By performing an SEO audit, you can pinpoint exactly why you’re not getting the SEO results you want. Auditing will uncover any issues causing an SEO strategy to fall flat, and it can help you figure out what actions you need to take to reach full potential.
A successful SEO audit takes a multi-faceted approach where you look at hundreds of factors. SEO strategy is not as simple as keyword-stuffing, but with a reliable audit checklist, you can create an actionable plan that helps you reach your goals.
Follow this 15-step SEO audit checklist to boost your traffic, and make sure to return to it as needed to maintain optimal Google rankings.
What is an SEO Audit?
An SEO audit is a roadmap of actionable steps you can take to help you discover pre-existing SEO campaign problems, so you can create a plan to tackle them.
Once you identify issues with an SEO audit tool, you can correct them and perfect your SEO content strategy and work to maintain your rankings.
When to Perform an Audit
If you’ve never performed a site audit, now is the time to do it. You should also do an SEO audit every time you start a new campaign.
Additionally, you should perform an audit once every quarter to make sure you haven’t missed anything and to address any changes.
The 15-Step SEO Audit
Now, let’s get started with our SEO audit checklist:
1. Identify SEO Content Strategy Objectives
You can’t move forward without a strategic plan. What are you seeking to achieve through your SEO strategy? It’s impossible to measure progress if you don’t know what your goals are. Keep in mind that SEO is only one puzzle piece in an overall marketing strategy, so you must also decide how it fits into your marketing plan.
Identify what your strategic objectives are. If you’ve already made goals, then now is the time to review them. Are your goals S.M.A.R.T.?
Using S.M.A.R.T. goals helps you map out a very clearly defined plan of action. If any of your goals are too vague or out of reach for where you currently are in your strategy, use S.M.A.R.T. to establish them further.
Vague Goal: I will grow my organic website traffic.
S.M.A.R.T. Goal: I will increase my monthly organic website traffic by 20% in the next six months.
Before mapping out your objectives, it is helpful to decide what part of the Buyer’s Journey you are targeting.
At what part of the Buyer’s Journey are you trying to reach customers?
Having a firm grasp on what stage you’re targeting empowers you to properly align your S.M.A.R.T. goals with your SEO content strategy as you work through the SEO audit checklist.
2. Crawl Your Website
Google uses web crawlers to gather information from websites and analyzes them based on site structure and various SEO elements. This process helps them determine how they’ll rank you on search engines.
Google also offers a Search Console that allows site owners to choose how Google crawls their sites. It’s worth looking into because you can give instructions on how to process individual pages and request a recrawl when you make significant changes.
To get an idea of what Google will see when it crawls your site, you can use one of the various “spider” tools available to crawl your website yourself. These are just a few of them:
Once you have a report of technical errors, broken links, website structure, etc., you’ll have a much clearer picture of what issues need to be fixed and optimized. Crawling your site before working through the rest of the SEO audit checklist will save you time rather than manually trying to find errors and issues.
3. Test Your Speed and Mobile-Friendliness
Page speed and mobile-friendliness can play a significant role in ranking. But even if your ranking is high, a slow-loading page will negatively impact your bounce rate when customers click on your site from the S.E.R.P. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly when customers search on their phones, they aren’t going to hang around.
Ideally, your loading speed should be under two seconds. Doing a crawl of your site will likely provide you with your page loading speed, but if it doesn’t, or if you decide not to crawl first, there are tools for testing website loading speed.
Speed tests will also give you a report of potential problems causing long loading times. Fixing these problems may be as simple as compressing image files or installing caching plugins.
Testing and optimizing the mobile-friendliness of your site is very simple. There are mobile-friendly tests available similar to the speed test tools.
Most sites will receive decent scores unless your site is dated. If it’s not mobile-friendly, however, you must take steps to make it friendly. It will affect your rankings and whether customers even want to interact with your site.
4. Analyze Your Keywords and Organic Traffic
It’s time to take a look at your organic traffic, and whether your current keyword strategy is working. Also, focus on whether you’re missing out on some “easy win” keywords you could be targeting.
Many companies will attempt to target highly competitive keywords. This practice can cause your keyword strategy to fail, especially if your website is relatively new.
