top of page

Boost Your Rankings: A Definitive 14-Step Guide to Performing an SEO Audit

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

An SEO audit entails assessing the optimization level of your website for search engines.


It involves identifying issues hindering your website from achieving high rankings and uncovering opportunities for improved visibility.


Channel marketeer performing an SEO Audit using his computer.

Typically, an SEO audit encompasses the following areas:

  • Indexing and Crawlability: Analyzing how well search engines can access and index your website's content.

  • User Experience: Evaluating visitors' overall usability and satisfaction navigating your site.

  • Site Architecture: Assessing the structure and organization of your website for optimal search engine crawling and user navigation.

  • Competitor Benchmarking: Comparing your website's performance, keywords, and backlink profiles against your competitors.

  • Keyword Research: Conduct thorough research to identify relevant and high-value keywords for targeting.

  • On-Page SEO: Optimizing individual web pages through content improvements, meta tags, headings, and other on-page elements.

  • Backlink Profile: Evaluating the quality and quantity of external websites linking to your site for authority and trustworthiness.

An SEO audit is like a comprehensive "health check" for your website. It helps you identify areas that need improvement so you can optimize your online presence.


SEO Audit Tools for In-Depth Analysis

A thorough SEO website audit needs accurate data about your website's technical health, traffic, and backlink profile. Additionally, you must consider the same information for your competitors.


The two indispensable tools that facilitate this process are:

  • Google Search Console: This invaluable resource offers a range of dashboards and reports curated by Google. It enables you to monitor and troubleshoot any issues with your website's presence on the Google search engine.

  • SEO Software: An all-encompassing SEO toolset like Semrush, Ahref, Moz, or similar that provides a comprehensive overview of your site's performance. The tool needs to give you the insights to help you improve your website across critical SEO aspects.

  • In the subsequent steps, we will explore how to perform an SEO audit utilizing these powerful tools.


Table of Contents:


Let's embark on this journey of performing a detailed SEO audit in 14 methodical steps:


#1 Check for Indexing Issues


Remember, if your web pages are not indexed in Google's database, Google can't rank them.


To determine whether your pages have been indexed, check for issues directly in Google Search Console.


Navigate to the Google Search Console's left menu and select the "Index" section. Within this section, click on the "Pages" report. This report presents a graphical representation that categorizes all pages based on their indexing status. By examining this graph, you can gain valuable insights into the indexing status of your pages.


Google Search Console - Indexing screen shot

Underneath the indexing status graph, you will find a list of reasons why Google hasn't indexed certain pages.


To thoroughly address these concerns, carefully examine each listed reason and perform a detailed inspection of the pages associated with them.


By doing so, you can gain insights into the specific issues causing non-indexing and take appropriate actions to rectify them.


Google Search Console - Why Pages Aren't Indexed Screenshot

Keep in mind that not all pages require indexing; only the ones you intend to rank in search results. Therefore, it is normal to have specific URLs that are not indexed.


Here are a few examples of URLs that typically do not require indexing:

  • Pages with redirects

  • Admin pages

  • Alternate pages with canonical tags

  • Feed pages

If you come across a page that should be indexed but isn't, you can resolve the issue by adhering to Google's guidelines.

Once you have rectified the problem, click the "Validate Fix" button to confirm the resolution.


Google Search Console - Validate Fix Screenshot

You can enter a URL into the Google Search Console dashboard's search bar. It is located at the top of the dashboard.


Google Search Console - Page Indexing Screenshot

By entering the URL into the search bar, the Google Search Console dashboard will display the status of the specified URL.


Additionally, if desired, you can request Google to index the URL by clicking on the "Request Indexing" link provided.


Google Search Console - URL is not on Google Screenshot

You can request indexing for a page even if it has already been indexed. This is especially true if you have made significant changes to the page.


This allows search engines to revaluate and update the page based on the recent modifications you have implemented.


Step 2: Detect Duplicate Versions of Your Website


It is crucial to ensure that Google indexes only one version of your website to avoid potential issues. Multiple versions of your site can exist based on variations in URL structures (such as including or excluding "www" and using HTTP or HTTPS).


To search engines, these different URL versions are seen as different sites:

  • http://www.yourwebsite.com

  • http://yourwebsite.com

  • https://www. yourwebsite.com

  • https://yourwebsite.com


Having multiple URL versions can lead to complications with crawling, indexing, and rankings, as Google considers them duplicate content.


Furthermore, maintaining multiple versions can dilute the PageRank of your site, potentially impacting your search rankings.


You can quickly check for this:

  • Testing all the versions of your site into a web browser.

