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How to Do an SEO Audit and Improve Your Performance on Google Search Results

SEO Audit

Are you struggling to climb the Google search results ladder? It’s time to stop guessing what might be wrong with your website and start pinpointing the hurdles that keep you from outranking your competitors. This is where the magic of an SEO audit comes into play. As your SEO and Business Marketing Coach, I’m here to guide you through the maze of tools, techniques, and terms that will transform your site from invisible to indispensable.

SEO audits are crucial for identifying your website’s strengths and weaknesses. They reveal vital insights about everything from your site structure to how users navigate your pages. With a proper audit, you can uncover the tweaks necessary to boost your site’s performance in search results, driving more organic traffic and converting that traffic into loyal customers.

This guide is designed with you, the small business owner, in mind. We’ll skip the jargon and get straight to the point, focusing on actionable advice you can apply today. From using the power of Google Search Console to making sense of meta descriptions and broken links, we’re covering the essential steps to conduct a comprehensive site audit. Plus, I’ll introduce you to both free and premium SEO audit tools that can make the task more accessible and more efficient.

Next, we’ll explore the specifics of conducting an SEO audit, starting with how to use Google Analytics to understand your current search traffic and then moving on to the nitty-gritty of on-page SEO, site speed, and mobile usability. Whether you’re planning a complete website overhaul or just looking to tweak your current site for better performance, this section will provide you with a clear roadmap for success.

Let’s embark on this journey to unlock your website’s full potential.

What is an SEO Audit?

An SEO audit is a report card for your website’s organic search performance. It’s an in-depth look at your site to assess how well it aligns with best practices for ranking high in search results.

This is not just a quick scan of your homepage or a check for website loading. It is a comprehensive analysis of everything that impacts your website’s organic search visibility and, consequently, your target audience.

During an SEO audit, the main objective is to identify any large or small issues hindering your website’s maximum potential. This includes analyzing your site structure to ensure search engines can easily crawl and index your pages, examining on-page SEO elements like meta tags and content quality, and even digging into your site’s mobile usability and page speed. Each factor is crucial in how search engines understand and rank your site.

An SEO audit is not only about detecting problems but also about discovering opportunities. Conducting keyword gap analysis helps identify untapped areas that attract more targeted traffic to your website. Reviewing your internal linking strategy can also help improve site navigation and increase visitor engagement.

Off-page factors such as your site’s backlink profile are also reviewed during an SEO audit. The quality and relevance of external websites linking to your site are analyzed as they impact your domain authority and organic search rankings. It is important to disavow low-quality links to maintain a positive backlink profile.

Types of SEO Audits

To effectively optimize your website for search engines, it’s essential to understand the different types of SEO audits available. Here’s a brief overview of the main types of SEO audits and which area of your website’s performance they focus on:

Content SEO Audit

A Content SEO Audit evaluates website content for accuracy, timeliness, and quality to boost traffic and your site’s rankings. This audit heavily relies on Google’s E-A-T principles (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) as a benchmark for quality and relevancy. It requires thoroughly examining your website’s content, internal links, and visuals to ensure that they meet the specified criteria, enhancing its visibility and search result performance.

This audit investigates optimization opportunities to get your content featured in Google’s special search result sections, including the Featured Snippet, “People Also Ask” boxes and passage ranking. It ensures your content is relevant, authoritative, and meets the expectations of users and search engines.

 

On-Page SEO Audit

An On-Page SEO Audit is a comprehensive evaluation of your website’s pages. It examines various elements that can be optimized to ensure they are easily accessible and understood by search engine crawlers.

This type of audit aims to ensure that your website’s structural and content elements align with SEO marketing best practices. It involves a detailed analysis of meta descriptions and meta titles, the effective use of image alt text, optimizing image file sizes through compression, and correcting any issues hindering a website’s ability to rank well. The main objective is to improve the visibility and ranking of each page in search engine results by ensuring that these critical components are correctly implemented and optimized.

