As 2020 approaches, the importance of SEO becomes more and more obvious to companies in a variety of industries.
SEO is necessary to ensure that the websites of companies large and small get a significant amount of traffic.
Quite a few companies have long neglected the SEO of their websites, but are now waking up to the imminent need to optimize their sites as soon as possible.
For many of these companies, the first step to optimizing the SEO value of their website is an SEO audit. An SEO audit will let the company’s marketing department know where their site is succeeding and where it is failing when it comes to SEO.
The company can then make the necessary changes to ensure effective SEO in the future.
What is SEO?
Some people who need an SEO audit may not be too familiar with the basics of SEO in the first place. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization.
It essentially refers to the practice of getting a page or site to appear early in the Google search results that come up when people search for certain keywords.
Search engine optimization, better known as SEO, is also practiced for other search engines including Bing and Yahoo.
However, Google still sees the overwhelming majority of search engine traffic, so SEO practices are generally focused on Google.
SEO professionals try to understand the algorithm that Google uses to put search results in the order that best matches the desires of the person performing the search. This algorithm is quite complex and changes often.
At its most basic level, the algorithm is based on how closely the page and the website as a whole match the search query.
However, the process of effective SEO is much more complicated than that. This is why SEO optimization, which includes performing SEO audits, has become an entire industry.
Read on to learn more about SEO audits.
What Is An SEO Audit?
An SEO audit is often the first step for a site that needs a total overhaul to its SEO optimization strategies.
This is even more true when the site doesn’t really have a coherent SEO strategy or hasn’t been optimized at all.
SEO audits are usually performed on large sites that have been up and running for a while and are seeing a decent amount of traffic.
Generally, an in-depth audit isn’t really necessary when a site is in its infancy and only has a few pages with little traffic.
At this point, it would be best to simply come up with a basic SEO strategy and maybe get an SEO audit much later to tweak this strategy.
An SEO audit can be performed in many ways, and there are several types of SEO audits. However, all SEO audits take the same basic approach.
First, the SEO professional will take an in-depth look at the site and see where the current SEO strategy is lacking.
Also, they will take a look at the ways in which a site’s SEO strategy is effective. The audit will look at each page to see how much traffic the page is generating organically.
Organic traffic refers to visitors that come from search results rather than from clicking on an ad.
Of course, one must go much more in-depth than simply looking at the overall traffic on a page by page basis.
The SEO audit will look at how much traffic each page is generating per keyword to get an idea of exactly where the traffic is coming from and why. The audit will also look at other things like backlinks, which are links from other sites to pages on your site.
Having numerous backlinks from reputable, high-traffic sites is very important for SEO optimization. Check the in-depth explanation below of the different types of SEO audits if you want to learn more about this vital practice.
The Different Types Of SEO Audits
Unless you are knowledgeable about SEO, you may not know that there are several types of SEO audits.
The step-by-step process included in this article is for a technical audit, which is the most common type.
Other types of SEO audits include competitive, social, content, and link audits.
Read on to learn more about the different types of audits and to find out which one may be the right choice for your site.
Technical SEO audits determine whether the technical specifications of your website, such as your link structure, are helping or hurting your SEO.
As previously mentioned, technical SEO audits are the most common type. Many sites only do technical SEO audits.
However, it is important to perform multiple types of audits to fully optimize your site.
Competitive SEO audits involve completing audits of your main competing websites. Of course, you first have to identify your competitors.
You can do this by searching for the keywords you want to rank for and seeing which other websites are ranking for these keywords.
Once you’ve done this, you can use various tools like Screaming Frog to evaluate your competitor’s websites.
You can learn a lot from what they are doing right and from what they are doing wrong.
This type of audit focuses on the indexable content itself, not on technical factors like the link structure.
Each piece of content is evaluated using various metrics to see which types of content are performing and which aren’t.
The content that isn’t performing is tweaked or deleted, and more content of the successful type must be added to your site.
Link audits check to see which sites are linking to your website and also check which outbound links your site has.
You want there to be as many links as possible, both outbound and inbound, between your site and well-known, high-traffic sites.
The amount of social shares that your site gets has become an increasingly important part of Google’s algorithm.
This trend is set to continue for the foreseeable future. A social audit checks which pages are getting the most social shares and why.
This information is then applied to the under-performing pages on your site.
Choosing The Right Type Of SEO Audit
Many people are interested in figuring out the right type of SEO audit. The fact is, all the above types of SEO audits can be very useful to pretty much any site.
If you are only planning to perform one type of audit, it is probably best to start with a technical audit.
This is often the easiest and quickest to perform when using the right software, and most sites will see the biggest benefits from a good technical audit.
However, it is a good idea to continue auditing your website constantly using different methods.
Google’s current algorithm is heavily based on links and social shares, so link audits and social audits are also incredibly important for any site that wants to increase the traffic they see by the greatest amount possible.
Thus, there is no one right type of SEO audit.
Why SEO Audits Matter
SEO audits are one of the most important things you can do as you strive to increase traffic to your website.
