An SEO audit of a website has four main parts. I will go over each one in this chapter.
1. Detect any major issues
This step is a relatively quick one that usually takes less than an hour for a website with fewer than 50 pages.
Check that searches of the brand name return the website
In most cases, websites whose domain name is their brand name should appear first in search results. If a website has been online for more than three months, and this is not the case, then there is probably an issue with the website’s SEO.
Check if the website has a primary address (with or without “www”)
A website’s URL can be written with or without “www.” Likewise, it makes no difference in terms of SEO as long as there is a single primary address that is set up correctly!
It is important to avoid having two copies of a website; one with “www,” and one without. Use one as your primary address and redirect the other.
OpenClassrooms set up their website without the “www” as the primary address, and when you type “www.openclassrooms.com," you are automatically redirected to the address without “www.”
Check for duplicate content
Website pages with very similar, or copy-pasted content, are considered to have duplicate content. This often occurs on product, archived, or category pages that are too similar. This may also happen when an organization copies and pastes local pages, only replacing the address. Take the time to check a few of these pages by hand.
Check for indexing or crawling issues
First, start by entering your address in the Google search bar like this, “site: mysite.com,” and look through the results.
Your website should be among them. If not, there may be a problem.
Here are the most common issues:
An issue with the robots.txt file: This file allows you to restrict access to certain parts of your website. So, you need to ensure that it is granting search engines access.
An issue with meta robots.
An issue with the website’s architecture.
Check if the website loads relatively quickly
The time a page takes to load is a very important factor for visitors and search engines.
A website that is too slow will drive visitors away and could lead to indexing problems. You can use sites like GTmetrics or Pingdom to measure the load speed of the pages on your website.
These tools also suggest ways to improve performance, but their solutions can be quite technical and will require the assistance of a developer.
What load speed should I aim for?
There is no hard and fast rule for all websites. For example, pages on a photography website will obviously load more slowly than a blog containing only text. The tools mentioned above will indicate whether your website’s pages are loading fast enough.
However, if pages take longer than four seconds to load, the website is considered slow.
Check if the website is responsive
Nowadays it may seem obvious that a website must be viewable and readable on mobile devices; however, many older sites may not be optimized. So, check carefully.
Check if the Web content meets accessibility standards
While auditing a website's SEO, it's also a good idea to audit the Web content's accessibility.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 are the universal standards set by the World Wide Web Consortium (3WC) for ensuring that Web content is accessible to all users, including people with disabilities. For testing accessibility, there are accessibility features in browser extensions like Chrome DevTools, as well as a number of open source tools, such as the A11y Machine and Accessibility Insights.
2. Quickly analyze the on-page SEO
Start by looking at the website’s homepage, two secondary pages accessible through the menu, and a blog article if the site has one.
First, check that the URLs for the website are comprehensible and that they include the subject of the page in question. If the website URLs are impossible to read, for example https://mysite.com/345e93, you will need to change them to something more like https://mysite.com/primary-keyword.
Next, for each of these pages, open the console in your browser (F12 in Google Chrome) and use CTRL+F to search for the information listed below.
Title & description: These tags indicate the topic of the page to search engines. They also appear in the results. They must include the target keyword and make visitors want to click and read the page.
Robots: Check that this tag is set to “index, follow.” This indicates to search engines that they should index the page (index) and follow links on the page (follow).
Make sure there is one, and only one h1 on the page, and that it contains the keyword.
Make sure the content is divided into multiple h2 subsections, and that they include the keyword or a synonym.
Image files should not be too big. If an image is meant to be small on the website, don't load an oversized version and let the code adapt the size automatically. The larger the image, the slower it will download.
Check to make sure every image has an “alt” tag as well:
src="https://mysite.com/image.png" alt="Description of the image for visually impaired users"
These tags describe the image for search engines and visually impaired people. So, it is a good idea to give an appropriate description and, if possible, add the keyword.
Length of content
In the past, it was sufficient to have a minimum of 250 words on a page. Nowadays, very few pages with so little content reach the top of the results. Aim for a minimum of 400 words for pages on your website (when it makes sense) and 600 words for your blog posts and news or expert content.
3. Examine your keyword rankings
The first thing to check is that the organic traffic on your website is increasing, or at the very least, remains stable.
This is how you check in Google Analytics:
In the left-hand menu, click on “Acquisition,” then “All Traffic,” then “Channel.”
Then, click on “Organic Search.”
If you have Google Search Console installed, you should get your first results after about ten days. Use it to check if any of the major issues described above are present. This step will also help you figure out which keywords are driving your website traffic before you start making any SEO changes. It may also suggest some keywords you hadn’t considered.
4. Check the quality of existing links
Start by checking if social media accounts have been created and linked to the website. If some of these links already exist, you can assume that to some extent someone has already shared and distributed the website content. If not, then you know you’ll have to spend some time doing it!
Next, using the Search Console (you can review how to do this in Part 5 - Chapter 2) or a site like Majestic, SEMRush, or Moz Explorer, and study the existing links.
Make sure that a majority of your traffic does not originate from spammy links like those from low-quality or foreign language websites, or with content completely different from yours. If Google detects a lot of bad links, like ones found in the comments section of blogs, it may penalize or erase you entirely from its search results.
Make sure there are no major issues.
Follow the checklist for your quick on-page audit of the website.
Check that traffic is increasing.
Analyze existing links.
This audit will help you fix any major issues. Once you have done this, it will be time to optimize the content on your pages!