SEO Audit: A 16-Step Guide for Auditing Your Site

What Is an SEO Audit?

An SEO audit is a comprehensive evaluation of your site’s overall health. 

It helps you assess whether your website is well-optimized for search engines like Google. And alerts you to issues that could affect your rankings and the user experience. 

Generally, SEO audits analyze the following areas:

  • Technical SEO: Look for potential technical problems related to how well search engines can crawl (discover) and index (store) your content
  • On-page SEO: Identify issues with webpages like improper use of headings and low-quality content
  • Off-page SEO: Assess whether you can improve the efforts you take outside your website to improve your rankings (like building links from reputable sources)
  • User experience (UX): Analyze how easy it is for visitors to navigate and interact with your site

After conducting an audit, you’ll be able to implement changes that can lead to better rankings, more traffic, and better business results. 


16 Steps to Follow When Doing an SEO Audit

Sign up for a free Semrush account to follow along with this tutorial. 

Then, follow these steps to do an SEO site audit:

1. Run a Site Crawl

First, you’ll want to use a website crawler (bot) to check the pages on your site. To see how search engines like Google view your website.

This can help you spot problems. Which you can fix to improve your site's SEO.

Use Semrush’s Site Audit tool to run a crawl.

Open the tool, type in your domain, and click Start Audit.

Site Audit

Then, configure your Site Audit settings. And make sure to set the “Limit of checked pages” so it evaluates as many of your pages as possible. 

So, you might want to set it to 1,000 pages if your site has around 800 pages. To make sure nothing gets missed.

When you’re ready, clickStart Site Audit.

Site audit settings

Once your audit is ready, you’ll see an overview like this:

site audit overview

In the “Site Health” section, you’ll get an overall well-being score for your site. This is based on the number of SEO issues the tool found during the audit.

This section also compares your website’s health against competitors. So you have a benchmark for comparison.

site health

The prioritization widgets at the top of your report tell you the total number of “Errors,“Warnings”, and “Notices” found on your site.

prioritization widgets

Here’s what they mean:

  • Errors are issues that need your immediate attention
  • Warnings represent issues of medium impact
  • Notices aren’t critical but you should still consider fixing them

Don’t worry too much about all the details yet. You’ll learn how to use the information within the different reports in the coming sections. 


2. Look for Indexing Problems

If you have pages that aren’t indexed, they won’t show up in Google’s search results. Which can significantly impact your SEO performance. 

To find issues that might prevent your pages from being indexed, head to your project in Semrush’s Site Audit. And go to the Issues tab.

“Issues” tab

Then, select the Category drop-down and click Indexability.

Indexability

You’ll now see a list of issues that might be preventing your pages from showing in search results. 

Click Why and how to fix to learn more about an issue and what steps you can take to address it. 

Why and how to fix

Start with errors first (if there are any). Then, move on to warnings and notices.

If your website has a lot of indexability problems, you might want to first verify that your most important pages like your homepage and product pages are issue-free. 

To do this, use Google Search Console’s “Page Indexing” report.

From your account, click on Pages under the “Indexing” section.

page indexing

Copy the URL of each key page. And paste it into the top search bar in the GSC dashboard.

top search bar in the GSC dashboard

If the page isn’t indexed, you’ll see why under the “Page indexing” section. 

“Page indexing” section

Fix the issue and click Request indexing when you’re done.

Request indexing

Further reading: Google Search Console Errors: Identifying and Fixing Them 


3. Look for Manual Actions Against Your Site

Manual actions are penalties Google imposes for violating its spam policies. And they can harm your rankings or even prevent your site from showing in search results at all.

Some examples of these violations include:

  • Keyword stuffing—using excessive keywords in an attempt to manipulate your site's ranking
  • Hiding text or links on a page to try to manipulate search results
  • Buying or selling links as a way to artificially inflate your site's importance or ranking
  • Using generative AI writing tools to create large amounts of unaltered content that’s aimed at manipulating rankings but doesn’t add value for users

You can check for manual actions in Google Search Console (GSC).

Here’s how: 

Head to Manual actions under “Security & Manual Actions”.

If there are no problems, you’ll see a message saying, “No issues detected”

Like this:

Manual actions

If there are manual actions against your site, follow the steps Google has outlined in its Manual Actions report document to address them.


4. Check Your Site for Crawlability Issues

Your site needs to be crawled by Googlebot to have any chance of showing in search engine results pages (SERPs). But some problems keep it from doing that, which means your organic (unpaid) rankings and traffic could suffer. 