The majority of the time, customers will reach most websites through typing long-tail keywords and phrases in the search engine. These keywords are more niche-specific and have a lower search volume, but they’re typically high-converting and less competitive.
An in-depth analysis of the keywords that are already driving traffic to your site can help you with this. You can run your report from within Google Analytics with Search Console, or you can also use keyword research tools from SEMrush or Moz for a more in-depth analysis.
You can also use Google Analytics to take a look at how much organic traffic you’re getting in general. You can look at the past month, and if you expand the time frame, you can see what your growth trend is over time.
If you’re not seeing an upward trend, don’t fret. By taking action to improve your keyword strategy, on-page SEO, and the other steps in this SEO audit checklist, you’ll see an improvement soon.
5. Analyze Your Internal Links
Internal links are the hyperlinks that take you to different pages of the same domain. Internal linking is often underrated, but it can boost your SEO results dramatically if done right.
Internal links help customers find what they need, and they help Google find, index, and understand the structure of the pages on your site.
You should use keyword-rich anchor text in your internal links. Optimized anchor text will tell customers and Google to what exactly you’re linking.
Avoid using the same anchor-text for two different pages. Google doesn’t like this because it can get confusing when indexing pages.
Internal linking to important pages also gives the linked page added authority. The effect isn’t as strong as receiving a backlink, but it does make a difference.
Google Search Console can help you see how you have your links currently set up, and you can analyze this to see what pages could use a boost in authority. The homepage will commonly carry the most authority, so you can strategically use it to link to the most important pages on your site.
It’s best not to automate your internal links. It’ll mean a little more work for you, but automation doesn’t tend to have the best effect since it doesn’t necessarily know which of your pages needs more authority.
6. Work on Your Backlink Strategy
Backlinks offer even more authority than internal links and are a top ranking factor in SEO. When other relevant websites link back to your site, it shows Google that you are trusted and authoritative.
Analyzing Current Backlinks
You’ll want to start by taking a look at the current backlinks you have for your site. There are several programs you can use to make this easy:
When looking at your current backlinks, you want to consider relevancy, authority, and diversity.
It’s not uncommon for a small percentage of your backlinks to be irrelevant, but most of your backlinks should be from relevant sites. If you have a lot of backlinks, it would be impossible, and a waste of time, to check the relevancy of every website. However, you do want to get a general idea of the domains linking back to your site.
Whether a site is relevant is probably the most critical factor, but if it is relevant and authoritative, you have an excellent quality backlink. Keep an eye on authority backlinks that aren’t relevant, however, as these may not help your backlink strategy as much as you’d think.
There are different types of backlinks, and having a variety looks better for SEO. Some of the types include:
Look through your backlinks and decide if you have enough diversity.
7. Improve Your Content and On-Page SEO
Performing an SEO content audit and improving your on-page SEO can lead to significantly increased organic traffic. In fact, if there’s no effort put forth to creating good content and page structure, the rest of your SEO efforts will fall flat.
Any results you receive from a great SEO campaign won’t last if your content is failing. Get an impartial third party to help you with analyzing your content.
Your content must be original, unique, and accurate. Even if others have discussed the topic before – as they probably have – your content should offer a unique take on the subject.
Your content should also be useful, entertaining, and informative. What problems are your ideal customers trying to solve? What questions might they have? Make sure you’re providing your target audience with helpful, valuable content.
Even the most influential content won’t perform well if the on-page SEO isn’t up to par. If you have many site pages, you can run them through a tool like Seobility’s SEO checker. If you don’t have too many, you can also do this part manually.
Whether a page satisfies search intent is very important to Google. If most of the results for a keyword you’re targeting are articles, then you should use the keyword in an article. If most of the results are product pages, then a product page is your best bet.
Your keyword for the page should appear in these places:
Also, make sure that the URL is short and clean and uses the target keyword as well.
Make sure no one has copied any of your pages. You can run pages through Copyscape to make sure no one has plagiarized them.
8. Remove Your Low-Quality Content
Google much prefers quality over quantity, so if you have a lot of content, it’s worth taking a look at whether you have any low-quality content hanging around. Never make it a goal just to pump out content on a regular basis. Instead, always aim for quality over frequency. You can also improve your search rankings by removing content that’s unnecessary.
