What is a website audit? The SEO audit is an often-underestimated service in the field of search engine optimization. When clients come to my agency, I often offer them a small SEO audit at a very reasonable price or sometimes even for free.
The SEO audit not only helps me better understand where the site’s problems lie but ultimately the client themselves. Without an analysis of the status quo, it is hardly possible to create a complete action plan for SEO support.
In the following article, I will show how to conduct a website audit and few examples from SEO work in the agency as well as in my own projects. First, we will look at what types of SEO audits there are and where the respective focus lies.
SEO audit service: What is it actually?
SEO audits come in many different forms. They differ mainly in their comprehensiveness as well as in their focus. In our agency, we have partly built up to 4 different variants.
In principle, the following focal points can be defined for an SEO audit:
- Technical SEO
- OnPage SEO
- OffPage SEO
The first step is to find out in which area the site is most likely not performing well. If more than one area is affected, the audit should be expanded accordingly and a combination of options should be chosen.
In this guide, I would like to focus on a mixture of the above audit forms and explain them step by step in more detail.
This audit is mainly used for own projects as well as for smaller customer projects – especially when it is about gaining a first insight into the performance of the site. On this basis, an offer for SEO support can be created later.
SEO site audit: The ultimate step by step guide
Unlike many other audits, this one only takes a few hours. That’s why it’s so perfect for getting a first look at the “health” of a site. Moreover, you don’t have to be an absolute SEO expert to perform the analyses.
However, you must proceed in a structured way and record your results in a document. So you have a nice overview of the results at the end.
Here you find a small summary of the most important steps from the SEO audit.
Step 1: Check different URL versions
Step 2: Crawl the website
Step 3: Check indexing status
Step 4: URL structure, silos, and page structure
Step 5: Manual analysis
Step 6: Find low-quality pages
Step 7: Check the loading time
Step 8: Low hanging fruit
Step 9: Backlink profile audit
Step 10: Check the content
You should use the following, best SEO tools during your audit:
- Google Search Console
- Google Analytics
- Pingdom Page Speed
- Screaming Frog
- KW Finder
Not all the SEO tools I use in this step-by-step guide are necessary. Of course, there are also alternatives to each tool. However, a professional SEO audit is hardly possible without the little helpers.
Preferred URL version of the website + SSL
First of all, you should check if a page is accessible under different addresses or if there are breaks in the redirection. This problem occurs more often than you might think.
Possible variants of a website are for example:
In the course of this, you should also check whether the site is encrypted with an SSL certificate. Google has recently given increased importance to this factor. According to the latest data protection laws, such as the EU-DO, an SSL certificate is even mandatory.
After changing the URL structure from HTTP to HTTPS, it is not uncommon for double indexing to occur. In some cases, two identical URLs can thus rank once with HTTPS and once with HTTP and thus hinder each other – i.e. hinder each other in the ranking. Therefore, you should check very carefully which type of URLs is indexed.
Crawl the website
In the second step, we start crawling the website. This step is necessary, especially to get an overview of the technical aspects of the site.
The following crawlers have established themselves with us in the past:
- Screaming Frog
- Website Auditor
We will need the data from the crawler later for further analysis. Ideally, you can export it and then import it again in a Google Sheet. This will give you a very good overview of the different parameters.
The Website Auditor, which we use in this example, also offers a nice report function. I can either view the report directly in the program or I can export it as a PDF. Now, of course, there is an enormous number of functions in each tool – but we don’t need each of them.
Depending on the scope of the audit, I would choose between the following metrics and export only the most important ones:
- HTTP status codes (404, 301, 302, etc.)
- Meta Title and Meta Description
- Headings and Title Tag
- Content length
- Links to Page (Internal linking)
- Links from Page (Internal and External Linking)
Of course, you can also export a large amount of data and then hide the individual columns in Google Docs – can also make sense depending on the approach.
In the third step, we look at whether the page has been indexed correctly on Google. We can do this relatively easily with the so-called site: Command.
By the way, you should definitely get an overview of the most important search operators in Google, this is enormously helpful.
To do this, simply enter site:studiostripe.com at google.com and see how many pages Google has in its index.
Alternatively, you can also take a look at the Search Console. There you can find a current picture of the indexed pages under Google Index > Indexing Status.
The next step is to match the data from the crawl with the data from Google. If the crawler finds more pages than were indexed, you should get to the bottom of the cause. Each deviation can have a variety of backgrounds, but not all of them should be classified as an error.
Check URL structure and thematic silos
In this step, I look at the URL structure and the general structure of a page. This, especially for larger projects, often determines the long-term success or failure of a site.
For larger projects, you should take a little more time with this step to really understand the page structure. It may even make sense to create a mind map.
