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Whether you’re an in-house marketer or work at an agency doing SEO, there’s a good chance you’ve been tasked with auditing a website at some point. At Uproer, the website audit is often the first step in our engagement with a client. It helps us better understand the current state of their digital presence and identify high-impact areas in which we can help them improve.
But good audits aren’t simple. If the idea of doing an audit that yields useful insights and leaves no stone unturned makes your eyes glaze over, you’re not alone. That’s why we’ve put together a list of our favorite tools and tactics we as a search marketing agency use for SEO audits. The list isn’t exhaustive but it does include many of our go-tos and favorites. Let's dive in.
Sitebulb Website Crawler
When many people think of website crawlers, they think of Screaming Frog, and for good reason. It’s an SEO workhorse and can be tailored to pull virtually any data you can think of with custom extraction using XPath or regex. We use it all the time, as we’ll get to below. But we also love Sitebulb, a less well-known but powerful crawler.
The main appeal of Sitebulb is that it provides actionable insights, reports, and visuals -- which saves you time. While Screaming Frog may be required for more advanced crawls, Sitebulb is great for getting a snapshot of existing problems in an intuitive UI.
Audit internal linking
Improving internal linking is a double-win because it can improve both user experience and SEO. A good internal linking strategy helps users navigate through a website and also helps search engines better understand a website’s architecture and which pages matter most.
One of the helpful visuals Sitebulb provides within the Links section of each audit is its URLs with Internal Followed Links by Crawl Depth report. This report offers a glimpse into page depth, or how many clicks it would take to reach a page from the first page crawled/visited. The deeper and larger a site is, the more difficult it can be for users and search engines to find relevant pages. Improving internal linking can be an effective remedy for this.
We mentioned that Sitebulb saves us time, and one of the ways it does this is by offering up what it calls “hints.” These hints are data points that Sitebulb flags for us as potentially problematic. When we look at hints within the links section, we can see how many pages only have one internal link pointing to them. From here, we can view the actual URLs and export the data.
Identify on-page SEO issues
Want to get an understanding of a website’s on-page SEO without having to rely solely on spot-checking or spending time sifting through spreadsheets? Sitebulb’s on page section has several reports at the ready to help you get a better idea of where a site’s on page SEO needs help. Whether you want to sniff out thin content, see pages with missing meta descriptions or evaluate page titles and headers, you can find it in Sitebulb’s on page reports.
Identify duplicate content
According to this study by Raven Tools, the average website is made up of about 29% duplicate content. That number might be a lot lower if every webmaster were to have access to Sitebulb’s duplicate content reports. We use this feature of the tool not only to find duplicate content but duplicate page titles, H1s, meta descriptions, and URLs. As with Sitebulb’s other reports, there are several great charts to help you visualize this data in an instant.
Screaming Frog SEO Spider
In 2015, Seer Interactive published the highly-bookmarkable Screaming Frog Guide to doing almost anything. Aside from being an incredibly useful reference tool, Seer’s guide also shows how much of a Swiss Army knife Screaming Frog really is. We could write whole posts about Screaming Frog (and have). Doing a site crawl with Screaming Frog is almost always one of the first things we do when doing a website audit. It gives us a baseline level of data we can use to shape our understanding of the site and can use as a reference throughout the audit.
We use Screaming Frog for more things than we could ever fit in a single article, so we’ve handpicked a few to share with you here.
See word counts and compare to competitors
Being able to see on-page word counts is really useful when conducting an SEO or content audit. For one thing, it helps us identify thin content. Pages with relatively few words that offer little value to users can be a net drag on SEO. Being able to see the word counts of a site's pages together is also useful for seeing how one website stacks up against its competition in terms of comprehensive, in-depth content.
Audit crawlability and indexability of web pages using different user agents
A handy feature of Screaming Frog is that it lets you crawl using different user agents. In addition to crawling your website using the Screaming Frog spider as the user agent, you can crawl as Googlebot, Googlebot smartphone, Bingbot, Yandex, Android mobile, and several others. Doing this gives you insight into what different search engine crawlers see so you can optimize accordingly.
Visualize website architecture
Site architecture is important. Having a good site structure helps users find the information they’re looking for and makes navigation easier and more intuitive. It also helps search engines find and index your most important content. However, it’s not always easy to quickly grasp or communicate site structure issues when doing a website audit. There can be a lot of data to parse through. Fortunately, Screaming Frog has a few visualizations that can help with this, including the crawl tree and directory tree graphs.
The crawl tree graph gives us a visual of how Screaming Frog actually crawled the site using the shortest path to each page. The directory tree graph, on the other hand, shows us the architecture of our site based on the URL structure. Both graphs can be helpful when diagnosing potential site structure problems.
