What is an SEO Audit? Find New Website Optimization Opportunities
If you’ve put time into building a great new website, you likely expect it to attract visitors. However, many site owners find themselves disheartened when their polished pages fail to gain traffic and visibility online.
This common dilemma often comes down to one factor – search engine optimization (SEO). Even the best content and design can struggle if the underlying SEO is not optimized.
Conducting an SEO audit can help diagnose why a website isn’t reaching its potential. An audit analyzes all the key elements that influence search engine rankings, from site speed to keyword targeting to backlinks.
By identifying issues hurting your performance and opportunities for improvement, you can create an action plan to boost visibility. Regular audits help continuously improve website SEO over time.
In this guide, we will walk through:
• What an SEO audit is
• Why auditing your site’s optimization is important
• Step-by-step how to perform an effective SEO audit
With the right audit process and tools, you can uncover ways to help search engines better understand, crawl, and rank your pages. The insights allow you to control your site’s organic search presence and gain the visitors you desire.
Let’s get started exploring what goes into an SEO audit, and how it can help take your website from unseen to unstoppable.
An SEO audit is a comprehensive analysis and review of all the factors that affect a website’s search engine optimization and performance in organic search results. It helps identify issues and opportunities to improve SEO and enhance website visibility and traffic from search engines like Google. The goal is to diagnose issues hindering performance and identify optimization opportunities.
Conducting regular SEO audits is crucial for continually improving your website’s SEO and staying ahead of Google algorithm updates and changes in search engine behaviors.
SEO stands for search engine optimization. It involves strategically optimizing websites to increase organic traffic from search engines like Google. An audit evaluates the current SEO health of a site.
On-page elements like title tags, URLs, and content are analyzed during audits. Technical factors like site speed and mobile optimization are inspected. Off-page components including backlinks, citations, and reviews are also assessed.
Together, these provide a comprehensive view of issues and strengths. The audit process utilizes tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, Moz, Google Search Console and Google Analytics. They surface insights efficiently.
Once the audit is complete, the next step is interpreting the results. Strengths, weaknesses, and competitive gaps are determined. An action plan is created to tackle high-priority issues and new optimization tactics.
The audit findings are compiled into a report to share with stakeholders. This summarizes the health of current SEO, problems found, and recommendations. It serves as a benchmark and roadmap for improvements.
SEO auditing is not a one-time activity. To stay competitive, it should be done regularly to catch algorithm updates, new issues, and fresh opportunities. Many websites audit quarterly or monthly.
In summary, auditing SEO proactively is crucial for driving organic traffic and visibility. It provides the data and insights needed to maximize search performance. The process reveals where to focus optimization efforts for the biggest impact.
Consistent audits allow sites to continuously enhance SEO by fixing issues as they emerge and capitalizing on new strategies. For any website relying on search engines, audits are essential for staying ahead.
Here are some of the key reasons why regularly auditing your website’s SEO is important:
• Identify problems and issues hurting your SEO – An audit reveals any technical SEO issues, content gaps, optimizations needed, etc. that may be limiting performance. Finding these allows you to fix them.
• Discover new SEO opportunities – An audit also uncovers areas and tactics you haven’t yet optimized for improved rankings and traffic. Implementing these tactics to boost your website reputation.
• Adopt best practices – An audit checks for consistency and proper implementation of important SEO best practices and fixes any issues. This optimization strengthens your foundation.
• Prioritize key issues – With a thorough audit and report, you can better prioritize which SEO problems to tackle first for the biggest impact.
• Evaluate ongoing performance – Audits let you measure how your website’s SEO health improves over time when conducted regularly. You can track progress.
• Prepare for updates – Getting ahead of Google algorithm updates that can tank rankings requires knowing any website vulnerabilities before they strike. Audits reveal these.
• Beat the competition – Since competitors fall behind as Google updates roll out, doing regular audits keeps your site optimized to outperform them in rankings.
• Increase ROI – With higher organic traffic and conversions from better SEO, you maximize the return on investment from optimization efforts. Audits facilitate this.
In summary, auditing SEO proactively improves your website’s visibility and traffic while revealing any issues that may be slowing your growth. It’s one of the most important SEO activities to perform regularly.