 

Backlinks SEO Audit

A Backlinks SEO Audit checks the links to your website for strengths and weaknesses. It helps optimize your website’s ranking for target keywords by analyzing the quality and relevance of your link building efforts.

During this process, the audit assesses each backlink’s originating URL, domain authority, and anchor text to determine the level of “link juice” – or value and link equity—being transferred to your page. This helps determine the impact of a link on your website’s visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs).

High-quality links pointing to your site from reputable and authoritative websites are essential to improving your website’s SEO. You can conduct a backlinks audit by gathering all link data associated with your site. You can also use tools like Google Search Console to efficiently download a comprehensive list of the latest external links for further analysis. Simply navigate to the “Links to Your Site” section under “Search Traffic.”

Create a spreadsheet to evaluate links systematically, including criteria such as anchor text, IP address, and page content context. This will make it easy to highlight areas for improvement in your backlink profile and identify opportunities to strengthen your website’s overall SEO strategy.

 

Technical SEO Audit

A Technical SEO audit is performed to identify any issues within your site architecture. The audit primarily focuses on foundational elements, such as site speed and core web vitals, mobile friendliness, secure connections (HTTPS), broken pages, XML sitemaps, and the robots.txt file.

The main purpose of this audit is to ensure that search engines can access, crawl, and index the site without problems. Issues such as slow page load times, unresponsive design for mobile, or improperly configured security protocols can negatively impact a site’s search rankings and user experience.

Moreover, this audit examines the site’s architecture for efficient navigation and URL structure, ensuring that search engines can understand and prioritize content correctly.

Technical SEO audits also delve into more advanced areas, such as schema markup, to improve search visibility through rich snippets and ensure compliance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) for enhanced accessibility.

 

Local SEO Audit

A Local SEO Audit focuses on optimizing a business for local search results. This ensures that businesses appear when users search for relevant products or services in their geographic area, ultimately driving increased foot traffic and sales.

This type of audit assesses several key components critical to local search performance, including the accuracy and consistency of business listings across directories, optimizing the Google Business profile, using local keywords, and creating location-specific pages on the website.

It also examines customer reviews and ratings on various platforms, significantly influencing local search rankings and consumer trust. The audit also looks at local backlinks and citations to ensure the business is mentioned accurately across the web.

How to Do An SEO Audit (Checklist)

This guide will lead you through the crucial steps to assess your website’s strengths and weaknesses and help you optimize it.

1. Check if there are Indexing Issues

Identifying indexing issues is crucial in ensuring your website is visible to your target audience. Google’s ability to index your pages is essential for achieving good search rankings.

To check for indexing problems, you can use Google Search Console. Start by navigating to the “Index” section and selecting the “Pages” report. This area provides a comprehensive view of your website’s pages and indexing status displayed through an intuitive graph. Below the graph, you’ll find detailed reasons for any indexing problems.

google search console report for index pages

It’s essential to address each reason systematically. However, remember that only some pages on your website need to be indexed. Only the pages you want to appear in search results should be indexed. Pages such as redirect pages, admin-specific pages, pages with canonical tags pointing to other URLs, and RSS or feed pages are some examples of non-essential pages for indexing.

If you come across a page that should be indexed but isn’t, it’s time to troubleshoot. Google offers guidelines for resolving such issues. After making the necessary adjustments, use the “Validate Fix” button to inform Google of your changes.

For a quicker check, insert the URL directly into Google Search Console’s search bar at the dashboard’s top.

google search console page indexing

This will reveal the page’s current indexing status, and you can prompt Google to index the page using the “Request Indexing” link. This feature is convenient if you’ve made significant updates to a page.

request indexing on google search console

For a broader view of indexing and other technical challenges, consider using audit tools like Screaming Frog, SEMRush, and Ahrefs.

