Overview: This article discusses website errors and recommendations for correction. It is the ultimate checklist of the components of a complete SEO audit.
A website SEO audit entails an examination of your website to ensure it complies with the requirements of Google and other search engines. It also involves offering recommendations to address any promotional issues.
An SEO audit is often mistaken for a technical audit of the website. The latter will give you a file with highly technical instructions, such as “add this to robots.txt” or “close those links in nofollow”. However, as search engines actively develop and website requirements change, a technical audit alone is insufficient.
Why should an SEO audit be comprehensive?
Website promotion is always done for purely practical reasons. For example, a common goal is to get orders or increase profits. The end goal does not focus on improving positions or boosting traffic; the end goal is profit, that is, the monetized results of these activities.
Will getting search traffic alone help increase sales if site visitors do not submit the enquiry form? Or if the website is not credible? Or if the competitors have more attractive terms and conditions or a wider range of products? The answer is no. In all likelihood, site visitors will not become customers. They will continue their search, which in turn can lead to a decrease in positions due to behavioral factors.
A comprehensive SEO audit of your website will detect these issues and allow you to make effective modifications to reach your end goals.
What should be the end result of a website audit?
At the end of a proper audit, you should get more than just a list of errors on your website. Fixing errors often introduces new, more critical ones. Therefore, the findings of an audit should always include clear requirements and recommendations.
After reading the audit results, the client should immediately see the answers to two questions:
- What exactly needs to be fixed?
- What should be the end result of the fix?
Therefore, if your audit results only include the part with the errors, ask your marketer for specific recommendations on how to fix them.
What results can you expect after an SEO audit?
Yes, a website audit itself won't change anything since it simply tells you what the problems are and how to fix them. That by itself is not enough since the problems have to be fixed to create meaningful results.
Despite that, an audit is still very much needed. It will give you an action plan that you can use to distribute responsibility and work. A comprehensive audit gets you a plan for 3 to 10 months, which should include tasks for developers, marketers, copywriters, and many other specialists. So, be prepared for additional expenses to implement changes after an SEO audit.
What does a comprehensive SEO audit include?
An audit should include several different checks, from technical issues to usability. However, the exact specifics may vary for different websites. For example, a media website with high search traffic would benefit more from growth point identification than a technical audit. If a website is already getting a lot of traffic and there are no negative dynamics, it probably does not have critical technical problems. Whereas technical problems could prevent a newer website that is still growing from reaching its full potential.
A general website audit in 2023 consists of 12 parts.
1. Internal or technical audit
It is important to start with the basics, as a website that is not indexed by search engines cannot be promoted.
As part of the technical audit, the following are checked:
- the website's crawling and indexing settings;
- accessibility of all important pages for Google's crawler (search robot);
- broken links or unnecessary page redirects;
- if URLs are SEO-friendly;
- schema markup;
- vulnerability to duplicates or rel=canonical problems;
- required sitemaps;
- if correct HTTP headers are correct or valid, etc.
The result: A file with technical recommendations that are crucial but hard to understand for a non-specialist.
2. Website performance audit
In May 2020, Google announced that site load speed would be taken into account as a ranking factor. How much this affects ranking is still being debated, but what is known for sure is that load speed affects the web user experience. Therefore, websites with fast load speeds will have more competitive behavioral factors.
This audit checks all website loading metrics but pays special attention to the metrics known as Core Web Vitals:
- LCP (Largest Contentful Paint) is the time a website takes to show the user the largest content on the screen.
- FID (First Input Delay) tracks the time from when a visitor first interacts with a web page to the time when the browser starts processing the interaction.
- CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift) is a measure of how much a webpage unexpectedly shifts during its life.
- INP (Interaction to Next Paint) measures how quickly your website reacts to user interactions. It will replace FID in Core Web Vitals in March 2024.
The results: Actionable recommendations to improve critical page load metrics.
3. Content audit
Marketers often say that content is king, and they are right. You will not succeed in search engine promotion if your website pages are not optimized or do not have content that aligns with user intent.
A website content audit includes:
- page meta tags availability and optimization;
- text formatting and structure;
- answers to user questions;
- analysis of page types and their content;
- updating the most visited pages;
- content compliance with business goals, etc.
The results: Recommendations on how to optimize existing content, as well as what to create in the future and how to create it.
4. External link audit
If content is king, then the links are the knights. The links are what give strength to the content. Without strong links, a website cannot rank highly, and vice versa, bad links can block a website from getting to the top.
