There are a lot of SEO audit methodologies out there. Small businesses and agencies alike need to know where to begin, how in-depth their analysis should be, and what SEO tools will provide the most useful information if they want to optimize their site for organic search.
We have outlined 10 elements of a successful SEO audit to cut through the noise. Then we’ll discuss not only how to implement them, but also how to fix any issues you find.
The following 10 steps will set your Squarespace website on the path to organic search dominance, whether you’re an experienced SEO or a small business owner.
What is an SEO audit?
In SEO audits, your site’s online assets are reviewed to ensure that it performs optimally in search results. You will find out:
- Weaknesses and successes that need to be harnessed or scaled.
- Mistakes to correct and low-hanging fruit to seize.
- What’s not working that you should stop doing.
- The things that aren’t working and need to be fixed.
It is true that SEO has so many facets that it can quickly become overwhelming. The SEO audit has been simplified into 10 core steps in this post, but if you have a large website, you might also consider breaking your SEO audits into different categories. Here are some types of SEO audits.
Types of SEO audits
It’s important to consider different types of SEO audits if you have a large website so you can prioritize accordingly or find different ways to structure your SEO audit.
SEO content audit
It refers to improving the accuracy, recency, and quality of the content on the pages where you want traffic or rank to increase. Later in this post, we’ll discuss how to update and refresh content. In this type of audit, opportunities may also be identified for optimizing the featured snippet, the people also ask section, and passage ranking.
On-page SEO audit
Essentially, this type of SEO refers to making sure a page’s back end is optimized for search engines. Meta descriptions, meta titles, image alt texts, compression, and more would be included in an on-page SEO audit.
It would involve the analysis of other pages and domains that link to the pages you wish to improve – which may include the quantity, quality, distribution, and recency of the links.
Technical SEO audit
On-page SEO efforts such as image optimization will be part of this type of SEO audit, but performance metrics such as site speed and security will be primarily addressed. The audit will identify opportunities for fixing, eliminating, or reorganizing code, preventing spam, switching from HTTP to HTTPS, and others.
Local SEO audit
Local SEO consists of methods for helping your business rank in local search results. While local SEO audits tend to be smaller, they still incorporate components from the above audits, including listings (off-page), content (locally relevant pages and posts), on-page (keyword insertion and targeting), and technical (site speed and security).
SEO audit tools
We’ll be covering some tools in this guide in order to perform the SEO audit. Some of them are:
SEO software: It’s worth the money to invest in SEO software. The site audit or crawl tools offered by Ahrefs, Moz Pro, and SEMrush allow you to crawl your website and identify not just general search health, but common inefficiencies that are hampering organic performance. They are also replete with other tools, like tools for keyword research and backlink analysis. Before performing an extensive SEO audit on your website, I would recommend obtaining at least a free trial version of one of these tools.
Google Search Console: You can use the Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools) to audit keywords, organic CTR, technical fixes, and Core Web Vitals, as well as to submit any reoptimized pages to Google for reindexing.
Google Analytics: As the purpose of an SEO audit is to improve traffic to your site, you will need Google Analytics to measure the results. It will also help you to prioritize your actions based on which pages receive the most or have experienced significant traffic drops.
Page speed tools: You can use PageSpeed Insights from Google and GTMetrix for free.
SEO audit checklist
Based on the above section on types of SEO audits, we’ve compiled a checklist for an SEO audit that encompasses technical, off-page, and on-page factors.
Step 1: Identify opportunities for link building
Building internal and external links is an important element of building a site’s authority, and no SEO audit is complete without recommendations on how to do so.
How to build internal links
Links within your own pages pass link equity, so they are vital for forming authoritative hierarchies within your site. Building internal links is a straightforward and time-honored practice: every time you create a new piece of content, search the site for related, older content. Once you find the anchor text, link it to the new content. Let’s say you’ve created a new resource about Facebook ads:
You should link from these pages (the most relevant pages on your site according to Google).
MozBar, an extension for Chrome, will give you this view. If you want a link from the highest PA page, you should link from that page. There is no official SEO metric like Page Authority and Domain Authority (DA). Google does not index pages based on these metrics. SEO software companies developed them to estimate the authority of a page or a domain. While they are not perfect, they are helpful when determining which sites or pages to link to.
When creating internal links, it is also important to consider user experience and information architecture (IA). External links aren’t the only thing that matters. From a given page, where could a visitor be referred to a useful area? Could you make your product or service more appealing to them? You should ask yourself these questions while building internal links, as we’ll discuss them more in Step 2.
How to build external links
Growing Domain Authority involves earning links from a diverse set of authoritative domains. Using resource lists that link to your content is a straightforward way to build external links. Let’s say you’re doing an SEO audit for a Massachusetts-based private school and you’re looking for external link building recommendations.
Search for unlinked mentions to build external links, which is easier and yields higher return. You will find a content explorer tool in virtually any good SEO tool that allows you to search the web for mentions of your brand.