 

2. Check for Duplicate Versions of Your Site

Ensuring that Google indexes only one version of your website is crucial. Even minor variations in the URL, such as the use of “www” or switching between HTTP and HTTPS, can create distinct versions of your site are indexed separately. To avoid this, it is important to standardize your URL and ensure that all variations redirect to the same preferred version.

  • http://www.yoursite.com
  • http://yoursite.com
  • https://www.yoursite.com
  • https://yoursite.com

If your website has multiple versions of URLs, it could cause significant issues related to crawling, indexing, and ranking. Google may consider them duplicate content, which can negatively impact your SEO performance and dilute your site’s PageRank.

To check if your website has this problem, you can test all possible URL versions in a web browser. Regardless of which version you type, your browser should automatically redirect you to a single, preferred version of your site. This uniformity ensures that Google and users are directed to the correct version of your content, consolidating your site’s authority and improving its search ranking potential.

If your website is accessible through multiple URLs, it’s time to implement 301 redirects for the non-preferred versions. A 301 redirect is a permanent way to tell browsers and search engines that a page has moved to a new location. By directing all variations to a singular preferred URL, you unify your site’s identity, bolstering its SEO foundation and ensuring a cohesive user experience.

Setting up 301 redirects can be done via your website’s hosting control panel or by editing the .htaccess file on Apache servers. If you are uncomfortable with manual edits, consulting with a web developer or utilizing SEO tools to manage redirects can be valuable. This simple yet crucial fix will streamline your site’s structure, making it more navigable for Google and users.

 

3. Check for Manual Actions on Google Search Console

Encountering a manual action from Google is like receiving a warning indicating that your website has violated Google’s spam policies. Such penalties can significantly affect your website’s rankings, leading to a drop in traffic until the issue is resolved. Manual actions can be applied to specific pages or the entire site, depending on the severity of the violation.

manual action report from google search console

Several common infractions may trigger a manual action, including keyword stuffing, the presence of unnatural links to and from your site, various types of spam, and publishing thin content that offers little to no value to users. As a site owner, particularly for small business owners who rely heavily on organic search traffic, it’s crucial to stay vigilant against these pitfalls.

Google Search Console is the go-to tool for checking if your website has been subjected to manual action. Within the console, navigate to the “Security and Manual Actions” section and click the “Manual Actions” link. You will find any notifications related to manual actions taken against your site here. Ideally, you want a green checkmark indicating no issues have been detected.

If you find that your website has been penalized, taking immediate steps to rectify the problem is essential. Google provides a comprehensive Manual Actions guide outlining how to address each issue. For instance, if the manual action was due to unnatural links pointing to your site, you may need to remove these links by contacting the webmasters involved or using the disavow tool as a last resort.

After addressing the issues outlined in the manual action, you must submit a reconsideration request through Google Search Console. This process involves explaining the steps to correct the violations and requesting that Google review your site again. It’s a critical step in restoring your site’s standing in search results, making it paramount to approach this process thoroughly and sincerely. For small business owners, maintaining a clean bill of health on Google Search Console is not just about avoiding penalties—it’s about safeguarding the visibility and accessibility of your online presence.

 

4. Check for Mobile-Friendliness Issues

Making your website mobile-friendly is not just a convenience; it’s a necessity. Since early 2015, Google has given great importance to mobile usability as part of its Page Experience signals, underscoring its significance in your site’s ability to rank well. Overlooking mobile-friendliness can significantly impede your site’s visibility and performance in search results, especially for small business owners.

You can use the Core Web Vitals report in Google Search Console to check for any mobile usability issues. This tool is invaluable for understanding your site’s performance on mobile devices. To access this report, click “Core Web Vitals” under the “Experience”.

page experience core metrics

This section provides a snapshot of your site’s mobile usability over time, highlighting potential issues that could detract from a user’s mobile experience.

mobile usability report

The report details specific mobile-friendliness issues and lists all affected pages, allowing you to understand the scope and nature of the problems fully. These could range from text that’s too small to read on a mobile device to clickable elements that are too close together, among other usability barriers.