  • The preferred version should automatically redirect you to the desired URL. For example, if your preferred URL version is https://yoursite.com, entering any other version should redirect you accordingly.


If you can access your website through more than the default versions, it is recommended to implement a 301 redirect for the alternative versions.


#3 Perform a Comprehensive Site Crawl


A comprehensive SEO audit relies on a crawl-based approach. This entails simulating how search engines like Google crawl your website and identifying any issues that may affect your pages from their perspective.


You will need an SEO auditing tool like Semrush's Site Audit to accomplish this.


By running a site crawl, you will gain valuable insights into various issues that could impact your pages, as search engines perceive. This will allow you to identify areas for improvement and optimize your website accordingly.


Semrush - Site Audit Settings Screenshot

After configuring the desired settings, click the "Start Site Audit" button to initiate the process.


The audit may take some time, depending on the number of crawled pages. You will receive an email notification once the audit has finished (if selected).


The audit dashboard will provide an overview of the findings and recommendations.


Here's an example of what the audit dashboard could look like:


Semrush - Audit Dashboard Screenshot

The primary metric that requires your attention is the Site Health score.


Considering the quantity and severity of identified issues, this score is a comprehensive indicator of your website's SEO health.


By focusing on the Site Health score, you can gain valuable insights into the overall optimization status of your website.


Semrush - Audit Dashboard (Site Health) Screenshot

Next, you will see the following issues categorized into three groups:

  • Errors

  • Warnings

  • Notices

These categories serve as helpful guides to prioritize your fixes.


By classifying the issues into these groups, you can first focus on resolving critical errors, followed by warnings and notices.


This systematic approach ensures you address the most significant concerns that could impact your website's overall SEO performance.


Semrush - Audit Dashboard (SEO Performance) Screenshot

Additionally, within the audit dashboard, you will discover "Thematic Reports" that thoroughly examine various technical SEO aspects.


Semrush - Audit Dashboard (Thematic Reports) Screenshot

Later in this blog, we will explore specific aspects highlighted in the thematic reports.


However, the primary objective of the Site Audit tool is to consolidate all the identified issues in a single location. To access a comprehensive list of issues, navigate to the "Issues" tab next to the "Overview" tab.


Click this tab to get a consolidated view of identified issues. This view allows for a systematic approach to effectively address and resolve each issue.


Semrush - Audit Dashboard (Issues) Screenshot

Within the "Issues" tab, you will discover a complete list of all identified issues.


Take the time to review each issue individually and commence the process of resolving them.


To gain more insight into each issue, click on it to reveal a detailed list of all affected URLs. It is crucial to take manual action to address the identified concerns and rectify the violations.


This will help to restore your site's rankings and ensure compliance with Google's guidelines.

Examples of issues you may encounter:

  • Crawlability Issues: e.g., some pages returned a 5xx status code

  • Redirect Issues: e.g., some of your redirects are looped

  • Sitemap issues: e.g., some incorrect pages were found in your sitemap

  • Issues with HTTPS: e.g., HTTPS pages link to HTTP pages

  • Internal links issues: e.g., you have broken (non-functional) internal links

  • On-page SEO issues: e.g., you don't have title tags for some pages

  • Markup issues: e.g., some structured data markup doesn't comply with Google's guidelines

  • Performance issues: e.g., some pages load slowly

  • Some of these issues are pretty easy to fix. Some may require a more complex solution.


#4 Verify for Manual Actions


If your website violates Google's spam policies, it may incur a manual action from Google. Consequently, your site's rankings can decline until the action is removed.


Manual actions can be implemented at the page level or the entire site.


There are several reasons why you may have received a manual action, including:

  • Keyword stuffing

  • Unnatural links, both inbound and outbound

  • Various forms of spam

  • Thin content lacking value

To check if your website has received a manual action, follow these steps within Google Search Console:

  • Access the left-hand side menu and locate the "Security and Manual Actions" section. Within this section, click on the "Manual actions" link.

Ideally, you would see a green tick indicating that no issues have been detected.


Google Search Console - Manual Actions screenshot

However, if you manual action, addressing the identified concerns and rectifying the violations is crucial to restoring your site's rankings and ensuring compliance with Google's guidelines.


For instance, if you have received a manual action due to purchasing backlinks (classified as "Unnatural links to your site"), you must remove those backlinks by contacting the webmaster or disavowing them.


#5 Verify Mobile-Friendliness Status


In our mobile-centric world, prioritizing a mobile-friendly website is crucial, as it places user experience at the forefront of your digital presence.


Mobile-friendliness holds significant importance as one of Google's primary Page Experience signals.


That is why it has been a ranking factor since 2015, directly influencing your website's ability to secure a favorable position in search results.