To discover potential crawlability issues, return to your Semrush Site Audit project.

From the “Thematics Report” section, click View details under “Crawlability”.

Crawlability

This report gives you an overview of elements that can affect how search engines crawl your site.

Crawlability

For example, the “Crawl Budget Waste” section tells you which pages or elements take up most of your crawl budget—i.e., the maximum amount of time and resources dedicated to crawling your site within a specific window before moving on.

So, reducing crawl waste ensures important pages get crawled. And hopefully indexed and ranked.

Once you’ve gotten an overview of how your site is from a crawlability perspective, investigate specific problems by going to your Issues tab. 

Then, click the Category drop-down and select Crawlability to filter your results.

Crawlability

Now, you’ll only see issues with your site’s crawlability.

crawlability

Click on a specific issue for a list of all the affected pages.

If you’re unfamiliar with the error, click on Why and how to fix it for more guidance.

Further reading: Crawlability & Indexability: What They Are & How They Affect SEO 


5. Identify and Fix Duplicate Content

Duplicate content is when your site has multiple pages with the same or very similar content. Which can be bad for your SEO performance.

Why?

While there’s no Google penalty for duplicate content (unless it’s created to “manipulate search engine results”), it can confuse the search engine about which version to prioritize. And your rankings can suffer as a result. 

Duplicate content also wastes crawl budget. And can even hurt your site’s credibility.

How duplicate content impact SEO

Sometimes, this issue happens when you have the same page at multiple URLs.

Regardless of what’s responsible for the duplication, use your Semrush Site Audit project to catch those issues quickly. 

Navigate to theIssues tab and enter “duplicate” in the search bar above the list of technical issues to filter your results.

duplicate issues

Click on Why and how to fix it next to an issue for more guidance on how to address it.

Just keep in mind that there are some cases when duplicate content is necessary. Like when you have a page located at a particular URL for your U.S. audience and the same content on another URL for your U.K. audience.

In those cases, you’ll want to implement canonical tags to indicate which one is the main URL for ranking reasons. 


6. Test Your Site’s Loading Speed

The faster your site loads, the better the user experience. And faster loading times contribute to higher rankings on the SERPs. 

One way to check your site’s loading speed is through your “Site Performance” report in your Semrush Site Audit project.

Go to the thematic report section and click View details under “Site Performance”.

Site Performance

This report gives you an overview of all speed-related issues affecting your site. 

overview of all speed-related issues

For example, the “Page (HTML) Load Speed” chart breaks down the speed at which different pages on your site load.

Page (HTML) Load Speed

Longer load times (especially if they’re longer than three seconds) negatively impact the user experience. And can lead visitors to leave your site quickly.

You’ll also see a list of performance issues to address on the right side of your screen. 

performance issues

To learn about an issue and how to resolve it, click Why and how to fix it.

If you’re new to technical SEO, you might want to ask a developer for help.

But there are also simple things you can do yourself to improve your site speed. Like compressing image sizes. And removing unnecessary site elements.

To check an individual page’s speed (you might want to do this for particularly important pages), use Google PageSpeed Insights (PSI).

Visit open up PSI, enter the URL you want to evaluate, and click Analyze.

When your analysis is complete, you’ll see a score for your site’s performance for both mobile and desktop.

Page Speed Insights

 Scroll down to “Diagnostics” for a list of opportunities to improve your site speed.

Diagnostics

If necessary, work with a developer to implement these changes on your site. 


7. Fix Core Web Vitals Issues

The Core Web Vitals are a set of metrics Google uses to indicate how user-friendly your site is based on its speed, responsiveness, and visual stability. And Google has confirmed they’re among its direct ranking factors.

These metrics include:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): Measures how long it takes for the largest content element on the page to fully load
  • Interaction to Next Paint (INP): Measures the time it takes from when a user starts an interaction to when the visual change is displayed
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): Measures how much the elements on the page move around unexpectedly as the page loads

Semrush’s Site Audit has a dedicated “Core Web Vitals” report. Which you can find under the “Thematic Reports” section. 

Click View details to access the report.

Core Web Vitals

Under the Metrics section, you’ll see a breakdown of your LCP and CLS scores. Along with another metric called Total Blocking Time (TBT), which can be used to estimate INP.

“Metrics” section

This report helps you prioritize fixes by giving you a list of “Top Improvements” for each metric. 

