Neil Patel

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Complete Guide to Performing SEO Audits

A graphic that says "Complete Guide to SEO Audits."

You’ve set up your website, and it’s looking good at first, but then your engagement and your traffic are falling. Wondering what’s going on? You’re not alone. 

According to Ahrefs, 96.55 percent of content gets no organic traffic from Google.

If you’re panicked, don’t be. An SEO site audit can reveal common issues that might be affecting your online performance.

And that’s great news because acting on what you learn from a website audit can increase your rankings along with visitor numbers and conversions.

If you’re not sure where to start, this guide talks you through it step-by-step.

However, before we get into it, let’s explain what an SEO site audit is and why it’s necessary.

Key Takeaways

  • An SEO audit is an in-depth analysis of a website and its ranking in the SERPs. It allows you to identify where you can make improvements to enhance visibility and increase organic traffic.
  • SEO audits can take anywhere from 30 minutes to six weeks, depending on the scale of your website and the audit.
  • SEO audits evaluate site speed, content gaps, technical SEO issues, user experience, meta/title tags, and keyword opportunities
  • An audit also covers crawling and indexing issues, sitemaps, backlinks, duplicate content, keyword cannibalization, site architecture, compliance issues, and gives you the chance to do a competitor analysis.
  • Tools such as SEO Analyzer, Ubersuggest, Screaming Frog, CopyScape, Lumar, Schema Markup Validator, and Small SEO Tools can make an SEO audit more manageable.

What Is an SEO Audit?

An SEO audit is a comprehensive analysis of a website and its search engine ranking, and highlights areas where you can make improvements. During an audit, you can also implement on-site optimization, which can enhance your site’s rankings over time.

SEO website audits can help spot potential areas of opportunity like:

  • content refresh opportunities
  • technical SEO issues, like site speed issues, and mistakes in your website’s code, content.
  • areas where competitors are outranking you
  • ways to improve UX by improving load times and mobile accessibility for the optimal customer experience
  • target keyword implementation, including titles and meta descriptions.
  • whether you’re ranking for your chosen keywords and where you’re showing on the SERPs (search engine results pages.)
  • updating your content to align with algorithm and webmaster guideline changes
  • backlink quality

As you can see, an SEO audit is expansive and can affect all major areas of your website. If that sounds like a lot of work, perhaps you need proof that an SEO site audit is worthwhile. And I’ve got it!  

A detailed SEO audit by NP Digital for the CX automation platform Verint produced a solid percentage increase in organic traffic. We also saw:

  •  A +210% increase in non-branded organic search clicks year-over-year, 30 days post-migration
  • And a +33% increase In total number of keywords ranked in positions 1-10 year-over-over

To optimize your online results, you should do an audit regularly, say a couple of times a year, or quarterly. But you might also want to do an audit if your:

  • website’s organic traffic and conversions are falling.
  • site has a high bounce rate.
  • keyword rankings are falling, and you don’t know why.

You’ll also want to perform an SEO audit when you’ve built a new website or after a website migration. This will help you spot SEO challenges early so you can take the appropriate action.

Tools You’ll Need

SEO audits can take just a few hours or up to six weeks.. But with the right tools, it’s much more manageable.

Let’s take a look at some of these tools and what they can do for you.

SEO Analyzer measures various critical factors for SEO success, such as duplicate or missing meta data, missing H1s, site speed issues, and other technical aspects.  It also provides competitive analysis.

Ubersuggest offers backlink audits, keyword research, and content performance analysis. Plus, you can get a top SEO page report, do competitive analysis, find content ideas, and get domain overviews.

Ubersuggest search technical SEO audit

Screaming Frog improves your SEO by finding common issues like broken links, duplicate content, and missing meta tags.

ScreamingFrog broken link results report technical SEO audit

Copyscape finds plagiarized and duplicate content, which can affect your SEO.

Lumar (formerly Deepcrawl) is a website crawling tool that checks your site’s technical performance, like site speed and accessibility issues. It provides reports for up to 250 technical issues. 

Schema Markup Validator ensures the proper implementation of structured data on a website. Just enter your URL to run a test, find and fix errors, and get recommendations.

