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How to Do a Perfect SEO Audit
An SEO audit is a comprehensive analysis and evaluation of all elements of a website to identify issues and opportunities to improve visibility and traffic from search engines. As Google continues updating its algorithm and website best practices evolve, regularly auditing your SEO health is crucial for staying ahead of the competition and achieving high search engine rankings.
In this ultimate guide, we will walk through step-by-step how to perform a complete on-page and off-page SEO audit. By the end, you’ll know how to analyze your website’s current search engine optimization status, identify strengths and weaknesses impacting performance, and create an improvement roadmap to address critical issues hindering your visibility. Let’s get started!
Collect Technical Site Information
The first step is gathering key technical details about your website architecture, infrastructure and setup. This allows you to understand the site foundation and provides context for properly assessing other on-page and off-page optimization factors.
Key Items to Gather
Domain and Hosting Details – Note the domain registration date, web host provider, server location, and hosting plan. Generally, older domains tend to have more authority in Google’s algorithm.
Site Platform and CMS – Identify the platform or content management system powering the site, such as WordPress, Shopify, Squarespace. Newer platforms often have better built-in SEO capabilities and faster speeds.
Website Structure – Document the page structure and architecture, including subfolders and site sections. Taking an inventory of total pages and defining the depth of subfolders helps optimize internal linking and overall site navigation for both users and search engine crawlers.
Indexing Status in Google Search Console – Check site indexing status and history in Google Search Console. Review if new pages on your site are being properly indexed. Drill down by section and folder structure. Also identify any major crawl errors that could be preventing important pages from being indexed.
Sitemaps Configuration – Review your XML sitemap setup and configuration to ensure all site pages are being accurately submitted in your sitemaps files. Proper sitemaps are vital for aiding search engine crawlers in discovering new content and determining the relevance of your site information.
Why Technical SEO Matters
Solid technical SEO is the foundation upon which great content, backlinks and other signals are built upon. Fixing issues such as crawl errors, improving site architecture through silos, and speeding up site performance are relatively “quick win” optimiziations that can often lead to noticeable improvements in organic visibility and search traffic.
Analyze On-Page Optimization
After collecting basic technical SEO data, the next phase of your audit involves comprehensively analyzing the optimization of individual site pages. On-page SEO refers to elements directly under your control and gets weighted heavily in search engine ranking algorithms.
Key On-Page Factors to Assess
Page Title Tags – Check that page titles accurately reflect the content focus, are enticing, and contain relevant keywords. They should be under 60 characters to not get cut off in search listings.
Meta Descriptions – Review if meta descriptions summarize page content effectively in 155-160 characters. Compelling descriptions improve click-through-rates.
Header Tags (H1, H2) – Evaluate proper hierarchy of headings. Header tags emphasize importance and topic focus to search engines.
Image Optimization – Confirm image file names, alt text and title text use target keyword variations naturally. Proper image SEO improves indexing.
Page Speed Scores – Fast sites outperform slow ones. Audit page speed insights grades for both mobile and desktop. Identify page bloat slowing site down.
Internal Linking – Interlinking related content signals relevance and is vital for ranking informational search queries requiring expertise.
Why Perfecting On-Page SEO Matters
While harder to directly quantify, on-page optimization has an enormous influence on search rankings. Elements like meta titles that show up in the search results help drive clicks and traffic. Optimized content, properly interlinked also helps visitors engage more once they arrive at your site. Perfecting on-page factors is necessary for outranking immediate competitors targeting your keywords.
Conduct Off-Page Analysis
Shifting gears, the next critical component of an SEO audit is evaluating your off-page factors – essentially anything not under your direct control. The most important off-page element is your backlink profile, which refers to all the external sites linking back to your website.
Key Off-Page Items to Review
Backlink Profile Toxicity – Use SEMrush or Ahrefs to check if poor quality links from low authority sites are diluting your site’s power.
Backlinks Versus Competitors – Compare your top 5 competitor’s backlink profiles versus your own in SEMrush to identify new link building opportunities targeting the same niches and webmasters.
External Brand Mentions – Analyze all brand name mentions across the web to find any missed opportunities for outreach to build links. Brand name anchors signal strong relevance.
Link Anchors and Anchor Text – Audit if link anchor text seems overly optimized with exact match keywords. Natural varying anchors like brand name + URLs seem most editorial.