Google’s Search Console Help Center provides step-by-step instructions for addressing these issues. After implementing the recommended changes, use the “Validate Fix” feature within Google Search Console so Google can re-examine all the pages that are corrected.

Making your website mobile-friendly is crucial for providing a smooth browsing experience to the increasing number of users accessing the web via mobile devices. As a small business owner, optimizing your site for mobile can lead to higher engagement, better conversion rates, and a stronger online presence.

 

5. Benchmark your Core Web Vitals Scores

core web vitals on google webmaster tools

It is important to analyze your website’s Core Web Vitals to optimize its performance and improve user experience. In 2020, Google introduced Core Web Vitals as a set of metrics essential for evaluating a webpage’s efficiency and health. These metrics, which have now become significant ranking factors, include the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measures the time it takes for the largest content element on your page to load, highlighting loading performance.
  • First Input Delay (FID) assesses the time between a user’s first interaction with a page (like clicking a link or tapping a button) and the browser’s ability to respond to that interaction, focusing on interactivity.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) evaluates how often users experience unexpected layout shifts of visual page content, emphasizing visual stability.
site performance report on core web vitals

Small business owners who want to improve their website’s search result ranking should check their Core Web Vitals for the critical pages on their site. Luckily, Google Search Console provides an easy way to monitor these metrics through the “Core Web Vitals” report, located under the “Experience” section in the dashboard.

The report has separate analyses for “Desktop” and “Mobile” views, which identify any issues affecting your performance regarding these vitals. Google categorizes pages with issues into two groups: those with severe issues (“poor URLs”) and those that require minor improvements. This helps you prioritize fixes based on the severity of the problem.

Addressing Core Web Vitals issues is essential for better rankings and significantly improves your site’s user experience. By carefully reviewing these reports and following Google’s improvement guidelines, you can ensure that your website remains fast, user-friendly, and competitive. This effort ultimately pays off through increased user engagement and higher search engine visibility.

6. Fix Broken Pages

As a website owner, ensuring that your website’s pages are functional and without errors is crucial. Broken pages affect user experience and waste the potential SEO benefits of backlinks pointing to non-existent content. Therefore, addressing these issues promptly is crucial for small business owners as it can significantly impact your site’s credibility and search engine rankings.

You can quickly identify broken URLs with valuable backlinks through tools like Ahrefs. These tools offer an Audit tool feature where you can enter your domain, look for the “Best by links” report, and apply a “404 not found” filter. This will reveal the broken pages on your site that are still attracting backlinks. By sorting this report by referring domains from high to low, you can prioritize the pages that significantly impact your site’s SEO performance.

Google Search Console and Screaming Frog are also excellent free tools for identifying broken pages. Google Search Console provides insights directly from the search engine’s perspective, highlighting crawl errors and broken pages that Googlebot encounters. Screaming Frog allows you to conduct a thorough crawl of your site, identifying broken links (404 errors) and other technical issues.

important pages with 404 status
screaming frog free seo audit tool

Once you have identified the broken pages, the next step is to fix them by restoring them to their former glory or redirecting the URLs to relevant, live content on your site using 301 redirects. This ensures that the link equity passed by backlinks is salvaged, and it improves the user experience by guiding visitors to helpful content instead of dead ends.

7. Check Your On-Page Elements

When optimizing your website, paying attention to on-page elements is crucial. These elements, including titles, meta descriptions, headings, and images, significantly affect your site’s search engine rankings. For small business owners looking to enhance their online presence, the Screaming Frog SEO Spider is a powerful, user-friendly tool that can help you audit these elements efficiently.

First, download and install the Screaming Frog SEO Spider. The free version offers a wealth of features perfect for a comprehensive on-page audit. Once installed, simply enter your website’s URL into the program and let it crawl your site. Depending on the size of your website, the process might take a few minutes.

