Today I’m going to show you why you should be running your website through an seo audit tool, and exactly how to use it to find problems with your website.
There are many great articles on the interwebs about how to DO an seo audit, with the best example (I think) being Brian Dean’s one from Backlinko, but there aren’t many articles that help you to read and analyze an seo audit report.
And if you want to get higher rankings in Google, then knowing how to action these reports will be a huge step too.
So let’s get started.
What Is An SEO Audit Tool?
An SEO Audit Tool is a program that allows you to analyse a website to determine if the site has been built properly. It will analyse the site from both a technical and end-user point of view.
A good audit tool will look at the structure (such as headings and descriptions etc), the code, images, site speed, mobile capability and many other factors to see how well it complies to good seo practices.
It also indicates how likely the website is to be ranked on Google and other search engines.
Why Use An SEO Audit Tool?
Using an audit analysis tool is the best and quickest way to find out if your website currently has any problems, or is in some way not conforming to good search and website build practices.
I run nearly all of my own seo using a program called SERPED. Within this program there is an excellent audit tool, and that's the program I will use to demonstrate how to read an search engine optimisation audit report.
How The SERPED Audit Tool Works
The quick video below shows you what to do when accessing the tool, which you can do directly from this link right here.
Once your information is entered, the tool then analyses your site and sends you a report to the email address you entered.
It also presents your report on screen so that you can immediately view it. Here's what you can find out.
Site Overview Test
The first data you see is an overview of your site, its SEO overall score and a graph highlighting the strong and weak areas of the site.
This graph highlights the On-Page and Off-Page, Security, Speed and Mobile aspects of your website.
As you can see from the spider-web above, this test site I'm using needs some work on its mobile and off-page aspects, but does well on the on-page, security and speed aspects.
It's passed 27 tests, needs to improve on 10 and has errors on 3. The site seo score of 61 probably reflects the poor mobile setup.
A note about mobile site speed and performance: I personally always test this is in other tools like Google Page Speed Insights and GTMetrix.com because you have more options to modify which servers the testing is happening from.
For example, this site is based in Australia, so I'd want to test the site speed from an Australian server first. If it does well there, then I would use an overseas server and if necessary, add a Content Distribution Network (CDN) to the site to improve its performance.
I did exactly that on a site I rebuilt and improved last year, which you can see in this case study here.
The URL Test
What we're looking for here is the quality of the url. That is, your website's actual online address.
My system also tests to see if you have a favicon(that little image that represents your site at the top of an open tab - not critical, but good for users).
The URL is known as the Universal Resource Locator and it helps if it's considered a top level domain name, that it doesn't have underscores in it and that it's not currently black-listed (veeeeeerrry important).
Title And Description Test
In my opinion, and probably a lot of SEOs' opinions, the page title (sometimes called site title when related to the home page) is one of THE MOST CRITICAL seo-related aspects of a website.
I mean, what's going to carry more weight in a search engine between "Pool Cleaning and Maintenance Services" or "Home"?
Which website do you think Google is going to decide is about pool cleaning and maintenance services? No-brainer right?
But I would be a very rich man if I had a dollar for every time I've seen a site/page title say "home" or other pages, on a site that simply don't describe exactly what the page is about in the page title.
Again, what would be better, a page title that says "Products" or a page title that says "Pool Cleaning Products"? easy, right?
For the above image example I used my own site, and you can see that the title and description conform perfectly to what the search engines are looking for.
The title is keyword driven and easily describes what I do (and where I'm located in this instance), and the description is not long, wordy or irrelevant.
Admittedly, the description is LESS important than the page title, but page descriptions help with click-through rate and after all, that's what we want. We want people to click on our site after they've searched in Google.
But how do I fix this, you ask?
Well, most page/website builders will give you the opportunity of naming your page whatever you want at the time you create it, such as "products", "home", "services", whatever.
This can also be the name that you use in your main header menu on your website.
But as you create the "bones" of the page you should also have an area to write an "SEO Title". This area might have some place-holder items (variables) in it that look like bubbles with the words "title", "page" etc.
