If you associate the word audit
with taxes and IRS, then probably the very word itself makes you
shiver but fear not -when SEO is concerned, audit is a nice
word and a very, very necessary activity. This article will teach you
in details how to perform a SEO audit and you will see for yourself
that not all audits are a nightmare.
Why Do You Need a SEO Audit?
When you think how much time SEO takes, you might frown at the
very idea to spend more time on it. While this could be true for many
SEO activities, like getting thousands of low quality backlinks that
are not just a waste of time but they could really hurt your
rankings, the case with SEO audits is different. SEO audits are not a
waste of time for sure. Yes, a thorough audit of a big site could
take days or even weeks but without it you are left in the dark.
Basically, the main purpose of a SEO audit is to give you an idea
where your SEO efforts have got you to so far. Without this
knowledge, it makes no sense to perform any SEO activities, since you
don't know what the return from them is. This is why a SEO
professional can't do without occasional (but preferably regular) SEO
Crawl Your Site
Before you start with the analysis steps of a SEO audit, you need
to perform some prep steps. The first one is to crawl your site. This
will tell you if you have sections of your site that are not
accessible to search engines. If you there are such pages/sections,
you know right away why they don't rank well actually, they don't
rank at all because they are not included in the databases of search
To perform a crawl of your site, you need a tool. The choice of
tools here is pretty rich but we can whole-heartedly recommend the
Engine Spider Simulator tool. It's a straightforward tool that
tells you what is indexable from your site and what isn't.
Check What Search Engines Say about Your Site
A crawler gives you a rough idea about what from your site is
indexable and what isn't but this is not all the data we need. The
fact that a page is crawlable doesn't always mean it's included in
search engines' databases. Therefore, we need to check what of our
crawlable pages made it there and what didn't.
Unfortunately, in order to do so, we need to hack the databases of
Google, Bing, and the other search engines and this certainly isn't a
viable option. The next best thing is to use the sets of Webmaster
tools these search engines offer for free. If you are not familiar
Webmaster Tools or Bing Webmaster Tools, it's high time to
correct this and start using these tools regularly. The data you will
get from them is not everything you need but for a start, they are
enough to perform a SEO audit.
Time for the Actual SEO Audit
After you prepared yourself by checking what's crawlable from your
site and what webmaster tools report, now we can start the SEO audit
1 Analyze Accessibility and Indexability
The first step in the accessibility and indexability analysis is
to make sure you haven't by accident blocked crawlers from your site.
A. Analyze Robots.txt
To check if you haven't blocked crawlers, have a look at your
file to see if there are no user agents banned, or sections of
your site that should be indexed put by mistake in the banned area.
You can check this in the file itself or use Google Webmaster Tools
to see which URLs it lists as banned.
B. Check 404 Errors and Redirects
Another common area of problems are 404 errors and redirects.
While you crawl your site, pay attention to these errors and if you
find any, correct them immediately. As for redirects, as you know,
there are good redirects and bad ones. Therefore, make sure you use
good ones only (i.e. 301 redirects) and not bad redirects, such as
C. Examine the XML Sitemap
are way too important to neglect. This is why, no SEO audit is
complete without a check if your XML sitemap is up-to-date, readable,
and functioning. Your XML sitemap must contain only pages that are
really on your site and all your pages you want indexed must be
included in the sitemap. Any deviation from this rule is a potential
problem, so you need to find it and solve it now.
Also, double check if your XML map is submitted to search engines.
You might have the perfect XML sitemap but if it isn't used by search
engines, this makes it pointless.
D. Web Design/Development Audit
When we discuss availability, we can't skip such very important
factors, such as site architecture, speed of loading, uptime, use of
availability the more menus and submenus you have, the harder to
access it (and all equal, the more broken links).
If your site takes ages to load and/or is frequently down, this is
also a turnoff to both human users and search engine spiders, so
these issues also need to be corrected asap. Just find a good
host and your problems are over!
professional. While very often their use can't be avoided completely,
SEO problems and a SEO audit should spot these as severe issues that
need to be fixed.
In addition to accessibility, site indexibility is also something
you need to check, when you perform a SEO audit. Here are some quick
ways to do it.
E. Check the Number of Pages Indexed by
The simplest way to check the number of pages indexed by a
particular search engine is to type this in the search bar:
where you replace yoursite.com with the actual name of your site.
This command gives you the number of pages from your site indexed
by the search engine. If the number of pages indexed by search
engines is close to the actual number of pages on your site, this is
the best because it shows that your site is indexed successfully.