Small SEO Tools Keyword Density Checker enables you to analyze keyword density on your website. You’re aiming for around 1 – 2 percent keyword density. 

How to Perform an SEO Audit

Google has more than 200 different ranking factors—figuring out where you’re going wrong can be tough. However, a comprehensive SEO site audit can uncover the cause and enable you to create an action plan to fix them.

Here’s how to perform an SEO audit:

1. Run a Website Crawl

Go to my free SEO analyzer tool, enter your URL, and click “Analyze website.” The website crawl will tell you monthly visitor numbers, the number of backlinks, social shares, and more.

You can also get a list of critical errors, warnings, and recommendations, to help you increase your rankings.

Your SEO website audit report should look something like this:

Neil Patel site analyzer report SEO site audit

2. Analyze Organic Traffic

Organic traffic is the number of visitors that come to a website without you paying for search ads. You get organic traffic through links, mentions, and other online promotional efforts, such as social media posts.

This kind of traffic is a valuable indicator of how popular your site is. It helps measure the relevance and quality of your content and the effectiveness of your SEO strategy. Organic traffic can also deliver a significant ROI. You can use this calculator to estimate how much organic search could be worth to your site.

If you’ve noticed a fall in organic traffic or falling keyword rankings, you might need to start adjusting your SEO strategy. You might also lose organic traffic because of Google algorithm changes, which can sometimes result in penalties or manual actions.

To measure your organic traffic, you can use Website Traffic Checker, Google Analytics 4, Google Search Console, Bing Webmaster Tools, or internal analytics from your web host.

3.  Review (and Optimize) Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions and

The meta title of the page determines how the page ranks in the search results and should always include keywords. A meta description is a searcher’s invitation to your website. You’re looking to hook a reader and get them to your website. And a short, sweet, yet detailed meta description attracts more people to your site from search engine pages.

You’d want to look at your titles and meta descriptions for a couple of reasons. Using a tool like ScreamingFrog during your SEO audits, you can find missing, duplicated, and unoptimized meta titles and descriptions. This allows you to revise and optimize tags to help increase visibility.

ScreamingFrog meta description analysis tool SEO site audit

There’s something else you need to know.

Google often rewrites meta titles and meta descriptions of the time – which means you could miss out on sharing your keyword or main selling point if you neglect your meta descriptions.

Be sure to consider Google’s best practices related to title tags and meta descriptions as well.

4. Check for Keyword Cannibalization

Cannibalization happens when you have multiple pages on your site that are targeting the same keyword. Essentially, they are competing with each other for the same search traffic.

When cannibalization occurs, it damages your visibility by lowering rankings for the competing pages and causes visitor confusion. Fixing it can improve your traffic, as these case studies show.

In the image below, we can see how 3 blogs that are covering a different topic can be consolidated into one greater guide on said topic to avoid cannibalization issues.

keyword cannibalization chart Ahrefs SEO site audit

I’ve got a detailed piece about using Ubersuggest to find cannibalization to walk you through this process in greater detail.

If you find pages cannibalizing from other pages, consider redirecting weaker pages or combining the content into a large page (pillar post) full of valuable information.

5. Fix Indexing Issues

Common indexation issues include:

  • 404 errors
  • Server errors
  • Broken redirects or redirect loops
  • Duplicate content
  • Pages with thin content or no content
  • Incorrect use of canonicals

There’s a variety of reasons Google might ignore pages on your site, such as slow loading times, low-quality content, or lack of mobile-friendliness. However, you also need to remember that Google doesn’t index every page.

Beyond that, the potential answer to your indexing issues lies in Google’s Search Console.

Google Search Console intro page SEO site audit

The tool can provide valuable information about site-specific problems like security, duplicate content, and crawl issues.

Another option is to use a Google Index Checker that allows you to enter multiple URLs at a time.

If you’re still stuck, Google has a full list of indexing issues and solutions. 

6. Check for Duplicate Content

Duplicate content is very common online, and can impact the UX of your site and potentially cause cannibalization. This problem can occur when you have multiple domains or publish content in different formats. You can check for duplicates using a tool like Copyscape or the SEO Content Checker Chrome extension.

