Audits provide an understanding of performance and clarity on what needs to happen to achieve objectives. Yet, in my experience, companies rarely take the time to conduct audits.
In this post, I’ll simplify the auditing process as it pertains to SEO (search engine optimization) so that an audit becomes useful instead of daunting.
Here are eight steps to conducting an effective SEO audit on your organic search efforts.
1. Determine scope.
What are you going to audit? For SEO, there are three critical areas to evaluate: content, backlinks and technical SEO.
- Content consists of all words, images and meta information shared with website visitors and search engines. Blog posts, landing pages and page title tags commonly make up the majority of content.
- Backlinks are both the internal and external links that direct visitors and search engines to different parts of your website. Anchor texts, referring domains and link quality are common elements of a backlink evaluation.
- Technical SEO are website and server optimizations that make it easy for search engines to access, crawl and index information from your website. There’s a lot that goes into technical SEO, but page speed, mobile usability, redirects and indexing are common elements that pertain to any website.
Action item: Determine what to audit. If this is a quarterly or annual audit, your audit scope should extend to all three areas. If this is a monthly audit, then analyzing just one of these areas is a best practice.
2. Set date range.
Findings from an audit only matter if they are put into context. To help put things into context, set a date range for an audit so that the right data can be analyzed.
Will you be auditing the last month, quarter or year? Once a date range is set, you’ll have a benchmark to compare data across a period by period comparison. These comparisons present percentage changes and help an auditor recognize key trends.
Action item: Set a date range to compare previous periods to the current period.
3. Identify competitors.
Comparing performance to competitors provides content for how you are doing. How will you stack up to competitors in a head-to-head comparison?
Analyzing competition can alert you to key strategies they are employing and give you perspective on just how your performance really measures up.
Action item: Identify two to three competitors based on internal knowledge and organic search results.
4. Select SEO metrics.
Quantitative comparisons between your company and competitors tell a story. To help tell that story, there are a few SEO metrics that are worth analyzing: organic traffic, organic keywords, traffic value, backlinks and domain rating.
- Organic traffic is the monthly traffic coming to a website from search engines. Traffic drives sales and leads and is the number-one SEO metric to audit.
- Organic keywords show the total number of keywords that a website ranks for in the top 100 organic search results. This metric shows what keywords are trending upwards and can be used to identify ranking opportunities.
- Traffic value is the value of organic search traffic if you were to pay for it through paid advertising. This metric complements organic traffic nicely, as it factors in the quality and quantity of search traffic.
- Backlinks are how many external links point to your website in total. This is an important metric because Google was founded as a hypertextual search engine. The more relevant and high-quality links that point to your website, the higher your site should rank in search engines.
- Domain rating is how authoritative your website is based on a 100-point scale (higher = stronger). Domain rating (DR) is calculated based on a website’s backlink profile and helps determine whether your content can outrank a similar competitor.
Action item: Evaluate your website performance against these metrics using an SEO tool like Ahrefs or SEMRush. Include your competitor performance to add context.
5. Deploy tools.
Tools can provide useful reports and recommendations to develop a list of insights. There are some great SEO tools that analyze the following areas:
- Crawling & indexing
- Site speed
- On-page SEO
- Local SEO
- Keyword research
Action Item: Put your website to the test with SEO tools.
6. List insights.
In bullet point form, list out the quantitative and qualitative insights that resulted from the audit. Here are some examples of audit insights.
- Organic search traffic was up 28% over the last 90 days.
- Domain rating increased from 28 to 32 in the third quarter.
- Site health score was down 12% in the last month.
Action item: Develop a list of insights that span all your reports and research.
7. Investigate insights.
A key part of an audit is the follow-up. Figuring out the “why” is what unlocks key insights that can be difference makers going forward.
For example, why was organic search traffic up 28%? Or, why was the site health score down 12%? Exploring possible answers to questions like this will help determine next steps.
Action item: Take a look at your insights and ask yourself “why”?
8. Establish a prioritized plan.
What now? You’ve audited your company and competitors and have lots of insights. Now, it’s time to prioritize a plan of action.
To do this, make a “high” “medium” and “low” priority column. Go through your insights one by one and move them into the appropriate category.
Action Item: Develop a list of 10-15 items in each high, medium and low priority categories.
The final step: Take action.
An audit may seem daunting, but it is one of the most useful activities a company can undertake. It’s a gut check on marketing strategy and holds a mirror up to internal efforts.
The most important step in an audit is taking action. A prioritized list of findings is the end deliverable of an audit, but achieving organic growth is the end result of action being taken on key insights.
Action item: Take action!