If I’m to enumerate things that can’t be neglected in SEO, auditing will not be low on the list. Why? Because it’s an SEO audit that helps you identify if nothing stops your site from ranking high.
In a nutshell, I would describe an SEO audit as the process of analyzing how well your website is optimized for search engines. It will help you:
- understand if your current keyword strategy works;
- find new content ideas;
- discover and solve technical issues that may affect rankings;
- check how users interact with the website; and
- make sure your site is authoritative.
Ideally, an SEO audit should result in finding reasons why your site hasn’t got to the top of SERP yet (if it’s already there, congratulations, you don’t need my guide). Besides, if carefully done, it may point out a couple of new development opportunities. But if you are only going to launch your website, make sure you follow the website launch checklist before you proceed with the SEO audit.
Whether you are a business owner or a digital marketer, this article will help you through a full SEO audit.
Step 1. Check your current keyword rankings
Remember the golden rule of an SEO audit — it should always start with checking where you stand at the moment, i.e., your site’s current position.
This step presupposes tracking your keyword rankings, checking the progress you make over time, and comparing your rankings against your competitors.
If thoroughly done, it will help you understand how successful your current SEO strategy is. You will also be able to evaluate the whole competitive landscape and your place in it.
To check your current keyword rankings, I suggest two ways: through Google Search Console (GSC) and with Rank Tracker. The fastest way of checking your rankings is with Google Search Console. To do this, open your GSC and go to Performance > Search Results.
Above the chart, find and click Average Position.
Now, scroll down a little bit. You will see the table with your top queries and three metrics — Clicks, Impressions, and Position — for each query you rank for.
This is the data you need. You can use filters and check out metrics in ascending/descending order to discover the keywords that bring the most traffic or rank better. To check the progress your site has made over a certain period of time, go back to the chart and set the preferred time. I usually set Last 12 months to get a big picture.
The chart will show how your site performs and if its visibility grows or declines.
Still, GSC is not insightful enough to run a thorough audit (for example, you can’t check your competitors’ rankings with it). So, let’s try a more worthwhile way — Rank Tracker. There is a free version for you to try it out.
Download the software and create the project for your website. While setting up, you can connect your Google Analytics and Search Console accounts, specify the keywords you want to check rankings for, and choose the preferred search engines.
Once finished, go to the Target Keywords module > Rank Tracking > Ranking Progress. You will get a list of all your ranking keywords and pages and the position they take on the SERPs.
You can also monitor if your rankings have improved or dropped with the Difference metric. But, it’s even more convenient to monitor it with Progress Graph and Rank History features, where the info is visualized and easily digestible.
Note that the Rank Progress module does not provide historical data for your rankings, so your rank progress history will start to be recorded after the first audit. Now, the last thing we should check right away is your competitors’ rankings for the same keywords. For that, click Preferences at the top of the dashboard and click Competitors. Add your SEO competitors and click OK.
Here is what you will see — your competitors’ rankings right near yours.
My advice: If you don’t see keywords you’ve expected to rank for, it can mean you haven’t published enough content relevant to them. So, you need to create more high-quality content for these keywords.
Step 2. Audit for low-hanging fruits
Warning: You can’t audit for low-hanging fruits without knowing what keywords your site is ranking for. So make sure you haven’t skipped the previous point.
At this stage, we need to look for pages that haven’t been ranking high enough — #10 and lower on the SERPs. SEOs call these pages the low-hanging fruits. These pages need just a little boost to get to the top 10 positions, perform as supposed, and bring a lot of traffic.
Finding low-hanging fruits is actually my favorite part: you put in a little effort and get fast results. So, now let’s find out how to do that. You can find low-hanging fruits in GSC. Go to the Performance report > Pages and set filters for Positions “Greater than” 10.
Put Position in ascending order. There will be pages from 10.1 + position. You need to check those that are from 10.1 to 20.
Then check out the impressions of these keywords. If the number of impressions is decent, this is your low-hanging fruit. Alternatively, you can continue your work with Rank Tracker. Go to Rank Tracking again and apply filters for Rank: More than 10 and Less than 20. You will see all the pages that need a slight optimization to appear on the first SERP.
Now, look at the number of searches for each keyword left. I can’t name a ballpark figure for you to focus on, as the optimal number depends on your niche: for some niches, 100 searches per month is a lot; for others it’s nothing.
My advice: When you’ve found the pages that need just a little push to get to the first SERP, make sure you optimize them accordingly:
- Check titles and descriptions
- Revise your URL structure
- Find low-quality pages to remove
- Detect internal linking faults
- Make sure headlines are relevant
- Update content regularly
All these tasks don’t require significant expenditures but can bring very satisfying results.
Step 3. Audit for new content opportunities
Since you already know what keywords your pages rank for, you need to find some keywords that you don’t rank for yet. Then you can create or optimize existing content for them.
That’s where you need a content gap analysis. It is the process of analyzing your current content for missed opportunities. At the end of the day, the more relevant keywords you target on your pages, the more visible your site is to the world.
I believe content gap analysis is not only about competitors as others claim. You can find content gaps by looking at your own content as well. There are a number of methods to find new content ideas. But I would like to suggest to you my favorite one — through analyzing how your content matches your customer journey.
I can name at least 3 stages customers go through: awareness, consideration, and purchase. There can be more stages depending on your product/service, so make sure you know your buyer persona and customer journey inside and out. In an ideal world, there should be enough content for each of these stages.
