SEO audits are an integral part of maintaining a search engine-friendly website, and there are certain things you need to look for when you do a full site sweep or receive a report from someone you hired to perform an audit.
It’s important to know what to look for during an SEO audit, whether you choose to do it on your own or hire an agency to help you. This way you can dot your i’s and cross your t’s.
Even though the way in which agencies provide their clients with SEO audits will vary, there are five crucial components that you should look for in your next report.
1. Your Robots.txt Files
Your website's robots.txt file is used to prevent search engines from crawling and indexing pages that you do not want visible to the public.
In most cases, you want your site's administration pages to be hidden and inaccessible. You also want the pages that pop up after a conversion to be completely hidden. Doing this prevents hackers from gaining unauthorized access to your website and also prevents your conversion numbers from showing you false positives, which leads to a skewed perception of your underlying SEO efforts.
Having a robots.txt file that is incorrectly formatted and sloppily put together can actually be even more harmful to your website than not having a robots.txt file at all. Misconstruing these files can cause pages that you do want indexed and crawled to be completely ignored and invisible to search engines.
2. Website Errors
Having website errors such as 404 Not Found, can significantly affect your site's performance and, in turn, impact your organic rankings and SEO effectiveness. You have to look at your site as a building: The code is the foundation that keeps everything intact, and everything from the entrance to the floor levels and even the plumbing are built around that foundation.
Site errors poke holes and force cracks into the foundation of your website. Website errors can inadvertently result in your website sending negative signals to search engine crawlers letting them know your site is neither trustworthy nor deserving of the number one spot in search results.
These site errors can be detrimental to your entire online presence:
- 4XX errors
- Duplicate content, titles, and pages
- Missing title tags or subheadings
- Search engine crawlers being blocked the robots.txt files
- Overbearing keyword density
- Broken links
- HTML errors
3. Keyword and Competition Analysis
The information within keyword research reports gives you an idea of costs associated with reaching the first page of the search engines, as well as an estimated number of visitors the site will bring in.
Competition analysis delves into how your main competitors are ranking their websites. This report should give you an overview of their SEO strategy, their backlink profile, their main traffic source, and the keywords they target, which lets you know if you should or should not target those same keywords.
4. Page Speed
Search engine users are becoming more and more impatient, and the search engines have a thorough understanding of this fact. The search engines understand that a website with fast loading and caching times improves the user experience. A better user experience is something that Google is placing more importance on in terms of SEO.
An SEO audit should contain some mention of your site's page load speed. A more detailed look at site speed will break down specific site elements, which parts are fast and which are slow. This lets you know which pieces of your website need optimizing and tweaking.
5. Link Building
Link building reports are typically included in on-going audits on a week by week basis. While the manner in which link building is done has slightly changed in the past few years, backlinks are still an integral part of your SEO strategy.
Link building is time consuming, tedious and can be costly. To ensure you're getting the best ROI for your link building efforts, it's a good idea to look for the following in any link building report included in your audit.
- The URLs of each backlink
- The specific pages that each backlink points to
- Use of anchor text (proper anchor text diversification is very important)
- The metrics of the website holding the backlinks (page authority, trust flow, citation flow, age, etc.)
- The number of outbound links on the page holding the backlinks
- Number of backlinks pointing to the page holding your backlinks
Use this information to compare to older backlink reports. Find out which backlinks are broken, which ones have lost value, and which backlinks have turned into a haven for spam so you know which ones to disavow.
Again, specific elements included in an SEO audit will vary, but each one should be able to effectively convey the current state of your website. It's a good idea to look for experienced SEO auditors who are able to provide clients with reports that are flexible, responsive, and customizable. Reports that contain all three of these things will undoubtedly give you that much needed competitive edge.