Referring Domains – Documentation top domains linking to you. Prioritize ones in topically relevant industries that can be further leveraged.
Why Off-Page SEO Still Matters
In recent years, Google has aimed to decrease over-reliance on backlinks as the main ranking factor. However, editorial links from properly vetted domains still provide strong social proof signals and remain very influential for competitive informational searches. Perfecting your off-page profile is mandatory for outranking established competitors in your space.
Review Site Authoritative Signals
In addition to page level optimization factors and backlinks, search algorithms also consider other positive trust and authority signals at the root domain level when determining rankings. Think of these as the expert, popularity and trust metrics.
Key Domain Level Signals to Check
Indexing Status – Verify all critical site sections get crawled and indexed properly in Google. Desktop vs mobile differences can also impact rankings so check both.
Google Analytics – Review recent trends for overall site visibility and click performance in SERPs using position tracking software. Drops warrant further inspection.
Page and Domain Authority Metrics – Audit domain authority and page authority metrics in Moz and Ahrefs. While correlational, higher scores help estimate ability to rank.
Sitelinks in SERPs – Analyze any existing Google sitelinks for your brand name and core money pages. Sitelinks indicate strong relevancy cues to search engines.
Why Site Level Trust Factors Matter
While search engines are moving to evaluate pages more independently, overall site perception, history and user experience continues holding significant weight, especially for reputation based searches where expertise is required. Having other established sites vouch for you via links, citiations or reviews builds credibility to rank for high value informational queries.
Identify Your Site’s Strengths and Weaknesses
Once the thorough audit of all on-page and off-page elements is complete, the next step is reviewing all the data to identify patterns in elements boosting your performance versus issues hindering your rankings. Categorize finds into strengths, weaknesses and quick win fixes.
Useful Ways to Summarize Audit Findings:
Site Strength Leaderboard – List core areas where your site currently performs well relative to competitors. Consider what’s working and should be doubled down on.
Underperforming Areas Matrix – Note sections of site that are currently not ranking well and warrant additional optimization efforts.
Priority Quick Wins To-Do List – Call out any glaring low quality issues or high impact areas for improvement that should be fixed ASAP.
Why Identifying Optimization Gaps is Crucial
Auditing strengths is equally as important to identify areas working well and should continue being leveraged. Analyzing weaknesses reveals big issues hindering performance to address through your improvement roadmap. It prevents wasting resources optimizing less impactful items not hurting or moving the needle relative to competitors strengths. Understanding the delta is key.
Create an Improvement Roadmap
The last step of any effective SEO audit is outlining actionable next steps to fix current issues impacting your visibility in organic search listings. Use the weaknesses identified and to-do list quick wins as input.
Your final roadmap might include some of these common areas of focus:
Site Migration – Transferring to modern CMS platforms like WordPress or Shopify for better built-in SEO.
URL and Architecture Fixes – Improving site information architecture through merging, deleting or restructuring specific sections.
New Content Sections – Adding missing informational pages or blog verticals to target valuable search terms competitors currently dominate.
Link Building – Proactive outreach to earn backlinks from similar sites linking to competitors but not you yet.
Why An Action Plan Matters
Documenting tangible next step recommendations is the only way insights uncovered from audit translate into measurable traffic and revenue gains. Having clear owners and timelines also fosters accountability. And regular future audits ensure continued search visibility despite Google algorithm shifts.
So in summary, from gathering initial technical site data to assessing page and off-page factors to identifying gaps limiting performance – a properly executed SEO audit leaves no stone left unturned. It offers immense clarity on current visibility and a solid fact-based improvement roadmap to expand your site’s organic search presence.
Now you’re fully equipped with everything needed to conduct your own perfect start-to-finish SEO site audit or enlist the help of an expert. Just remember great SEO is an always ongoing process, not a one time event. Dedicate resources to continually analyzing opportunities and obstacles to dominate the search rankings in your niche.
Leverage SEO Audit Tools
While it’s possible to conduct an SEO audit manually, using professional-grade tools streamlines the process and provides helpful data visualizations to simplify reporting. Here are some top SEO tools to consider leveraging:
- One of the best user-friendly crawlers to analyze on-page elements like meta titles, descriptions, header tags and more on a large scale across all site pages.
- Robust backlink analysis and tracking including new lost and gained backlinks, anchor text ratios, referring domains and actionable link building opportunities.
- Competitive keyword research paired with useful domain versus domain auditing comparing your site performance to competitors across important SEO metrics.