A complete SEO audit covers both on-page and off-page factors that impact search optimization and rankings. This includes:
• URL/Domain Analysis – Examines domain and URL structure, performance, and optimization opportunities. Check for issues that could hurt SEO.
• Content Analysis – Reviews page content for SEO best practices including readability, formatting, metadata, keywords, headings, media, etc.
• Site Architecture – Evaluates the website information architecture, internal linking structure, and how site content is organized.
• Page Speed – Checks page load times and size optimization to meet Google page experience ranking factors.
• Mobile Optimization – Assesses responsiveness and mobile friendliness using Google tools and checking for a separate mobile site if needed.
• Technical SEO – Audits page markup, indexability, proper redirects, XML sitemaps, robots.txt, and other technical elements.
• Backlink Analysis – Using tools, check the quality and quantity of backlinks from other sites pointing to your site.
• Referring Domains – Reviews number and authority of unique domains driving traffic to the site through links for diversity.
• Link Building Opportunities – Identifies prospects to reach out to for high-quality backlink acquisition to improve rankings.
• Link Penalties – Check for manual or algorithmic penalties against site like Google penalty, over-optimization, etc.
• Local SEO – For local sites, audit citation listings, Google My Business, reviews and other local ranking factors.
• Reputation Monitoring – Searches for brand mentions and reviews needing attention or outreach for marketing.
• Competitor Analysis – Benchmarks your website against competitors’ performance to identify areas to surpass them.
This covers all the technical website elements, content, and off-page factors that influence search engine results page (SERP) rankings. Auditing them thoroughly reveals where your SEO stands and any issues needing fixing or improvements to make.
Follow this step-by-step process to audit your website’s SEO effectively:
First, clearly define the goals and scope for the audit. Typical goals include:
• Identifying high-priority technical issues or problems hurting performance
• Benchmarking progress since the last audit
• Checking for impacts from recent Google algorithm updates
• Finding new on-page and off-page optimization opportunities
• Comparing performance against competitors
• Prioritizing quick wins versus larger initiatives
• Evaluating the effectiveness of recent SEO changes
Determining the goals upfront provides focus for the audit and helps shape the parameters and data gathering needed. Also decide on scope like which parts of the site, pages, countries/regions, languages, devices, etc. to include. Outline the specifics in an audit preparation document.
Next, leverage SEO platforms like Ahrefs, SEMrush, Screaming Frog and Google Analytics to gather all relevant technical, performance, and competitive data. Important information to collect includes:
• Organic traffic trends are broken down by source, page, country, device, landing pages, etc.
• Rankings for target keywords from tools and Google Search Console
• Page speed metrics like Time to First Byte, Time to Interactive, PageSpeed Insights scores
• Technical site crawl findings like 4xx/5xx errors, broken links, structured data issues
• Mobile friendliness and responsiveness data
• Indexability issues surfaced in Search Console like pages blocked by robots.txt
• Backlink growth, quality and tracking for toxic links
• Referring to domains and authority trends
• Competitor benchmarking for rankings, traffic, backlinks and optimization gaps
The data-gathering stage involves combining analytics insights, audit tool outputs, and manual tracking into a single repository for analysis. Expansive data enables identifying core issues.
The most critical step is comprehensively analyzing the assembled technical and performance data to identify high-impact issues limiting results as well as new SEO opportunities.
• Look at page elements needing optimization like title tags, headers, content, media etc.
• Flag technical problems like site speed and core Web Vitals
• Note any pages with crawling, indexing, or traffic acquisition issues
• Check which target keywords are not ranking well and why
• Find technical errors like broken links, unsecured pages, structured data issues
• Benchmark against competitors and industry standards
• Categorize findings by priority level – P0, P1, P2 etc.
Thoroughly diagnose the gaps between current and desired performance levels based on the data. This highlights where fixes or optimizations are needed most.
Next, document all audit findings, recommended fixes, and new tactics or opportunities to pursue in a formal report. Include:
• Goals, methodology, scope and parameters
• Current performance metrics versus historical
• All high-priority issues found and proposed solutions
• Page-specific technical concerns and recommendations
• New on-page and off-page SEO opportunities and areas for improvement
• Additional recommendations and next steps by priority
• Charts and visualizations of key data and trends
• Estimated impact and effort level for fixes
This detailed report allows sharing of audit results across teams and tracking progress over time. Maintain past reports in a digital archive to compare.
