Technical SEO audits are a vital part of any SEO strategy. But where do you start?! This blog will explain to you in detail how to do a basic SEO audit in just ten simple steps.
Every website will have different technical SEO issues. With that in mind, we are going to take you through a process you can use on any website to pinpoint the most common technical SEO issues. Following these steps will also help you uncover other areas of improvement for you, your clients, or a freelancer to investigate further.
A mixture of free Moz and Google tools, as well as Ahrefs, will help you conduct these 10-step SEO audits. Before we begin, let’s run a crawl on Ahrefs Site Audit with a tool that can crawl every page on the website, looking for SEO errors that need to be fixed.
It can take a few hours, depending on the size of the website, so it’s best
to get this running right at the start of the audit. There are lots of different reports you can explore, but we’re going to be focusing on the ones that highlight the most common issues.
1. See if the website is secure and check whether the correct redirects are in place
Only the secure version should be crawlable. Google has encouraged this for some time now, and there is a small but noticeable ranking boost. This is because a secure website increases trust, particularly for ecommerce websites. So any http versions of the website should redirect straight to the https version.
Check whether the redirect has been correctly set up by typing the domain into the search bar. Now add http to see a seamless redirect to https. If this doesn’t happen, you should be able to get an SSL certificate from the hosting provider, or you can get one for free from Let’s Encrypt.
2. Check the current Site Traffic
Any Search Engine Optimization strategy aims to increase the website's traffic, so you need to understand the site’s existing position. Start by using the Organic Search report within Google Analytics to see the average organic search traffic the website receives each month.
3. The organic serach traffic is increasing or not
Now expand the search to cover a longer time frame and see whether the organic search traffic’s increasing. Check for any seasonal dips or spikes. You can get a more detailed insight into this by using the ‘week’ view.
Understanding the current search traffic will Highlight the most popular landing pages. Enable you to make SEO decisions based on the weekly or monthly benchmark figures. And set SMART goals for improvement against these numbers.
4. Take a look at the site speed
Site speed has a massive impact on rankings and a slow loading speed means a bad user experience. If it takes too long to load, they won’t hang around. It’s usually caused by not optimizing the html code or when the web server is slow. Use Google’s pagespeed insights by entering the URL and checking the recommendations.
You could also try Pingdom for free or Ahrefs site audit tool. All these tools will suggest ways you can optimize site speed, so it’s up to you which you choose.
5. Optimizing the media
Optimizing the media is important because this is the easiest and quickest improvement to make. So, for example, Tesla looks at switching their image formats to those that provide better compression, such as JPEG 2000.
Even big brands like Tesla faces issue. If you see similar recommendations, you could try using the third party video hosting or reducing the file size of any images on the website.
Once you’ve identified the main culprits, whether this is self-hosted videos or massive PDFs, you can find the location of all these files on the website by doing = a simple google search:
6. Work on site structure and navigation
For a basic audit, you can easily scrutinize this simply by clicking around the website.
Here are the basic tells of a good site structure:
- There’ll be a clear navigation bar or menu.
- Each page is only a few clicks away.
- There’s a consistent URL structure.
- The navigation is clear and simple to use.
- Internal links are relevant and support the user experience.
Let’s take a closer look at the URL structure. Having a clear structure with relevant keywords makes it easier for both humans and search engines to read. This means that the website is more likely to rank well and get more click-throughs.
If you find any issues with the category structure, you can find all the offending pages using Google search by typing site: the domain inurl: With the Tag, Page Heading, or keyword that’s present in the URLs.
7. Look at the crawling ability
This refers to the experience a search engine spider has when crawling and indexing a website. And whether it’s even able to index all the pages. Let’s start by looking at how many pages have been indexed. This will provide a good comparative measure so we can ensure that all the pages we want to be indexed are there.
In Google, enter the site: the domain into the search bar and check the number of results against the number of actual pages you know is on the website. This is a really basic measure, so it doesn’t give you any knowledge of those pages that aren’t indexed. You can use the Ahrefs Site Audit. Take a look at the Indexability report.
You’ll see the total number of internal pages against the indexed pages. It’ll even show you the pages that aren’t indexed so you can check whether these can be removed or labeled as something else.
8.The internal pages report
Here you’ll see a tab labeled ‘issues’, highlighting any redirection errors.
Sending crawlers to 301 redirects or 404 broken pages, for example, creates a dead end. They won’t be able to reach all the pages, and chains of redirects will force them to leave the website, resulting in an incomplete crawl, and not all the pages will be indexed.
Not only that, but dead ends create a bad user experience and will almost certainly affect rankings. Redirects do have their purpose, though. Particularly when you’re trying to prevent duplicate content, or you want to redirect your users to more relevant pages. The trick is to use them correctly. This leads us nicely to look at the internal linking structure.