As Screaming Frog goes through your site, it compiles data on various on-page factors. Here’s what to check:

  1. Title Tags: Ensure they are present, unique, and within the 50-60 character range for optimal display in search results.
  2. Meta Descriptions: Check for their presence and uniqueness. Aim for 150-160 characters to summarize page content effectively.
  3. Headings (H1, H2, etc.): Verify that each page has one H1 tag and uses subsequent headings (H2, H3) logically to structure content.
  4. Images: Look for missing alt texts. Alt texts describe images to search engines and are vital for image SEO.
report summary from screaming frog seo tool

The ‘Internal’ tab in Screaming Frog provides a comprehensive overview of your URLs, status codes, and page titles. The ‘Response Codes’ tab helps identify any 404 errors or redirects that need fixing. The’ Page Titles’ and’ Meta Description’ tabs allow you to audit your titles and descriptions for length, duplication, or absence.

Once the crawl is complete, review the reports generated by Screaming Frog to gain valuable insights and identify areas for improvement.

 

8. Check for Sitemap Issues

checking sitemap for site audit

Think of your sitemap as a map you provide to Google to guide it through the important pages you want indexed on your website. Your sitemap should be clean, directing search engines only to live, canonical pages, and not leading them down dead ends like redirects or non-canonical pages. Maintaining an accurate sitemap can significantly streamline Google’s indexing process, making it easier for people to find your content.

To check for sitemap issues, you can use Google Search Console. This tool lets you submit your sitemap directly to Google and monitor its status. By navigating to the “Sitemaps” section, you can see whether your sitemap has been successfully processed and if any errors need to be addressed. These errors could range from URLs pointing to non-existent pages (404 errors) to including web pages in the sitemap that shouldn’t be indexed.

If you discover any such issues, it is essential to update your sitemap promptly. Remove any URLs that lead to redirects, non-canonicals, or dead pages. Ensure that all your pages are vital for search engines to index. Regularly updating your sitemap and keeping it error-free signals to Google that your site is well-maintained and worthy of a good ranking.

This might seem like a technical task for small business owners, but it’s manageable. Most website platforms and content management systems offer tools or plugins to help generate and update sitemaps automatically.

9. Check Your Organic Traffic

Measuring your website’s organic traffic is like taking its pulse and assessing its health in terms of SEO. Organic traffic refers to the visitors who find your website through unpaid search results, and it is a critical measure of your website’s visibility and success in search engines.

You can use Google Search Console’s “Search results” report in the “Performance” section to analyze your website’s organic traffic metrics. This report provides data about how users interact with your website through search. Among the metrics available, “Total clicks” is particularly telling, as it shows the number of times users clicked through to your website over a specific period.

check how much organic traffic you are getting

Google Search Console allows you to refine this report further by queries, pages, devices, and countries, providing valuable insights that can help you pinpoint where your SEO efforts are thriving and where improvement is needed.

A more detailed view of organic search traffic is available for those transitioning to Google Analytics 4 (GA4). In GA4, you can navigate to Reports > Acquisition > Traffic acquisition to begin.

By changing the default channel grouping to “Session source/medium,” you can identify organic traffic sources. Similarly, the Engagement reports within GA4 can show which specific pages are attracting organic traffic when you filter by medium to “organic.”

use google analytics to check website visitors

GA4 also facilitates deeper dives into your data, such as identifying the landing pages that attract organic search traffic, understanding the search terms driving visitors to your website, and even breaking down traffic by device category. Each of these analyses starts with accessing the relevant report section, adding the necessary filters or dimensions (like “Session medium” or “Device category”), and searching for “organic” to isolate organic search traffic data.

For small business owners, regularly auditing your organic traffic is not just about numbers; it’s about insights. By leveraging SEO audit tools like Google Search Console and GA4, you can gain a clear view of how well your website performs in attracting unpaid search traffic. This understanding is crucial for guiding SEO strategies, content creation, and, ultimately, driving more traffic and engagement on your website.