Let’s consider the example of a coffee roasters website. I analyzed all website pages and grouped them into 3 columns based on customer journey stages.
As you can see in the image above, the Consideration stage is not filled with content enough. Pages describing the benefits and features of the product as well as some reviews won’t be odd here, don’t you think?
So, we conclude: If there are stages that are not covered enough, you need to fill the gap. And if there are pages that you can’t match to any stage, you created them in vain. Now let’s identify the keyword gap by looking at competitors. I will do it with Rank Tracker. Proceed to the Keyword Research module > Keyword Gap.
Choose the option All Competitors but Not Your Site or Any Competitor but Not Your Site, add up to 5 competitors and click Search. You will see the list of keywords your competitors rank for and you don’t.
Look at the keywords your competitors rank for and analyze their metrics. And if you consider these keywords relevant and worthy, target them too.
My advice: When choosing competitors’ keywords to target, try to find a middle ground between their search volume and keyword difficulty (a metric that shows how hard it will be for you to rank for a specific keyword). It’s a more wise thing to do rather than blindly copying all the keywords that bring a lot of traffic.
Step 4. Audit for technical SEO issues
Correct me if I’m wrong, but technical SEO is no less vital than keywords. The idea of a technical SEO audit is simple — you check each and every technical SEO aspect of your site. It includes the following:
- crawling and indexing issues
- site architecture issues
- duplicate content
- internal linking
- code issues
- title tags, etc.
At this step, you are making sure there are no issues that prevent your site from being accessed and ranked by search engines.
Though you can track some technical aspects in Search Console, I recommend using SEO tools here. Just because it’s faster and the scale is larger. I will use WebSite Auditor — a website audit tool, which, just like Rank Tracker, is a part of the SEO toolkit by SEO PowerSuite.
Let’s first run a full site-level SEO audit. For that, you need to create the project for your site, then proceed to the Site Structure module > Site Audit. You will see the list of possible/existing issues. If some issue is critical and needs your fix, it will be marked in red.
You can also run a page-level audit in case you want to check specific pages. Open the Page Audit module and click Technical Audit. Enter your URL and the keywords for it.
The tool provides recommendations on each issue it finds so that you can easily fix it. Just follow them and your technical SEO will be flawless.
My advice: If you want more information on technical SEO, there is a great site audit checklist for you to follow.
Step 5. Audit usability
User experience matters a lot for search engines. And since site usability is a great part of the user experience, you should also keep track of it. It means you should know how convenient your site is for users. That’s where you can benefit from a usability audit.
Basically, this audit presupposes checking Core Web Vitals and mobile usability. The first part is about making sure your site loads quickly and without any errors. The second one means checking if your site’s mobile version has no drawbacks that may affect your mobile ranking.
Let’s quickly check these out in Google Search Console. First, open the Experience report and see the Page Experience insight. It is a summary of the user experience of your site visitors.
Here you will see the general information on both mobile and desktop user experience. You need to scroll down to check if there are any issues with Core Web Vitals and mobile usability:
As you can see, my GSC shows I have some problems and I need to dig deeper into each of them. I can click on any section to get the necessary details.
My advice: Make sure there are no intrusive interstitials on your pages as well — the pop-ups that overlay your content and prevent users from reading it. It is also a part of the usability aspect; however, it doesn’t require a whole audit to check.
Step 6. Audit your backlink profile
It’s backlinks that build up your site’s authority. With a healthy and rich backlink profile, your site has more chances to appear in the top 10 search results. That is why you need to audit your backlink profile regularly — to avoid penalties from search engines and find new backlink opportunities.
I will show you how to do a full backlink audit with SEO SpyGlass. It includes finding and assessing all your backlinks, comparing your backlink profile against your competitors, and finding new backlink opportunities. First, let’s find all your backlinks. For that, you need SEO SpyGlass installed and launched. Then enter your domain and click Get Backlinks. First thing, open the Backlink Profile module and check Summary to evaluate your overall backlink profile. There you will find comprehensive information on the number of your backlinks, new and lost backlinks, their historical data, anchor texts, etc.
To get more detailed information on each backlink, switch to the Backlinks tab.
Pay attention to how many dofollow links you’ve got as it’s them that pass authority to your site. It’s also great to have an idea of how authoritative the linking domains/pages are. Now, you need to check your backlinks’ penalty risk. Go to Backlink Profile > Penalty Risk.
If you find some links with high penalty risk (will be marked in red), you need to disavow them or remove yourself if possible. That’s important. And finally, let’s compare your competitors’ profiles. Go to Domain Comparison, enter up to 5 competitors of yours, and click Ok. You will see a comparison chart with all the necessary backlink parameters.
I believe you’ll immediately understand all your strengths and weaknesses by looking at it. For example, my analysis shows that my site lags a bit behind its competitors, so I need to focus my efforts on link building more.
The tool can help you find backlink opportunities as well. Switch to Link Intersection and click Prospective Domains. You will see the sites that link to your competitors but not to you. Yet.
You should definitely try to get backlinks from these domains as well. Especially those that provide dofollow backlinks. That’s a good tactic.
My advice: To make your audit more comprehensive, make sure to connect your Google Analytics and Search Console accounts to the audit tools you will use.
I’m not going to lie, an SEO audit is a time-consuming process. It requires patience and consistency. I only hope that my article made it a little bit easier for you.