To evaluate your website's mobile-friendliness, navigate to the "Mobile Usability" report within Google Search Console.


Click "Mobile Usability" under the "Experience" section in the left menu.


This report will give you a concise overview of your pages' usability over time.


This insight allows you to identify any potential mobile usability issues that may hinder the optimal experience for mobile users.


By addressing these issues, you can enhance the mobile-friendliness of your website and improve its performance in search engine rankings.


Google Search Console - Mobile Usability  Screenshot

Once fixed, you can validate the fix to ensure Google rechecks the page and confirms the issue is resolved.


#6 Evaluate Your Website's Loading Speed

In today's digital landscape, the significance of quick website loading cannot be overstated. Page speed has long been recognized as a crucial ranking factor, improving visibility on search engines like Google.


Moreover, fast loading speed is a pivotal user experience element.


User behavior data consistently reveals the likelihood of users leaving the website increases as page load times increase.


Semrush - Audit Dashboard (Site Performance) screenshot

Using a tool like Semrush, click and resolve the reported issues.


#7 Analyze Your Core Web Vitals


In 2020, Google unveiled three essential metrics focusing on page speed and user experience called the Core Web Vitals. These metrics provide valuable insights into critical aspects of website performance. Let's explore each metric in detail:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): This metric gauges the time it takes for the largest element on a page to load. It measures the speed at which users perceive visible content on their screens.

  • First Input Delay (FID): FID measures the delay between a user's initial interaction with a webpage (e.g., clicking a button) and the browser's response to that action. It assesses the website's interactivity and responsiveness.

  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): CLS quantifies the visual stability of a webpage. It measures how much the page layout shifts during the loading process, which can affect user experience and potentially cause frustration.


Website owners and developers can enhance page speed, interactivity, and visual stability by monitoring and optimizing these Core Web Vitals.


Prioritizing these metrics leads to improved user experiences, higher search engine rankings, and increased visitor engagement.


To learn more about your Core Web Vitals, visit your Google Search Console.


Click on the "Core Web Vitals" report under the "Experience" section in the left menu.

You will see both "Desktop" and "Mobile" reports that list all the issues that must be fixed.


Or in our case, we used Semrush to learn what issues there were:


Core Web Vitals screenshot

#8 Analyze the Effectiveness of Your Internal Links


Internal links play a vital role in SEO due to the following reasons:

  • Enhanced Website Crawling: Internal links assist search engines in effectively crawling and indexing your website, ensuring that all relevant pages are discovered and included in search results.

  • Improved User Navigation: By providing clear and relevant internal links, users can easily navigate through your website, finding the information they need and enhancing their overall browsing experience.

  • Effective Link Equity Distribution: Internal links allow you to strategically distribute link equity, known as "authority" or "link juice," across your website. This helps prioritize and direct the flow of authority to essential pages, boosting their visibility and search rankings.


Semrush's Site Audit tool, you can access a dedicated report specifically focused on internal linking issues.


Navigate to the "Thematic Reports" section and select "Internal Linking" from the list of available reports. This report provides valuable insights and recommendations to optimize your internal linking structure for improved SEO performance.


Semrush - Audit Dashboard (Internal Linking) Screenshot

Once you open the report, you will list internal links issues.


Semrush - Audit Dashboard (Internal Link Issues) sceenshot

The report will give you a useful summary of your pages. It will use Internal LinkRank (ILR) to measure the amount of linking within each page.


ILR measures the effectiveness and strength of internal links, giving you insights into how well your pages are interconnected.


This information can help you assess and optimize your internal linking strategy for improved website structure and SEO performance.


By reviewing each category, you can identify two distinct types of pages within your website:

  • Important pages with insufficient internal links: These pages may not receive adequate internal links despite their significance. Recognizing them lets you prioritize and direct more internal links toward these crucial pages, enhancing their visibility and authority.

  • Pages with favorable ILR: These pages exhibit a strong Internal LinkRank (ILR) and serve as authoritative hubs within your website's internal linking structure. Leveraging their robust ILR, you can strategically distribute link equity to other pages that could benefit from increased visibility and authority.

By identifying these two-page types, you can optimize your internal linking strategy, ensuring that essential pages receive sufficient internal links and effectively channeling link equity throughout your website for maximum impact on search engine rankings.


#9 Evaluate Your Organic Traffic


Organic traffic refers to visitors who arrive at your website by clicking on unpaid or "organic" search results in search engines.


It is a vital indicator of your website's success in terms of SEO performance.


To access your organic traffic data, follow these steps within Google Search Console:

  • Navigate to the "Performance" section in the menu.

