The Ultimate SEO Audit Guide

The Ultimate SEO Audit Guide

Are your blog posts or landing pages doing as well in organic search as you thought they would? Maybe your page ranking isn’t the greatest, and you’re not sure why. If so, an SEO audit can help clean up your broken links and help the search engines find you better.
But first, you have to understand what an SEO audit is, know about a few SEO audit tools and how exactly to perform an SEO audit of your site. This is where our definitive guide comes in, and we’ll give you all of the tools you need to get a steady flow of organic traffic and boost your page ranking below.

Defining an SEO Audit

An SEO Audit is an in-depth analysis of your website. It incorporates several factors that are important to search engines relating to organic search. You’ll cover the technical infrastructure of your website along with off-page and on-page elements to help find any opportunities, issues and recommended steps to take to fix them.

There are several tools you can use to perform your own SEO analysis with our guide, or you can hire a professional company to do it for you. If you choose to hire a company, the company will do a manual review of your website. They’ll come up with a list of recommendations of things you need to fix on the pages on your site to make them more search engine friendly.

Why You Should Perform Routine SEO Audits

The search engines (especially Google) change their ranking factors periodically. This means that what was essential for SEO and page ranking a month ago may not be relevant now. The most relevant updates from Google that have had the biggest impact on page ranking to date include:

  • EMD Update – Launched in 2012, this update was a filter that took poorly done websites and dropped their search ranking. It targeted websites that had search terms in their domain names.
  • Fred – In March 2017, Google unrolled the Fred search algorithm update. This update penalised websites that had an overabundance of ads, low-value web content and sites that offered very few benefits to visitors.
  • Hummingbird – This update forced webmasters to use more natural language in their content. It rolled out in 2013, and it required people to reformat their meta tags, HTML tags, URL address, page formatting, link building and adding high-quality content without keyword stuffing.
  • Intrusive Interstitials Update – Developed for mobile and coming out in early 2017, this update penalised websites that had a popup cover the entire mobile users’ screen when they clicked to enter the site.
  • Mobilegeddon– In April 2015, Google unleashed this update that required pages to be more mobile-friendly. If they didn’t load quickly enough or had bad formatting, Google would drop the page in the search engine rankings.
  • Page Layout Algorithm – This update to Google’s algorithm came out in 2012, and it targeted pages that features too many static ads.
  • Panda – 2011 brought about the Panda update. Panda sought to take websites that were thin on content or sites that had low-quality content and drop them down the search rankings. At the same time, content-rich sites rose in the search engine rankings.
  • Payday – In an effort to fight bad SEO tactics, Google introduced the Payday update in 2013. Websites that had overused search terms like “casinos,” “payday loans” or phonographic terms to drive traffic dropped in the search engine rankings.
  • Penguin – Google released the Penguin update in 2012, and this update filtered out websites that manipulated the amount of links going back to the site, or link schemes.
  • Pigeon – In 2014, Google’s Pigeon update took aim at local search. The goal was to improve local search results, and this included local maps. The more filled in your Google Business page was, the better you ranked.

If you didn’t perform routine SEO audits before these updates came out, Google could easily penalise your webpage. When Google penalises a webpage for not complying with its guidelines and updates, your site can drop down the search engine rankings. So, if you were originally on page one, it could drop you back to page two or three. In turn, this could drastically alter your organic traffic and make your sales go into a free fall.

By performing routine SEO analyses, you’ll be able to keep your webpage well within Google’s set rules and regulations. You may even see your website getting a boost after Google releases their updates and changes.

SEO Audit Checklist

Now that you know how important an SEO analysis is and why you should do them at least twice a year, we’ll give you a comprehensive checklist. This will help you understand everything that goes into an SEO audit.

Step One – Check Your Site for Google Penalties

Before you do anything else, you want to see if Google penalised your website. There are two ways you can do this. The first way involves logging into your Google search console and choosing the “Manual Actions” from the menu on the left. If Google put a manual penalty on your site, they’ll list it here.

Google Search console being used to check for manual penalties as part of an SEO audit

The second option you have is to compare the dates Google released their newest updates to your organic traffic numbers. A sudden increase or decrease in your organic traffic is a clear indication that something happened after the update.