With signoff on the audit findings, create remediation plans for technical fixes and new SEO strategies. Outline:
• Owners and teams responsible for each initiative
• Priority level – P0, P1, P2
• Milestones and target completion dates
• Required resources and estimated costs
• Progress tracking mechanisms
Then systematically execute audit recommendations based on priority:
• Fix critical technical issues first
• Optimize pages and content
• Pursue new strategies like link building
• Continue monitoring results and incremental progress
Turning audit insights into executable action plans is key to driving SEO results. Repeat audits regularly to continue improvements.
Conducting a manual audit of all website elements is unrealistic for most sites. SEO tools automate analyzing huge amounts of data to uncover issues and opportunities.
Here are some top SEO tools with key features:
• Comprehensive site audit checklist covering all major on-page and off-page elements
• Deep crawls to analyze technical SEO issues and identify fixes
• Detailed backlink analysis including new link building options
• Rank tracking for target keywords and identification of content gaps
• Metric comparisons for rankings, traffic, links vs competitors
• Visual reports and dashboards for tracking audit progress
Ahrefs provides a robust SEO toolkit for technical and content audits. It surfaces issues and insights to optimize for improved organic performance.
• Dashboard summarizing overall website health status and metrics
• Technical checks including site speed, security, markup, etc.
• Rank tracking and content optimization tools for targeting keywords
• Backlink audit shows risky links needing cleanup
• Competitor benchmarking on rankings, keywords, traffic sources
• Automated alerts for ranking changes, new backlinks, and mentions
SEMrush combines audit capabilities with monitoring and competitive intelligence. Its customizable dashboards and reports provide visibility into website performance.
• Page-by-page optimization suggestions based on manual audits
• Domain authority and page authority metrics for benchmarking
• Link metrics like equity and link health for risk analysis
• Technical site crawl identifying critical errors to fix
• Rank tracking for owned keywords with weekly updates
• Workflow automation for executing audit tasks and tracking progress
Moz offers a mix of automated and manual tools for auditing all aspects of on and off-page SEO. It also provides metrics for measuring performance gains from optimizations.
• Crawling identifies high-severity SEO issues to immediately fix
• Page speed and technical optimization checks and recommendations
• Competitor site audits reveal optimization gaps
• Custom site audit configuration by URL, issue type, filter etc.
• Ongoing site monitoring and alerts for new problems
DeepCrawl provides in-depth crawling and intelligent auditing optimized for large, complex sites. Its customizations allow targeting specific audit needs.
• Quickly crawls sites up to 2 million URLs to surface technical issues
• Spider textual content like page titles, metadata, alt text for optimization
• Analyzes page speed and sitemap.xml for indexation factors
• Log file analysis mode for pre-launch auditing
• Granular filtering of issues by type, URL, severity etc.
Screaming Frog is ideal for large technical SEO audits thanks to its fast crawling and flexible functionality.
These tools analyze massive amounts of SEO data automatically to save time and make auditing manageable. Most offer free trial periods to test out the features. Evaluate the tool capabilities and pricing to select the right solution for your site’s needs.
For smaller sites with more limited resources, you can conduct DIY manual audits periodically using the following SEO checklist:
• Check for any “Page Not Found” errors by clicking site links and entering URLs. Fix broken pages.
• Test internal links between pages to find and fix any broken connections.
• Review Google Search Console and analytics for crawl errors.
• Verify XML sitemap exists, is submitted in Search Console, and contains all pages.
• Check robots.txt file is not blocking helpful bots from crawling sites.
• Test site pages are loading properly and fix any that aren’t.
• Review Search Console for any pages with indexing errors and fix causes.
• Check meta noindex tag is only on pages that should be excluded from search.
• Run pages through Google PageSpeed Insights and make optimizations to improve scores.
• Check site pages are compressing images, caching, minimizing redirects etc.
• Resize large image files for faster loading.
• Enable compression, caching, CDNs etc. to improve site speed.
• Use Google Mobile Friendly test to check if the site is mobile-friendly and make fixes if not.
• View the site on multiple devices and test responsiveness and functionality.
• Check the viewport, touch elements, and navigation work properly.
• Fix any misformatted, overlapping, or hidden content elements on mobile.