  • Open the "Search results" report, which provides insights into the performance of your website in organic search results.


Review the organic traffic data in this report to evaluate your SEO efforts. Track keyword rankings to measure success. Identify opportunities for improvement.


Monitoring and analyzing your organic traffic is crucial for optimizing your website's visibility and attracting targeted visitors through search engine results.


Within the report, you will encounter four primary metrics that offer valuable insights. Of particular relevance in this context is the metric known as "Total clicks."


This metric indicates the number of times users clicked through to your website within the specified time frame.


Evaluate Your Organic Traffic screenshot

#10 Benchmarking Against Your Competitors


A comprehensive SEO audit should provide valuable insights into how your website performs compared to your competitors.


By conducting a thorough analysis, you can clearly understand your competitive position within your industry or niche.


This assessment allows you to identify areas of strength and areas where improvements can be made, enabling you to refine your SEO strategy and stay competitive in the online landscape.


We like to use Semrush's Domain Overview option to help our clients.


For a comprehensive overview, prioritize the following key metrics:

  • Authority Score: This metric gauges the overall quality of a domain on a scale from 1 to 100. It considers factors such as backlinks, search traffic, and other relevant considerations. A higher Authority Score indicates a more robust and more influential domain.

  • Organic Traffic: This metric reveals the volume of organic traffic a domain receives. It provides insights into the website's visibility and popularity in search engine results. Higher organic traffic generally signifies a more substantial online presence.

  • Organic Keywords: This metric indicates the number of keywords a domain ranks for in organic search results. It demonstrates the breadth and depth of the website's keyword optimization efforts. A more significant number of organic keywords suggests a broader reach in search engine rankings.

  • Referring Domains: Instead of focusing solely on the total number of backlinks, this metric considers the number of unique domains that link to the analyzed domain. It provides a more accurate comparison and understanding of the website's backlink profile. More referring domains typically signify a more comprehensive network of trusted sources and higher domain authority.


By assessing these key metrics, you can comprehensively understand your website's performance and compare it to your competitors.


This information allows you to identify areas for improvement and develop effective strategies to enhance your online presence.


#11 Discover the Overlooked Keywords in Your Reach


Leverage an SEO Audit to uncover competitors' targeted keywords and unveil untapped opportunities for your business.


Semrush will allow you to perform a Keyword Gap analysis where you enter your domain and competitor domains.


Once you have the data, review the "Missing" and "Weak" keywords to see where you can improve. You might be surprised by the keyword opportunities you find.

#12 Discover Untapped Backlink Opportunities You Might Have Overlooked


Like the Semrush Keyword Gap tool that uncovers valuable keywords, the Backlink Gap tool reveals untapped opportunities for acquiring backlinks.


Once you have the report, you can also try replicating these backlinks for your website.


#13 Conduct an Audit to Enhance Your High-Performing Pages


A comprehensive site crawl can uncover technical issues across your website. Examining specific pages in more detail, especially those most important to you, is beneficial.


Analyzing their performance and seeking opportunities for enhancement is critical.


We find using the On-Page SEO Checker by Semrush useful for this.


Enter the On-Page SEO Checker, a convenient tool designed to assist you in this endeavor


#14 Stay on Top of Your Rankings with Regular Monitoring


Leveraging a rank-tracking tool is a top-notch method to monitor your website's performance in organic search results consistently.


These tools empower you to:

  • Monitor your website's keyword rankings of significance

  • Track fluctuations in search engine results page (SERP) rankings across different locations

  • Compare your rankings against competitors

  • Receive alerts for crucial changes in your website's rankings.


Next Steps


You have now started on the path to SEO success by doing an SEO Audit.


Still, need help? Then contact us to discuss your SEO future.


About the Author


As the co-founder of Marketeery, Jon Rivers brings 20+ years of experience working with Microsoft, Oracle/JDE Edwards, MSPs, Technology Partners, and ISVs, to drive business growth and revenues.


Jon has been recognized as a partner community pioneer for his proven social media marketing skills. His passion runs deep as he analyzes every social media message and how it drives traffic to the website and engages people.


​He loves to write engaging content and works closely with our graphic designers to ensure the design elements stand out.


Jon also authors the eBook The Ultimate Guide to Hashtags for the Microsoft Dynamics Ecosystem. Grab a free copy now.


His technical background and sales and marketing skills allow him to understand solutions out of the gate and help drive better marketing campaigns.


Jon is a frequent speaker at many Microsoft-focused (Inspire, Directions) and technology events and serves on multiple boards, including Content Chair for the Microsoft Directions North America Board supporting the Dynamics 365 Community.

Comments


bottom of page