Free SEO Audit Checklist: What is an SEO audit?
With either a free SEO audit download or a paid version, an SEO audit follows a detailed and technical checklist of potential website issues and other areas of concern such as content and links etc – that might prevent it from being indexed in the first place, as well as issues that might be holding back its potential to rank higher up in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
Search engines crawl websites to find content and store it in databases; this is known as indexing a website. Once this content has been indexed, it can be displayed in search engine results pages (SERPs) for search queries related to that content. Site audits are an essential tool within your small business SEO services, which evaluates how easily a search engine can discover, crawl, and index everything from individual elements of a webpage – even an entire domain.
An SEO audit is standard procedure for any website. Its purpose is to offer valuable insight into the performance of your website, individual pages and overall search traffic. From the results given by the SEO audit, you will be able to determine how best to proceed and what’s needed to fix any technical issues there may be.
There are numerous free versions out there online. There are also a number of paid ones on the market, but the bottom line is that these checklists can be very useful SEO tools to help identify areas of improvement as well as technical red flags with a user’s website. At Online Marketing Group, we’ve developed our own Free SEO audit checklist which is tried and tested. You can download it for Free here.
Like with almost anything SEO…it is recommended that you have an audit strategy from the outset before you run an audit. Yes, rankings are most people’s number one goal when either investing in SEO or running an SEO audit, however, there are a number of other factors that are important to analyse and take into account:
- Competitor analysis
- Market analysis
- Analyse your keywords
- Monitor and improve technical aspects of your website, inc:
- Broken links (404 errors, 301 redirects etc)
- Page speed
- SSL certificate
- Image alt optimisation etc
These are just a few examples of why you would want to run an SEO audit. There are a number of areas that an SEO auditor will look for when they carry out an audit on your website:
- Technical analysis
- On-page analysis
- Off-page analysis
- Keyword research
- Competitor analysis
Right from the outset, you need to establish whether or not your website is working properly and optimally. A technical analysis can achieve this and is normally done using a specific software tool that gives you detailed analysis results, which usually fall into two categories:
- Whether your site is accessible
- Whether your site is indexable
A website needs to be accessible in order for visitors to your site to be able to find the corresponding content or page they’re looking for. If it is not accessible by Google or individual users, there is no point in creating the tailored content or page in the first place.
Some examples of what is checked during the accessibility process:
- txt file
- Robots meta tags
- XML sitemaps
- IA (information architecture) / website architecture
- Redirects (301s, 302s etc)
- Website speed
- Page speed
- Mobile friendly
Indexability comes after accessibility and involves the pages that have been ‘accessed’ by crawlers to then show up in search engines such as Google, Bing etc. If they have been accessed but are not showing up in a given search engine – this probably means that there has been a Google penalty applied, which would need to be resolved before your page/website can be indexed properly.
There are two areas overall with the on-page analysis; general content, and individual pages issues:
General content issues:
Every web page or blog must make sense for a start. From an SEO audit standpoint, you should not create pages or posts about subjects that are completely irrelevant to your website’s main topic.
You want to avoid writing duplicate content, as this can lead to keyword cannibalisation where Google becomes confused as to what purpose this serves on a site, rendering the majority of those pages useless from an SEO perspective and unindexable by the search engine.
Individual page issues generally deal with how well any given page is written and the structure of the content layout. Content is a major factor when determining how a search engine will rank your listing.
Always write content with the end user in mind, as search engines will value this as will the potential visitor you’re trying to attract to your website. Your content needs to be semantically relevant to your topic and, in turn, this will more likely answer the user’s query that they’ve typed into their search engine.
Additionally, all of your images and video assets should be optimised properly and links within your site need to be relevant and add value to your content.
With off-page analysis, this boils down to essentially how strong your domain is in terms of its authority and whether Google sees your site as trustworthy. Google uses an acronym – EAT (Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness) – to determine both a domain and an author’s credibility within the subject area and awards it higher ranking potential depending on its assessment.
For example, I have written and published a book on Amazon under the pseudonym Alex Miles, so for areas such as content writing on behalf of my clients, this helps to add a level of expertise.
Links to your site from trustworthy sources will add to the ‘trust’ that Google places in your site and Google’s search engine will, over time, reward it for that. Additionally, following best practice SEO (white hat SEO) and avoiding bad or negative practices (black hat SEO) will also increase the trust factor that the search engine has in your website.
It’s important to note that keywords are split up into three types: ‘fat head’ or ‘head terms’ (those at the top left of the graph), ‘chunky middle’ or ‘mid-tail’ (those in the middle of the graph) and ‘long-tail’ (those keywords at the bottom right of the curve that starts to thin out).
Then, there are two main factors affecting when doing your research and choosing your keywords – keyword difficulty and volume of traffic.
Keyword difficulty indicates how hard it is to rank for a given search term and the volume of traffic indicates the average number of people who search for that term in a calendar month, in any particular geolocation.
SEO Professionals will often select different strategies as to which mix of keyword difficulty and volume of traffic depending on a number of factors. Here are just a few:
- Age of the website
- Strength of competitors in the market
- Number of quality backlinks gained (using the EAT principle)
- Content strategy to support the chosen keywords
An SEO auditor will most likely use a number of free and paid tools – including seo audit checklists – to carry out the analysis. Google’s keyword planner tool (Google planner tool) is a good free version and there are numerous paid keyword research tools out there, for example from SEMrush, Moz and Ahrefs etc.
Inherently, while you are doing your keyword research, you will be looking closely at your competition and determining what keywords they are using – so that you can compete in the same space as them. The chances are, if you’re like most businesses, you will carry out your initial competitor analysis using Google search before diving into more thorough market research directly using their websites.
Competitor analysis goes hand-in-hand with keyword research and gives you an overview of how they are ranking and for what content etc.
See our other SEO blogs here for more trends.