Google Analytics + Search Console
- Free data directly from Google on queries driving traffic, top landing pages, geo distribution, site speed metrics and more.
- Domain authority and page authority scoring plus spam score metrics providing signals to assess overall site health perception.
- Automated audits for page speed, accessibility, best practices and more. Shows exact items to fix boosting page experience vital for ranking.
Google Rich Results Test
- Allows testing of proper structuring and rendering of FAQ schema, review schema and other important rich result markups.
Google Mobile Friendly Test
- Quick check if Google considers your pages mobile friendly. Ensures content is legible and functional on mobile devices.
Why Leveraging Tools Accelerates SEO Audits
Conducting manual SEO audits with simple glanced over spot checks severely limits detail and accuracy. By combining scanning crawlers, metrics dashboards and competitive analysis – SEO tools provide unmatched perspective.
Proper ongoing use also builds historical data allowing precise tracking of changes over months and years to benchmark and celebrate progress. If SEO maturity is the goal, equipped with empowering tools is the only viable path.
Optimize Content for Featured Snippets
Featured snippets are special search results that showcase a preview of the content from a web page at the top of Google search results. They allow users to quickly find the information they are looking for without needing to click on the link.
Optimizing your content to try triggering featured snippets can significantly increase your click-through-rate and traffic. Here are some tips:
Identify Featured Snippet Opportunities
- Research relevant queries where no featured snippet currently shows up. Tools like SEMrush can help identify.
Structure Content for Direct Answers
- Featured snippets favor content with concise upfront answers to precise questions in the first paragraphs.
Use List and How-to Formats
- List-style posts starting with the exact question as an H2 heading catch Google’s attention, especially “X ways to Y” e.g. “5 ways to attract more website traffic”.
Include Table Summaries
- Adding tables that summarize key details can help search bots pull excerpts to showcase as featured snippets.
Monitor and Test in Real Time
- Google algorithms decide featured snippets dynamically so keep checking SERPs and tweak content in real-time accordingly.
Why Optimizing for Featured Snippets Matters
Ranking content in the prime featured snippets position is essentially like dominating the #1 organic result but with an additional built-in CTR boost from the preview content. For competitive queries, earning the featured snippet can have an immense impact on visibility and click-through-rates.
Continually monitoring opportunities and crafting strategically structured content remains one of the best ways to keep gaining an edge over competitors. Combining this with proper tracking ensures you fully capitalize by locking in and retaining real estate in these coveted featured snippet callouts primed for more attention.
Measure Featured Snippet Optimization Success
After optimizing existing content and crafting new content tailored for featured snippets, the next crucial step is setting up tracking to monitor your progress over time. Here are some key metrics to measure:
Useful Tracking Metrics
Featured Snippet Impressions – Number of times your featured snippet appears in results over time.
Featured Snippet Clicks – Track clicks specifically on your featured snippet content to quantify additional traffic driven.
Average Position – Monitor what position your featured snippet content ranks in. Fluctuations likely.
Competitor Gains – Keep eye on competitors launching aggressive optimization efforts to steal the snippet. Know when to counteract.
Why Monitoring Matters
Earning that coveted featured snippet for key queries likely took immense strategic optimization effort across many pages. The work doesn’t stop there! You must continually track your snippet performance given Google’s machine learning algorithms actively test content in real-time.
Dips in position or impressions warrant reviewing recent content changes and doubling down on optimization. Featured snippets easily change so perseverance in monitoring is required to enjoy sustained visibility gains long term.
Optimize for Voice Search Queries
Voice search usage continues rising rapidly thanks to smart devices like Alexa and Google Home. Voice results favor short, concise answers readable aloud to users.
Tips for Optimizing Content
- Identify relevant question-style queries commonly asked via voice
- Focus on answering “how to” style queries
- Use natural language and conversational tone
- Add more paragraph breaks and whitespace
Certain content types like recipes, local business info, sports scores, weather and news updates lend themselves well to voice search optimization.
Improve Site Architecture
Sometimes excessive nested site architecture or ineffective silo structures inhibit pages from ranking to their fullest potential.
Areas to Evaluate
- Excessively deep page nesting and folder structures
- Misaligned site silos that blend unrelated content
- Identify missing content gaps that users likely search for
Take time fully mapping out site structure and flow. Flatter, properly aligned information architecture removes friction.