To get there, you log into Google Analytics, click “Acquisition/All Traffic“, and click “Source/Medium” from the menu on the left. Then, click on “Google/Organic” from the right panel and pick the dates you want to cover. Now you can compare the dates and look for any increases or decreases.

Google Analytics being used to check for traffic increases or decreases as part of an SEO audit

Step Two – Search Appearance

The second thing you want to do for your audit is to search for your brand using Google and look at the results. This is how “pearldm” looks when we input it into Google:

Google Search checking Pearl DM's search presence as part of an SEO audit

You want to check:

  • Is your homepage first in the results?
  • Do you see site links?
  • Is your description below your page accurate?
  • Are the rest of the pages directly under your homepage listing accurate?

If you see a problem, you can start by optimising your on-site SEO. You may also want to review the SEO on your homepage. This should help, and you can perform another search to see the results.

Step Three – Perform a Technical SEO Audit

Performing a technical SEO audit comes next, and you have to do this to make sure that all of the search engines can index and access your pages without any problems.

Register Your Site with Google Search Console

If you haven’t registered your site here yet, you should do so before moving forward. Google Search Console is a completely free tool that gives you information about your site. Everything Google has about your site is available here through reports and various tools. You can find:

  • Which keywords are ranking with Google
  • Keywords that generate traffic through Google
  • How many pages Google indexed vs how many get submitted
  • Indexing or security issues
  • Mobile issues and more

Did you optimise your robots.txt file?

Every website has robots.txt files, and you can use these to decide which pages the search engine crawlers can access. If you have mistakes here, it can cause severe problems with indexing.

Are your URLs SEO-friendly?

You should review your URL structure and make sure that it’s SEO-friendly. Each page on your website should have a URL that has unique formatting. An example would be:

  • Non-Optimisedhttp://www.sampleproject.com/15/badlyformattedurl/9864821
  • Optimisedhttp://www.sampleproject.com/optimised-url

Optimised URLs have keywords that have relevance to your website. They also include hyphens to separate any keywords, they have less than 255 characters and each page has a unique URL.

Did you activate your Breadcrumb menu?

A breadcrumb menu is usually located at the top of your page, and it features menu links that help your visitors get back to the home page. Google recommends having this type of menu because it makes navigating your site easier. If you have one, double-check your configuration.

Screenshot of Pearl Digital Marketing's website menu showing breadcrumb menu as part of an SEO audit

Did you enable structured data?

Structured data helps Google understand the meaning and context of your webpage content. This gives you additional ranking opportunities. Google also uses structured data to enhance your website’s presentation for voice searches and in the search results. You want to enable structured data for the following pages:

  • Breadcrumb menus
  • Homepage (company, website and logo)
  • Products
  • Articles

Did you set your website to HTTPS?

Having your website set to HTTPS is a ranking tool that is very well-known. Having this setting means that you installed a security certificate, and Google gives priority to these websites over non-secure websites.

How fast is your website?

According to Google, having as much as a one-second load delay can negatively impact your mobile conversions by as much as 20%. Ideally, your goal is to have your website load faster than your competition’s website. There are several Google tools you can use to accomplish this, and they include:

  • Use squoosh or optimizilla to compress all of the images on your website without losing the quality.
  • Update any website software to the most recent versions
  • Remove any JavaScript that isn’t necessary from your pages
  • Use browser caching to minimise your HTTP calls

Have you made your website mobile-friendly?

Mobile use is on the rise, and your website has to be mobile-friendly to keep up with demand. Google introduced its Mobile-First Index, and any website that doesn’t have mobile optimisation gets excluded from the search results from mobile devices. You want to put your website’s URL into the Google Mobile-Friendly Test Tool and see if it identifies any issues for your first step. If it does, you know what to fix.

Did you optimise your website’s structure?

You want to ensure that your website has a clear content structure in place. This means that you correctly group your content into the relevant categories and pages. You’ll need to have a contact page, disclaimer, about page and a privacy policy somewhere too. Finally, you want to link any important pages from the website. If you choose to backlink, make sure it makes sense.