The more complicated the page is structured, the more difficult it is for external link juice (via backlinks) to flow on the page itself, whereby individual pages may get less “power” than others.
At the same time, a certain logic should be recognizable. This step requires some practice and a basic understanding of the structure of web projects.
This also includes the analysis of subdomains or, if available, the multilingual version of a website.
- Blog not in a subdirectory, but on a subdomain
- URLs too long
- Meaningless URLsGeneric URLs
- No keywords in the URL
A subdomain makes sense from an SEO perspective in very few cases. Google treats subdomains as a separate domain (from my own experience I know that the subdomains of big brands benefit from the main domain), so you have to do a separate link building and SEO optimization for each domain.
SEO Insider Tip
If you currently have your blog on a subdomain, for example on blog.domain.com, then try to transfer the content to the scheme domain.com/blog. This is possible via 301 redirects and the .htaccess file without major problems. Many a website has gone through the roof with this change.
Manual analysis and evaluation
In the fifth step, we take care of a few manual evaluations. We focus on the 20% that account for 80% of the results.
To do this, we should first find out which pages get the most organic traffic. This works quite well via Google Analytics.
I pay attention to the following things during this step in the SEO audit:
- Headline structure of the individual pages
- Meta tags
- Readability & content design of the page
When I look at websites for the first time, I also always pay extra close attention to the big picture. For example, if it’s a magazine or the site has a blog, I look at the extent to which a structured approach to content marketing has been taken.
By structured, I mean that each blog article should ultimately have a “focus keyword” to drive traffic to the site.
If I then notice that many blog articles are too short or target keywords with little or no search volume, then I know that something fundamental has not been taken into account here.
Identify pages with little content / duplicate content
Pages with very little content should be absolutely avoided. That’s why we need to look at our SEO audit to see if there are any such pages.
The last step of the audit is dedicated to the content itself, which is why we really only do a very short analysis here.
The goal of this step is to find pages that actually have no right to be indexed or even to exist. Often such pages are created by the CMS itself, like archive pages or pagination.
In other cases, however, they are simply pages that simply do not provide any valuable information. Subpages like the contact page are of course an exception, these do not have the goal of organically acquiring visitors.
How to find pages with little content?
In our SEO audits, I almost always use the Screaming Frog tool and filter out all URLs that contain less than 500 words. I then take a closer look at these and identify those pages that actually offer no other added value – such as a contact page does.
I then list these pages and, if necessary, discuss them later with the company or the CEO – this then reveals exactly which pages serve a purpose and which do not.
Signs of duplicate content
One way to find out relatively quickly whether there are very likely to be problems with duplicate content is to use the Google Search Operator “site:”
Just type site:yoursite.com into Google and watch how many results Google spits out.
For example, if you have only 50 subpages and posts on the site, but the site command shows you many more, you are probably indexing unwanted content. Then you should go into the analysis in more detail.
Check the website loading time
The loading time of a website is enormously important and will become more and more important in the future. Pages with a load time of 10 seconds are absolutely taboo.
In principle, there are two check possibilities:
- Home page loading time
- Specific subpage or all subpages loading time
To get the first picture, it is enough to analyze the start page. However, it is often individual sub-pages with extremely large file sizes (page size) that cause long loading times.
I analyze the loading time either with the Google Chrome developer tools or with the tool from Pingdom. Both values are very informative about the current page speed.
The guideline here for most projects is between 1 and 5 seconds, ideally, the loading time is somewhere around 1-2 seconds. In my opinion, Google’s PageSpeed tool is only suitable to a limited extent for making qualified statements about the loading speed of a page. Nevertheless, it can of course be included in the analysis.
Find low hanging fruit (rankings in the top 10)
In this step, we identify the so-called low hanging fruits. These are pages that either already gets a lot of impressions in Search Console or are positioned between position 1 and 10 for a certain keyword with a certain search volume.
Once these pages are found, I analyze which simple methods could be used to improve their performance.
The following possibilities usually arise in such a situation:
- Strengthen internal linking
- Build new backlinks to the subpage
- Update content
- Optimize for the keyword? Permalink?
With this approach, I can of course start with a tool like Ahrefs, which shows the top 10 rankings of the domain. Alternatively, I can also look in Search Console to see which pages are getting the most impressions or clicks.
Once the low-hanging fruit is identified, I pick out a few and analyze those pages in more detail.
I consider what measures should be taken to further improve these pages in the ranking. Often, at least one of the possibilities listed above applies.
This step is partly already part of the action plan, which I work out on request after the SEO audit for the company and in which I then possibly even cooperate operatively. Often, even for the low-hanging fruit, a lot of thought and research must be invested, which quickly goes beyond the scope of an SEO audit.
