An SEO audit is not as complex as many think.
In fact, although the number of variables to analyze is large, it is possible to focus on the most critical for your strategy.
Besides, it is worth keeping in mind that this kind of project generates many benefits for your blog, freeing it from errors that are often very simple to solve but, when accumulated, turn into a headache for any specialist in the field.
In this post, we’ll present the best tips on how to perform an SEO audit, indicating the metrics you should follow, the main auditing tools, how to interpret all this data, and, finally, how to solve the main problems.
Here are the topics we’ll cover:
Keep reading and learn more!
SEO audits serve to map all possible SEO errors a company might be committing, not necessarily pointing out the solution to all of them.
Still, whenever possible, we will try to indicate the best way of solving the detected problems, besides suggesting other materials that contain a more detailed solution.
That said, we have separated this content into 3 parts:
- Auditing your site: focused on finding structural and technical problems that are preventing your site from performing better;
- Internal content auditing: naturally within your site, but focusing on how to deliver the best content in your niche;
- External auditing: focused on finding the problems and opportunities that come from other domains.
To make sure you know where you are standing, before you start, go through the two steps below.
Check your organic traffic
The tool allows you to customize the time frame you want to analyze.
By clicking on ‘organic’, you can analyze in detail your organic acquisition of visitors.
Look for drops or peaks that will serve as a basis for further analysis.
Keep track of the keywords you target
There are a few ways to do this. The most practical ones involve paid tools, such as SEMrush.
Through the position tracker, you can track your ranking for different keywords, find opportunities, and spot threats.
Once you know and, above all, understand your current results, you are ready to start your audit.
SEO auditing tools
There are some SEO analysis tools that, besides being useful in some of the practical steps that we will show later, also offer their own SEO audit features.
For this post, we have chosen to talk about two tools that we use here at Rock: SEMrush and Screaming Frog.
SEO Audit with SEMrush
To conduct an SEO audit with SEMrush, you first need to register your project on the tool:
After you register, go to Projects, located on the tool panel, and select the project you created.
Inside your project, one of the analysis options is Site Audit. Through it, you can carry out several performance analyses, ranging from technical aspects to internal linkage.
It is also possible to monitor search engine rankings, social media performance, backlinks, organic traffic, on-page SEO, among other options.
SEO Audit with Screaming Frog
This free tool (up to 500 URLs) tracks pages the same way that Google does and gives you most of the information you need to successfully perform an SEO audit.
You can ‘navigate’ through your site’s results using the ‘Overview’ tab on the right side of the screen, where you will see various errors found in your pages.
After seeing the numbers (and the tips that the audit will provide), you will be able to explore them further using the ‘option’ bar at the top of the website.
Audit your website
Next, we will pinpoint the main structural problems that may be preventing your website from getting better results.
Check them out!
Make sure google indexes only one version of your website
Yes, a single page of your site may be indexed in different ways by Google.
Look at the following URLs:
For us, they make no difference. Even if you click on one of them, you will end up on the same page: https://rockcontent.com/.
However, this does not happen automatically. As far as Google is concerned, these are different versions of the same domain.
They apply to every page of your site, and if they are not redirecting to the main version, they will be nothing but dead weight in your indexing.
Notice how both the “www” and “http” versions of the Rock Content website now automatically perform this redirection.
Test all versions of your site to ensure they redirect to your main version, usually, the one containing “https” and without the “www”.
Because it attests whether a website is safe or not, this is a factor taken into consideration by Google.
If the different versions of your site are taking you to the main version, set up a 301 redirect.
Find and delete bad pages
You may have heard that the more content you have on your website, the better. But this is not always true.
That’s why Google values domains that have pages of value. Any page that receives few visits, few external links, present duplicate or low-quality content is subject to being considered harmful.
If you have harmful pages (and spoiler alert, you do), your site is being damaged by it.
Harmful pages come in many formats, and some common types are:
- old news content that no longer receives traffic;
- old and obsolete content;
- content with very low-quality on-page SEO;
- old product pages;
- archive pages;
- pages with very little or no original content;
- internal search pages.
If you have a blog or e-commerce for over a year and never cleaned up your harmful pages, we could bet that you have some of them on your account, and that’s getting in the way of your ranking.
Do you doubt it? Well, estimate the number of pages you have in your domain, counting all the category pages, products, posts, and any other page.
