SEO audits are generally conducted to evaluate the statusÂ of, and identify any issues with, a websiteâ€™s technical setup, content, linking and overall organic search performance.
However, an audit should do more than this. It should enableÂ you to discoverÂ growth opportunitiesÂ â€” and it should help youÂ to prioritize your SEO actions based on how critical they are and the level of impact they will have.
Sometimes, hugeÂ opportunities are not identified â€” and thus not recommended to be prioritized in the SEO process â€” because key questions about the elementsÂ assessed and/or data gathered during the audit havenâ€™t been asked.
Following are some of the key questionsÂ thatÂ Iâ€™m currentlyÂ asking when doing SEO audits, which allow me to prioritize andÂ focus on the changes with theÂ highest growth potentialÂ andÂ fix some otherwise overlooked issues:
1.Â Which Pages That Are Not Meant To Be Indexed Or Ranked Are Wasting Your Site Crawl Budget?
Letâ€™s start with a fundamental issueÂ that I still see every single time I do an audit: Wasting a site crawl budget. This isÂ usually the result ofÂ keeping links toÂ error pages, redirected pages, canonicalized pages or non-indexable pages active.
This issue is especially common onÂ sites that have gone through a migration or redesign. Even if former URLs wereÂ redirected, sometimes internal links pointing to the old URLs areÂ never updated, causing many internal redirects; in other cases, the initially implemented redirectsÂ areÂ eliminated, causing the crawling of now non-existent pages.
InÂ otherÂ situations, wasted crawl budget occurs as a results of massiveÂ use ofÂ canonical tags and meta robots noindex tags to treat content duplication issues (especially with some CMSs automatically including those).
TheÂ canonical and noindex tags are generally effectiveÂ in fixingÂ content duplication issues;Â nonetheless, if these pages are still internally linked, they will end up sometimes eating your crawl budget, as in the example below.
The goal should be to make the most out of the search crawler effort in your site, prioritizing the discovery of those pages which are important and meant to be ranked. You can use SEO crawlers like Screaming Frog, OnPage.org or DeepcrawlÂ to easily answer this question.
2. Which Of The Highest Visibility Pages Are Canonicalized Or Redirected?
Another common issueÂ IÂ find is that relatively well-ranked pages are now being 301-redirected or canonicalized toward other pages;Â the rankings are not always completely lost, but their performance is not as good as it could be if they were the canonical version.
If the now-canonical page is the one that is supposed to rank,Â then itâ€™s important to improve the signals toward it and eliminate any links going to the old non-canonical ranked pages.
To identify this issue, you can go to the Google Search Consoles and select the â€œpagesâ€ filter from the Search Analytics report. This will provide you with a list ofÂ the pages with the highest organic search visibility, which you can export as CSV, then import into Screaming Frog and crawl using the â€œUpload Listâ€ mode.
This will giveÂ you theÂ http status codes of these pages and show you if they are canonicalized.
3.Â Which Of Your Best-Ranked Pages Query Combinations Have AÂ Low CTR Or High Bounce Rate?
Itâ€™s a mustÂ to reviewÂ your top-ranked pages andÂ identify anyÂ performance issues that end up hurting their organic search conversions, such as a low click-through rate (CTR) fromÂ search results orÂ a high bounce rate.
LowÂ CTR can be commonÂ when theÂ pages ranking for some queries are not the ones intendedÂ (due toÂ content cannibalization problems) or whenÂ thereâ€™s aÂ non-optimized or incorrect title or meta description shown, providing a poor user experience in the search results pages.
High bounce rates can occur when there are pageÂ speed problems, content issues (not enough relevant informationÂ or a mismatch from user query) or a lack of mobile optimization. These issuesÂ alsoÂ result inÂ a bad user experience, causing visitors to leave the page instead of continuing with their customer journey.
In order to detectÂ these problems, itâ€™s necessaryÂ to gather andÂ analyze the following dataÂ forÂ the top ranking pages:
- Average positionÂ andÂ CTR for related search queries, from Google Search Console
- Organic search traffic andÂ bounce rates, from Google Analytics
- Titles andÂ meta descriptions, from Screaming Frog
- Speed andÂ mobile validation, from Google API by using URL Profiler
You should first export the top visibility pages from the Google Search Console Search Analytics report to crawlÂ in Screaming Frog. From there,Â useÂ URLÂ ProfilerÂ (you can directly import the Screaming Frog file)Â to integrate the required Google Search Console andÂ Analytics data, as well as Googleâ€™s pageÂ speed andÂ mobile validationÂ through their API.
At the end, youâ€™ll have an Excel sheet with all of the necessary data in one placeÂ (as shown in the image above), which will facilitate the required analysis to answer this question.
