An SEO audit is a vital part of any digital campaign, whether it’s for an existing client, new business or part of a pitch – but what exactly is an SEO audit and, crucially, how do you carry one out?
With the help of our amazing SEO team, we’ll give you their expert opinion on how a technical SEO audit can help your business get results. Along the way, we’ll also bust some myths and concerns, such as short-term gains being guaranteed.
Read on to find out how to do an SEO audit, its benefits to B2B and B2C businesses and the areas of marketing it can influence…
First of all, just what is an SEO audit? Basically, it’s a check on how your website, or a client’s website, matches up against SEO best practices.
“The SEO audit involves checking a website against a list of best practice guidelines. This typically covers the URL architecture of the site, site speed, mobile responsiveness, on-page optimisation and a range of technical elements,” Jon Blakemore – We Influence SEO team member.
Essentially, it’s a bit like a school grading report for a website’s ability to appear in search engine results pages. An audit can help boost where this website appears in SERPs.
The clear reason a website SEO audit is so important is that it finds the SEO weaknesses of a client’s or business’ site. It sounds obvious, but this is vital and shouldn’t be underestimated.
Aside from highlighting core SEO issues – keywords and the quality of content, for example – an audit will highlight other problems like low site speed or issues with sitemaps. In doing so, the audit can also reveal security problems a website may be experiencing.
An audit will also fix any historic SEO practices that are now outdated and likely to result in your site being penalised by Google algorithm updates. As this is a constantly evolving industry, what was the accepted way of ranking just a couple of years ago may no longer apply.
One of the most important aspects of an SEO audit is keywords. Understanding what keywords your site ranks for and what your target keywords should be is critical to your on-page strategy. Finding out which keywords you rank for is great, but if they don’t bring in relevant traffic or result in conversions, what’s the point?
Read more: How Does SEO Work?
Ensuring that you’re targeting the right keywords on the right pages means that the right users are more likely to find you organically, resulting in higher quality traffic and conversions. If you’re unsure where to start, try looking at your competitors’ sites. What keywords are they targeting and are they suitable for your business too?
SEO best practices are tasks that help improve a website’s ranking in SERPs and will often include on-site optimisation and researching keywords.
The most important SEO best practice is to get your main ranking keyword added into your content, making sure it’s in the page title and H1 heading. Content is best written around keyword themes rather than specific keywords now, which is why there is a shift towards keyword clusters. Google likes content that provides context around a page’s purpose.
Making your content unique is another important step. Avoid duplicating content as it dilutes your site’s authority and reduces the ability for all affected pages to rank for target keywords. Essentially, Google is unsure which page is best placed to answer the user query and so it’ll often push these pages further down the rankings.
Site speed has become more important to Google, so making sure that your website is loading as quickly as possible will help your ranking. Check what speed scores your competitors’ sites are getting and use the top performers as a baseline. Ideally, you want your own score to be on par with theirs if not higher. Some of the techniques to improve your site speed include compressing image sizes and lightweight CMS themes.
A strong internal linking structure will help to guide users and search engines through your site. Improving the user journey can have a positive impact on your conversion rates, too. As your site gains authority from backlinks, having good internal linking will also ensure that authority trickles through the site properly and doesn’t end up siloed in the wrong place.
Backlinks are much more difficult to control. Many sites suffer from poor link building practices which were commonplace in SEO a few years ago. It’s recommended that you audit the strength of your backlink profile. You can use specialist tools or simply look at those listed in Google Search Console for free.
Read more: 10 SEO questions you want the answers to
Though Google’s algorithm now deals with low-quality links automatically, it can be useful to add any toxic links to your disavow file. This simply reinforces to Google that you’re aware of potentially harmful links and it’s a good habit to get into as you can identify any issues with your link profile before they become an issue.
Finally, user experience is a key aspect of on-page SEO and can have a detrimental effect on your site’s traffic and conversion rate if done poorly. SEO is all about delivering users to useful pages based on their search query, so ensuring your page is high quality is essential. This isn’t just the technical setup, but the content too.
Improving user experience with tailored, high-quality content that addresses their intent is often overlooked when discussing UX. Failing to deliver what a user expects will result in high bounce rates and, if Google also determines that your page isn’t fit for purpose, its rankings will drop too.
Before starting an SEO audit, you need to create a plan of action and ask yourself: ‘what am I testing and why?’.
“There are numerous facets that make up SEO and these are now moving into UX and CRO, too,” Ionie Ince – We Influence Head of SEO.
The starting point for any SEO audit is to crawl your site and gather as much data as possible about the way that Google views your site. The easiest way to do this is with a tool like Screaming Frog, though there are others which do similar jobs.
You can then segment this data to focus on key areas for SEO that you can work through systematically. Once improvements have been made, you can check implementation by running a second crawl and cross-referencing the results.
Read more: SEO Jargon Buster
What the crawl can uncover will depend on which tool you use but, in general, most will look at indexation, on-page optimisation, redirects, canonicalisation, response codes, and much more.
A standard technical SEO Audit for a client, eCommerce or otherwise, will often cover:
- Site Architecture, Crawling & Indexing
- Site Speed
- Canonicalisation & Redirects
- Response Codes
- HTTP vs HTTPS
- Mobile Responsiveness & UX
- Schema / Structured Data Markup
- On-Page Optimisation
- Blog Setup / Optimisation
Here are some final, quick-fire, commonly asked questions around SEO audits:
Are there short-term gains from an SEO audit?
Ionie Ince – SEO is a long game, so there’s no such thing as a quick win if you’re focusing on ranking or traffic improvements. However, fixing technical issues can have an almost immediate effect on user experience which will have a positive impact on conversion rates and associated revenue. This is why we prioritise technical audits and fixes for our clients.
Jon Blakemore – Really depends on the site. If a website has been set up particularly poorly then there could be a wide range of quick fixes that can make a big difference. In most cases, however, SEO is a long-term game and the majority of changes can take months before any noticeable impact can be seen.
How often should you do an SEO audit?
II – This depends on the site as, if the site has been plagued with technical issues, we’d likely recommend that an audit be conducted more often than one which has relatively solid technical health. As a rule, we tend to conduct them every six months.
JB – Depends on the size of the site. A small blog can be audited as rarely as once a year whereas a large eCommerce site turning over 7 figures in revenue may need to be audited once a month.
What is the most common fault found via an SEO audit?
II – Businesses which are new to digital marketing tend to have a complete absence of on-page SEO optimisations. However, sites that have done SEO in the past tend to be more technically sound. Common issues include excessive 404 errors, page speed, and a lack of image optimisation.
JB – Missing the SEO essentials. Crucial areas being overlooked such as titles, headers and content. So many websites miss the basics and wonder why they struggle organically.
What is the most important part of an audit?
II – Technical health in general as it affects every marketing channel. You don’t want to send traffic to a poor quality site, particularly if you’re spending money on your marketing!
JB – Getting it right. You don’t want to audit something only to make it worse in the long run.
Learn more about our SEO successes with our case studies.