Now go to Google and type: site:yoursite.com. The result will show how many pages of your domain Google has indexed:
Beyond what you expected?
Controlling the presence of harmful pages is not only important for your ranking but also to facilitate the next steps of SEO auditing.
Learn how to find harmful pages
To find harmful pages, go to your Google Analytics and click to see all your pages:
Now, select a time frame of at least 3 months:
And then click on page views, to view the least accessed pages:
This way, you will see the pages with the lowest access rate in the selected period. If one of your pages receives less than one visit per month, it is hardly a useful page for your domain.
This process will help you find old posts, which may be harmful to your domain. When you find a suspect, throw its URL in Google Analytics to understand its recent performance.
But then what?
Deal with the harmful pages
Once the harmful pages have been discovered, you have two choices: delete or update them.
Deleting the page is the most common action since most of those pages have no future use, and its existence is compromising your domain.
If you decide to delete a page, it’s important to remember to redirect its URL to another one of your domain pages to ensure that, if someone accesses it, they won’t end up on a 404 error page.
You can do this through a simple 301 redirect, as indicated earlier.
But if you find pages that could deliver value to your visitors and don’t do it because they are old, outdated, or misconfigured, you can decide to upgrade them and increase their value.
Instead of deleting them, restructure the content, placing new information, media, and extending the word count. Besides, investing in spreading and acquiring backlinks turns a harmful article into a page that brings you results.
Make sure your site is mobile-friendly
The tendency is that Google continues to make changes in this direction, after all, the algorithm’s updates seek to follow the natural movement of users.
Research shows that, in the USA, approximately 58% of all searches on Google come from mobile devices, differing between markets.
Some, like ‘finance and banking’, hold a lower volume, with about 40%, while when we talk about ‘food products’ this number rises to over 70%.
If you don’t know if your site is mobile-friendly, why not let Google itself tell you?
With this tool, you can assess how suitable your website is for mobile devices.
If your site shows low performance in this regard, Google may be throwing you down.
Make your website faster
Following the same idea, having a slow website is a way to guarantee that your users will have negative experiences, and of course, Google is opposed to that.
With increasingly optimized websites and faster internet connections, it’s kind of hard to expect people to wait for slow sites to load.
No wonder this is one of the most important ranking factors for the Mountain View company.
Slow loading of sites can happen for various reasons: too many images, heavy media formats, poorly developed code, server problems, among others.
You can test the speed of your site through PageSpeed Insights:
Besides a general grade for page speed, this tool shows the speed at each loading stage, opportunities for improvement, and positive aspects.
You can also use GTmetrix:
Featuring an overall grading system and highlighting strengths and weaknesses, GTmetrix also gives you information about the total page size in bytes.
Important: each page of your site will have a different speed. It is essential to test all of your most essential pages to understand which ones need improvement.
See below some tips for improving your website speed.
Decrease your site’s size
Sites that store more information (in bytes) take longer to load.
Check your pages for images and text that you can compress to lighter formats without interfering with quality. Several applications can help you with this.
Also, take the opportunity to eliminate any other unnecessary elements that are not relevant to the buyer persona.
Improve your website code
Poorly made code requires more reading time from the browser. If you are having problems with your site’s speed, it is very worth involving a developer to simplify your code and speed up your page.
Invest in good hosting
Cheaper hosting is great for sites in the early stages, but if you want to put yourself as one of the top players in your digital market, it is vital to count on high-quality hosting.
Organize your website in a simple way
The organization of a website, or its information architecture, refers to how all your website pages are structured and connected to each other.
A site’s architecture defines how easily you (and the search engines) browse through pages and find information.
In short, good site architecture is one that has a simpler structure and fewer layers. The further away, in terms of clicks, a page is from your homepage, the harder it is for visitors and crawlers to reach it.
You notice this distance when you analyze the URL structure of a site. Compare the following two:
In this content, Backlinko illustrates how the structure of a site affects its usability:
In a structure with many levels, Google bot, or other crawlers, may have difficulty reaching pages that are more distant from the homepage.
Shallow and well-connected structures make it easier for search engines and visitors alike.
Another direct impact of a site’s architecture in your SEO is related to links. The closer a domain is to the homepage, the stronger is its authority.
Every website contains a hidden hierarchy in its structure, and if you haven’t defined that at the time of developing the website, possibly yours doesn’t correspond with what you need.
This means that links from pages closer to the homepage will carry more authority, and you don’t want pages that are important to your SEO strategy hidden at the bottom of your website.