Internal links help users to easily navigate to other relevant content on the site and move easily through the website. And if something improves the User Experience, you can bet search engines will notice. You can use either Google or Ahrefs to fix orphaned pages or add internal links to new pages.
Say you have a new blog post on ‘Keyword Research. You can search
site: your website “keyword research” in Google, and it’ll show you all the
instances where this exact phase is mentioned throughout the site.
You can also use the free Mozbar plugin to check the page authority of each URL.
You want to link from the most relevant and highest authority pages to pass some of this authority through to the new or orphaned web page.
You could also use Ahrefs Link Opportunities report within the Site Audit. This is much easier because it’ll automatically recommend internal link opportunities for a variety of pages across your whole website. Again, relevance and authority are important here, so check this before adding any new internal links.
As one of Google’s top ranking factors, having a good, natural backlink profile is important. There are a number of ways you can ensure that you have a clean backlink profile and stay on top of erasing any spammy backlinks.
Jump over to Ahrefs Site Explorer and take a look at the referring domains graph in the overview. A steady increase in the number of referring domains is a good sign. If you see a sudden drop, you should investigate where and why these were lost. At the same time, a sudden increase could suggest unnatural link-building.
You can check this by heading to the referring domains report and sorting by DR with the lowest first. Remember that some websites with very low DAs are legitimate websites that don’t spam, so just check for the ones that look a little fishy. Expand the ‘links to target’ dropdown and follow the link to check its authenticity. If you find any spammy domains linking to your website, you can remove these using Google’s Disavow Tool.
You can do the same with individual backlinks using the backlinks report. Filter by doing follow or backlink type. When considering the number of backlinks, it’s best to compare these to a close competitor to understand industry benchmarks.
There shouldn't be too many because this is spammy, but not having enough backlinks in comparison to the top-ranking websites means it’s highly unlikely that the website will rank at the top of the search results.
Now take a look at the anchor distribution. Again, look for the majority of anchors to be branded because these build trust.
Again you can look for anything suspicious and remove these with Google Disavow. As with your site traffic, you’ll need to understand the website’s current ranking position. This is, so you have benchmarks from which to measure success.
Head to the webpage you want to check the ranking of. Enter the keyword, and it’ll display the web pages’ current ranking for that keyword.
This works on any website for any keyword. Ahrefs shows you the website's ranking position for multiple keywords at once, and you can use this tool to monitor your rankings over time.
Take a look at the Organic Keywords report to see which keywords the website is ranking for, which pages are ranking and where in the search results it ranks.
You can also use the Rank Tracker to monitor rankings for specific keywords over a much longer time frame. So if you notice that the rankings are dropping over time, this will be a point to note in your audit as a major element that you’d want to investigate further.
9. Check the On-Page content
You may find that the most prominent pages just aren’t driving the volumes of organic search traffic that you’d hoped. Underperforming pages will bring the SEO performance of your whole site down.
Be sure to check through the content, improve it, conduct keyword research and, optimize it, then relaunch it. If it’s a less prominent page that isn’t worth updating, then simply delete it and add a 301 redirect so the link equity isn’t lost.
You also want to check that there’s no content duplication. Click on the URL clusters to investigate. You can see there that these two pages on Microsoft are pretty much the same.
You also want to check that there aren’t two pages competing for the same keyword in the search results. If you don’t have access to ahrefs, you can check this by searching for the site: the domain with the keyword in question. It’ll pull up all the URLs that contain that keyword.
This search is also useful for checking the natural keyword distribution by finding all pages containing that particular keyword or for finding particular content topics you want to update.
10. Look at the title tags, meta descriptions, and header tags
A title tag’s primary function is to tell search engine crawlers and search engine users about the page. So the title tags need to be an engaging summary of the page content yet short enough so that they aren’t truncated in the search results.
Sitting below the title tag is the meta description which is a further opportunity to summarize the topics the content covers with a brief keyword-optimized description.
And finally, we have HTML heading tags that are a hierarchy of content topics. You can manually check the existence or quality of the title tags, meta descriptions, and heading tags by individually reviewing every page on a website or by doing a Google ‘site:’ search.
Alternatively, you can examine all three by using Ahrefs Site Audit. It highlights where title tags, meta descriptions, and heading tags are missing, too long, or overused.
Before you start link building or optimizing for keywords,
make sure that basic SEO mistakes aren’t hindering the website’s rankings.
There are many more detailed checks that you could do as part of your audit. Hope that this 10-step process gives you a head start in SEO auditing. And help in your growth effectively.