This audit should include:
- collecting a list of external links from various sources;
- checking for spam or low quality;
- analysis of anchor texts;
- checking for lost links to deleted pages or broken redirects.
The results: A dashboard with your links, and recommendations on which links to abandon and which pages to return or redirect.
5. On-page audit
Users usually do not arrive on the website as a whole but on one of its pages. Therefore, it is worth checking if everything is correct on the landing pages.
An on-page audit includes:
- checking the heading structure;
- ensuring the availability of technical headings;
- checking the page source code;
- optimizing page images;
- checking for unnecessary elements.
The results: Recommendations on how to improve important landing pages.
6. Main competitor analysis
This competitor analysis audit checks two aspects: competitors’ content and their links. As part of the content audit, the following are checked:
- product range;
- internal links;
- SEO structure, etc.
The link audit includes:
- data collection on competitor links;
- dynamics analysis;
- referring page analysis;
- anchor text analysis;
- creation of a comparison chart.
The results: A comparison chart that clearly shows the difference (if any) in links and an action plan for link building.
7. SERM audit
Your sales are directly dependent on customer trust. Therefore, it's important to monitor what is being said about you online and which websites rank at the top for your branded queries.
A Search Engine Reputation Management audit includes:
- identifying important brand queries;
- analyzing the tone of voice used in reviews;
- setting up review monitoring for your business.
The results: Recommendations on how to manage reviews and rank higher, and an action plan to remove negative reviews from the top of search results.
8. Usability audit
A usability audit aims to identify problems that prevent users from completing desired actions, such as transactions, requests, or content searches.
A usability audit includes:
- visualization of the user’s path on the website;
- user behavior analysis using services like Clarity and Hotjar;
- heat maps and scroll maps analysis;
- QA verification of basic user actions, etc.
The results: A list of issues with possible fixes and hypotheses for A/B testing.
9. Analytics audit
Most people are guided by web analytics when making certain decisions in digital marketing. However, these decisions are often based on incomplete or incorrect data. This audit aims to check the accuracy of analytics data.
An analytics audit checks for:
- proper service connection;
- availability of all pages in the analytics;
- data duplication, which should be avoided;
- availability of all important events, conversions, etc.
The results: Recommendations to fix errors and a measurement plan to compile crucial data in analytics.
10. Available data analysis
Google Search Console and other analytics tools contain many insights about your website. Getting those insights is what this kind of audit aims to do.
An audit of available data can include:
- finding the types of content that are best at driving or converting traffic;
- analyzing pages that are losing traffic;
- analyzing missing semantics, etc.
The results: Recommendations for adding, updating, or creating new content.
11. E-E-A-T and commercial factors audit
Google is creating more and more requirements not only for content but also for authors and their expertise. This is what the E-E-A-T principle (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) is all about.
The E-E-A-T audit checks for:
- essential schema markup;
- confirmation of the author's expertise and persona;
- availability of key commercial pages;
- additional credibility factors for the website or content.
The results: Recommendations on how to create or improve key content.
12. Finding growth points
One of the main objectives of the audit is to find additional growth methods. Growth points cannot be identified without the data gleaned from previous steps, which is why this step is done last.
To find possible growth points, the audit includes:
- searching for missing content types;
- analyzing the effectiveness of competitors;
- analyzing the internal potential of the website;
- analyzing the potential of keyphrases, etc.
The results: Traffic forecast and suggestions for creating new content types or optimizing existing ones.
Do you really need a comprehensive SEO audit?
If you need a magic pill that could improve everything immediately, then no. An audit is unlikely to give you what you want.
If you want to increase organic traffic, scale your business, and invest time, energy, and resources into reaching these goals, then definitely yes. A website SEO audit may be exactly what you need. There is a lot of work involved with such an audit, but it will be worth it.
What to remember
1. An SEO audit of a website checks for compliance with search engine requirements and provides recommendations to eliminate problems that can negatively affect website promotion.
2. The audit results should be compiled into a file that states clear requirements and recommendations on how to improve the website.
3. A comprehensive SEO audit can be broken down into the following stages:
- Technical audit
- Website performance audit
- Content audit
- External links audit
- On-page audit
- Main competitor audit
- Online reputation audit
- Usability audit
- Analytics audit
- Available data audit
- E-E-A-T audit
- Commercial factors review
- Finding growth points
4. The audit itself will not produce real-world results. Its purpose is to give you an action plan for 3 to 10 months, the results of which will improve the website’s ranking and increase sales.
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