What's the point of an SEO audit (really)?
Sitemaps, canonical tags, status codes – anyone who deals with the topic of SEO for the first time run the risk of quickly getting lost in the jungle of terminology. But don’t worry: in our article, you will find out what you need to know about an initial SEO audit and its potential.
What exactly does an SEO audit entail?
An SEO audit shows the status of a website. The audit provides information about the extent to which a website’s processes and components meet the current requirements for search engine optimization. Because only those who know their side have the opportunity to identify potential. By mapping the current status of the website, the audit promotes opportunities in the following areas:
- Technical website performance.
- Content quality.
- Positioning and presentation in the search results pages.
- Internal and external links.
- Local search engine optimization.
- Mobile performance.
When should an SEO audit be carried out?
Search engine optimization is a long-term process that needs to be re-evaluated at regular intervals. Most companies run an SEO audit between two to four times a year, depending on the website’s size. For tiny websites (up to 500 subpages), an audit every six to eight months is sufficient to review your SEO efforts.
However, an SEO audit is not only carried out at regular intervals. If, for example, significant changes are planned, such as a website’s relaunch, the following always applies: SEO audit first.
What is the goal of an SEO audit?
With the help of an SEO audit, it is possible to determine the search engine friendliness. It serves as the basis for an internal SEO strategy, the resulting optimization measures of which, in the best case, also contribute directly to the company’s goals.
Thanks to the SEO audit, you can also prioritize measures much more objectively. Only those who create an overall picture of their site can understand which tasks have to be dealt with one after the other. Based on the results of the audit, a catalog of measures can then be defined.
What strategic questions should you ask yourself in advance of an SEO audit?
Every SEO audit should primarily be prepared as structured as possible. Before you begin, you should, therefore, answer the following questions for yourself:
- What is the reason for your SEO audit?
- What is the goal, and what is the purpose of your website?
- What results do you hope to see from the audit?
- Do you want to focus on specific areas of the website?
- Which team members can support you in the (technical) implementation of the measures?
- Which previous SEO measures have been implemented, and which topics still need to be planned?
- How can the server, the file management, the CMS, and the source code be made to the server?
- What accesses are there for the Google Search Console and other analysis tools?
Which focal points are analyzed in an SEO audit?
All areas (both On-Page and Off-Page) of a website are analyzed using our checklist. However, the focal points and depths of detail are as diverse as the respective page. While some websites need support, especially in technical SEO, others focus more on the content or user experience. The following test criteria are a must in every SEO audit:
Step 1: Indexing and crawling
The first step is to check which pages can be crawled by the search engines and already indexed. This means that it is analyzed which pages of your website are available to Google for the search results pages. We ask ourselves the following questions, among others:
- Does a sitemap exist?
- Does the sitemap have broken URLs?
- Have areas of the website on the robots.txt been excluded from the crawl?
- How many versions of my website has Google indexed?
2nd step: content
In the next point, we check what content and information the website offers. Search engines clearly prefer structured pages that deliver unique added value in terms of content. The following questions are part of the content analysis:
- Are those duplicate pages ranks for the same keyword?
- Have canonical tags already been used for these duplicate pages?
- Have pages been structured using relevant keywords?
- How well can the searcher find their way around my site?
3rd step: Internal linking
Links can generally be understood as links that refer to other pages. In the case of internal links, these pages are always part of the same website. Those who ensure that the internal links positively influence the user journey on the site will also be rewarded by the search engine. These points must be clarified, among other things:
- Do all internal links point to intact pages?
- Does the user need more than four clicks to find essential content?
- Are no-follow tags used to exclude pages from the index?
4th step: Meta tags and on page design
This point is once again about content and structural assistance for the search engine. Thanks to meta titles and h1 tags, it is possible to structure content even more explicitly and prepare it for search queries. It would be best if you ask yourself these questions, among others:
- Do title tags and meta descriptions exist for all relevant pages?
- Are these title tags unique and contain the right keywords?
- Have H1 tags been defined on the website?
Step 5: Technical SEO
The area of technical SEO is probably one of the most critical levels in your search engine optimization. Anyone who has not yet achieved top rankings on Google despite high-quality page content, a well-thought-out linking strategy, and optimized meta tags should focus on technical optimization. A selection of analytical questions are:
- Are all subpages of the website accessible?
- Does the page take longer than 5 seconds to load?
- Are schema.org markups implemented?
- Are hreflang tags correctly defined on international sites?
Step 6: Mobile
It has recently become clear: Google will make mobile-first indexing the standard from July 2020. This means that newly registered domains and websites not previously in the index are crawled with the smartphone Google bot. However, domains that have already been indexed are first checked for the possibility of mobile-first indexing. Nonetheless, the importance of the mobile view becomes clear once again. Important questions for your website in this context are:
- Are the same structured data implemented on the mobile website as on the desktop side?
- Is content displayed differently on different devices (mobile, tablet, desktop)?
- Are the same links used on the mobile pages that are used on the desktop pages?
Which tools are helpful for an SEO audit?
In order to carry out a comprehensive analysis of your own website, you need technical help without a doubt. In the following, you will find a few essential tools that we also used to get an overview of our customers’ websites as part of an SEO audit.
- SEO website analysis tools provide a first overview of the page performance, keyword & content quality, and backlinks.
- The website crawler crawls the website similarly to the search engine and sorts it into thematic folders. Such a spider is a valuable source of information to understand how the search engine “sees” your website.
- Screaming Frog.
- Page Speed – How long does it take for the website to load fully?
- The Google Lighthouse Report.
- Backlink verification – Many search engines use the number and quality of backlinks to measure link popularity.
- Link Research Tools.
Has an SEO audit carried out internally or hand it over to others?
In an audit, it is less important whether it is carried out internally or externally. Rather, it is about proceeding in a structured manner and correctly assessing measures to recognize the right (and most important) potential ultimately. An internal audit can bring good results; an objective checklist is used as an aid. As an alternative to this, you can also hire another expert from your own team.
Benefits of an internal audit
- Exact knowledge of your own website.
- Short ways to agreements about your own product, company goals, target groups, and special KPIs.
- In-house SEOs often work in very close contact with developers and have direct insight into the IT sprints.
Advantages of an external audit
- Independent expert advice, freed from any “operational blindness.”
- Can give recommendations on (possibly different) audit focal points.
- The auditor is up-to-date with the latest SEO tools and search engine rules.
- Experience from a wide variety of projects can be incorporated into the evaluation.
- Step by step support in the implementation of the identified measures.
Conclusion: what does an SEO audit really bring?
Is it your goal to get more organic traffic for your site? Your site needs a new coat of paint, and a relaunch is just around the corner? The first step to optimized website performance is always an SEO audit. Only those who know their own website, both its strengths and weaknesses, have the opportunity to derive concrete measures.