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In the past, we’ve shown you how to do a manual SEO site audit using a range of free tools. But if you’re responsible for your internal SEO or you manage the SEO on behalf of a client, you will want to be able to audit a website, track progress, and show tangible results by doing future site audits. The best way to do this is by using an SEO audit tool.

With hundreds of different services, agencies and SEO audit tools available today, selecting the right tool can be a difficult decision. Ultimately, the tool you choose will depend on individual knowledge and experience, budget, and intended use. However, there are key features and capabilities that your SEO audit tool must have. So, before you sign the dotted line, spend a few minutes reading our guide to finding the right SEO audit tool that can help make your site awesome.

What is an SEO Audit Tool?

If you’re really new to the game, SEO involves optimizing hundreds of different components; from site structure to on-page search term placement, creating content to obtaining backlinks, checking for crawl errors to rectifying any technical issues. Needless to say SEO is a complex beast and in order to optimize these elements you must firstly understand and identify what needs optimizing.

An SEO auditing tool examines a multitude of components belonging to your site to discover which elements are working well and which need improvement. Learn more about the purpose of an SEO audit.

Features to Look Out for when Selecting an SEO Audit Tool

Most SEO audit tools available have various features that cater to specific needs, so it's important to review the different elements necessary to your mission.

1. Technical elements

Crawling and indexing: When optimizing your site you will want to firstly ensure that your site can be crawled and indexed by search engines. Most SEO auditing tools should be able to detect the presence of a robots.txt file and sitemap.

Additionally, using a tool that can show you the number of discovered pages is the only way to ensure that search engines are indexing your site. If this number is significantly lower than expected then you know you need to rectify this. It also eliminates the need of having to try the ‘site:domainname’ command in Google to bring up all indexed pages. If you have a big site you will definitely benefit from this feature.

WWW resolve: Search engines dislike duplicate content which is often created by not having www resolve, or you’ve not set your preferred domain. Although this information can be viewed by in Google Search console having a tool that can monitor by syncing to Google Search console will save you a little time.

2. Mobile friendliness

Updates to Google’s algorithm, like ‘mobilegeddon’ and mobile first index means that site owners need to give more consideration to mobile users if they want that ‘boost’ promised by Google. When selecting an SEO auditing tool being able to assess the friendliness of your mobile site is essential criteria. Helpful assessment points include:

  • Touchscreen readiness: Examines the size of tap targets and links to assess whether they’re user friendly

  • Mobile compatibility: Detects any embedded objects such as Flash, Silverlight or Java which aren’t compatible across all mobile devices

  • Mobile view point: Assesses whether the site is visible across all mobile devices.

  • Speed: The loading time of your mobile site is another crucial aspect to mobile optimization. For this reason we would highly recommend an auditing tool that can diagnose this.

Choose a tool that can detect things presents on your site that will impact on mobile site speed such as:

  • Render-blocking JavaScript and CSS that appear above-the-fold

  • Images are optimized

  • JavaScript is minified

  • Browser caching has been leveraged.

3. Keyword tracking

One of the best ways to measure success is by monitoring the performance of search terms. Since keyword rank position directly relates to overall optimization being carried out on the site, it is a handy feature when looking to present tangible results.

I have used tools in the past that are only able to generate a list of keywords that it detects on your site - much like Google’s Keywords Planner does - but this isn’t necessary helpful if you’re wanting to track new keywords, or indeed track progress over time or compare rank position between competitors.

The key features to look out far are:

  • The ability to add and monitor a good number of keywords: Ideally you want to be able to track at least 250 words

  • Provide monthly search volume: Since Google no longer provides accurate monthly search volume data for keywords this is an important feature to have in an auditing tool, which can be used during your research.

  • Suggest keywords based on your site: If search terms are detected (typically the ones used in optimal places across your site’s pages) it’s helpful if you can add these to your tracking list with a click, instead of having to type them in

  • Rank position: The rank position of your site in search engine results pages (SERPS)

  • Movement: Number of places your keyword has achieved or dropped since the previous period

  • Competitor position: A good tool will allow you to track your competitor’s keyword performance. This will allow you to understand what they are doing and then do it better, so you can beat them to that number one position

  • Position over time: Being able to track and present progress is especially handy if you manage SEO on behalf of clients. A tool that can generate a graph removes the hard work for you

  • Ranking table: A real view of the sites appearing in SERPs above yours. This is particularly useful when assessing keyword difficulty. If the sites ranking higher than yours are big budget, well-managed sites then there’s a chance that ranking highly for these keywords may require a bit more effort.

A Ranking table shows the Search Engine Page Results

4. Site crawl

As mentioned earlier, issues with site crawling, indexing and the detection of duplicate content can hinder the performance of your site. It is therefore vital that you choose an SEO audit tool that has the ability to detect

Duplicate content: There are many reasons why duplicate content may exist on your site. A good tool with a crawl function should be able to detect duplicate content in title tags (which should all be unique), body content, and meta descriptions. Additionally, pages with canonical URLs or tags that don’t load properly, conflict with sitemap or differ from the open graph entry should also be able to be detected.

Broken pages and links: Since crawlers work by accessing pages via links, it's vital that there are no errors. An SEO crawler should, therefore, be able to verify your internal and external links, checking the HTTP status code for each URL it encounters. Detecting any error codes returned will greatly improve performance.

HTTP and HTTPS conflicts: If your site uses HTTPS (it really it should), a site crawl can detect http elements that exist on your site. Having secure pages that include any HTTP assets (no matter how small) can negatively impact on the user experience.

Non-Indexable pages: A site crawl feature is handy for checking pages that haven’t been indexed. Although you will probably have pages that you don’t want indexing you should check the non-indexable pages to see if any pages are appearing on this list that really shouldn’t be.

5. GA syncing

Being able to check sync an SEO audit tool with Google Analytics (GA) is extremely helpful when it comes to reporting. In the past when I’ve produced reports it’s usually involved switching from multiple social media accounts, social media analytics tools, Google Analytics, and SEO tools. If you find a tool that will allow you to sync all of these - get it!

Obviously, no auditing tool will be as in-depth as GA for interrogating data and tracking conversions but being able to see at a glance the increase in visitors, new visitors, behaviors, location, page views, and source domains are pretty important metrics from an SEO point of view.

6. Usability

Although usability will largely boil down to personal preference, there are tools that can be intimidating, due to their complex layout. Choose a tool with a nice, clean and clear interface that has been designed around the user experience.

A clean interface on an SEO Audit

Look for onsite, accessible help buttons. Is the tool and its features well explained. Avoid tools that require you to use an online chat service to get any sort of help. I’ve done this in the past and not been able to get hold of anyone in the United States at 9:00 a.m. UK time. By the time I got a response I had subscribed to a different service.

Choose a tool that makes it easy to understand what needs work and what the priority areas are. Remember that the purpose of SEO tools is to help you with your SEO efforts and you should therefore be able to identify tasks, issues and progress quickly and efficiently.

Wrapping Up

Using an SEO audit tool for your SEO is a no-brainer. However, finding an auditing tool can be difficult and time-consuming. Remember that many SEO audit tools charge a monthly subscription so you need to be absolutely certain you’re happy with the tool before you commit.

Many site audit tools will offer some kind of free trial period or a free version of the tool that may not include some of the advanced features. Take advantage of these and really get to know the tool you are using. Use our guide above to check for the features we’ve mentioned. These are essential features and making improvements to these areas will help you achieve SEO success.