An SEO audit is a complex process to assess the performance of a website with respect to its positions in search engine rankings. The technical infrastructure, various on-page and off-page factors, performance in social media, and the SERP positions of competitors are reviewed as part of it. The goal of an SEO audit is to optimize the visibility, user friendliness, and conversions of a website.
Typically, an SEO audit is used to check websites based on checklists to formulate recommendations for improvements based on these lists. SEO audits can be described as quality management actions. The actual state of the website is evaluated and compared with the standards of the search engines. The DESIRED state of an SEO audit depends on the website (size and target) and the standards of the different search engines (Google, Bing or Yahoo).
The duration of the analysis is also dependent on these two factors. Depending on the scope of the project, it can take up to six weeks and cost between 300 and 3,000 Euros. SEO audits are usually carried out by external agencies, consultants, or internal SEO employees.
Most audits begin with a discussion between the auditor and the customer. Questions get clarified such as:
The basis of an audit initially is data in the form of worksheets or Excel spreadsheets as well as a document, which serves the customer as a recommendation for action. Based on the data obtained, recommendations are made which are marked with different symbols (for example, red symbols for absolutely necessary changes). These files are also a documentation that makes process steps transparent to the customer.
To find out the status of the technical infrastructure, the site is either read with a crawler or indirectly checked with the search engine’s webmaster tools (for example, Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools). For example, the crawler will detect error messages for specific URLs. Other important technical factors are:
How many websites of a domain are listed in the index of the respective search engine? Are there or were there penalties or manual actions by Google for individual sites? These questions can be answered by comparing the index and the results of the crawling. Google’s index can be queried with commands such as “site: www.example.com,” for example. Ideally the data matches up.
If this is not the case, it either indicates crawling errors (websites are not read, and therefore also not indexed) or duplicate content (there are sites with duplicate content in the index).The entry of relevant keywords (brand, company name, services, products) into the search bar provided additional insight of the visibility with regard to certain keywords. Even individual websites with a complete address can be checked for their existence in the index.
The information architecture is the vertical and horizontal structure of a website which can be represented as a reverse tree. How many clicks does it take for a user to access the information they searched? How many levels exist in terms of website depth? How many horizontal site elements are there? The most important subpages should be accessible with about three clicks. A relatively flat overall structure is also important in order to enrich the customer journey.
The website architecture also has an impact on the linking within the hierarchy. The link juice should be evenly distributed among the structures to avoid silos, which are structures that only distribute link juice horizontally.
Does the link profile contain any nofollow links (no nofollow links would look unnatural)? Are the backlinks relevant in terms of subject and of high quality? Are there sites that include earned media?
An SEO audit reveals the strengths and weaknesses of a website and shows improvement potentials. In addition to the basic aspects such as crawlability, indexing, and on-and-page factors, the user-friendliness of a website is an important signal. Although user behavior changes only slightly over longer periods of time, the ranking factors and standards of search engines are constantly changing. This is one of the main reasons why an SEO audits should be done regularly.
The SEO audit is not only aimed at optimizing websites for search engines, but also for providing users with high-quality content and a good customer journey. However, SEO audits are very extensive. Some agencies therefore divide it into sections and offer content audits, on-page audits, off-page audits, and technical SEO audits.
Free tools and audit software is recommendable for companies with limited budgets. Examples are MySiteAuditor, ScreamingFrog, ZadroWeb, Found, SEO ReportCard, WooRank, and Marketing Grabber. In addition, there are numerous tools that can be useful for certain tasks, such as Xenu as a crawler, Google PageSpeed and Pingdom as load time testers, SEMRush as a traffic test, and Opensiteexplorer as a link validator. However, profound knowledge is often required to interpret the data correctly when using free tools.
With the Ryte e-book “SEO Audit,” we have created a checklist that is not only a valuable support for agencies in their audits, but also helps beginners to understand how SEO professionals work and which criteria is considered particularly important.