What is an SEO Audit and How to Do It Right?
Imagine finding a treasure map that guides you straight to the holy grail of Google rankings – the coveted top spot. You follow every twist and turn, doing everything right, but still end up wandering aimlessly, hidden gems nowhere in sight. Don’t fret! You’re not lost; you’ve simply missed an essential step: the SEO audit. In this high-stakes game of online visibility, conducting an SEO audit is like recalibrating your compass – it points you in the right direction, ensuring your efforts are not only well-planned but also highly effective. Join us as we delve into the world of SEO audits, learning how to conduct one properly and uncover those precious nuggets that will propel your website to the apex of search results.
An SEO audit is a comprehensive evaluation of your website’s search engine optimization (SEO) health. It involves analyzing areas such as technical SEO issues, website structure, on-page SEO issues, potential off-site problems, user experience issues, content gaps and opportunities, keyword analysis, competitive insights, and more to identify errors and opportunities to improve your website’s search visibility. To perform an SEO audit, you can use various tools or even go through the process manually. We recommend starting with a technical audit to identify any foundational issues affecting your site’s performance before delving into other aspects of SEO. Additionally, actionable recommendations should be made based on best practices that align with your business objectives.
What is an SEO Audit?
An SEO audit is the process of evaluating a website’s performance in organic search. It involves analyzing how well a website’s web presence conforms to best practices and identifying areas that can be improved. The purpose of an SEO audit is to identify foundational issues that might be affecting organic search performance such as technical SEO issues, on-page SEO issues, user experience issues, content gaps and opportunities, potential off-site problems, and competitive marketplace insights.
SEO audits should be both comprehensive and easy to understand, with actionable recommendations that align with overarching business objectives. It should not be rushed, and it should not be a one-size-fits-all approach. The audit should focus on areas of the site that are most critical to the site’s success.
For instance, if a business relies heavily on its blog for generating leads or traffic, then the blog will be the main focus of the audit. This could range from technical SEO-related issues like slow page speed or HTTP status codes to more qualitative aspects like writing quality or keyword relevance.
The elements analyzed in an SEO audit may vary slightly, but basic technical “table stakes” such as sitemaps, server errors, and metadata should be covered. The audit should cover off on accessibility, indexation, and optimization, and may examine over 193 different SEO elements across categories such as technical audit indexation analysis, on-page audit site content structure, and server log audit crawl budget analysis.
Performing an SEO audit is important because it helps you identify issues that may impact your website’s ability to rank on Google (or other search engines). In turn, by fixing these issues identified through an SEO audit, you will have taken steps towards improving your website’s chances of ranking on SERPs (search engine results pages).
An SEO audit is not a one-time event; rather it is something that should be done regularly. The recommended frequency of an SEO audit is at least once per year, with regular checkups to ensure everything is in order. This is because search engines continuously update their algorithms and ranking criteria, so staying up to date with the latest best practices can help you maintain your website’s rankings.
Now that we have a clear idea of what an SEO audit is, let’s explore the key factors to consider when conducting one.
Key Factors in an SEO Audit
When conducting an SEO audit, there are two primary areas to consider – technical components and off-site elements.
The technical components of a website refer to the underlying framework necessary for it to function properly. A technical audit usually consists of analyzing the back-end of a website and looking for issues that may limit crawling or indexing by search engines.
These issues may include broken links, pages with errors, orphaned pages (pages without internal links), duplicate content across multiple pages, site speed issues, improper use of canonical tags, missing meta descriptions, among other potential problems.
It’s worth noting that some bloggers argue that technical SEO has lost its importance in recent years. They argue that instead of focusing on minor issues like broken links or meta tags, businesses should focus more on building great content and promoting it through social media channels.
However, while content marketing is absolutely essential for any business hoping to succeed online, it’s important not to overlook technical aspects of SEO. Technical SEO lays the foundation for successful organic search rankings by ensuring that a website follows basic guidelines and is easily crawlable by search engines. Without proper technical optimization in place, even amazing content might not get noticed by potential customers if they cannot find it on Google.
Off-site elements refer to things happening on other websites that may impact your website’s visibility in search results. This includes backlinks, social media mentions or shares, reviews, and other references to your website online.
Backlinks are one of the most important off-site elements to consider when performing an SEO audit – perhaps more critical than any on-site factor. Search engines use links as votes, which mean that if a website has more high-quality backlinks from relevant websites, it is likely to rank higher in search results.