SEO content checker Chrome plugin SEO site audit

If you find any duplicate content you may consider the following:

  • Consolidate content and eliminate redundancy
  • Use 301 redirects or top-level domains
  • limiting similar content and add canonicalization to tell Google your preferred URL

7. Check Page Speed

The average site takes 2.5 seconds to load on desktop and 8.6 seconds on mobile. If your site takes longer, you could be falling behind.

Slow loading sites can lead to increased bounce rate, lower conversions, and reduced visibility, so you’ll want to test page speed during your SEO audit. Again, my SEO Analyzer tool can help you out here.

Neil Patel site speed measurement tool SEO site audit

Most crucially, your site’s loading time is a Google ranking factor. If your site takes too long to load, visitors are likely to choose a competitor instead of waiting around.

How do you fix slow loading times?

Run a performance analysis with Google PageSpeed Insights to get your page speed score, highlight errors, and suggest improvements.

If your loading times are lagging, you can also try:

  • optimizing images
  • using a Content Delivery Network
  • reducing the number of plugins and scripts
  • minifying CSS, JavaScript, and HTML
  • enabling GZIP compression on your server

8. Check Core Web Vitals

During your technical SEO audit, measure your Core Web Vitals. These are factors that Google says are vital in measuring your website’s user experience. They’re also a ranking factor.

There are three metrics:

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), which measures page load times

Interaction to Next Paint (INP) measures the time it takes to become interactive after a user interaction. For example, clicks and taps.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) measures how much the page layout shifts during loading. 

These metrics are essential because they can all impact user satisfaction and experience.

To find and analyze the Core Web Vitals, use Google Search Console and PageSpeed Insights:

Results from Google Pagespeed Insights.

9. Analyze Mobile Friendliness

Google requires websites to be accessible via mobile devices in order to be crawled and indexed. With more than half of website traffic coming from mobile, you’ve got to cater to these users.

A mobile-friendly website can enhance SEO and improve UX, so don’t skip this step. 

Bing has a free tool to test your site’s mobile-friendliness. Just add the URL and click on “Analyze.” 

Bing mobile friendliness test tool SEO site audit

Use the tool to assess the fixes you need to make. You’ll get a report telling you how your site measures up and whether it’s mobile-friendly. If your site needs work, consider performing a mobile makeover to improve the UX.

10. Fix Broken Links

Broken links are one of the most common website issues in SEO audits; most sites have at least a few. Ahrefs’ study found that 66.5 percent of links to sites in the last nine years were dead. Broken links happen due to website updates, content changes, or deleted pages.

While it may not seem a significant issue, most of us know how frustrating it is when links don’t work, negatively affecting the overall customer experience.

In addition, broken links affect your rankings because Google relies on them for PageRank and anchor text. If these links are broken, Google can’t find them.

Fixing the problem is easy, though. Use a tool like Screaming Frog’s broken link checker to find any issues. You can then fix, delete, or redirect any links.

ScreamingFrog broken link checker SEO site audit

 11. Complete a Competitive Analysis

Competitive analysis helps you understand your competition and spot opportunities to rank higher than them on Google.

It also lets you see how your competitors are doing and their strengths and weaknesses while giving you an idea of how to position your product or service better to gain more traction.

Consider the following factors during competitive analysis:

  • keywords that your competitor ranks for
  • keywords your competitors have lost
  • number of backlinks each website has
  • quality of backlinks
  • social media engagement (such as Facebook likes, Twitter followers, etc.)
  • website speed
  • mobile responsiveness

Many tools can simplify this task, but I’ll talk you through using Ubersuggest. All you need to do is:

  1. enter the competitor’s URL and select Search
  2. choose the Keyword Ideas option from the left sidebar
  3. analyze the keyword and content ideas list
Ubersuggest keyword ideas page SEO site audit
  1. click Backlinks Overview
  2. scroll down to the ‘Source Page Title & URL’ section 
Ubersuggest source page title and URL target base search SEO site audit

Ubersuggest also works for competitor tracking.