4.Â Which Of Your Most Visited Best Converting Pages Have Speed Performance Issues?
I recommend digging deeper with your page speed analysis. In addition toÂ looking atÂ potential issues withÂ the best ranking pages, itâ€™s important to find out if anyÂ of your most visited andÂ best converting pagesÂ suffer from speedÂ problems, as well.
Google Analytics has Site Speed reports where you can directly check which pages haveÂ the highest page views and higher-than-averageÂ load time. Among theseÂ reportsÂ is a â€œspeed suggestionsâ€ report that integrates with PageSpeed Insights, giving youÂ the average load time for your top pages, alongÂ with a link to the PageSpeed suggestions to get recommendations forÂ improvement.
Yandex Metrica also offers a page load time reportÂ that includesÂ a wealth of page-speed-related information, including DOM load time, server response, HTML load andÂ parsing time, time to establish connection and more. These data can help you to identify potential site speed issues.
Of course, you canÂ further the analysis by exporting data from Google Analytics about your most visited and best converting pages, crawling them with Screaming Frog, then again using URLÂ Profiler to import them andÂ validate their mobile andÂ desktop speed.
5.Â Which High-Traffic Queries Are Your Competitors Ranking For InÂ Mobile SearchÂ That YouÂ Arenâ€™t?
SEO audits often include some form of competitive analysis; however, this is often limited to desktop search only, despite the fact that Google surfaces different results on mobile.
Due to the increasing importance of mobile search (and especially in light of Googleâ€™s recent mobile friendly algorithm update, aka â€œMobilegeddonâ€),Â itâ€™s time to take this competitive analysis to the next step by making sure youâ€™re maximizingÂ your mobile presenceÂ (both Web and app).
You can start by identifyingÂ which queries yourÂ competitorsâ€™ mobile sites and apps are already ranking for andÂ profiting from that youâ€™re still not targeting.
This can be done using SEMrush,Â which provides mobile search data for the US,Â orÂ Sistrix, which provides this data â€”Â along with the level of competition, potential traffic and trends â€” for the US, UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and more.
A similar analysisÂ can be done to identify the potentially missed opportunities with mobile app searchÂ (especially when implementing mobile app indexing) usingÂ Similar WebÂ app analysis to check the percentage of traffic brought from search engines to your top competitorsâ€™ apps, as well as the keywords bringing it. You can compare this data with yours to identify the existing gap and mobile search growth opportunities.
6. Which Of Your Organic Landing Pages Are Not Internally Linked Or Only Found In XML Sitemaps?
Sometimes your most important, meant-to-be-ranked pages are not being prioritized in your internal linking structure due to websiteÂ architecture issuesÂ (especially common after a redesign or site migration processes). In the most extreme cases, these pages wind upÂ as â€œorphan pagesâ€ that canâ€™t be found through normalÂ Web crawling.
Some SEO crawlerÂ tools, such as DeepCrawl or OnPage.org, allow you to integrate your XML sitemaps and Google Analytics landing pages;Â theyÂ will crawl the pages found there and inform you if they areÂ included only in these places that havenâ€™t been found in the Web crawl.Â The screenshot below shows OnPage.orgâ€™s orphaned pages report.
7. Which Verticals Can Provide More Search Visibility Opportunities Through Universal Search Results?
Itâ€™s also common in SEO audits to checkÂ if youâ€™re ranking with the right pages and formats. You can identify potential opportunities to grow your organic search trafficÂ by creating and optimizing content in different formatsÂ forÂ Googleâ€™s universal search results, depending on your vertical; for example, localized orÂ geotargeted sectors may wish to pursue maps results, and e-commerce sites may wish to pursue visibility withinÂ images results.
By identifying these opportunities, youâ€™ll be able to prioritize the development of multi-format content to maximize its impact.
You can start by checking withÂ Similar Webâ€™s Industry Analysis, selecting your desired industry andÂ country, then verifying in the â€œSearchâ€ report the percentage of traffic sent byÂ eachÂ channel, as well as the keywords sending more traffic per channels.
You can additionally identifyÂ and complete these keywords by using Sistrixâ€™s â€œUniversal Searchâ€ module to checkÂ your industry top playersâ€™ and competitorsâ€™ universal search visibility profiles.
This view will provide information onÂ search traffic sent by each vertical over time,Â as well as the keywords, position and pages theyâ€™re ranking with.
I hope that these questions help you to identify even more opportunities forÂ your organic search performance by providing a more strategic approach to your SEO audit.
Which questions have you found are key when doing your SEO audits? Please feel free to share in the comments.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.