The SEO Audit Process – Steps Involved

Proper search engine optimization (SEO) is crucial to increase the online visibility of your business website. However, you must do an SEO audit to understand the impact of your SEO strategies. This will tell you what changes need to be made to improve your website’s ranking.

SEO Audit – The Logic

After you implement your optimization strategy using the right techniques, several changes might take place – search engines may update their algorithms, you may accidentally link from toxic links, or your content may get outdated. These changes might drastically affect your site ranking and you would wonder how your ranking has gone down even after the best techniques were used. You need to understand the effect of your SEO efforts and take the necessary steps to improve results. The goal of an SEO audit is to show you the current state of your website, the challenges it faces, and the opportunities available to improve performance. Here are the steps involved in the SEO audit process:

Preparatory Steps

Before starting the actual audit, you need to take some preparatory steps.

  • Crawl your site with the help of an effective tool (for example, Search Engine Spider Simulator) in order to understand which sections of your sites are accessible to search engines and which are not.
  • You should check which of your crawlable pages are in the search engine database and which aren’t there. Webmaster tools offered for free (such as Google Webmaster Tools or Bing Webmaster Tools) can be used for this purpose. Though the data you will get from these tools may not be everything that you need, it is sufficient for conducting an audit.

Once you check what is crawlable from your site and the webmaster tools report, you can begin the audit.

Check for Site Accessibility and Indexability

  • Check your Robots.txt File – You need to check your Robots.txt file to make sure no user agents are banned or whether any sections of your site that should be indexed have been placed in banned area by mistake. These checks will tell you if have blocked search engine crawlers. This can be verified from the file itself or using by Google Webmaster Tools which would show the URLs that are listed as banned.
  • Check for 404 Errors and Redirects – Take note of 404 errors (site not found) while you crawl your site and correct them as fast as possible. You should also pay attention to redirects and ensure that you use only good redirects (such as 301 redirects) and not bad ones (302 redirects, meta refresh redirects, JavaScript based or something similar).
  • Analyze your XML Sitemap – Check whether your XML sitemap is readable, functioning, and up-to-date. The XML sitemap must contain only the pages which are really on your site. The pages you want indexed must be included in the sitemap. Ensure that your XML map is submitted to search engines. Even if you have a perfect XML sitemap, it is pointless if it is not used by search engines.
  • XML Sitemap

  • Check Web Design/Development – You should check out site architecture, loading speed, uptime, use of Flash/JavaScript while checking for site accessibility. The site architecture should be related to the accessibility (for example, it will be harder to access the site if there are more menus and submenus). Both human users and search engine bots would find it difficult to access your site if it takes too much time to load and/or is frequently down. Find a good host and resolve these problems as soon as possible. The search function incorporated for Flash Website makes its pages accessible only from a search box. Search engines will not be able to see such pages as they do not know to type keywords into the search box. Though Googlebot (Google’s crawler) can follow certain links created in JavaScript, they can’t follow all of them. Be aware of these issues and fix them immediately.
  • Verify the Number of Pages Indexed by Search Engines – You can type site:yoursite.com (replace yoursite.com with the actual name of your site) into the search bar of a particular search engine and find out the number of pages in your site that are indexed by it. If that number is equal or close to the number of pages that you actually have, then your site has been indexed successfully. If it is smaller than the actual number, this shows that some pages are still inaccessible and you need to find out the reason for this as well as the solution. If it is bigger than the actual number, it would indicate that there is duplicate content within your site and you need to clear it immediately. Type in site:yoursite.com&start=990 to see whether Google reports duplicate content. If you find nothing when you type ‘site: yoursite.com’, it indicates that you have been excluded from that search engine’s index. If this is the case, create a Google Reconsideration Request (in case of Google) for getting unbanned.

Explore On-Page Ranking Factors

  • Site URLs – The site URLs should be user-friendly (do not use dynamic URLs if possible) and have relevant keywords in them. No two URLs should direct to the same page unless there is a redirect used since search engines take it as duplicate content.
  • Page Content – Make sure that the content on your site is too thin. Your content should be unique and keyword-rich with keywords placed at the right places. There should not be any duplicate content within the pages of your site.
  • Outbound Links – There should not be more than one outbound link per 500-1,000 words of text. The outbound links should direct to a reputable sites. Even though you can use no-follow link for not passing PageRank, not all search engines allow it all the time.
  • Meta Tags – Ensure that each page has its own Meta description and the <title> tag is filled with the name of the page it refers to.
  • Non-Text Elements – The non-text elements include images, videos, Flash, JavaScript or anything that is used to enhance web pages. Make sure the images and videos have a good description in their Alt tag, and that JavaScript and Flash are indexable.

Explore Off-Page Ranking Factors

  • Number of Backlinks and Their Quality – Check whether your backlinks come from reputable sites or bad/spammy sites, whether are many unique backlinking domains or just a couple of them, whether the backlinks have keywords in the anchor text and if those keywords are different from each other. Make sure you have no-follow backlinks. If there are a large number of backlinks, use a backlink checker tool for analysis.
  • Position on Reputable Ranking Site – It is not necessary that you site will have a good ranking if it has a good backlink profile. So check the ranking of your site on ranking services other than search engines. This will help you to understand problems that are responsible for lower ranking. You can check your position on web with reputable ranking services such as Alexa, Page Authority, PR and more.
  • Participation in Social Networking Sites – Your site’s presence in popular social media sites and certain social bookmarking sites can indicate the popularity of your site. Having a large number of followers and enormous social signals (retweets, likes, shares) are a huge plus. You can use in-built analytical tools such as Facebook Insights, LinkedIn Company Pages with Analytics tabs and more useful to analyze social signals while Google Social Analytics is much more effective.

Compare the Results with Competitors

The final step in the SEO audit is to compare the results that you obtained with your competitors. You can analyze your competition as follows:

  • Find out who your competitors are
  • Analyze competitor sites
  • Check the keywords that they use, their backlinks and other SEO factors
  • Analyze their presence on social media
  • Analyze how they use PPC Ads

Following this, perform a detailed comparison of the data that you get and your results. Though it is a time-consuming process, better not skip this step.

SEO audits should be conducted on a regular basis (at least 2 times a year) to ensure that your site complies with latest developments. Apart from Webmaster tools, you can use other tools such as Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool, BrowSEO Spider Simulator and more, for the audit. The service of an SEO expert is essential for the successful completion of this process as each step requires a lot of attention, time and effort. A professional SEO companies can provide you with a comprehensive SEO audit and report on the health of your website as well as guidance to improve results.