 12. Analyze Your Sitemap

Take time to analyze your sitemap as part of your SEO site audit. Why? Because your sitemap ensures that Google and other search engines can properly crawl and index your website, helping to enhance visibility and increase your SERP rankings.

To audit your sitemap, you can use Google Search Console (GSC). Here’s how to do it:

Go to GSC and locate the sitemaps report to see a list of sitemaps and their performance. 

Google search console sitemaps page SEO site audit
  • Review the sitemap status to ensure that Google has successfully processed and indexed your sitemap. You’ll also see if there are any warnings or errors listed.
  • If you need to make changes, click on the sitemap you want to audit and check the list of submitted URLs. Review the list to confirm that it includes all your website’s essential pages.
  • Take note of the number of URLs submitted in a sitemap and how many are listed in “Discovered URLs”. Ensure that the search engines are indexing a significant portion of your submitted URLs. A large discrepancy might indicate indexing issues.
  • Look for common areas like  “URL blocked by robots.txt” or “Submitted URL marked ‘noindex’” and address these problems to improve indexing and visibility.
  • Next, validate URLs: Use the “Inspect URL” feature to manually check the indexing status and coverage of specific URLs to find specific page issues.
  • Then, if you’ve made any fixes during your SEO audit, update your sitemap and resubmit to Google by clicking the submit button.

13. Identify Content Gaps

Content gaps refer to topics users seek information about that your site doesn’t cover. Filling content gaps provides a better user experience and helps increase the visibility of your website for more keywords.

You can discover content gaps by:

  • Looking at rankings: Perhaps your keywords rank, but not as high as you’d like. Begin with the basics by checking that SEO fundamentals are in place and enhancing content where you can.
  • Using keyword research: Your first step is to see what’s working, so check for high-performing keywords. Pay special attention to long-tail keywords, as these often have lower competition, and look out for related keywords, too.
  • Competitive analysis: Which keywords are your competitors ranking for? Use these as inspiration for new topic ideas.

You can use Ubersuggest to identify keyword and content gaps to speed things up.

Add your URL and choose ‘Similar Websites’ from the left navigation pane; you’re looking for the keyword gap heading. Hit the down arrow for a keyword, and you’ll see links to keywords and content your competitors rank for, but you don’t. 

Ubersuggest similar website search SEO site audit

FAQs

What is an SEO audit and why is it important?

An SEO audit analyzes different on-site, off-site, and technical elements of your website. It’s important because it measures your website’s SEO health and identifies areas for improvement, like enhancing site speed, optimizing for mobile, or finding keyword gaps. These can all help to improve your SERP ranking and increase organic traffic.

What tools can I use to conduct an SEO audit?

Ubersuggest can help, but ScreamingFrog, Google Search Console, and Ahrefs provide useful features for measuring metrics and identifying common issues.

How do I check for indexing issues during an SEO audit?

The simplest way is to use Google Search Console to scan for crawl errors and index issues.

Another quick tip is to search under site:domain.com on Google using your website details to see which of your pages Google has indexed.

ScreamingFrog will also highlight indexing issues.

What should I do if I find duplicate versions of my site during the audit?

Using canonical tags is a popular method. You can use these to indicate the preferred version of a page. You can also add 301 redirects.

Are there any other common issues to look out for during an SEO audit?

Yes. SEO audits are a chance to find linking opportunities (internal and external) and thin content, check or add schema markup, and optimize images.

Conclusion

It doesn’t matter how great your website looks—if it’s not working optimally, it won’t attract the visitors, leads, and conversion rates you need to thrive.

A detailed SEO audit allows you to find and fix any potential issues and equips you with the information needed to boost performance, increase rankings, and enhance visibility.

Although SEO may seem complex, it has a powerful effect on your traffic. Many such as Ubersuggest, Ahrefs, and Screaming Frog, can help you get your website back on track.

Remember to do your audits regularly (at least twice a year). And if your organic traffic is falling, that’s a good time to do an audit and check for common issues.

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Neil Patel

source: https://neilpatel.com/blog/seo-website-audit/