Do you have more than one language setting for your website?

If you choose to have your website available in more than one language, it’s necessary to have the correct SEO settings embedded into your site’s HTML code. If you don’t, Google may penalise you for duplicate content. You can use this guide to ensure yours is accurate.

Step Four – On-Page SEO Analysis

Once you get through your technical SEO audit, you can shift your focus to your website content. The main goal of this type of audit is to help the search engines understand your content’s meaning.

Check Your Page Descriptions and Titles

Ideally, you want each page to have a unique title and description. Your users should be able to tell at a glance what each page is all about and what the page offers them.

Check Your Text Formatting and Headings

You don’t want to have simple plain text on all of your pages. You should format your text using H1 for the main title of each page, H2 for the main headings of your page or content, lists to break up walls of text, and italics and bold for important information.

Check Your SEO Content

Your website has to have completely unique content. It’s a good idea to run all of your pages through Copyscape to check the uniqueness. You want to remove any duplicate content you find. Google Analytics will help you find your website’s most popular pages. These are the pages you want to make sure only have high-quality content. It should be free of grammar and spelling errors and have good formatting.

Content length is another thing to check. Google favours longer-form content that is current and up-to-date. It’s a good idea to create a publishing plan that reminds you to update your website’s content regularly.

Check SEO in Your Images

Images can make your webpage easier for your visitors to read, and they also add immense value for social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest. They shouldn’t make your page load slowly though. When it comes to your images, you want to check:

  • All image filenames should be short and descriptive. You can add a few keywords in here as well.
  • Define your ALT-text for every image
  • Compress your images to minimise their size

Check the Structure of Your Internal Links

Linking your different webpages together benefits both visitors and search engines. You want to link your related content together while paying attention to the following:

  • Any page you want to rank higher have more internal links
  • You link the pages you want to rank higher from your homepage
  • Use both keywords for anchor text on your internal links and non-keyword anchor text
  • Each page has between 2 and 10 internal links

Check to Make Sure You Don’t Have Broken Links

Broken links can bring your website down in search rankings, but you can check for them in your website using your Google Search Console. You can use the “Crawl Errors” report to help you locate any broken links.
Checking Google Search Console crawl errors report as part of an SEO audit

Check Your Website’s User-Friendliness

It can be hard to tell what is user-friendly and what isn’t with your website, but a few things you can double-check include:

  • What happens when one of your visitors types in the wrong URL?
  • Do you have a main menu that is clearly defined?
  • Can visitors find what they come to your site for in three clicks or less?
  • Do you have a visitor sitemap?
  • Can you tell the difference between ads and site content?
  • Do you have a consistent interface from page to page?

Step 5 – Off-Page SEO Analysis

Off-page SEO audits usually involve things like link building that you can use to promote your website and attract visitors. Google considers SEO backlinks like a vote of confidence, and they rank websites that have high-quality backlinks higher.

Look at Your Incoming Links and Remove Toxic Links

You can use Google Search Console to find out information about your website’s incoming links. The Google Search Console will give you a “Links to Your Site” report. You want to answer the following when you look at your links:

  • How many unique domains link to your site?
  • Of the domains linking to you, how many are trusted?
  • Which webpages have the most links coming in?
  • How many links do your internal pages and home page have?
  • What is each link’s “toxic” score?
  • How many links are keyword based?

Depending on the answers you get for these questions, corrective actions may be in order. If you only have a few domains linking to your website, you might have to check for sites where you can do a guest blog post.

If you don’t have a lot of links coming from trusted sites, you may want to reach out to trusted sites and leaders in your niche and let them know about your site. Offer to make a guest post or review one of their products.

It’s also important that you have links pointing to both your homepage and your internal pages. It’s relatively easy to build links to your internal pages. Just make sure each page has a few, and don’t overdo your homepage ones.

Contact Pearl Digital Marketing for SEO Audits Today!

If you take all of these recommendations and use them on your website, you should see a boost in your page ranking. However, if this is overwhelming, our experts are here to help. We’ll perform a comprehensive SEO analysis of your site. You can contact us today to find out more information!