Other off-site factors like social signals or business reviews may not have a direct impact on rankings. Still, they can influence click-through rates and enhance brand awareness, which indirectly leads to better user experience and increased customer loyalty.
Now that we understand the components of an SEO audit let’s move on to explore how to conduct one effectively in the next section.
The technical components of an SEO audit are critical to ensuring your website is technically optimized for search engine crawlers. Technical issues can hinder search engines from correctly crawling or indexing your website, leading to a reduction in rankings or an inability to rank altogether. Some of the essential elements to consider in technical optimization include:
Website Speed: A slow-loading website can adversely affect user experience and lower ranking on search engines. Users tend to leave a site that takes more than three seconds to load, which increases the bounce rate. This, in turn, influences your page ranking on search engines.
Think of it this way: just like a sluggish snail that eats up your time, a slow loading website is irksome to users who want instant information, sending them off elsewhere.
Using tools such as Google’s PageSpeed Insights can help identify areas where speed could be improved. Other measures such as image compression, reducing server response time and browser caching can make your website load faster, keeping users interested and engaged.
SSL Encryption: SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) Encryption keeps users’ personal information safe and secure when exchanging data on a website. Search engines prioritize secure websites because they value user protection. Lack of SSL may lead to lower rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs). However, there is some debate if installing SSL would lead directly to higher rankings.
Off-site elements are the aspects of your SEO that are outside of your direct control. These elements can impact the reputation of your brand online if you’re not managing them correctly. The most crucial off-site element when it comes to SEO is backlinks.
Backlinks: A backlink is any link that comes from another website pointing towards yours; it’s like receiving referrals from the web. Backlinks are essential to ranking because they tell search engines that other websites consider your content valuable and worth linking to. When a site receives many high-quality backlinks, search engines see it as an indication that the content is quite informative and thus should rank high in SERPs.
There are different ways to foster backlinks, but the crucial strategy is creating quality content. Quality content cannot be overemphasized; it should solve user problems and provide excellent solutions to their queries. This way, other people will feel compelled to share it on their website or social media platforms, thus fostering natural backlinks.
Social Media Presence: A website’s social media presence affects its ranking on search engines even though Google doesn’t use as a direct ranking factor. However, social signals can influence SEO because they impact a page’s visibility through shares and searches.
Social media is like word-of-mouth advertising, a powerful marketing tool that can improve your brand recognition despite being outside of your website.
Conducting an SEO Audit
Conducting an SEO audit is a crucial step towards improving the performance of your website. There are several steps involved in performing a comprehensive SEO audit. First, you should start by conducting research and gathering data about your site since it provides a baseline for assessing its current state. Then, assess the technical components and off-site elements of your website. Finally, perform crawling and content analysis to identify any on-page optimization issues that require attention.
Anecdotal evidence shows us that conducting an SEO audit can have a significant impact on the success of a website. One-story worth mentioning is a small business owner who had been struggling with low traffic to his online store for months. After conducting an SEO audit with the help of On-Page.ai, he discovered that his site had several technical issues affecting its crawlability, such as broken links and server errors. Once he addressed these issues identified in the SEO audit report, his website’s search engine ranking improved significantly, ultimately increasing traffic to his site and boosting sales.
For conducting an effective SEO audit, you need to collect data through various means available at your disposal, including web analytics tools like Google Analytics, SEMrush or On-Page.ai. These tools provide valuable insights into how your site is performing so you can identify areas that need improvement. Your website’s data profile will give you a clear understanding of which pages rank higher in search results, user behavior patterns and link opportunities.
Examining the technical components of your site is critical because these components affect your site’s visibility to search engines like Google or Bing. Technical SEO issues include missing metadata, duplicate URLs, and poor page load speeds which may impact your advanced optimization efforts.In contrast, some experts argue that even if your content is excellent and high-quality, without proper technical SEO implementation, you won’t be able to rank well in search results.
Now that you have gathered information and technical data for your website, it’s time to move on to performing crawling and content analysis.
Crawling and Content Analysis
Performing a site crawl is the process of mapping out all the existing pages on your site to determine the structure and hierarchy within which they operate. During this process, you can learn about how your pages link to one another, page hierarchy, errors causing poor ranking amongst other things. Once you have a good understanding of your page layout and hierarchies, you need to review content quality thoroughly.