Check backlink profile
In the ninth step, I take a quick look at the link profile. The goal of this brief analysis is to determine the following points as accurately as possible:
- What does the anchor profile of the external backlinks look like?
- How high is the domain authority?
- How high is the trust flow, how high is the citation flow of the domain?
- How many referring domains are there? (Domain Popularity)
- Do dubious backlinks exist?
The analysis should be as short and concise as possible and give a first picture of the status quo in the area of link building. Has active link building been done in the past? Are there perhaps negative SEO campaigns? Has link building been neglected? Is the lack of link building to blame for the project not ranking? What other measures should be taken here in the coming months?
These are all questions that should be answered in this short analysis. For this analysis, I usually use the of course Ahrefs. To put the link profile in the right perspective, you should also take a look at the link profile of a competitor.
In the last step of our SEO audit, we take a closer look at the content of the page. For larger projects, this step can ultimately be extended ad infinitum. The amount of work involved is enormous.
With very text-heavy projects, it even makes sense to deal intensively with the linguistic structure of the texts. If I deal with a rather emotional topic, such as dog food, with a text that lacks emotion, then it can lead to readers quickly jumping off again because they don’t feel addressed.
In our SEO audit, however, we can take a maximum of 10-20 minutes for this, which is why we are again guided by the Pareto principle here.
First, therefore, I get an overview of the amount of content. If I discover a lot of pages with less than 500 words, this is a first bad sign. Often larger companies or online stores have published lots of such blog articles, which are not only far too short and superficial, but also have no keyword focus and accordingly also rank in Google in the rarest of cases.
In the second step, I pay attention to the formatting of the content. Has the text been integrated with love or just slapped together? The so-called content design is an increasingly important ranking factor in times of mobile-first, which too many webmasters completely disregard.
The goal of this small content check is to better assess the following decisions:
- Find and identify low performing content
- Can content be consolidated? Do similar texts target the same keywords?
- Can unnecessary content be deleted to give the reader less “ballast”?
- Does existing content need or should it be expanded to get more organic visitors?
After this step, I can roughly estimate whether and in what form investments in content must be made. Unfortunately, without good content, there is absolutely no SEO possible.
If the project is more complex, i.e. more than 50 subpages, it will be very difficult to assess the quality of the content within 20 minutes. That’s why in such cases I pay special attention to the layout and design of the texts.
If I see that someone has already made no real effort when entering the content, then the probability is quite high that the content has been researched and written with the same care. Ultimately, however, the current rankings also provide information about the quality of the content.
How much does an SEO audit cost?
Normally, you pay between two and several thousand euros for an SEO audit. You should pay attention if an audit is unusually cheap. The cheaper, the less time the agency employee has and the more automation is behind it. This can be great, innovative work processes, which then make the audit nevertheless super.
It can also be that the audit is then carried out according to a pattern and does not reveal any real findings and good recommendations for action, but instead, only a checklist was worked through. In the worst case, you only get various tool exports thrown in front of your feet and then rightly ask yourself why you paid money for such a thing.
To the costs, you should add absolutely still developer resources. For this, you should plan at least the same time that you (or someone else) needed for the audit. This can be more or less, but it serves as a rough guideline.
Can I do an SEO website audit myself?
Yes, you can – if you don’t have a budget for an agency. And why not? In any case, it’s better than getting a cheap audit for 400 euros. But the difference between an experienced SEO and a layman is quite important:
An experienced SEO can interpret the data well. If he finds a missing sitemap on a domain with 20 URLs, he doesn’t care much. A beginner might spend days trying to manually create a sitemap because he thinks it’s especially important. Prioritizing the recommended actions is what you pay for – not the pure analysis.
What happens after the SEO page audit?
What happens after the SEO audit is just as important as the audit itself. Now it is time to implement the most important things. If someone else has done the audit for you, then it is usually advisable – after you have read it – to have a discussion to clarify the open questions.
Often there is also a presentation in front of a team. Here you should pay attention to who will be present. The developers and SEOs? Or the marketing manager and general manager? Depending on this, you should prepare the level differently. It is essential that afterward, the company has the will and the manpower to implement the measures.
SEO website auditing: conclusion
The above type of SEO audit can ensure that you can increase the traffic on your website enormously within a few months. Ultimately, there is no recipe for an SEO audit – economically, however, you should always set priorities and the first look at individual factors.
The more SEO audits you perform, the easier it will be for you to uncover possible weaknesses.
Do you have any questions or comments about SEO audits? Then feel free to leave a comment or just write to me.
If you would like me to perform an SEO audit for you, or if you would like me to consult SEO with you, feel free to contact me via my contact page. Be sure to also check out my article on improving Google rankings, where I give you concrete tips for implementation.