Find pages that google is not indexing
You may have pages that Google is not indexing, and if you want to have all your content (not harmful) performing well, it is important to make sure that search engines can easily find all pages.
To ensure this, the first tool you should use is Google Search Console. Access the Index section, then click on Coverage.
Here, you will find your website pages that are indexed normally, those that have been excluded from indexing, those that are indexed but have some problem, and those that contain some error preventing their indexation.
The focus here is on this latter type, which corresponds to the number highlighted above. We indicate clicking on the graphic to identify the cause of the error and which pages are affected by it:
As you can see, we have a lot of work to catch up on this part, which is already underway.
The tendency is that bigger sites with many pages are more susceptible to errors in indexing.
The Screaming Frog tool can also help in mapping your pages with indexing errors. It works like a Google Crawler, showing you all information about your pages’ indexing.
Compare the list of unindexed pages generated by the two tools, and ensure that only pages you don’t need are left out of indexing.
After having all your site structure and indexing running properly, it’s time to move on to the next category: internal content audit.
Internal content audit
This is about everything that involves the internal content of your website. The tips here are meant to ensure that you have the best content in every possible aspect.
Optimize the user experience
This is not a practical step. It is not about a specific action you will take or a tool you need to use.
Optimizing the user experience is the basic principle that you should consider from the beginning to the end of your SEO audit.
That’s because UX is the only thing we know that won’t change in Google’s eyes. There are more than 200 ranking factors, and Google updates its algorithm between 500 and 600 times a year.
The SEO rules are complex and constantly changing, but their essence is not.
Google always seeks to offer the best experience for its users.
In practice, this means that when a person performs a search, they are looking for specific information delivered in a specific format.
Google has understood this for a long time now, which is why the results of their searches no longer look like this:
In the past, one of the best SEO tactics was to stuff your content with the keyword, showing Google that your content talked a lot about the subject.
Today such repetitive material is much more likely to be damaged than boosted by search engines.
Google wants the best result, and even if it uses the search term only once, it may have all the information you want in the format you want.
RankBrain is an example of how they have been doing this.
Google’s artificial intelligence system scans all user searches and actions within the platform, trying to understand the patterns between the keyword searched for and the result that best fits it.
It understands people’s patterns of dissatisfaction with content, such as bounce rate and low time spent on the page, and associates this information with data from billions of searches.
In this way, it finds indications of which contents have been more satisfying for each keyword searched.
Being aware that the key to this stage of auditing is to provide the content that best meets the searches, we go to really practical steps.
Improve your content
As we said before, Google often states that its focus is very clear: quality content.
So the message is clear and sound. If you want to dominate the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) for your most important keywords, you must work to have the best content available.
The good news is that Google itself values sites that try to improve their content. Updating content is an important ranking factor, especially when it comes to really significant changes.
We’ve also selected some practical tips on how to improve content.
Write small but explanatory introductions
Especially in didactic content, people will simply ignore your introduction and jump to the text if it is too large.
Use short paragraphs
You will hardly find people who read an entire text on the internet. Most of us just scan through it for the information we are looking for.
Paragraphs of about 4 lines — or less — help in scanning through a text.
Use many subtitles
They offer reading breaks that help in the text’s fluidity, besides being reference points for readers.
The best part is that search engines will also appreciate it.
The subtitles, or heading tags, help search engines organize a page’s elements according to a value hierarchy.
Screenshots, images, videos, infographics, GIFs, among other types of media, help the visitor absorb the content.
Content with several media tends to perform better because they are, in fact, better experiences for readers.
Improve your on-page SEO
This is where the easiest opportunities to improve your SERPs results are usually found.
Adjustments to your on-page SEO help search tools find, index, and rank web pages.
Place the keyword in the title tag
The title tag is the one that appears when a text is indexed in a Google search:
It is also the name the browser reads:
And also the one that appears in social media sharing:
The title tag is not necessarily the same as the title that appears when you open the article, but the version that appears in the SERPs is the one taken into account by the search engine when ranking a page.
Placing it at the front of the title tag ensures that Google, or anyone who bats their eye at it, understands what the content is about.
Tip: Avoid making titles longer than 60 characters, as they may appear cut off from the results page:
If you are unsure whether your title will be cut, this tool will help.
To choose the best title, consider the searches related to your keyword. You can do this using SEMrush.