Consider a few factors to determine which pages should stay and which ones need to go.
Does this content offer something that similar content from competitors is lacking? If a piece of content can’t compare to something already published by competitors, it’s not going to rank.
Grammar and Spelling
Not every piece of content needs to be a masterpiece, but if grammatical and spelling errors occur all over your content, it won’t perform well. Use a grammar tool like Grammarly or the Hemingway Editor to polish your content.
If excessive ads clutter a webpage, not only will users get irritated, but Google won’t like it either. Keep ads tidy and out of the way of good content.
Make sure your site is protected from spam comments and moderate them frequently. A page littered with spam comments sends red flags to users and Google. Make sure your comment sections are kept clean.
9. Perform a Competitor Analysis
It’s time to analyze your competitors and see what you can learn from them. Analyzing your competitors will help you validate the keywords you’re using and provide you with opportunities for links and content that you may be missing.
First, you need to identify your competitors if you haven’t already, then you can take a look at your competitors’ keywords. Doing so can give you information about how competitive specific keywords are, and it can feed you new opportunities for keywords. For this, you can use the same tool you used to analyze the keywords you’re currently using.
Next, you’ll want to take a look at potential link opportunities. Analyze the way your competitors use internal linking and site structure. You can use tools like Ahrefs or Majestic to find out more about the backlinks to your competitors. Pay close attention to the types of backlinks they have and the authority of the sites linking to them.
Google loves long-form content. Using the keyword analyzer, you can also find out the word length of competitor content. Aim to create something more extended and of higher quality. Examine the amount and type of media used in their content. Do they use lots of images or videos?
Analyzing your competitors and their backlinks can also help you find influencers to connect with from your space. Building a relationship with influencers can be invaluable to your SEO efforts. Make a list of people to interact with and stay on their radar.
10. Add Meta Descriptions and Schema Markup
Meta descriptions and schema markups tell users and Google precisely what your site and pages are about, so they show up on the SERPs when appropriate.
The meta descriptions on your site tell users and Google about what your site pages are displaying. It should make it very clear to users what type of content you provide. You want to make sure that you don’t have duplicate meta descriptions for similar pages and that they are short, unique, and engaging.
With schema markup, you can tell Google exactly what your site is about by using code on your website. Doing so will help them put your pages in front of the right users.
Rather than the search engine just pulling information straight from your content, schema markup tells the search engine how to display it, which gives the user better information. Google uses schema markup to display rich snippets, but many websites don’t take advantage of schema markup.
You don’t need to know coding to use schema markup. There are plugins for WordPress, Schema.org, and tools to help you.
11. Perform Indexing and Technical SEO Analysis
Technical SEO issues can destroy your strategy plans, so spending some time performing a technical SEO audit is essential. In a technical audit, you’ll look at behind-the-scenes aspects of your site that can confuse Google if they’re not set up correctly.
You’ll likely need some tools to audit the technical side of your site. Screaming Frog is a helpful tool to use for your technical audit.
302 redirects, redirect chains, and unnecessary 301 redirects can all plague your SEO performance. Use a tool like Screaming Frog to find and identify 302 redirects and change them to 301s so they can pass link authority.
Redirect chains pass through a string of redirects and don’t send all authority to the final page. Use your tool to find them and break the chain.
301 redirects are needed when more than one version of a page exists due to slight URL differences. You can 301 redirect the non-preferred page to the preferred page so that you aren’t leaking authority.
Sometimes you can end up with multiple versions of indexed pages by Google. You can also end up with duplicate content, unnecessary pages, and broken links. When this is the case, Google can have trouble crawling your site and understanding it.
Tools like Screaming Frog can help you find and identify these issues. You can then fix each page by using canonical tags, getting rid of duplicate content, and fixing broken links.
Also, be sure to check things like your robot.txt to make sure you’re not blocking search engines from crawling and indexing your site.
Using an XML sitemap helps Google index your site. WordPress plugins like Yoast and the XML Sitemap plugin can do this for you, or you can do it manually.