Here's what this page's seo title looks like. I used the full post title as the page name, so you can see that the variables simply placed everything where it should be. I could however, have deleted the variables and simply typed in a different SEO title.
The SEO title area is where you'd enter "Pool Cleaning Products", and this is what will display when someone scrolls over your page tab at the top of their screen, plus it's what the search engines read.
Image Alt Text Test
There is a lot of debate about whether alt-text is an actual SEO factor, but you know what? I don't care.
I add it every time, just because it helps people know what an image is about if they don't have their images turned on. Also, Google DOES read it.
Again, what would you rather see if you are looking at a page where the images aren't showing (or even if they are), and you scroll over the image and see "img-1" instead of something like "Super Potent Protein Powder Being Shown By Fit Looking Person?"
At least you now know what the image is. I always add keywords to my images as well, to help Google further understand the page.
Most of the images on this page for example have the word "seo audit tool" in them. Scroll across this one and see for yourself.
The alt-text test also checks for images having underscores. It's best if your images have names like "this-is-an-image" rather than "this_is_an_image". Google doesn't like underscores apparently.
The alt attribute is meant to be an accurate and concise description of the image's content. This element is important for both user experience and search engine optimization.
The Heading Tag Test
Following on from the page title, the proper use of, and order of your heading tags is VITALLY important, to assist the search engines to understand what your page is about.
Tags start at Heading 1 (H1) and go down to Heading 6 (H6), with H1 being the most important, and thus you should only ever have ONE (I repeat, ONE) of them per page.
You can have as many as you like of all the others, but it's always a good idea to use them STRUCTURALLY, with the most important being higher numbers (H2 and H3) and the least important being the lower ones.
As you can see from the report above, not only are H1, H2 and H3 tags in place on this site, but there are also no empty tags (this can happen when opt-in forms are used) and there are also no duplicate headings either. Good job!
An seo audit checklist should pick this up and if it doesn't, then the tool is not a good analyser. Full stop.
You can see here in this article from Hubspot how a good header tag structure should look.
SEO Audit Content Check
Another constant area of debate in SEO circles is how much content is needed on a page.
The answer is, it depends. Sucky answer I know, but really it all comes down to the purpose of the page and the message you are trying to get across.
A product description page for a shoe, for example, is simply not going to need volumes and volumes of content, whereas trying to explain a concept (like I'm doing with this post) will. Simple.
The SERPED SEO system I use checks a number of factors such as the amont of text, the ratio of text to code(html), which is probably the more important aspect of the two, and also whether there is a sitemap file and a robots.txt file in place on the website.
These latter two elements are important as they help Google to see the structure of your site (the sitemap), and tell it whether to exclude or include particular files and/or directories (robots.txt).
It's also important to update the sitemap file in Google's Search Console when new pages are added or removed from a site, as this gives it the latest structure to crawl each time.
That way your pages will always show up in the search engine results pages (or the SERPS as they are known).
The Code Test
The code test can be a tricky one at times, because page builders (or theme builders) are all different, and they do things differently in the back-end, so it's not always easy to get a perfect code set-up.
Purists will tell you to write evereything in clean html, which would be great, if we even knew how to do that (some of us still remember, but it's fading with age).
The bottom line here really comes down to the code having the LEAST number of issues. In the image below you'll see inline CSS and iframe errors.
That can't always be avoided when using things like plugins, or advertising systems (Facebook and Google for example), and any number of other external systems to your website.
The two most important elements (arguably of course...do SEOs do anything BUT argue?), are the Structured Data Markup and the W3C compliance.
The latter means your site is conforming to world standards, while the former is important in a number of ways.
Structured data markup, according to this article from the Yoast SEO Plugin people, is "a way of describing your site to make it easier for search engines to understand".
What this really means, is that Google is not a person. It doesn't necessarily "infer" things (although it's pretty clever).
It's simply an algorithm (program), so if you supply it with "structured code" that tells it you have things on your site like reviews, or a business address, or opening hours etc, then it gets a better idea of what you're about.
And most importantly of all, if you have structured data (also known as schema) and someone else doesn't, then you'll likely win the race to the top of the search engines. So you should have it, YES?