10. Find Keywords You’re Missing Out On

Performing a content gap analysis can help you identify areas for improvement in your content and SEO strategies. SEMRush’s Keyword Gap Tool is one of the best audit tools to use in identifying and capitalize on your competitors’ effective keywords.

Enter your domain along with up to four of your competitors’ domains, then hit “Compare.” This site audit tool then sifts through the data to show you a side-by-side comparison of the keywords each site ranks for. Pay particular attention to the “Missing” and “Weak” tabs within the tool:

Missing: These are keywords that your competitors rank for, but your site does not. This is a goldmine for identifying new topics or areas you haven’t covered but are clearly valuable within your niche.

Weak: These keywords are ones for which your competitors have a stronger ranking than you. Improving your content for these keywords can help you climb the ranks and capture more traffic.

If you do not have access to paid tools for identifying keyword opportunities, Google’s Keyword Planner can be a useful alternative. It can help you find relevant keywords based on search volume and competition. You can also analyze the top-ranking pages for the keywords you target to identify gaps in your content. This can help you improve your rankings by creating high-quality, relevant content that addresses these terms. Integrating these keywords into your content calendar can enhance your overall SEO strategy and generate valuable traffic to your website.

SEO Audit Wrap-Up: Next Steps for Your Website

Embarking on an SEO audit journey can uncover the complex layers of optimizing your website for better visibility. From understanding the intricacies of on-page elements to navigating the complexities of technical SEO, we have covered essential ground to set your website up for success. However, the path to SEO mastery does not end here.

Join our SEO workshop to improve your website’s ranking and draw more organic traffic. Get personalized guidance and actionable strategies tailored to your unique business needs. Gain hands-on experience, direct coaching, and the knowledge to conduct effective SEO audits and implement changes that will help your website thrive in the competitive digital arena. Sign up today to transform your website’s SEO potential and claim your rightful place at the top of search results.

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FAQs about SEO Site Audit

A SEO site audit is a comprehensive website analysis to identify issues affecting search engine visibility. It involves checking the site’s structure, content, and backlinks to ensure compliance with SEO best practices. The site audit aims to uncover usability problems, technical SEO issues, and on-page and off-page optimization opportunities to improve the site’s performance in search rankings.

Your website might need an SEO audit if you notice a significant drop in traffic, poor search engine rankings, or lower conversion rates. Other indicators include slow site speed, content that doesn’t rank well, or if your website hasn’t been updated in accordance with the latest SEO guidelines and algorithm updates.

An SEO site audit is important because it helps identify critical issues that could be hindering your site’s ability to perform well in search engine results. It provides actionable insights to enhance site architecture, optimize content, and improve meta data usage. Regular audits ensure the site aligns with evolving SEO standards and practices, ultimately boosting its visibility and user engagement.

An SEO audit should be performed regularly, at least annually, or when major changes are made to your website. Additionally, conducting an audit after a decline in traffic or updating significant content is advisable. Periodic audits are essential to adapt to SEO algorithm updates and maintain competitive search rankings.

To prepare for an SEO audit, gather access credentials for your website’s backend, analytics, and any associated SEO audit tools. Compile a list of key performance indicators (KPIs) you wish to improve. Ensure that all site content, including pages, links, and media, are properly indexed and accessible. Familiarize yourself with current SEO trends and guidelines to understand potential site audit findings better.

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I'm Sophie Kessner

First generation Mexican American mama that’s gone from hood to strategic hustle. I’ve spent the last 10+ years inside the personal development space supporting 100’s of coaches in scaling 6 figure businesses online & supported 4 different companies in surpassing the 7 figure mark. Today, I focus on making scaling more sustainable by integrating the lenses of business, systems, automation and CEO Development through an Equity centered and Trauma informed lens.

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