Increasing the traffic to your site can be very difficult, especially when your website has seemed to plateau or even to lose ground to competing sites.
To beat out competing sites for traffic, you need to have a clearly defined plan. Too many people try quite a few different strategies to increase traffic to their site and then give them up after a short time.
Instead of doing this, you should get an SEO audit to see exactly where your SEO strategy has been going wrong and to formulate a specific plan for how you can significantly increase your site’s organic traffic in the future.
Of course, SEO isn’t the end-all, be-all when it comes to website traffic. For instance, you still need to have a solid Adwords strategy if you’re serious about driving traffic to your site and making money. However, the statistics regarding the importance of organic traffic are staggering.
On average over 50 percent of total traffic to any given site is organic traffic. If this isn’t enough to convince you by itself, the number is even more impressive when you look at the traffic that ends in a sale.
Over 80 percent of the traffic that results in a sale of some sort comes from organic traffic.
You just can’t afford to have lackluster SEO, especially when your site is selling something. An SEO audit will ensure that your site is totally optimized.
How To Do An SEO Audit
It is possible to do an SEO audit yourself with a little technical knowledge and the right tools.
You should keep in mind that this audit will likely not be as effective as an audit performed by an SEO professional would be unless you are an SEO expert yourself.
However, it can still be very effective, especially if your site’s SEO needs a lot of work. On the other hand, if your site is already fairly well-optimized and needs to be fine-tuned to get to the next level, it’s probably best to go with a pro.
Step 1: The Crawl
There are several steps that you should follow in order to perform an SEO audit in an organized and effective manner.
First, you need to do what’s called a crawl. This refers to using SEO software like Screaming Frog to evaluate every page of your site to check for things that are hurting your site’s overall SEO score.
This may include broken links, duplicate content, and more. The crawl is widely considered to be the most important part of the SEO audit, so it’s important that you set it up properly.
Setting up an SEO crawl is actually pretty easy to do when you’re using Screaming Frog or a similar piece of SEO software.
The interface of Screaming Frog, for example, includes a list of boxes that you can check. The software will evaluate what you select, and will not evaluate what is not checked.
The most important things to have your software crawl for include external links and the SEO value of the images on your site.
You also want to set the software to check all the subdomains of your site.
Step 2: Manually Searching Your Website
This next step involves manually searching for different keywords that you want to rank for and seeing where your site shows up on the SERP (search engine results page).
This allows you to get an idea of how successful your SEO strategy is overall from the perspective of someone searching for relevant keywords.
It’s very important that you see what potential traffic to your website sees. You need to honestly ask yourself if you would click on a link to your site if you had searched for these relevant keywords you are targeting.
You also want to check things like whether your site appears first when you search for it by name. Keep in mind that your site doesn’t necessarily need to be right at the top of the page unless you have searched for it by name.
In fact, it may be almost impossible to get your site to appear first when you are targeting very competitive keywords.
As long as it appears in the middle of the first page or higher, you’re in pretty good shape.
If it doesn’t, then you need to tweak your SEO strategy, because the sites on the first half of the Google search results get the lion’s share of the traffic.
Step 3: Ensure That There Is Only One Browseable Version Of Your Site
If there is more than one browseable version of your site, your search engine ranking will be negatively affected. This is because Google’s algorithm doesn’t like it when it can’t tell which version of your site to crawl and rank.
There are a couple of different ways that your site could have more than one version, even if you aren’t aware of it.
For example, you could have a separate mobile site that is actually competing with your desktop site.
Another common way in which sites have alternate versions is through HTTPS and non-HTTPS versions.
There has long been a debate about the merits of having an HTTPS site or having a non-HTTPS site for SEO.
The industry standard practice was to usually go with a non-HTTPS version, as some sites that switched to the HTTPS protocol saw a corresponding drop in AdSense revenue. This drop in revenue could be significant, sometimes as much as 10 percent.
However, the industry standard has begun to change recently. This is because Google has started valuing sites with HTTPS security over sites that do not have this protocol. The bottom line is that you should go with HTTPS and only HTTPS for SEO purposes.
Another common practice that has recently fallen out of favor has been separate mobile and desktop sites.
Google’s recent algorithm changes reward sites that are mobile-optimized. This is because 60 percent of searches now come from mobile devices.
To put it simply, having one site that is mobile-optimized is the way to go right now and in the foreseeable future, both when it comes to SEO and for the user experience.
Step 3: Check Your On-Page SEO
This vital part of the process essentially involves taking a closer look at the things that your software checked during the first step. You’ll need to manually take a look at important SEO factors like duplicates of headers, title tags, and even pages. You can use a tool like Copyscape to do this. Simply search your titles and see if you get hits. If your own site shows up in the results, don’t get too worried. This is normal, especially if your site is highly specialized and you publish a lot of content about the same topics.
You’re also going to want to check your page tags and title tags to ensure that they are relevant to the content on the page itself. These tags should include the primary keyword of the page. You should also make sure that your page tags and title tags are the right lengths. The commonly accepted correct length of page tags and title tags is from 56-60 characters.