• Clean up any overly long or complex URL paths.
• Remove or consolidate any unnecessary dynamic URL parameters.
• Set up 301 redirects for any moved or deleted pages to avoid dead links.
• Check page titles, meta descriptions, and headers to utilize target keywords appropriately.
• Fix problems with thin content lacking details.
• Update duplicate or outdated content across the site.
• Improve media optimization with alt text and captions.
• Manually review top linking domains for relevance and quality.
• Disavow any paid, artificial, or irrelevant links.
• Research link building opportunities from high-quality sites.
• Make sure IA and navigation menus make logical sense.
• Analyze site structure and internal links to improve crawlability.
• Update page titles, H1s, URL paths for improved ES results.
This DIY checklist provides a solid baseline for identifying and fixing common SEO issues on smaller websites. Though less extensive than paid tools, it can help spot many on and off-page problems. Regularly running through this checklist allows incremental optimizations to be made over time. For more advanced audits, consider investing in a paid SEO tool.
SEO audits should be conducted regularly, not just once. Quarterly audits are ideal for most websites. Larger sites, agencies or those with more resources can audit monthly.
Here are some cases that call for auditing more frequently:
• Google algorithm updates – Audit to catch any new issues these created
• Site redesigns – Make sure new pages and content remain optimized
• New content initiatives – Audit to optimize new pages and media being added
• Mergers and migrations – Ensure SEO flows properly on consolidated sites
• New product launches – Optimize to capitalize on associated search demand
Besides these one-off cases, auditing every 3-4 months catches problems before they significantly impact traffic and conversions. It also provides ongoing optimization opportunities.
SEO auditing should not be a one-time activity. To continually drive results, audits should be performed:
Many agencies use SEO audits as a sales tool when meeting potential clients. Offering a free mini-audit demonstrates expertise and identifies opportunities. Even before signing a contract, audits help tailor pitches and set client expectations. They provide a professional supplementary document as part of the sales process.
Conducting a comprehensive audit should be standard procedure when onboarding a new SEO client. The insights allow informed campaign planning based on the client’s goals, keywords, and competitors. Audits establish a performance baseline for tracking improvements. They help get campaigns started on the right footing for success.
Follow-up audits at the mid-point of engagements enable checking progress made since launch. Even if target keywords have been ranked for, optimization should not stop. New opportunities may exist to further improve visibility. Audits identify areas to expand or adjust tactics to keep pushing performance higher.
The key is using audits to measure progress, uncover new opportunities, and address evolving issues. They enable informed optimization decisions rather than guesswork.
Well-timed, frequent audits provide the fuel for SEO campaigns to continually gain momentum and outperform. They demonstrate the commitment to maximizing clients’ investment and results over the long-term.
Here is an example excerpt from an SEO audit report showing findings and recommendations:
URL Optimization Issues
• Many site URLs are dynamically generated with long strings of parameters that provide no value to users or search engines in understanding the page content (example: https://www.domain.com/page.php?id=89375230874&catid=324789023&tag=roofing)
• Excessively long and complex URLs like this create a poor user experience
• Dynamic URLs also pose issues for search engine crawling and indexing pages properly
• Transition site URLs to cleaner URL structures optimized for SEO and UX
• Remove unnecessary dynamic URL parameters that do not serve a function
• Implement 301 redirects from old URLs to new optimized URL paths
• Optimize URL paths to contain target keywords where appropriate
• Shorten URL file paths to reduce length and nesting where possible
By switching to “pretty” URLs that contain targeted keywords, both user experience and search engine crawlability can be improved, supporting SEO performance.
This shows one common issue that audits reveal, with actionable recommendations on how to optimize the specific concern.
Auditing your website’s SEO regularly is crucial for staying ahead of Google’s algorithm and ahead of competitors. Use this guide to start assessing your website’s health to uncover what’s working, what’s not, and where you still have upside opportunities.
Fix critical issues hurting performance first before moving to new optimizations. Over time, repeat audits will ensure your site improves continuously.
Consider leveraging SEO tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush and Moz for large sites to automate analyzing huge amounts of data. For smaller sites, run through the DIY audit checklist periodically as a starting point.
Consistent SEO audits set you up for ongoing search engine success and visibility. Use the template and advice in this guide to extract the maximum benefit for your website.
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