Does an SEO audit improve website rankings?
Whether we are working with new clients or existing clients, SEO audits are a key part of our armoury when it comes to improving website rankings.
There are, of course, many different ways to carry out an SEO audit and different agencies and businesses will carry out audits in different ways.
At Digital Hothouse, we also have different degrees of depth when it comes to our audits.
When we start working with a client for the first time, we carry out a deep dive into all areas of the business, looking to identify every possible opportunity to improve keyword rankings. With clients we have worked with for some time, those audits tend to be less detailed but no less important.
After we have carried out our initial optimisation work, it is much easier for us to keep on top of the overall health of the website by carrying out spot checks on common issues and ensuring there are no issues that could impact crawling, indexing and ranking of the pages on a client’s site.
We use a wide range of tools to carry out our SEO audits depending on which aspect we are looking at.
Typically, when we sign up a new client, we carry out three SEO audits:
- Technical audit
- Content audit
- Keyword research
Within each of these audits, you will find a number of different elements and each of these could justify their own audit, however, it’s usually easier to present this information in one consolidated document to our clients.
What is an SEO audit?
An SEO audit is an in-depth review of a website to determine how accessible it is for visitors and crawl bots.
A comprehensive SEO audit should identify areas for improvement based on elements that are known as ranking factors. Whilst there are many ranking factors that contribute to a website’s overall ability to rank for the keywords they are targeting, there are some factors that are considered more important than others and these become the main focus of an SEO audit, especially if a website does not perform well for those particular factors.
Many of these elements are technical elements and these are included in the technical audit. Factors we include in our technical SEO audit include:
- Page Speed
- Core Web Vitals
- On-page SEO (page titles, header tags etc.)
- Schema Markup
- Linking (internal and external)
- Page errors
- Domain authority
- Sitemap and robots.txt set up
There are other factors involved in a technical audit, however, these are some of the main areas we focus on.
There is quite a lot of crossover between our content audit and SEO audit, and some agencies will bundle these two together into one SEO audit, however, we prefer to present documents that are easier for a client to digest and easier for any development agencies we are working with to implement our recommendations.
At the end of an SEO audit, you should end up with a clear list of actions that need to be carried out to improve the overall quality of a website and give a website the best possible opportunity to rank for the keywords you are targeting.
When we make recommendations, we also prioritise those recommendations as we appreciate that not all clients have the budget to make sweeping changes all at once. We also liaise with development agencies and will often create a secondary audit recommendations document to present to agencies that simply includes clear directives about the changes that are needed.
Performing an SEO audit
Most SEO audits are performed by agencies, however, you can conduct a basic audit of your website yourself. Part of the issue with doing your own audit is that you are not always objective, and you might not be able to action any of the issues that are identified. Even if you don’t have the budget to work with an agency on an ongoing basis, getting an SEO agency to conduct your initial audits can be a great way to get your website on the right track and provide you with a list of actions that need to be taken in order to improve your website.
Most agencies will tackle an SEO audit in very similar ways, although the way they present their findings will differ significantly depending on the experience and expertise of the agency.
Our typical process for auditing involves using a number of tools to uncover potential issues. We then use our experience and expertise to investigate these issues and make recommendations based on our findings.
Crawling your site
Every audit will start by crawling your website. We use a couple of tools to carry out this initial phase:
- Screaming Frog
These three market-leading tools all crawl every page on your website and identify and highlight issues.
DeepCrawl is a tool that provides you with a detailed list of issues identified in the crawl and will also help to detail the cause of those issues.
Screaming Frog is widely regarded as the best crawling tool in the business and there are a lot of different modes that can be used to uncover issues with a website. Screaming Frog does rely more on the experience and expertise of the person analysing the crawl results, however, there is a lot you can do with the tool, and it is our go-to for SEO audits.
SEMrush is a fantastic all-rounder and definitely a good tool for any business looking to carry out their SEO work in-house. As well as conducting SEO audits, there is a whole suite of tools designed to help you to improve the SEO on your website and we use this as a support to our main work.
In addition, we will use other tools to help us to identify other technical elements that could be preventing a site from ranking as well as it could. Other common tools we use include:
- Google PageSpeed Insights
- Google Search Console
- GT Metrix
Our technical audits also include on-page SEO recommendations, and this is where we often see a crossover with our content audit.
This step looks at key on-page elements such as page title, meta description, and header tags to ensure these are optimised for the most relevant keywords that we want to target.
Our auditing process starts with our keyword research document and the recommendations from that research feed into both our technical and content audits.
It is important that we position high-value keywords in key areas across a website including the page title and header tags, as well as in the main body content. If the keywords you are targeting are not present in these specific areas, it makes it more difficult for your website to rank for those keywords.
When we look at on-page factors, we will also look at page speed and core web vitals as both impact the user experience a visitor has when they visit the site. Today, it also goes without saying that we look at whether or not a website is mobile friendly and ensure that the experience on a mobile device is as good, if not better than on desktop.
The linking section of our SEO audit used to focus primarily on external backlinks, however, more recently, we have started to place almost as much emphasis on internal linking as well, as we have seen the benefits to clients of improving internal linking across their websites.
Backlinks, however, are still a crucial element of any successful SEO strategy. Links from another website to your own still hold a lot of value as a ranking factor and whilst that value has diminished over the past decade, it is still an important factor and one that should not be ignored.
A backlink audit will analyse all the existing links pointing to your website and assess the quality of those links, identifying any potential issues with sites that are not trustworthy or appear ‘spammy.’ We may, in some cases, recommend using the disavow file to ask Google to ignore some of those links, however, this will depend on whether the site has a history of attracting these types of links as well as the volume of spammy backlinks pointing to a site.
A follow up to this part of the audit could be to carry out competitor backlink audits to identify opportunities to attract new links to a site, however, this would sit outside of the scope of the SEO audit and would be identified as follow up work, either as part of a retainer agreement or as a one-off project.
As part of our SEO auditing process, we separate content into its own separate audit, however, it can sit as part of a single SEO audit document.
The purpose of a content audit as part of an SEO audit is to review the content on the key pages on the website and identify potential content gaps based on our keyword research. We will audit every aspect of the content on the pages we have identified as being the most important in terms of driving traffic – not all pages are created equal and there is little point in analysing the content on supporting pages that are less likely to drive organic traffic (although any issues on these pages will be picked up as part of our website crawl).
Identifying potential opportunities to create new content is the primary goal of our content audit as well as making recommendations for optimising existing content. This could be changes to page titles, adding headers to both break up long sections of copy and optimise for keywords or recommending adding more content to a page to add more depth.
Based on our keyword research, we might also recommend that new pages be created, and new content is written/produced to help us to target some of those keywords identified in the research.
SEO Health Checks
Once we have conducted our initial SEO audit and all recommendations have been actioned, we then carry out regular health checks on a site to ensure no new issues crop up.
These health checks are carried out monthly to highlight issues such as broken pages (404 errors), broken redirects (301/302) or server errors (500). These health checks will also pick up things like missing alt tags on images that have been added since our initial audit and just help us to keep on top of the overall health of a website.
Depending on the size of the website, we might then conduct a more detailed audit every six or 12 months to pick up on any other issues that are not covered in the health checks.
If you have never conducted an SEO audit on your website or if it has been a while since your website was last audited, we urge you to book in for a WOF and let an experienced agency take a look at your website.
With the introduction of new ranking factors, such as Google’s Core Web Vitals, it is important to keep on top of the latest changes to either maintain your existing strong positions in the search results or to improve your positions if you find yourself ranking outside of the first page of the search results for the main keywords you are targeting.