Browser extensions: if you’ve been doing SEO for a while, you’ve probably seen the good, the bad, and the useless. Browser extensions represent just one set of tools in our toolbox, but it’s an important toolset. Extensions are great for spot-checking pages on the fly and can be huge time savers.
Audit for live instances of Google Analytics tracking code and other Google tags
Issues with Google Analytics tracking code are unfortunately all-too-common. You may have even had them with your own site at some point. Problems with how the Google Analytics tracking code is deployed can often result in measurement issues, so it’s one of the first things we check when doing an audit for our clients.
Spot-check redirects on the fly and catch redirect chains
There are several different types of page redirects, each with different implications for SEO. We always look for redirects when auditing clients’ websites in order to catch any abnormalities and look for areas of improvement. Our favorite tool for seeing redirects on the fly is the Ayima Redirect path extension. It automatically shows if the page you’re on is a redirect and, if so, what kind of redirect (301, 302, etc.). When you click on the extension icon, it shows you the redirect path so you can identify any potential redirect chains. Redirect chains can slow page load speed and dilute equity, so we try to uncover them in our website audit process.
Analyze on-page SEO of individual pages on the fly
While Sitebulb helps us understand the state of a site’s on-page SEO in the aggregate, we often need to look at the on-page SEO of individual pages on the fly without having to do a site crawl. A great all-around SEO extension for this is SEO Minion. In addition to on-page SEO, SEO Minion also lets you highlight links, check for broken links, check hreflang, and preview the page’s SERP. We’d highly recommend adding SEO Minion to your arsenal.
Analyze YouTube video optimization
Depending on the vertical, YouTube videos can offer a massive search opportunity -- if they’re optimized. But how do we know if a video is optimized for search? A great place to start is with the vidIQ Vision extension. With vidIQ, we can see how well the video is optimized for SEO represented as a score out of 100. It further breaks this score down into metrics like description word count, backlink count, and description link count.
Google Data Studio
We’re fans of Google Data Studio as a reporting tool, but it can also come in handy when conducting an SEO audit. That's because it lets us pull more data and manipulate that data more freely. See our article on using Google Search Console with Google Data Studio for the full rundown on how these two can work in tandem.
Gather and manipulate keyword data from Google Search Console
Since Google Search Console is limited in its customizability and filtering, it can be a clunky keyword reporting tool. However, by connecting Search Console to Data Studio, we increase the volume of keywords we can analyze. We can also set up filters so we can see branded vs. non-branded keywords, short-tail vs. long-tail keywords, and keywords at specific ranking positions.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console is a tool that needs no introduction. It’s one of the central reporting hubs for webmasters and SEOs alike, yielding important data about indexation, link, keyword, mobile usability, and technical aspects of a site. Below we’ll cover just a few of the ways we use Google Search Console in our SEO audits.
Investigate crawl issues
In the rush to get our sites ranked in Google’s search results, we sometimes forget to check whether or not Google’s crawlers can even access our pages in the first place. Using Google Search Console early on lets us flag any problems with crawlability before moving on to more advanced parts of the audit. The specific report we look to here is the coverage report, which is pretty intuitive and easy to use. It'll list any excluded URLs, along with the reason for exclusion.
Compare URL indexation vs. submission
Similar to crawlability, indexation is one of the things we want to look at in the early stages of an audit. How many of the pages that have been submitted to Google have actually been indexed? We can find the answer to our question in the same place we looked for crawl issues: the Google Search Console coverage report. While we can't always immediately know why a page isn't indexed, having a record of pages that have been submitted but not indexed is a good place from which to start making our site as indexable as possible.
Identify issues with structured data
Structured data, specifically in the form of Schema.org markup, helps provide greater context to search engines about the content of a web page. Although it's more important for some sites to have Schema markup than others, it's generally accepted as an SEO best practice to have at least some basic Schema markup implemented. When we're looking at the Schema markup of our clients' sites, we're asking three main questions:
- Does the client have Schema markup implemented on their site?
- If they do have Schema in place, are there any errors in the markup?
- Are there opportunities for additional kinds of Schema markup?
Google Search Console can answer the first two questions for us within the Search Appearance report on the lefthand menu. To answer the third question, we'll usually need to do some independent research.
Build a Toolbox of Your Own
Ultimately, the tools don't make the marketer. There's no substitute for putting in the time and effort needed to do a complete website audit. At Uproer, we like to use the tools at our disposal to do comprehensive audits that go above and beyond general observations to provide specific, actionable, insights.
We hope this guide helps you build a toolbox of your own. If there are any important tools we forgot, please let us know. We're always curious, learning, and growing, so we'd love to hear your recommendations.