Another on-page SEO factor that you need to check is your meta descriptions. Meta descriptions don’t affect the ranking of a specific page, but they are important for getting people to click the link to your website that they see in the search results. Meta descriptions used to include a maximum of 160 characters, but they now include 320. You should all of this real estate to try to draw in visitors.
Additionally, it is vital that your site includes a clear hierarchy. This structure should have the homepage at the top, followed by the main section pages, followed by the subsection pages. It is very important that your site’s URLs be structured this way because it will increase the SEO value of your site.
Also, you need to check where you’ve placed the keywords on each page. As previously mentioned, each page title should include the primary keyword. This is also true of the title tag. Subheadings should include secondary keywords and variations on the primary keyword. It is also important that your primary keyword is included at least once in the first 100 words of content on the page.
Last but certainly not least, you have to check on your site’s external and internal links. Thankfully, you don’t have to do this part manually. There are many convenient SEO software offerings available that will check links for you. These programs will check and make sure that all of your internal links and all of your outbound links still work. Generally, all you have to do is type in your site’s URL and let the program do the work. Make sure to fix or eliminate any links that are broken. Otherwise, your site’s SEO will take a significant hit.
How To Perform An SEO Audit With Screaming Frog
Performing an SEO audit with Screaming Frog is relatively easy, as the program is designed to be as simple as possible. This has lead to the Screaming Frog software becoming one of the most popular options in this competitive industry. Performing an SEO audit with Screaming Frog starts with downloading the software, which is available in both free and paid versions.
The first step when performing an SEO audit with Screaming Frog is checking the settings for the crawl that the program will perform. It should be noted that only paying customers can change these settings. If you’re using the free version, you’ll have to make do with the default settings. This may seem like a major inconvenience, but the default settings are actually exactly what most sites need.
Next, you simply type in your website and hit the “Start” button at the top of the application. Screaming Frog will then perform the crawl automatically while you watch. The crawl should only take a few minutes, depending on how big your website is. This is all you have to do to use Screaming Frog for your SEO audit.
What Is The Difference Between An SEO Audit And An SEO Audit Tool?
An SEO audit refers to the process of checking the effectiveness of your site’s SEO. An effective SEO audit will likely use several SEO audit tools, which are software programs that facilitate the process and make it more effective. These tools are not a replacement for an organized and thorough SEO audit process, as this is ultimately up to you.
Use this in-depth article to better understanding the SEO Audit tools available to you: 52 of the Best SEO Audit Tools to Improve Your Search Rankings.
How To Do An SEO Page Level Audit
An SEO page level audit focuses on one page at a time. There are several factors that are important when looking at the SEO value of a single page. First, you should identify the primary and secondary keywords of the page and run your own searches for these keywords. Look through the search results to see where your page ranks. You should check keyword placement, making sure that the primary keyword is in the page title and the title tag. Secondary keywords and variations on the primary keyword should be present in the subheadings. Also, make sure that the primary keyword is present in the first 100 words. Finally, you should be sure to check and ensure that all the links on the page, both internal and external, are functional.
What Does An SEO Audit Include?
An SEO audit is a comprehensive and thorough process when properly performed. There are four main steps that may be included in an SEO audit. These steps include a crawl, manually searching for relevant keywords, checking that your site has only one browseable version, and checking on-page SEO.
The first step included in an SEO audit is the crawl. This checks for broken links, duplicate pages and more. This step is performed using Screaming Frog or a similar program.
The next step included in an SEO audit is manually searching for your webpages. This helps you see what potential traffic sees when they search for relevant keywords. It is important to perform this step to try to get into the mind of your potential traffic, which automated tools cannot do.
The next step is ensuring that there is only one browseable version of your site. Even if you think there is only one version of your site, it is important to double-check. There may be both a mobile and a desktop version, or both an HTTPS version and a non-HTTPS version.
Last but certainly not least is checking on-page SEO. This involves looking at SEO factors like keyword placement and meta descriptions. It is also important to double-check the links on each page to make sure that they work.
How Long Does An SEO Audit Take?
The answer to this question varies widely depending on your level of expertise and on how painstaking your audit is. Which programs you use will also have a significant effect on the amount of time it takes you to perform an SEO audit. Also, there are different types of SEO audits, each of which takes a varying length of time. For example, a quick technical SEO audit like the one outlined in this article can be completed in under an hour if you use programs like Screaming Frog and you have performed many SEO audits in the past. Other types of SEO audits may take much longer, especially if you are new to SEO.
What Should You Pay For An SEO Audit In 2020?
If you are not an SEO expert and you are serious about significantly increasing organic traffic to your site, you’re going to want to hire a professional for your SEO audit. The cost varies depending on whom you go with, the size of your site, and how in-depth you want the audit to be. On the low end, a quick, affordably priced SEO audit of a small site could cost as little as $600. On the high end, an in-depth audit of a large site by a prestigious and award-winning SEO firm could run you as much as $20,000. If you’re planning on hiring a professional to do an SEO audit of your site, you should get quotes from at least three different firms. This will enable you to compare prices and take into account the reputation of the various firms as well as the services they include in their audits.