google Search Console that you don’t have any blocked resources such as Javascript, CSS or other files Google needs to crawl to better understand your site. Check in the “Blocked Resources” section within Google Search Console.
  • Double-check the meta robots tags to ensure regular content pages (such as blog posts) don’t have “noindex” contained in the robots tag. You can use the new Woorank Site Crawl or Screaming Frog SEO Spider to help accomplish this.
  • Are your paid/PPC landing pages noindexed? Typically they should be for advertising campaigns, as they contain less content and shouldn’t conflict with regular content pages.
  • Are your pages using self-referencing canonical URLs? These will protect your site against duplicate content issues and tell Google the preferred URL for the page.
  • Go into Google Search Console and check the index status for the pages on the site. The number of indexed pages Google shows should match closely to how many indexable pages are on the site.
  • You can also conduct a site search command in Google to see how many pages Google shows for your site. Search for “site:domain.com” for your domain, and you don’t need to include the “https” or “www” when conducting the site operator search.

Pages Indexed by Google in GSC

Redirects:

  • Redirects can slow down pages dramatically. Even worse, redirect chains (which include multiple redirects) have the ability to add seconds to a page’s loading time, causing users serious frustration.
  • If you need to change a URL on your site or move a resource to another location, ensure to use a 301-redirect (permanent).
  • If it will just be a temporary redirect, and you know that you won’t need it for long, then you can utilize 302 redirects.
  • Oftentimes, outbound links from your site will also get redirected as well (such as when a site migrates from http: to https:), in these cases you will want to update the external links on your site to be the finalized, non-redirected links, which decreases the bandwidth on your site and helps the users get to their destination faster

If you have migrated a website from one domain to a different domain, keep those (301) redirects in place for at least 6 months to 1 year. This will ensure Google is always taken to the proper resource when still crawling the old URLs. Remove the internal and external redirects on your site, and that will help significantly with page speed and user experience.

Page Speed & Mobile friendliness:

  • Long story short, Google obsesses over page speed. With all things being equal between 2 pages on different sites, a faster loading page will get the ranking advantage.
  • Use Google PageSpeed Insights and the Mobile-Friendly Test from Google to see what areas need to be sped up.
  • The primary items to check for are eliminating render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content, leverage browser caching, optimizing images, to minify Javascript, enabling compression, etc.

Mobile page speed especially cannot afford to be ignored. When was the last time you waited more than 2 seconds for a page to load on a phone? That’s just too long, and Google rewards sites that put in the effort to increase the user experience for visitors. Not even Apple has a fast mobile homepage, with all the developmental resources in the world:

Google mobile friendly test tool

Google, on the other hand, has a perfect score of 100/100 on mobile and desktop devices.

There are many other aspects of technical SEO that you need to keep in mind. Some of these include:

  • schema markup
  • structured data
  • pagination
  • page directives
  • fixing 404s and other broken links on the site
  • optimizing XML sitemaps
  • ensuring Universal Analytics/Google Tag Manager are implemented correctly, etc.

Optimizing Content

With the core foundation of the website optimized, next we move onto supercharging the content for maximum results. Well-crafted, “Hummingbird-style” content that answers users’ queries are what you need to deliver to your audience. Let’s take a look at how advantageous an SEO audit can be in regards to improving conversion rate optimization metrics throughout your site.

Keyword Mapping:

  • It is very important to know the keywords you want to optimize for in Google, as rankings and gaining organic traffic is a major priority for most websites with a blog that continually produces new content.
  • When finding the primary keywords that may be valuable to your visitors, also find the core related keywords to that topic so you can ensure to include those in the content as well. For example, if you were optimizing for the keyword “Miami real estate attorney,” then “Miami real estate lawyer” would be a related keyword, but would not warrant having its own page separate from Miami real estate attorney, as they are basically synonymous keywords. Check the content’s keyword/overall word density with SEO Book’s Keyword Density Analyzer.

