How To Do A Website Audit
Do you know how to do a website audit? This blog post will cover the basics to help you get going. Do you know why you should do a website audit? Read about it here.
First, why bother doing an audit of any site? There are a number of good reasons. Here are a few:
- The site has been up for a number of years, and an audit has never been done - this is a high priority task in my opinion. There may well be some surprises that are not pretty.
- The site is being re-designed or pointed to a new domain - now is a good time to do an inventory of content, folder structure and site navigation. You do an audit to see what you currently have in place, and what you would like to change the site to.
- Rankings and traffic have either steadily been dropping, or tanked - definitely as part of your troubleshooting tasks - get an audit going right away because there's a good chance that there are technical and/or content issues that have caused the site's erosion in search results visibility.
How To Do A Website Audit - Tools
Unless the site you're going to audit is very, very small - let's say 20 pages or so - this is not a task you can do manually, unless you have all the time in the world. I'm guessing you don't, so you'll need some tools.
As much as possible, I try to steer you towards free SEO tools to do your work, because none of us have unlimited budget to puchase every tool out there. Start with these:
Google Analytics - this free service from the search engine shows you visitors, visits, which pages are getting traffic and more. The best way to keep tabs on your visits and visitors on a daily basis, this is often the first place you see indications of eroding traffic.
Google Search Console - yet another free service from Google. Here, you can find HTML issues such as:
- Title tags - duplicate, missing, too short, too long
- Meta description tags - duplicate, missing, too long, too short
- Robots.txt file - Search Console will tell you if it's working or not
- Sitemaps - you can submit different sitemaps for pages, videos, podcasts, images, etc. You can see here if Google has detected any issues with them.
- Manual actions - if the Google webspam team has found issues with your site, you'll get a notification here. Some examples include bad linking practices, sneaky redirects, cloaking and doorway pages.
- Site has been hacked - if hackers or spammers have hacked your site, or injected malware into your pages, you'll get a notification here.
This is not an inclusive list of what you can troubleshoot, but this is a good start if it's your first audit.
Between using Analytics and Search Console, you can generally get a good "big picture" of site performance.
How To Do A Website Audit - Analyze Your Findings
Now that you've done some site analysis using tools, it's time to decode what your findings mean. If you have any warnings or messages from Google, those are your high priority items to fix first. You can do any other work on the site, but if Google has issues, and you've been notified, anything else you do is pretty much wasted.
Clean up shady links, remove spammy or gibberish-type content, get rid of malware or other hacking issues that have been detected on your site.
After that, clean up 4XX/5XX issues on your site that are reported in Google Search Console with help from your friendly neighborhood web development folks. If you have sitemap issues, get the web dev team to clean those up as well.
Once you've gotten those fixed, now you can re-do title and description tags for pages and posts.
Another Tool To Help You Do A Website Audit
Now, onto a paid tool that has a free, limited version you can use - Screaming Frog SEO Spider. Many of my colleagues (as well as I) consider this to be a Swiss army knife kind of tool for doing audits, mainly because you can uncover so many issues:
- Excessive 301 redirect chains
- Bad canonicals
- Hreflang issues
- Missing alt text tags
- H1/H2 tag issues
- Blocked content and resources in the robots.txt file
- Insecure content
I highly recommend you download this tool (it's free) and demo it with a limited number of URLs on a domain. You can export any data to Excel. If you invest in any SEO software at all, and can only afford one, this is the one I recommend to all of my students.
Much like Google Analytics/Search Console, you can use this to put together a snapshot of current web site conditions and issues. Between these three, you can be pretty confident of finding most issues that cause rankings and traffic drops to any site.
If you'd like to learn more about website technical issues, on page SEO and how to safely do link building, Invenio SEO has classes for you to get the knowledge, processes, strategies and techniques. Check out our course syllabus here.
Until we meet again, stay safely between the ditches.
All the best to you,
Screenshots courtesy of author