If the number of pages indexed by search engines is much smaller
than the actual number of pages on your site, this shows that many
pages are inaccessible and you need to check why this happens.
If the number of pages indexed by search engines is much bigger
than the actual number of pages on your site, this suggests you have
lots of duplicate content you need to clear as fast as you can. Just
use site:yoursite.com&start=990 to see if Google will report
If you find nothing when you issue the site:yoursite.com command,
you can scream with pain because (unless this is a new site) this
usually means one thing you have been excluded from the search
engine's index. This is the most severe penalty a site can get! If
this happens to you, check here
how to proceed.
2 Analyze On-Page Ranking Factors
The group of on-page ranking factors is huge and so is its
importance. We could add some more on-page factors but here are the
basic ones you shouldn't skip:
A. Site URLs
Site URLs need to be user friendly (i.e. no dynamic
URLs, if possible), with the relevant keywords in them, and have
no overlap (i.e. no two URLs should point to the same page, unless
you use redirects because for search engines this is duplicate
B. Page Content
Page content is a topic on its own because you can devote lots of
time to SEO auditing your content. The points to consider are
numerous but the main ones include:
Is your content thin - i.e. do you have pages with just a few
words/sentences of content?
Is your content unique i.e. do other sites in your niche
have similar stuff or not?
Is your content keyword-rich i.e. do you have a good
density for your target keywords (without going in the keyword
spamming direction, though)?
Do your keywords appear in the right places i.e. headings
and the first paragraph?
Do you have duplicate
content on page and/or sitewise i.e. if you use the same
footer/sidebar on each page, this is also duplicate content, though
it certainly is less severe than having the same articles two or
more times on the site.
C. Outbound Links
The quantity and quality of outbound links is of vital importance.
This is why you need to double check that you have no more than 1
outbound link per 500-1,000 words of text and that this link points
to a reputable site. Of course, you can use nofollow for outbound
links but still this isn't a guarantee because not all search engines
(even Google itself) honor it at all times.
D. Meta Tags
Meta tags are frequently underestimated but they do matter for
good rankings. For instance, you might want to make sure that each
page has a unique meta description. You should also check that the
<title> tag is properly filled with the name of the page it
In addition to the text on a page, you also need to check non-text
you might use to enhance your pages. Images and videos must have a
3 Analyze Off-Page Ranking Factors
On-page factors are important and their analysis certainly takes a
lot of time. However, off-page ranking factors are also important but
the good news is that their analysis isn't that time-consuming. Here
are some of these off-page ranking factors you need to consider.
A. Number and Quality of Backlinks
The number and quality of backlinks is very, very important. This
is why, when you are performing a SEO audit, you should check these:
Do your backlinks come from reputable sites in your niche?
Do you have many unique backlinking domains or do your links
come from just a couple of unique domains?
Do you have toxic backlinks (i.e. links from bad/spammy
Do you have nofollow backlinks (you should because if you
don't, this is very suspicious)
Do your backlinks have keywords in the anchor
text and are these keywords different from one another?
If you have a huge amount of backlinks, you might need a lot of
time to analyze them. To make your job easier, you need a good
backlink checking tool, for instance this
B. Position with Recognized Ranking Services
Even if your site has a good backlink profile this doesn't mean it
is a good ranking site. In addition to your rankings with Google and
the other search engines, one more factor to consider about your
position on the Web is how reputable ranking services, such as Alexa,
PR, Page Authority, Domain Authority, etc. rank you. For more
information about ranking services, check this
C. Presence on Social Media
Social media, such as Twitter,
and the other social networking (and some social
bookmarking) sites are a good indicator about your site's
popularity. If you have a large following on these sites and a good
number of reposts, this is a huge plus.
4 Compare Yourself to the Competition
Finally, the last step in the SEO audit process is to see how you
fare compared to your competitors. This is also a time-consuming
step, especially if you have lots of competitors but you shouldn't
skip it. To learn how to analyze your competition, check this
This SEO audit surely took a lot of time and effort but this
wasn't in vain. You got valuable information that can save you long
hours of meaningless work. Now, put all the conclusions of the audit
in writing, save the file(s) somewhere safe, so that when you decide
to perform another audit sometimes in the future, you have what to
compare with. SEO audits can be very time consuming but it is best if
you perform them regularly, i.e. once a month or once in three months
because this way you will know how you are doing and will save
yourself the trouble to do SEO activities that have no (positive)
effect on your rankings.