Duplicate Content:

  • Having duplicate content on your site can cause serious issues. Use Copyscape to check for duplicate content issues.
  • If you are writing a new piece of content on your site, and know you have not taken the content from anywhere else, you’ll be fine. You need to ensure you don’t accidentally have duplicate pages on the site using multiple URLs, for the most part.
  • Additionally, don’t write too many pages targeting similar keyword groups, as those pages will be a bit duplicated and will unnecessarily be competing against each other. If you find that one page targeting a similar keyword group is getting almost no Google impressions, clicks and traffic, while the other page is getting substantially more organic traffic, it may be best to 301-redirect the lesser-performing page to the superior one, as Google has clearly shown the preference for that content.

SEO Meta Information:

  • Page Titles are extremely important for SEO. Ensure to include the pertinent keyword in the title and the branding of your company as well. A keyword in the beginning of the title will have slightly more weight, but it’s best to write naturally for users, but of course include the phrase in the title, along with your company name. Evoke emotions and keep improving the title tags throughout the site.
  • While meta descriptions don’t directly impact SEO, according to Google, they are a part of the CTR formula and thus definitely play a role in increasing organic traffic when optimized properly.
  • Heading tags (H1-H6 tags) are also important, but don’t carry as much weight as they did in the earlier years of Google search. It’s not harmful if the H1 tag is the same as the SEO page title that appears in the SERPs, but you could gain slightly more value by differentiating them in a smart manner.
  • Google does not use meta keywords, so if you have them on any of your pages they should be removed. They are only a spam-ranking factor in Bing, and allows your competitors to see which keywords you’re optimizing for on certain pages.

Meta tags in action in SERPImage from The Devline

Landing Pages:

  • Landing pages serve a different purpose than a blog or other content pages on your site. They are mostly used for paid traffic campaigns on Google AdWords, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.
  • Because these are paid advertising pages, they usually will contain no navigation, little content and minimal distractions. The goal is to get users to take action on the page (sign up for a trial, buy a product, etc). Because of this reason, landing pages should be no indexed (containing a meta robots noindex tag).
  • You don’t want these short-form pages with brief content to be competing with your regular content pages or appearing in Google search, as they are almost always specifically meant for paid advertising campaigns.

Check for Backlinks and Their Quality

  1. Use Google Search Console and WooRank’s Backlinks Quality section to understand which websites link to you to give you an idea of the quality of the links.

WooRank’s Backlinks Quality sectionWooRank’s Backlinks Quality section

  1. You’ll then need to crawl all of those links to separate out the “live, real” links vs the 404’s or pages in which there is no backlink. Oftentimes Google and other backlink software will include many old backlinks that have been removed, or simply list pages inaccurately that never had backlinks in the first place.
  2. Then you will need to identify the followed links vs. the nofollow links, and start getting a sense of the anchor text distribution of the backlinks to your site, especially the dofollow links.
  3. With the launch of the real-time Penguin 4.0 algorithm last fall, there is not as much of a need to worry if you’ll get severely penalized for backlinks to your site, especially if you know the history of the site and have not done any low-quality or automated link building. But, there is still a risk of an algorithmic penalty, so it’s crucial to stay on top of the new backlinks coming into your site.
  4. When checking for the quality of backlinks to a site, I personally am not a fan of SEO software that will “flag” or indicate that some backlinks are bad, some are good, etc. You should not leave this to chance, especially with considering how critically important backlinks still are to Google’s algorithm.
  5. Consult with a marketing agency or an SEO professional who can guide you in the right direction in regards to assessing your current backlink profile.

Another great advantage of an SEO analysis or website audit is that it comprises of detailed competitor research and assessing 3rd party reviews. So, you can essentially find out what your competitors are doing well and then plan out how you can do it better.

There is simply too much content on the web for your site to be “average.” To rank for highly competitive, commercial keywords you need to put your best foot forward. An SEO site audit is a surefire way to get started in one-upping your competition in search.