You can reach out to content managers via Twitter, email, condor, whatever means you prefer; request links back to your homepage; and offer to share their article on social media in exchange.
Step 2: Identify improvements to the site structure
An Information Architecture, or IA, is really just a broad term that basically just means, “The way information is arranged and structured.”
How to improve site architecture
As part of an SEO audit, this involves adjusting your website’s internal linking structures to pass equity to the right pages. Here are a few tips for your website.
- Developing user-friendly solutions that improve page authority without compromising UX (User Experience) means working closely with developers and designers.
- Increasing the number of blog posts per page. This would push older posts about 20-30 clicks from your homepage (where the biggest equity is). Bring older posts closer to the homepage by increasing the number of posts per page.
- Make sure there are no overlaps. You can place it in sections such as “related posts” and “popular posts” on your blog or in the header and footer. You can maximize the use of that link space by replacing duplicate links with links to other pages you want to pass equity to.
- You should base IA-based recommendations on the project stakeholders’ goals unless you’re auditing your own website. How do they want to push users to certain pages on the site? Do they want to make it intuitive or immersive? Defining and organizing content depends on your target audience and business goals.
Step 3: Identify (and fix) thin content
Your pages won’t be respected in the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) if they are thin. Panda, a Google algorithm update from 2011 that penalized thin content sites, ensured that.
Content that is “thin” does not meet users’ needs. It would be deemed thin to explain a complex concept in a 300-word blog post. That said, you can’t put 1000 to 2000 words on every page of your site. Near your homepage, you’re going to have a lot of design work — hero images, icons, call-to-action buttons — as well as product-centric copy.
Why should you pay attention to what content is out there?
- Choose a page. Perhaps you’ve noticed that a page is performing poorly or ranking lower. You may have a deck of all the pages your client wants audited if you’re an SEO service.
- The top pages. Make sure each of your top 25, 50, 100 pages is adequately beefed up, depending on the size of your site.
Many of the site audit tools included in the above SEO software will, after crawling your site, offer a detailed report on the quality and length of your content.
If a page has little or no content, you can export it and identify what to do on a page-by-page basis.
These are the two biggest benefits of long-form content:
- Linking internally will become easier.
- There are more opportunities to add target, ancillary, and LSI keywords that will help that page get discovered (see Step 5).
Step 4: Find out duplicate content
The good news is that when scanning for duplicate content, you’ll be looking at the same subsets of your site as you did when scanning for thin content. Duplicate content gets some SEOs worked up and they are worried about potential penalties for their sites. Let me explain:
If you intend to clog the SERP with your site’s URLs, Google will be able to tell if you’re intentionally duplicating content on your site. In most cases, you aren’t. It is more likely that duplicate content is unintentional if it exists.
You may have a Content Management System (CMS) that dynamically generates new pages with similar appearances, but which have not been manually canonicalized in Search Console. The archive page of WordPress is one such example.
Yet, anything that makes Google’s spiders work harder or think harder can hurt your SEO.
Step 5: Check for keyword optimization
In the same manner as beefing up thin content, some pages on your site may not be feasible to fully optimize for target and ancillary keywords. Suppose you run a software company that helps companies schedule employees. In multiple places on your homepage, you mentioned “employee scheduling software”.
According to the keyword research, “best employee scheduling software” is the highest volume, lowest competition keyword associated with “employee scheduling software.”. In spite of the fact that you’d like to rank for that keyword, you shouldn’t advertise on your homepage that “we’re the best.”. Rather, you should create a blog post about that keyword.
Even so, make sure your pages are as optimized for keywords as possible to attract organic search traffic. Researching keywords is the first step.
How to do keyword research
Find keywords on your topic that have high intent, high volume (number of monthly search queries), and low difficulty (level of competition in the SERP for that term):
Keywords should, if possible, be located in:
- H1 (if applicable)
- H2 (subheadings in your post—at least one)
- Meta title
- Meta description
- Body copy
If possible, ancillary keywords should be added to H2s and body copy. Creating a brand-new piece of content will make it easier to optimize all these elements. It is your responsibility to update old pages as best as you can. Changing a URL just for the sake of optimizing for a new keyword wouldn’t necessarily make sense, for instance.
Step 6: Optimize your meta tags
Meta tags are made up of a meta title and a meta description. Search engines use these elements to figure out which pages to crawl and which to rank. They are two of the main factors Google uses to rank pages. As such, they work as promotions for your content by helping users determine the content of your page.
Write your meta tags based on your vertical keyword research, ensuring that they are optimized for the keywords that will help them rank in search.
When it comes to meta tags – although this is also important for general SEO copywriting – you want to avoid stuffing your content with keywords just for the sake of stuffing. “10 Good TikTok Captions, and 10 Funny TikTok Captions That Will Make You ROFL” isn’t a great title.
How to optimize meta titles
The first 50-60 characters of your title are displayed by Google. After that, the title is truncated with an ellipsis. In addition to not crawling vital keywords, this just looks bad in the search engine results.
