SEO Audits – Why, When and a Detailed Checklist

Getting an SEO audit is a lot like going to the doctor. It’s a tool available to you for emergencies, but it’s best used as regular maintenance.

If you’re intimidated by the thought of uncovering all your website’s issues, don’t be. With the right tools and professional guidance, you’ll be rising past your competitors in the SERPs with a few quick (and a few long) fixes.

By the end of this guide, you’ll know when and why to get your website audited, be able to perform a basic free SEO audit of your website, interpret essential SEO data, and take the next step toward implementing improvements.

What is an SEO audit?

An SEO audit is an in-depth evaluation and analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of your website from a technical and marketing perspective.

Depending on your level of investigation, an SEO website audit gives you insights on how your potential customers are interacting with your website and how to increase traffic. In other words, it’s the first step you need to take to increase your bottom line.

A comprehensive SEO audit will uncover errors and issues in 5 key reports:

  1. Technical and structural analysis
  2. On-page content analysis
  3. Off-page and backlink analysis
  4. Market competition data
  5. Keyword analysis

Use your SEO audit as a foundation for your marketing strategy. The SEO audit report informs your team of errors and gives them ideas for strategic improvements. Regular SEO audits empower your team with measurable results and a clear direction forward.

Why perform an SEO audit?

Whether you’re the manager of a large marketing department or a small business owner looking to get an edge over the competition, an SEO audit is imperative to your marketing strategy.

When customers begin their journey for their ideal product or service, they typically start out with a search query. You need to know what questions your potential customers are asking and you need to answer them quickly and thoroughly.

But there are hurdles your customers may run into when navigating your website. For starters, if your website isn’t ranking for any of your desired keywords, customers simply aren’t finding your business. This is an issue of search visibility.

And without knowing what keywords your competitors are ranking for, you’re sitting on the sidelines when you should be in the race. Moreover, you could be missing low-hanging opportunities to outrank them for long-tail keywords.

By the way, did you know that the probably of a user turning away from a slow page load increases rapidly as the site takes longer? If your website is slow, a website audit will let you know why and how to fix it.

Without performing an SEO audit, you’re driving in the dark. One SEO audit will reveal all of these issues and set you up for recovery.

When should I audit my website for SEO?

If you haven’t already had your website audited, now is the best time to do so. Future audits should be performed on a regular basis depending on the size of your business.

For example, medium sized businesses should perform an SEO audit at the start of every quarter. This sets your team up with goals for the quarter to come, as well as key performance indicators (KPIs or benchmarks) so you know what to expect. Small businesses may opt to do a website audit every six months.

You should also have your website audited at the start of a new project. This will give you measurable data about the success of your marketing campaign so you can keep what works and shut down what doesn’t.

DIY or outsourcing an SEO?

In 2019 we sat down with some industry experts to discuss this point. Choosing an SEO needs a little bit of knowledge and research, and a careful eye. Freelancer or Agency? Fixed price or per hour? These questions are all answered in our article here.

How long does an SEO audit take?

A professional SEO audit for medium and large sized websites may take anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks. Professional SEOs interpret data for you and help you construct an action plan to raise your rankings. The time frame depends on how many pages your website has.

For small to medium sized businesses, an SEO audit from an expert SEO takes between 1 week to a month. You should still expect to get the interpretation and implementation scheme from an expert SEO.

Some webtools perform an almost instant SEO audit. These typically provide you with a list of errors and automated recommendations, but minimal interpretation of the data.

FInally, for small websites, you may be able to get away with performing a basic free SEO audit by yourself in just a few hours. We’ll guide you through the process below.

How much does an SEO audit cost?

As with how long an SEO audit takes, how much an SEO audit will cost varies by auditor and the scope of your website. Prices could range from 500 to unlimited.

What to Expect from an SEO Audit

Before meeting with an SEO, you’ll want to know what to expect. Because SEO is still a blooming field, there is no one “right” way to perform SEO. This list will give you an idea of what you should expect from an SEO. You want to ensure your business is in trustworthy hands.

As we mentioned above, there are 5 key elements to an SEO or website audit report.

What is a website audit report? It’s the final document you’ll receive outlining all the issues with your current website. This report can be analyzed to identify low-hanging opportunities to improve your website in any one of the 5 main areas.

Your SEO will use software to crawl your current website. Using this data, the SEO expert will interpret the raw data, which often requires a minor in technical jargon, and suggest opportunities and strategies you can use to increase your overall traffic and visibility.

Here’s what you can expert from your SEO audit report:

  • Technical SEO Audit
    • Indexation
    • Redirects
    • Page speed
    • URL structure
    • Crawlability
    • Duplicate content
    • Mobile SEO analysis
    • Robots.txt and XML Sitemap
    • Broken links, images, videos
  • On-page SEO Analysis
    • Content structure
    • Keyword relevance
    • User experience
    • Schema markup
    • Meta data analysis
    • Page copy theme
  • Off-page SEO Audit
    • Backlink checker
    • References on the web
    • Social media traffic
  • Competitor Analysis
    • Where you rank compared to top competitors
    • How your competitors get backlinks
    • Your competitors top ranking keywords
    • Improvements based on competitor data
  • Keyword Research
    • Analysis of current keywords
    • Keyword suggestions

Now that you know what to expect, you can get ahead of some of these issues. Below you’ll find a simple 5 step guide to performing a basic free SEO audit.