Just select an issue under one of the “Top Improvements” columns to learn more. And get suggestions for fixing each issue. 

To see the status of individual URLs, scroll to the “Analyzed pages” section.

“Analyzed pages” section

Click on the arrow next to each link and navigate to the How to improve tab for more page-specific improvement ideas.

“How to improve” tab

You can also check your Core Web Vitals status in GSC. 

Navigate to your Core Web Vitals report under the “Experience” section. 

Core Web Vitals

Once you open either the mobile or desktop report, scroll down to the “Why URLs aren't considered good” section.

“Why URLs aren't considered good” section

You’ll be able to see the main issues affecting your performance. Which you should address.


8. Review Your Site’s Internal Linking 

Internal links are hyperlinks that point to different pages on the same domain. 

And they’re helpful for user navigation, ensuring search engine crawlers can find your pages, and distributing link equity (ranking authority) across your site. 

Here’s an example of an internal link:

internal link

The Semrush Site Audit tool has a dedicated “Internal Linking” report. Which you can find under your “Thematic Reports”.

Internal Linking

First, take a look at the “Internal Link Distribution” section.

“Internal Link Distribution” section

This data tells you how well internal links are distributed across your site. 

Click on “# Weak pages” to see a list of webpages that don’t have enough links pointing toward them.

# Weak pages

Look for opportunities to add links to those pages.

Next, look at the list of internal linking issues. 

internal linking issues

Click on the # issues button next to a particular issue to see a list of all the affected URLs.

Go through the list to fix the problems. 

Further reading: 11 Common Internal Linking Mistakes & How to Fix Them 


9. Audit and Fix Schema Markup Issues

Schema markup (also called structured data) is code you can add to webpages to help Google understand the content better. Which can help your result stand out if it ranks.

This is because schema markup makes your results eligible to appear as rich results—which show extra details about your page. Like star ratings, user reviews, recipe ingredients, etc.

And they can look like this:

schema markup

Capturing a rich result can make your page stand out from your competitors in SERPs. To increase visibility and encourage more people to click through to your site. 

Use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper to simplify generating schema for your pages.

Structured Data Markup Helper

After you’ve implemented the code, go to the “Markup” thematic report in Semrush’s Site Audit tool to identify structured data errors.

Click View details to see your report.

Markup

Site Audit gives your site a markup score based on the number of valid and invalid structured data it detects:

markup score

Scroll to the “Structured Data Items” section for a full list of errors. 

If you have invalid items, click View all invalid items to see a list of the links affected. And what fields need to be corrected.

View all invalid items


10. Do a Competitor Analysis and Find Keyword Gaps

Comparing yourself against your competitors helps you identify where they may be outperforming you. And can reveal valuable search terms you can target to improve your SEO results.

If you don’t know who your closest organic competitors are, use Semrush’s Organic Research tool to quickly identify them.

Just enter your domain and navigate to the Competitors tab.

“Competitors” tab

Then, scroll down to the “Organic Competitors” section to see a list of your organic competitors.

“Organic Competitors” section

Next, use the Semrush Domain Overview tool to compare your domain performance against competitors.

Open the tool, enter your domain, and click Search.

domain overview

Then, navigate to the Compare domains tab. 

Add up to four competitors and click Compare.

“Compare domains” tab

The report will give you a visual comparison of the key metrics like:

  • Authority score: Reflects the overall quality of a domain or webpage
  • Organic traffic: How much traffic a domain gets from the SERPs
  • Organic keywords: How many unpaid keywords a domain is ranking for

visual comparison of the key metrics

Scroll down to the Top opportunities section to see a list of keywords your competitors are ranking for but you aren’t.

Click View details for more information on keywords you can use in your content to boost your rankings.

Top opportunities

You’ll automatically be taken to Semrush’s Keyword Gap tool. 

Scroll down to the “All keyword details for:” and make sure your domain is selected. 

Use the “Missing” tab to find terms all your competitors are ranking for but you aren’t. And use the “Weak” tab to find terms that you have lower rankings for than all your competitors. 

You might also want to reference the “Intent”, “Volume”, and “KD%” (keyword difficulty—a measure of how difficult it will be to rank in the top 10) columns to identify the right search terms. 

“Missing” tab

Further reading: Keyword Gap Analysis: What It Is & How to Do It


11. Study Your Site's Organic Traffic Performance

Organic traffic refers to visitors who come to your website through search engine results. It helps you see how well your SEO is working and where you can improve.