Fix Technical SEO Issues
Deceptively simple but high impact technical issues can significantly hurt site performance.
Common Problems Areas
- Duplicate page titles and meta descriptions
- Pages blocked entirely from search indexes via robots.txt
- DNS errors or server outages interrupting crawling
- Pages loading too slowly hurting user experience
Confirm all pages render and function properly across all devices. What good is expert content if search engines can’t reach it?
Cultivate Brand Signals
Elevating your brand perception and authority goes hand in hand with search dominance.
Authority Building Areas
- Earn high quality editorial backlinks through creative outreach
- Pursue relevant guest posting contributions citing your content
- Interlink brand assets like social media from top performing pages
- Enable and promote positive genuine reviews
The more signals of expertise and trust, the higher confidence search engines have showcasing your content for valuable informational queries.
Prioritize Mobile Experience
With majority of all searches now happening on phones, delivering excellent mobile UX is mandatory.
Key Mobile Factors
- Fast loading compressed image assets
- Tap friendly navigation and sizing
- Minimize intrusive popups and interstitials
- HTML structured data for featured snippets
Google actively demotes sites frustrating mobile users. Perfect scores should be the goal.
Bolster Site Security
Site security plays an increasingly vital role in search rankings and user trust signals. Hackers exploiting vulnerabilities or spreading malware can devastate site reputation.
Areas to Audit
- Update any outdated CMS platforms or plugins
- Enable HTTPs encryption across all site pages
- Review permissions of admins and contributors
- Validate proper password policies are enforced
- Check for unprotected database ports
- Implement reCAPTCHA for forms
Also consider tools like Cloudflare that offer DDoS attack protection, content delivery networks for site speed, and other security layers.
Set Up Conversion Tracking
While driving more organic traffic through SEO gains remains crucial, maximizing conversion rates of visitors once they arrive is also key.
Useful Tracking Setup:
- Install Google analytics and link Search Console
- Add conversion pixels like Facebook pixel
- Track form submissions for demos and trials
- Monitor time on site as indication of engagement
- Record outbound link clicks as micro-conversions
Properly instrumenting your site for advanced tracking allows much deeper visibility into customer behavior, pinpointing exactly what content and pages resonate best with converting users.
Develop Expert Content
At its core, SEO is about satisfying user intent with comprehensive, jaw-droppingly thorough expert answers. Guide and teach readers by addressing the questions you wished existed when learning about this topic. Explain concepts clearly, adding data studies and research.
Hallmarks of Expert Content
- Clearly defined terms and concepts
- Tactile steps and examples
- Data, quotes and multimedia
- Transparent addressed limitations
- Links to reputable sources
Produce content so all-encompassing on a topic that others can’t help but reference it. That earns links.
An SEO audit is a comprehensive health check of a website's technical infrastructure, on-page optimization factors, off-page signals, and authority metrics to evaluate overall search engine visibility and uncover issues impacting performance. Regular SEO audits help stay ahead of Google algorithm updates.
Frequent SEO audits help uncover problems early before they significantly damage organic rankings so you can quickly resolve issues. They also identify new website optimization opportunities and areas competitors may be focusing on so you can counteract.
Some frequent problems audits uncover include technical problems preventing crawling, thin content not useful for visitors, ineffective keyword targeting, issues with site speed, broken internal links, unnatural link profiles harming credibility and violations of Google guidelines.
On-page factors audited include keywords in titles/urls/content, meta data, media optimization, site architecture, internal linking, duplicate content checks, readability and content formatting like headings.
Off-page auditing focuses heavily on backlink analysis including toxicity, anchor text mixes, velocity changes, domains linking, competitors comparison, brand mentions monitoring and review sites.
Technical audits examine site indexability, crawl errors, structured data implementation, sitemap configuration, loading speeds, site security vulnerabilities, domain authority and more.
Tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush and Screaming Frog analyze huge amounts of competitive data and identify optimization suggestions site owners manually could never uncover on their own.
Ideally SEO audits should be done quarterly. However monthly spot checks on a smaller subset of important pages and rankings ensures you catch algorithm updates early.
DIY audits are possible but very time intensive without the 40+ data sources, benchmarks and competitor insights the advanced platforms provide. Expert auditors also know how to prioritize.
Content audits analyze pages and posts for reader quality, engagement, keyword usage, readability stats, authority building elements like external links, page analytics and editor vs. user preference mismatches.