- You’ll avoid truncating 90% of your titles if you keep them under 60 characters. Moz’s title generator is useful for creating titles.
- The target keyword should appear in your title in its entirety.
- Take advantage of your brand’s authority by including your name in the title. Using the following example: Keywords | Brand Name. This would be something like: “How to Pick the Right Running Shoes | Addidas.”
How to optimize meat descriptions
The ideal description length has fluctuated over the years, but today it is 155-160 characters. Here’s a formula to follow when it comes to content: target keyword + ancillary keywords (if natural) + descriptors/call to action = in the money. In other words, Google ranking should be earned with SEO audits.
Step 7: Identify opportunities for page updates
Google will crawl a page that has been updated even if it is a small update. The search engines will see your pages as fresh and relevant if they are regularly updated.
Content should be updated regularly on two types of websites:
- Top pages, as discussed in Step 3. Those are the pages your business is most likely to get traffic from. By updating them, you can be assured that your business will continue to see traffic from them.
- Opportuniy Pages. A potential opportunity page is one that would gain traffic if it moved up in the SERPs slightly. Ranking trackers are available in popular SEO products that allow you to see how pages rank for certain keywords, if those rankings have changed, and how much traffic they generate.
You should update pages that are just outside the top 10 regularly in order to give them a chance to move up to page one. Pages ranked just outside the top 3 should be treated similarly. There is a precipitous drop in traffic after the first three spots, and almost no traffic after the first page.
How to make page updates
Here are some key tips for updating evergreen content that you can check out on our post.
Add new research and information. A blog post about Google algorithm updates, for example, is ripe for an update once a new algorithm update is released. The best way to ensure that your organic visitors’ needs are being met is by keeping your content up-to-date so they don’t bounce back to the SERP and click another result (which can negatively impact your rankings).
Put keywords in the text. Determine which related, ancillary keywords generate traffic and include them on your page.
- Housekeeping in general. Remove broken links and compress images. Cluttered images result in slower loading times (more on this in Step 8). Broken links lead to poor user experiences (more on this in Step 9). If you fix these on-page elements, you can give your page the boost it needs to rank.
- Remove some content. In addition to changing the content of your site, you can remove content. It may seem counterintuitive, but if your site has some pages that receive little organic traffic, they can hurt your organic rankings by lowering your site’s average value to Google. You should deindex pages that have had few organic visits in the past year, and if you cannot add more value to them right away, deindex them.
Step 8: Run a page speed analysis
Google’s recent Speed Update and Page Experience Update highlight the importance of page speed. Mobile searches are a contributing factor to this. Using a phone to browse the internet is not going to be fun if the site takes too long to load. Google will reward you with strong organic rankings if your website is faster.
Your go-to tool will be PageSpeed Insights. The tool gives detailed information about page speed and offers suggestions for improvement. Both site-wide and page-by-page analysis is available.
How to speed up your site:
- Image compression is important. Compression of images can improve your page speed quickly and effectively. Re-upload each image listed in the report using a simple image compressor like this one. Performance can increase significantly based on the size of your before and after images.
- ImplementlLazy loading. This will ensure that the “first paint” of your site takes place as quickly as possible.
Step 9: Scan for site errors
There is a 404 error when a page cannot be found, generally caused by a broken link in your site. You will receive a 404 error if, for example, a page on your site links to content that has been deleted.
Broken links do not penalize sites, despite popular belief. It is natural for 404s to occur over time, as your content changes and your site’s structure changes. However, broken links in inconvenient places can damage your internal linking structure. As well as being a pain in the ass for users trying to navigate from one page to another, they can also hamper performance.
How to find and fix broken links
Site audit tools are capable of identifying all 404 errors on your site. If you identify them, fixing them is simply a matter of determining how important each link is to the user experience and linking structure. Does a page no longer exist, or does it have a new URL? You should ensure that all traffic-generating pages that used to link to the old page have now 301 redirected to the new page, or at least your home page.
Step 10: Change from HTTP to HTTPS
The use of HTTP is a no-no in today’s digital marketing landscape. In addition to being faster and more secure, HTTPS is a ranking signal for Google.
If you want to check if your site runs on HTTPS, just enter the various non-HTTPS iterations of your site domain (www.site.com; site.com; http://www.site.com) and ensure that they have all been 301 redirected to the HTTPS version.
Once you’ve found non-HTTPS URLs, search the search index for them. Using Search Console’s Index Status report, you can find out which versions of your site’s URLs have been canonicalized. Canonicalize HTTPS URLs manually if necessary.
An SEO audit isn’t a one-size-fits-all task. That’s why SEO “best practices” are so inconsistent. Google is an enigma. It almost always changes its algorithm without telling us why. There is no perfect SEO audit.
The following 10 steps are time-tested, essential elements for a successful SEO audit. You can achieve organic search supremacy if you fix the problems they reveal.