A Beginner’s Guide to SEO Audits

If you run an online business of any kind, you should make SEO audits part of your on-going performance strategy. Far too many webmasters and business owners make the mistake of believing SEO audits are optional. Perhaps even superfluous to requirements. 

They’re not. 

An SEO audit can provide you with invaluable insights into the way your strategy in general is performing. Traditional audits examine key business activities – an SEO audit focuses exclusively on marketing. Get it right and you’ll have all the information you need to turbocharge your SEO performance and climb to new heights in the SERP rankings. 

But when should an SEO audit be performed? The answer varies from one business to the next, but a general rule of thumb suggests SEO audits be carried out:

  1. During the planning stage of any new project 
  2. At least once every three months 
  3. When specific SEO issues are noted

Of course, owners of smaller online businesses may not necessarily need to carry out full-scale SEO audits four times a year. Auditing for the sake of auditing isn’t the way to go. Instead, SEO audits are implemented where a drop in website traffic is noted, your business falls to a lower position in the rankings or you simply want to take your SEO performance to the net level. 

Hence, there’s technically no such thing as too often – each audit only stands to boost your brand’s performance. 

Audit Strategy

As with all things in business, the key to a successful SEO audit lies in the development of a viable strategy. More specifically, you need to think about what it is you want to achieve by carrying out an SEO audit. Learning more about your competitors, improving your use of keywords, boosting qualified traffic volumes – an SEO audit can help achieve many things. 

Most businesses (unsurprisingly) simply want to reach the top-end of the rankings and increase their revenues, but these kinds of goals can be a little on the broad side. 

In any case, a full-scale SEO audit implemented for any specific objective will typically involve the following components:

  1. Technical analysis
  2. On-Page analysis
  3. Backlink analysis
  4. Competitive analysis and keyword research

Each of which we’ll now take a look at in a little more detail. 

Technical analysis
The first stage of the process, technical analysis is carried out to make sure your website is actually working as it should be. Your site’s technical performance sets the foundation for everything else, so needs to be carefully considered. 

Technical analysis is carried out to assess two key factors – accessibility and indexability. 

In the case of accessibility, it’s fairly self-explanatory. Checks are carried out to assess if and to what extent both Google and the human user are able to access your site quickly, easily and efficiently. If your pages can’t be accessed conveniently and consistently, nothing else matters. 

As for indexability, this refers to a series of checks to ensure your pages and content can be indexed by Google’s crawlers. Accessibility is about gaining access to your pages in the first place – indexability concerns the crawlers seeing, interpreting and indexing your content. If your website incorporates a lot of visual content, indexability should never be taken for granted. 

On-page analysis
By this stage, the audit will have made sure your visitors and Google’s crawlers can access your website and its content. After which, attention turns to the pages themselves – the identification of any individual page issues or general content issues. 

General content issues refers to the surprisingly common errors and oversights that can dilute the value of your content. Two examples of which being the duplication or repetition of content across various pages, or straying too far from your site’s main area of focus with irrelevant content. Keyword cannibalisation being another example. All such issues could have a huge impact on your site’s SEO performance. 

With the individual pages of your website, an SEO audit will take into account things like page structure, keyword use, relevance of content, language quality and even the URL of the page. Your SEO will assess the quality and quantity of content on your pages, the presence (or otherwise) of links to other useful articles and the general value of the piece. Any individual page issue detected could call for on-page corrections, or perhaps the removal/replacement of the copy in its entirety. 

Backlink analysis
Equally self-explanatory, the importance of auditing backlinks regularly has really come into its own over the past few years. We’ve long-since entered an era where low-backlinks aren’t just a waste of time and effort. Anything Google and Co. don’t consider relevant, valuable and authoritative can actually drive your SEO score in the wrong direction. 

Unfortunately, a high-quality backlink that does the business today could be quite the contrary a few weeks down the line. 

The only way you’ll know is to ensure your backlinks are audited on a periodic basis. It’s a relatively simple process for the professional SEO, which first involves using a special tool to scour the web in its entirety. Every backlink pointing to your website is identified and summarily measured in terms of value. 

If there’s a link that’s found to be doing you no favours, it can be eliminated. If it turns out most or all of your links are duds, a strategy can be devised to generate higher-quality backlinks. It’s also perfectly possible you could discover that the quality of your backlinks alone has resulted in you being handed a Google Penalty. 

Competitor analysis and keyword research
The fourth stage of the standard SEO audit process focuses primarily on keyword analysis and use. This stage may also be referred to as more general competitor analysis, which always involves careful keyword research and analysis. The two terms are largely synonymous, given how keyword research is a form of competitive analysis in its own right. 

Each keyword you’re targeting (and should be targeting) will be considered by way of two things – traffic and difficulty. Traffic indicating how many web users are entering the keyword per month – difficulty measuring how hard it is to rank for the keyword. Nailing it usually means targeting keywords that are somewhere down the middle – moderately difficult with medium traffic volumes. 

Your SEO auditor will assess the value and difficulty of the keywords you’re currently targeting, along with those being used by your competitors. Ultimately, recommendations will be made as to how you can expand, optimise or overhaul your keyword strategy for maximum impact. A variety of specialist SEO tools will be used in the process, in conjunction with the SEO’s personal experience and expertise. 

A Proactive Insurance Policy 
Working as a digital marketer, you start noting various patterns in the behaviours of clients. One of which being to almost always wait until there’s a pretty serious problem, before taking action. 

In the case of SEO, it’s no different. Particularly where smaller to medium-sized businesses are concerned, everything’s just fine until it’s not. It’s only when something quite drastic happens that they decide their SEO strategy may not be performing at its best. 

You suffer a sudden fall in the SERP rankings. You notice a slow but gradual decline that doesn’t seem to be relenting. Your traffic volumes plummet. You get handed a Google Penalty and disappear from the rankings altogether. All tragic outcomes indeed for the online business, but all with one simple thing in common:

They could all be avoided with a proactive approach to SEO auditing. 

Earlier, we raised the point that doing an SEO audit just for the sake of it really isn’t the way to go. However, it’s often the only way of knowing for sure how your campaign is performing. If you’ve not taken a close look at its inner-mechanics for some time…or ever…how can you be certain it’s working in your favour? How can you know you’re not months, weeks or even days away from disaster?

The short answer is – you can’t. 

SEO audits are best seen as insurance policies for your business. It’s worth remembering that by the time the damage is done, it could be difficult, time-consuming and expensive to repair it. It’s far easier to safeguard your performance with a proactive SEO strategy than to attempt to fix it later. Particularly given how an SEO audit can be tailored to suit your exact requirements and budget. 

In Summary…
The long and short of it is simple – SEO audits are essential. At least, if you’re running an online business and care about your SERP position, and how much qualified traffic you pull in. 

Whether you handle your SEO in-house or outsource to a third party, be sure to request a periodic SEO audit to see how things are going. It won’t break the bank and could save you a world of issues at a later date. 

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