Within the Keyword Analysis tool, select the United States as the base location and enter the keyword you are working on.
Once you do this, SEMrush will show you various information about the keyword you searched for, including similar terms.
When you click to see the full report, you will be directed to the ‘Keyword Magic Tool’, where you will need to create a list to search for keywords.
Once you have created the list, you can explore which keywords are similar to yours, as in the image below:
Suggestions like ‘What is SEO’ and ‘how SEO works’ can help you come up with the best title.
Place the keyword in the first 100 words
Although Google is now much more effective in understanding that a text refers to a keyword even if it does not appear in it, placing it among the first words in a natural manner is still very useful.
Emphasis on ‘natural’. Google no longer tolerates the repetition of keywords, so you need to be subtle when using them throughout the content.
Insert internal and external links
It is unlikely that you will write a text that explains itself in its entirety. There will be expressions, references, and ideas that your content will not be able to address.
And that’s a good thing! Not every content needs to have 10,000 words and talk about everything.
But to fill in the gaps, it’s important to have links to other trusted content, internal and external.
This practice, when done properly, is well regarded by search engines. This is because links to quality pages indicate confidence in your content.
If here in this text, we made links to Google, Backlinko, and Ahrefs, the search engines will understand that I am indicating sources of information that hold great authority in the SEO market.
Meanwhile, internal links are important to build your own network of content and authority, strengthening your SEO and ensuring that your visitors spend more time in your domain, consuming your content.
Use terms related to your keyword.
As we mentioned, Google does not tolerate any more contents that use their keyword every 4 words, simply because no natural text would make such excessive use.
Using expressions related to your keyword throughout your text helps search engines understand what it’s talking about, even if the main keyword only appears a few times, as in the example below:
Optimize your content for featured snippets
Featured snippets are response boxes that Google displays in its SERP for some keywords, containing part of content referring to the keyword being searched.
Featured Snippets provide a faster and more accurate response to some searches. It does so by identifying an excerpt of some content that offers the answer to the keyword search intent.
Although most featured snippets come from first page results, only a few come from the first result.
This is a threat but also an opportunity. It means that you can conquer the ‘zero position’ even if your page is not the first result, but it also means that the opposite can happen with some of your content.
See some tips on how to earn a featured snippet!
Understand what kind of featured snippet the keyword is appropriate for
In the example we gave, the result in the featured snippet is a paragraph, but it could be a list, a table, among other formats.
If the answer to the search intention is a list, there is no point in updating your post with a paragraph and expect the zero position.
Update your content with the perfect answer
To earn the featured snippet for the term ‘SEO’ on the Brazilian Google domain, we knew we needed to develop a paragraph with the perfect answer for what SEO is.
So we updated the content with an explanatory paragraph right at the beginning of the text, according to the best practices for this featured snippet format.
Search for duplicate meta-descriptions
Filling your website with duplicate content may be the simplest way to throw your whole SEO strategy in the trash.
Yes, Google hates duplicate content, including the actual page content and all the tags behind each of your pages. It always pursues original content, and any kind of copy or similar content tends to affect your search engine performance.
To find duplicate meta-descriptions on your site, we recommend the Screaming Frog tool again.
The tool maps all your indexed pages and shows you which ones have duplicate meta-descriptions.
Make the most of your internal links
Internal links provide a great way to strengthen your SEO while ensuring a better user experience.
This happens because when links interconnect the content of a site, it is easier for visitors to navigate through pages that interest them.
That’s why it’s important to put your best contents in evidence.
Example: one of the best posts on our blog is the one about Digital Marketing.
It is complete. It was thought out to place 1st on Google for this keyword.
For this reason, in all content we create for head-tail keywords derived from Digital Marketing, there is a link to this complete material. So, anyone who accesses one of these pages can also explore broader content on the subject.
This strategy helps readers find information, navigate your site, increase the number of pages per session, time spent on the page, and other metrics that Google takes very seriously.
Besides being very useful for visitors, this internal links strategy enables creating a Topic Clusters structure, which is currently one of the major SEO tactics.
To identify opportunities, you can use SEO analysis tools such as SEMrush or Google Search Console itself:
By clicking on Links, you will have access to the main internally-linked pages.
Your goal is to put your core content and your most important pages among the most linked.
Some pages may pop up many times because they are linked on your site’s footer, so don’t worry. Focus your efforts on having your best content linked from different pages.