An example of crawling and content analysis involves discovering broken links across different pages of a website through On-Page.ai. Once discovered entities are remediated using redirects or repaired directly, the site technically becomes more operationally functional; as such action could prevent potential visitors from leaving your website since they could not get what they were looking for. Furthermore, ensuring that content is optimized by delivering relevant keywords in headers, footers, headlines is essential in making sure that Google understands your message.
Site crawls help you identify issues with your website’s structure that may be affecting its ranking potential. Common issues include broken links, duplicate or missing metadata tags, empty alt text or link text. Crawl-based reports like those offered by On-Page.ai provide invaluable insights on where you should focus your optimization efforts.
Some digital marketing experts argue that optimizing pages entirely for SEO may not result in an optimal user experience for customers using the site. As such entities must strive toward finding a balance between the two guiding tenets of web design: User experience (UX) and search engine optimization (SEO). Both tenets are mutually reinforcing when done correctly while making sure that users are able to find relevant information and navigate across pages with ease despite operating within strict SEO best practices.
Now that we have talked about crawling and content analysis, the next section will cover on-page optimization issues in detail.
- Performing a site crawl is an essential process to identify issues with your website’s structure that may be affecting its ranking potential. Once you have a good understanding of your page layout and hierarchies, it is crucial to review content quality thoroughly. By discovering broken links, optimizing content with relevant keywords, and finding a balance between UX and SEO, you can improve the overall performance of your site. Crawl-based reports like those offered by On-Page.ai provide invaluable insights on where you should focus your optimization efforts. This way, visitors can find relevant information and navigate across pages effortlessly while also ensuring strict adherence to SEO best practices.
Spotlighting On-Page Optimization Issues
In an SEO audit, identifying on-page optimization issues is crucial to ensure that your website’s content is optimized to rank high in search engine result pages. The goal of on-page optimization is to make sure that the content on your website is relevant to the user’s intent and includes the appropriate keywords so that the search engines can easily understand what your page is about. With On-Page.ai, this process is much easier as it provides you with a comprehensive scan of all important elements on your page.
A common example of on-page optimization mistake is having duplicate content on multiple pages within a website. Identifying these issues can be done by using tools like On-Page.ai that scan your page for duplicate content and provide suggestions to improve it. Keyword stuffing, which involves overusing certain keywords in an attempt to rank higher, is another frequently seen issue. This practice used to work a few years ago, but now it will only harm your ranking. Using an AI tool like On-Page.ai will help you avoid these mistakes and also suggest how you can optimize your pages better.
Additionally, meta descriptions and title tags are two of the most critical elements of on-page optimization. An effective meta description encourages users to click through, while a poorly crafted one may decrease the number of clicks and ultimately hurt your rankings. Title tags, on the other hand, give search engines and users alike an idea of what the page contains; it’s crucial to make them relevant and descriptive.
Some people think that optimizing for search can compromise user experience (UX). However, this doesn’t have to be true. By ensuring that your site is optimized for search engines, you’re actually optimizing it for users too. When you understand what keywords they’re searching for and what they need from their queries, you’re able to create content that matches their needs and provides them with an excellent user experience.
Post-Audit SEO Improvement Strategies
Once you’ve identified on-page optimization issues during your SEO audit, it’s time to consider ways in which you can improve your website’s overall SEO. There are several strategies you can implement post-audit, including these three:
One strategy is to fine-tune the design and layout of your site to make it more intuitive for users. The simpler your site is to navigate, the faster users will find what they’re looking for, leading to a better experience. Additionally, an optimized website leads to better conversion rates and user engagement.
Another strategy is to write long-form, high-quality content that targets relevant keywords. Consider this as similar as someone doing an excellent research paper. While this strategy can take time, producing comprehensive articles centered around specific topics will help strengthen your website’s authority in the eyes of search engines. And when people share or link back to your content, search engines see your page as more authoritative and trustworthy.
Finally, another essential post-audit SEO improvement strategy is link building. When other authoritative sites link back to yours, search engines interpret it as a signal that your website has valuable content that other websites are linking to. By implementing these strategies after an SEO audit using tools like On-Page.ai, you’ll be able to improve your website’s visibility in search engine result pages and reach a broader audience.