How to Perform a Free SEO Audit

A basic SEO audit takes a bit more sweat equity on your part, but will give you insights to any big issues you need to take care of immediately.

This guide will take you through the basics and support you with links to free tools you’ll need. 

Step 1: Technical SEO

Technical SEO refers to elements of your website like indexing and site speed. You’ll want to know if Google is indexing your site or not and get that fixed straight away.

To check if your website is being indexed, perform a site: search. To do this, type into Google. The result will show you how many pages on your website have been indexed.

If your site is returning any results, your website has not been indexed. Get your website indexed by Google by following this guide [link to my first article when it’s posted].

Next, you’ll want to check your site speed. Google has stated that site speed is a ranking factor. The faster your page loads, the better for SEO.

Use our free Page Speed Checker tool to check your site speed. Be sure to check individual pages as well.

Simply enter your website’s domain name into the search bar to receive a comparative analysis of where your website ranks among competitors. This tool will tell you if your page speed needs to be optimized.

Step 2: On-page Analysis

An on-page analysis is a review of the content within your website.

Ask yourself:

  • Do each of my web pages and posts have a dedicated keyword focus and intent.
  • Am I following SEO best practices for keyword optimization?
  • Am I writing and formatting for readability and SEO?

If you answered no to any of those questions, you’ve found your starting point. Let’s resolve each one of the above.

Dedicate a Single Focus for Every Page

First, it’s important to ensure each page has its own focus and keyword set. We’ll go deeper into keyword research in step 5.

Its important to choose your keywords wisely. Always make sure they’re highly relevant to your business, aligned with the search intention of the user, and are well focused.

Odds are that your most relevant keyword has a high search volume and high competition. Don’t worry. Choose those keywords for your main pages and support them with links from long-tail keyword content on your blog.

SEO Best Practices for Keyword Optimization and Checklist

Good riddance to the days of keywords uncomfortably stuffed into barely readable and painfully redundant content.

Today, Google’s algorithms encourage more authentic, genuine content that seamlessly integrates keywords. In fact, semantics are taken into account so you can position your keyword more naturally. Learn more about semantic search here.

Think of a keyword as the one main idea that page or article represents.

For best results though, you should still optimize around one literal keyword. Here are the places you should still include keywords in your content:

  • Title
  • Metadescription
  • Image and video alt tags
  • Headings
  • The first sentence or first paragraph of your article
  • URL slug
  • Once every 300 words in the body
  • Image file names

Struggling to come up with SEO meta titles and meta descriptions? Use our free SERP Snippet Generator.

Writing and Formatting for Readability and SEO

This one is a bit of a trick question. Readability is actually an SEO factor. We’ve separated it, however, because it’s also your chance to add a human touch. These two elements work together.

How? Each new algorithm Google has released in the past 10 years has shown one common theme: an effort to help users easily find helpful answers to their questions. Google rewards informative, easy-to-read content.

Here’s how you can write for the customer and improve your SEO at the same time:

  • Keep sentences short and to the point.
  • Avoid four or more syllable words.
  • Keep paragraphs between 1-3 sentences.
  • Utilize bullet points, lists and images.
  • If you think a sentence might be a run-on, break it into two sentences.
  • Speak to the reader as if you’re having a conversation.
  • Be direct by using the active voice instead of the passive voice.
  • Use transition words.
  • Include useful information your competitors aren’t.
  • Use Headings so that sections are clear to the reader and Google’s crawlers.

Highly quality content is truly a win-win. By writing with these rules in mind, you’ll boost SEO and make your writing easier to read for online users.

Step 3: Off-page Analysis

An off-page analysis displays how other websites interact with and link back to your website.

Compare your website to your competitors’ website with a free backlink checker, or use a dedicated tool to view, rate and sort links in meaningful ways so you can easily spot problems.

Remember to view competitor links to find gaps. You could use these in order to reach out to those websites with valuable content.

Remember: you want do-follow links to receive the most “link juice” for SEO. Do-follow links tell Google’s search crawlers to continue onto your website.

Step 4: Competitor Analysis

A competitor analysis SEO audit shows you where your business stands among your direct competitors. 

Understand your position among your competitors by using our free Visibility Index tool. The Visibility Index tool quantifies domain visibility, or footprint size, in Google’s search results.

First, search your own domain name. Then, search your competitors’. This will let you know how far ahead (or behind) the competition is.

From there, you’ll need to research your competitors’ content and social presence to discover and compete with their strategy.

This is easier than it sounds. Simply visit your competitors’ website.

Knowing what you know from steps 1-3 of this audit, you should be able to compare their on-page presence to your own. Consider the age and size of their websites, loading speed, relevance and readability of content, and social media presence compared to your own.

Step 5: Keyword Research

As we mentioned in step 2, each page and post on your website should be focused on one keyword. You need relevant keywords with a high search volume and low competition.

You can get keyword data from one of two free tools:

Use these tools to improve your current SEO and get ideas for new SEO content.

The SISTRIX Keyword Planning process is available as a free academy program. We also offer an insightful tutorial that deals with keyword research and its importance.


Business owners who are serious about their online presence need to perform regular SEO audits to obtain benchmarks and outrank their competition.

A professional SEO has access to paid tools that will inform your online marketing strategy. From technical to creative decisions, you always need to consider the health of your website.

And best of all, an SEO audit is less intimidating than a visit to the doctor. Just remember to come back for regular check-ups.

Steve Paine