Fix broken links
Broken links are bad for your SEO performance simply because they are bad for your visitors.
If you have completed the step of finding pages on your website that Google does not index, you may have already solved some of the broken links problems in your domain.
But if you want to check which ones persist, you can use the Broken Link Checker.
It is free, online, and straightforward. Just enter your domain name and wait for the application to load a list containing all the broken links on your site, as well as the reason for each error:
Ahrefs is another complete tool that offers you this kind of functionality.
Here, the goal is to find problems and opportunities outside your own domain.
Although your site’s internal factors take a lot of time from this audit, you will find larger opportunities beyond your domain.
Analyze your backlinks
Backlinks continue to be one of the most important ranking factors.
A study conducted by Backlinko found that the number of backlinks a website holds is more directly related to Google positioning than any other factor analyzed.
For search engines, backlinks represent a virtual certificate of trust that your domain received from others.
But backlinks from certain sites are worth more than others. A good domain must enjoy digital authority and address topics related to what you approach in your blog.
This also means that sometimes receiving a backlink is more harmful to your domain than beneficial.
You want backlinks that:
- come from a source that is relevant to your company and content;
- have a good reputation with Google, i.e., domains with authority.
The good news is that several tools can map all the links your site receives, facilitating the analysis and location of any problems.
We will show you how to do this in practice using SEMrush, but you can choose Ahrefs, MOZ, Majestic SEO, or any other tool that offers the backlinks analysis feature.
In SEMrush, access the Domain Analysis tab, then click on “Backlink Gap“:
Enter your website domain and then click on Anchor:
This tab shows you more about which texts have been linked to your website.
They are called Anchor and represent a good place to start looking for problems because you have to show some relevance to your site.
When you go down the page, you will find the complete report about the anchor texts that link to your site, how many links come from each one of them, and how many different domains used the same term to link to your site.
Take some time to dig through the anchor texts looking for terms that are meaningless to your niche. When you find them, click on the number of backlinks for more detailed analysis.
This way, you can understand where the backlink came from and assess whether it makes sense to keep it, delete it, or just ask for the anchor text to be modified.
If you want to go deeper into the analysis of any backlink, go to “Overview”, under “Domain Analysis”, and enter the domain of the site that linked to yours:
Analyze your domain authority and relevancy to your niche market.
After you decide which backlinks are harmful, reject each of them to ensure they will not negatively affect your site.
If you are trying to improve the ranking of your content for a specific keyword, perform the same analysis, looking for opportunities:
Compare the backlinks related to your core content to understand patterns and optimize them one by one.
Remember to seek sites with good domain authority, and that are highly relevant to your market.
Analyze your competitors
It’s time to see what the competition is up to, seeking opportunities for your growth.
Keep in mind that you want to focus here on your content competitors, that is, companies that dispute similar keywords with you, without necessarily being market competitors.
The first step is to understand which are your competitor’s best keywords, and for this, you can use SEMrush, as well as several other SEO analysis tools.
Go to “Overview”, within “Domain Analysis”, and enter the name of your competitor:
Then, go to the major organic keywords and click on view full report.
This will show you all the keywords your competitor targets, plus its position, search volume, among other information:
Try to understand which keywords are driving more traffic to your competitor and if it’s worth trying to beat them.
Choose keywords that interest you and are targeted by the competitor. Access the content and compare it with yours.
This can bring precious insights on how to improve your content and gain positions.
SEMrush itself offers a tool that can help you find keywords that you don’t rank, but your competitor does:
Go to the keywords gap tool, then select the option to view the keywords that your competitor ranks and you don’t:
This will show you excellent opportunities to expand your content production while remaining relevant! Earlier in this post, we have explained how we achieved this on Rock’s blog.
To finish up, analyze which sites link to your competitors. The process and tools are the same as the backlink analysis of your own website.
This will open up opportunities for you to acquire relevant backlinks in your niche, which until now have only been explored by your competitors. This can become a new source of links to your website.
Mapping the competition is fundamental, in fact, for the development of the entire Content Marketing strategy.
By following these steps, you will find many optimization spots in your strategy, generating more traffic and opportunities for your company.
To ensure that each content you publish will generate maximum results, we recommend using our Site Audit Checklist and closely following each of the SEO audit process stages.
Ready to maximize your SEO strategy results? Get deeper into the subject by downloading our complete guide on Search Engine Optimization!