12. Optimize Site Architecture
User-friendliness should always be your top priority when it comes to site architecture, but it’s essential to consider the search engines as well when structuring your site.
For SEO purposes and user experience, you want to flatten out your site architecture as much as possible. You should group your content in a coherent and organized way that is easy to understand.
If your site structure is over-complicated and messy, Google will have difficulty finding and indexing all of your pages correctly. Chaotic site structure will hurt your SEO.
A clean architecture also lets Google know which of your pages are most important and carry the most authority. As a general rule, the pages that are closest to your homepage are considered the most important.
Whenever possible, getting to any page on your site shouldn’t take any more than three clicks. If your site architecture is clean and flat, this should be possible.
An easy way to keep it organized is to add links within your content and add links to a sidebar. If users can get to each page in three clicks or less, your architecture is probably fine.
13. Analyze User Experience
Analyzing user experience doesn’t mean you need to get the opinion of everyone who visits your site. You can get a general idea of what users think of their experience by looking at critical data. The information from Google Analytics can provide you with a pretty clear picture of how your site is doing in this area.
Time Spent on Site
The average amount of time users spend on your site can tell you a lot about the experiences they’re having there. What’s more, the longer they spend on your website, the higher chance for converting them into customers.
If the amount of time the average user spends on your site is meager, you may be lacking quality content. Generally speaking, the more helpful and valuable content you have on your website, the more time people will spend on it.
Bounce Rate and Exit Pages
Bounce rate will depend a lot on what type of site you have, and, again, on the amount of helpful content you provide. Low-quality content or lack of content will likely lead to a very high bounce rate because users won’t immediately see anything to make them stick around.
Don’t expect your bounce rate to be incredibly low, however. As a general rule of thumb, you should be concerned if your bounce rate sits at about 80% or higher.
Take a look at exit pages as well. If users are always leaving your site from the same page, something is going on there that needs improvement.
Conversions and Return Visitors
If your visitors aren’t buying, subscribing, or emailing, then you aren’t converting them. Conversions are the whole point of driving traffic to your site. Whatever your goal is for your website, if you’re not accomplishing it, something is off. This likely means you need to work on the copywriting.
If visitors are often returning, then they are likely receiving value on your site. If you have a meager amount of returning visitors, then you may be missing quality content or having technical issues that no one can ignore.
14. Perform Citation Analysis and Local SEO Tactics
Even if your business isn’t concerned with local SEO, it’s a good idea for every company to perform a citation analysis as part of a local SEO audit. It’s especially crucial if you do operate a local business. You can perform a citation analysis and cleanup once, so it’s an easy task to cross off your list.
Your name, address, phone number, and website should be consistent across the web. You don’t want potential customers to call an old phone number or to show up at your past business location. You also want to show up in the “local pack” of business listings when customers search for your keywords. There are a few tools you can use to make finding this out easier:
You can also use these tools to find untapped business directories to which you can submit your site so that more customers can find you.
15. Track Results and Audit Regularly
You can’t simply apply the steps in this checklist and then forget about it. If you don’t track the results, you won’t know what changes are working and what aspects need more finetuning. SEO success is an on-going process. Tracking your progress also lets you see what actions are most relevant and which ones are wasting too much time.
You’ll also need to audit your site regularly, as we said in the beginning, so you can catch errors and SEO issues before they drop your rankings. Once you’ve already audited your site once and gotten the hang of things, the process should be more natural to go through each time you do it. Having the right tools and software to help will also make it go more quickly.
In between full audits, make sure you’re following a solid SEO content strategy, so you don’t throw off all the hard work you’ve done. Pay attention to these factors in between audits:
Track your progress often and run your audits at least every quarter. Doing so will be the key to becoming an SEO pro and climbing the search engine ranks.
Uncovering issues and learning the basics and implementing them is crucial to a successful SEO content strategy. One of the best ways to achieve this is by performing a comprehensive audit using an SEO audit checklist.
Performing an SEO audit will likely bring up many issues, but if you don’t know what’s not working, you can’t fix it. By identifying and fixing these SEO optimization issues and tracking the progress, you’ll finally be able to receive the higher rankings and increased traffic for which you’ve worked so hard.