A common piece of structured data is the name, address and phone number of a business. The NAP as it's known.
If you have this on your site by way of structured schema, then the search engines can check this against other entities like yellow pages, or mylocalfinder dot com, and if they match up, then Google considers this a sign that you are a legitimate business.
This process is called "citations" and they are an important trust factor for ranking purposes.
SEO Audit Security Check
This test will vary depending on the seo analysis tool you use. My system checks for Google Safe Browsing and then for one of two security systems.
It also checks to see whether the site has an SSL certificate (Secure Sockets Layer) which Google now considers a mandatory feature. You can get an SSL certificate from many places, but it usually comes from your web host.
I use Cloudways for most of my own and client site setups, and it comes free with any hosting, although you can also pay for them as well (better protection).
The Site Speed Test
We now come to a super important test. Site Speed.
Over the years, search engines, and Google in particular, have made site speed a very high priority. In fact, Google now wants sites to be fast from a "mobile first" perspective, and they want them to pass their Core Web Vitals tests.
These tests are quite technical but in short, the faster your site can be viewed AND used by someone, without them having any clicking or browsing problems along the way, then the better your site is considered by Google.
In the image above you can see that the desktop speed of this site is good, but the mobile speed is not so good.
As mentioned earlier however, it's always a good idea to check the site speed using a number of different tools, so that you get a clearer picture of exactly what's causing the problems (if any).
It could simply be that you're not testing it from a local server. That being said, you should do everything you can to sharpen up the load times of your site.
Many old websites haven't been built on a "mobile first" footing, and this can be a real problem.
Sometimes the easist answer is to simply rebuild the site properly. That, in fact, can also be a great time to revisit your keywords and SEO components to make sure you've got the best performing site you can possibly have.
Most website owners thankfully don't have to go to those lengths if they are using modern platforms, for example, Thrive Themes (which this site is built on) and develop from the mobile first perspective.
Simply, build for mobile users first, and develop the desktop version last.
The image below shows the six Core Web Vital metrics that a site must pass to attempt a 100% site speed score. Green is good. Red..not so good.
Mobile Friendly Score Test
Speaking of mobile friendly, another test conducted is the mobile score/visual test to see if your site is actually loading on a mobile device.
My system does this test, but if yours doesn't then you can do it yourself at any time by going to Google's Mobile Friendly Testing Tool.
Here's the result for the SEO Artillery site.
SEO Audit Checklist
So those are all the main types of tests that any good seo audit template/system/checklist should give you, but there's still a couple of other things you can test for.
Such as, your social presence. Is your site showing a good image that represents your site when you create a Facebook or Twitter post?
How many likes and shares is your site producing, and is a sharing option button even available on your site?
What does your traffic look like? While my seo tool checks for this also, if you want to get a quick look at your own site right now, go to the SEMrush site and enter your full website address into the search bar at the top.
You'll get a good overview of traffic and keywords from this, although you won't be able to dig any deeper unless you get a paid account.
But Wait There's More
Most SEO audit tools will show you what your current domain authority and page authority score is.
These are important numbers because they represent how well a given page is LIKELY to rank on Google. Take note, not EXACTLY how they'll rank, but LIKELY.
This score, as it increases through site improvements, is a good indicator that you are heading in the right direction. It's also a score that you can use to match against your competitors to see how you're travelling against them.
SEO Audit Tool Conclusion
So there you have it.
A complete run-down of how an SEO audit tool works, what you're likely to see in one, and what you can do with all the data that comes out of it.
It's a lot isn't it?
I recommend you run your site through an audit checklist at least once every six months. It's such a worthwhile exercise to do.
And of course, if you don't want to do it yourself, get your SEO professional to do it for you, and explain it all over a cup of coffee.
In all seriousness though, this is one of the most important repetitive tests that you can run on your website, that will actually give you ideas and recommendations to improve your visibility in the search engines.
And that equals profits.
Free SEO Audit
Now it's your turn.
Why not take my free seo audit test, and see how your site measures up against the test explanations above?
I dare you!