If your website doesn’t enjoy good visibility and has slipped down below the first page of Google search results, that could mean you are losing the vast majority of potential clicks to your site.
The fact that domains on the second page of Google tend to command a mere 5% of search traffic tells you everything you need to know about the importance of doing what you can to maintain high ranking and achieve prominence.
What is an SEO audit?
In basic terms, an SEO audit is an in-depth root and branch analysis of how your current on-page and off-page activities are impacting your SEO performance.
There are a number of key components that will form the backbone of your audit and it will help you to identify issues that need resolving as well as highlighting where you are getting your tactics right.
To understand how the major search engines are interpreting the data on your site and whether you are maximizing your outreach opportunities you need to have all the technical information available that an SEO audit will provide.
Without drilling down into the finer details you won’t know whether you are successfully earning qualified inbound links from high-quality and reputable sites, for example, and there are plenty of other compelling reasons to persuade you to perform an SEO audit.
Key advantages of performing an audit
A fundamental aspect of performing an SEO audit is to pinpoint specific weaknesses in your SEO strategy that need addressing and resolving.
Performing an in-depth analysis can help you to check whether you are including highly relevant meta descriptions or keywords, for instance, or whether your targeted keywords or social media sharing buttons are doing their job. An audit can also show you what is missing and needs to be included in order to allow your site to perform properly from an SEO perspective.
An audit will produce a checklist of issues that need your attention and whether that is problems with duplicate content, problematic site speeds, or damaging inbound links, these are just some of the things that will be highlighted by your analysis.
Another relevant point to consider with regard to an SEO audit is that it presents you with an opportunity to gain an insight into how your competitors are faring in comparison to your own efforts.
An audit has the ability to analyze whether your competitors are outperforming you by including proper attributes on their site, or maybe their website speed is more impressive.
Whichever way you look at it, an audit will give you a much greater ability to focus your SEO strategy by improving key areas of weakness so that you can boost your performance overall.
Here is a look at the main components of an SEO audit
Is your website being penalized by Google?
One of your first items on the audit checklist is to check whether your current setup means that your website is being penalized by Google.
As you may already be aware, your rankings will be adversely affected if your website is under an algorithmic or manual penalty. The bottom line is that any website that is penalized by Google will be unable to achieve satisfactory rankings and you will need to formulate a recovery plan if this is the scenario you are facing.
Google are constantly making adjustments to their search algorithms in order to improve the quality and efficiency of their search results and each time that happens there are going to be sites that fall foul of these changes.
You can check the Google search console or review your analytics traffic reports to see whether traffic decreases directly after a Google update has taken place.
Whether the penalty is manual, imposed by human intervention in the form of someone from the Google intervention team, or algorithmic, you need to identify if you have been affected and apply a fix as soon as possible.
Tip: A dominant reason why Google penalizes a site these days is because of thin content, which is a term for low-quality pages, and you should aim to improve or remove pages that fail to meet the required quality standard.
Review your domain search appearance results
Another integral part of your SEO audit is to search your brand name in Google and check the results that are returned.
You will want to see that your homepage is highly prominent in the search results and you will also be wanting to see that Google shows sitelinks alongside your listing.
Other aspects to check include whether the descriptions attached to your homepage and other pages are accurate. You also want to see that the other pages that appear on the first page of Google’s results can be considered relevant to your brand.
You might need to review your site structure as well as your homepage SEO in order to optimize the results if you don’t get the results you were anticipating with your search.
Time to get technical
A fundamental part of your checklist should include performing a technical SEO audit.
You need to be certain that search engines have the capability to access and index your pages without any problems and the best way to check that is the case is to perform a technical SEO audit.
You should not be unduly fazed by the prospect of performing a technical audit because it is not as technically challenging as to require you to be a system administrator or a developer to carry out the task.
Check whether your website is registered with Bing webmaster and Google search tools as these free resources are very helpful in guiding you toward finding the answers to key questions such as if how many of your pages are actually indexed and whether there are any security issues attached to your website.
Other aspects of a technical audit include establishing whether you have SEO friendly URLs and if structured data is enabled.
Although it can be considered fairly commonplace for the majority of website development platforms and CMS to maintain the correct configuration in order to achieve the status of an SEO friendly URL, it is still relevant to perform a check to see that each of your pages is unique and correctly formatted.
Good URLs will include a sensible amount of keywords and include hyphens to keep the keywords separate. Each page should have its own unique URL and contain less than 255 characters, including the domain name.
You should also make sure that the breadcrumb menu has been activated and is properly configured.
This is a Google recommendation as it enhances site navigation for users by making it easier to return to the homepage if they follow the menu links.
Help Google to understand your content
Another important task to carry out as part of your technical audit is to ensure that you have structured data enabled.
A primary purpose of structured data is to help Google gain a clearer understanding of the meaning and context of your content, a move that normally delivers worthwhile ranking benefits.
It should be remembered that Google uses structured data as a way of enhancing the presentation of a website for their search results (including voice using Google assistant) and that is why your audit should include a check to verify that structured data is enabled for the different components of your website such as your breadcrumb menus and your homepage.
Optimize your XML sitemap
Although it is not necessary for your XML sitemap to contain all of your website pages it should be checked to make sure that all of the most important pages are covered.
When you appreciate that the XML sitemap serves the purpose of listing all the website pages that Google needs to be aware of it is highly relevant to work on optimizing your sitemap as part of your SEO audit.
Are you missing out on a proven ranking signal?
There are definite advantages attached to having a website where a secure certificate installed and https is a known ranking signal, giving you a competitive advantage over non-secure websites.
It is also essential that if you have a secure https website it is correctly configured, which is something you will also need to check.
Speed is everything
You probably don’t need to be told that if load times for your website are not fast enough it can have a detrimental impact on your conversion rate.
As part of your SEO audit, you should be checking whether your website is fast enough.
Perform an on-page audit
Once you have completed your technical audit it is advisable to then proceed with an on-page SEO audit.
This includes checking aspects of your site’s performance and setup such as checking whether titles and descriptions fall within the specified size required and contain unique descriptions.
Fixing this issue and performing other checks such as checking your internal link structure, checking for broken links, verifying banner ads are being properly used, and clarifying all of your images are optimized for SEO, should all be part of your on-page audit checklist.
It is advisable to also compile an off-site SEO checklist as well as performing a social media audit too.
You can automate a fair number of these SEO audit tasks but there is a lot to be said for the use of an SEO professional who can perform a more unique and robust audit of your website compared to a tool that is running an audit based on predefined rules.
The cost of a manual audit could easily be justified if it helps you to identify key issues and presents you with an opportunity to enhance the SEO performance of your site.
It could even help you to re-discover lost search traffic. All things considered, there are many persuasive reasons why you should consider carrying out an SEO audit on a regular basis.