Analytics audits optimize tracking code implementation, ensure accurate data collection across devices, simplify complex custom report structures, spotlight reporting gaps and identify actionable insights not being monitored.
Some key technical areas include site crawability, indexation status, duplicate content, structured data implementation, valid HTML markup, broken links, page speed scores, mobile optimization, security and more.
Link audits analyze the backlink profile examining referral quality and relevancy of domains pointing to a site, identifying problematic links harming credibility while surface new link building opportunity sources.
Page speed significantly influences rankings, bounce rates, conversions and user experience so audits analyze real visitor data on site performance identifying actionable slowdowns affecting site visitor sessions.
Content gap analysis compares sites landing page structures and compares important pages getting traffic to discover missing content competitors rank well for, revealing prime targets for new pages.
Site structure audits evaluate information architecture - how users navigate a site by analyzing internal link structures, content silo alignments and folder nesting depths to improve crawl efficiency.
Link tracking tools reveal new links competitors earn over time so you can pinpoint what outreach and content strategies are working for influencing webmasters in your space.
Google penalty audits analyze suspected manual action notifications or antidepressant algorithmic filters harming visibility in search results and provide precise resolution guidance to petition Google for reinclusion.
After site migrations audit redirects implementation, check for drops in indexed pages, analyze page by page rankings shifts, confirm structured data still works and double check tracking code.
Optimizing for user experience signals to Google the content quality merits visibility. UX audits analyze this holistically - from site speed to navigation ease to reading clarity aimed at boosting attention metrics on content.
Rank tracking software like SEMRush, Ahrefs and Sistrix allows granular monitoring of keyword rankings overtime - tracking competitor volatility while alerting changes warranting research whether winners amplified efforts.
Core Web Vitals measure real user site loading experiences analyzing Largest Contentful Paint thresholds, First Input Delay lag and Cumulative Layout Shifts for how visually stable pages load on mobile and desktop.
SEO-friendly site architecture employs a streamlined information hierarchy with flatter navigation depths, logically siloed content sections avoiding unrelated page mixing all aimed at improving internal linking relevance for search bots.
Solid audit reports summarize key findings of wins and issues across technical, on-page and off-page areas providing actionable recommendations with owners and timeframes in a shareable presentation format for stakeholder buy-in.
Disavowing spammy links as part of site cleanups should be used cautiously only once you understand the full scope as blanket denying all past influences may unexpectedly negatively alter rankings built on now removed factors.
Multiple speed metrics like page load time, time-to-first byte, first input delay and visual stability assess site speed but Core Web Vitals gauges actual user experienced deemed most authoritative by Google.
Voice search queries favor natural conversation, short answers, bullet points and clear audio reads. Enable structured data for key attributes voice assistants leverage serving answers directly avoiding clicks.
Enforce multifactor authentication for all accounts, update software dependencies frequently, enable IP allowlisting or login throttling to deter brute force attacks, be vigilant responding to identified vulnerabilities.
Don't see user experience and keyword optimization as mutually exclusive. In fact, they heavily influence each other. Creating content for user intents first while seamlessly blending in semantic keywords and synonyms is ideal for high engagement and conversions.
Revisit image file compression, quality reduction, alt text rewrites and video transcripts quarterly. As you better understand conversion rates on different media types through analytics, double down on what resonates while removing unused assets weighing pages down.
Comparative analysis examines the search visibility differences between a site and its competitors. This includes comparing keyword rankings, site authority metrics, link profiles, content themes and technical health to gauge missed optimization opportunities to pursue further.
Showcase the additional organic traffic driven year-over-year. Report on higher straight to site conversion rates than paid channels. Demonstrate rising rankings across priority keywords while highlighting lack of recurring fees associated with owned media not reliant on marketing budgets like SEO-fueled content.
Ideally develop a smart blend of page types. Short form content like glossaries, stats widgets and location listings capture quick information needs while your core pillar content, guides and reports detail comprehensive answers. Support each format type accordingly with internal linking.
Clustering refers to consolidating pages and domains targeting similar keywords and user intents into siloed sections. This increases the overall category topical relevance while reducing duplicate diluted messages spread across unrelated sections - both wins for search bots.
Start with basics like forced security prone password resets, then implement two-factor authentication for key accounts along with automated non-blacklisting network blocks of repeat malicious login attempts. Maintain hardware firewalls and port restrictions too.