To get data on your domain’s organic traffic, go to the “Traffic acquisition” report in your Google Analytics 4 account and make sure to set the date to the last full month. 

You’ll see a breakdown of traffic from different sources, including organic search.

Traffic acquisition

Use this report to track your progress regularly.

Then, use Semrush’s Organic Research tool to compare yourself to a competitor’s site.

Open the tool and enter a rival’s URL in the search bar. Then, click Search.

organic research

The “Traffic” metric is an estimation of that site’s monthly organic traffic in the following month. And if you click it, you’ll see a graph showing the traffic trend.

“Traffic” metric

Use this information to see how you’re performing compared to your competitors in terms of organic traffic.


12. Optimize Your Webpages

Optimizing your existing content is a great way to get better performance out of what you already have.

Use Semrush’s On Page SEO Checker to get action items that can improve your pages’ rankings. 

Open and configure the tool for your site.

When your audit is ready, you’ll see a list of improvement ideas in various categories like:

  • Strategy
  • User experience
  • SERP features
  • Content

On Page SEO Checker

Head to the Optimization ideas tab for a list of pages with suggested improvements, ordered by priority.

“Optimization ideas” tab

Click the # ideas button next to a page for detailed recommendations. Like making your text more readable or adding more relevant keywords to your content.

“# ideas” button

Each recommendation comes with tips on what to do, why it's important, and how challenging it will be to implement.

tips on what to do

Further reading: The Ultimate Guide on How to Do a Content Audit (+ Template)


13. Update Underperforming Content

Content that doesn’t perform well still has potential. By refreshing these pages, you could improve your rankings and also improve the user experience.

Find pages that are showing a negative performance trend in Google Search Console.

Head over to yourSearch results report, click on the Date: filter at the top of your page, and pick a comparison period.

Then, click Apply.

date range

Filter your report by Pages and look at the “Clicks Difference” and “Impressions Difference” columns.

report by “Pages”

Then, make note of pages with the most severe declines.

Once you know which pages need to be refreshed, use Semrush’s SEO Writing Assistant to improve the content quality.

Open the tool, and click + Analyze new text.

SEO Writing Assistant

Paste in your content. Or clickImport text from web and add the page URL.

Next, add at least two keywords (consider using ones you determined in your keyword gap analysis) and click Get recommendations to get started.

content recommendations

The tool will automatically give your content a total score out of 10. And rate the text based on four categories:

  • SEO
  • Readability
  • Originality
  • Tone of voice

content total score

Scroll down for recommendations on how to improve in each category.

Some suggestions include adding more recommended keywords, fixing link issues, rewriting sentences to match your tone of voice, and reworking hard-to-read sentences.

content readability

Further reading: SEO Writing: 12 Tips for Creating SEO-Optimized Content


14. Perform a Backlink Analysis

Backlinks are links from other websites that lead to your site. And they’re beneficial for SEO because search engines like Google use links as an indicator of a website’s authority and trustworthiness. 

Use Semrush’s Backlink Audit tool to analyze your backlink profile.

Open the tool, add your URL, and click Start Backlink Audit.

backlink audit

Next, you’ll be asked to configure the tool. ClickStart Backlink Audit once you’ve set up your project.

When the audit is complete, you’ll see a dashboard like this:

Backlink Audit

Pay attention to these metrics in the “Overview” tab:

  • Overall Toxicity Score is based on how many toxic domains refer to your site. The higher the score, the more low-quality domains there are linking to yours.
  • Referring Domains shows you how many unique domains link to your site. The more unique and relevant domains that link to your site, the higher the chances of improving your search engine rankings.
  • Authority Score measures your domain’s reputability. The closer it is to 100, the more reputable your site appears to be.

“Overview” tab

With this information, you can take steps to improve your backlink profile. And your chances of ranking highly.

Further reading: How to Do a Backlink Audit (5 Simple Steps)


15. Find and Pursue Backlink Opportunities

To improve your backlink profile, you’ll need to engage in link building. Which is taking measures to get other sites to link to you.

One way to do this is to find out which sites link to your competitors. So you can reach out to them.

Use the Semrush Backlink Gap tool to identify links your competitors have but your site doesn’t. 

Enter your domain and your competitors’ domains. And click Find prospects.

backlink gap

By default, the tool will show you a list of domains that link to your competitors but not to you.

backlink gap

Click on the arrow next to the number of backlinks in any competitor’s column to see the exact pages that contain backlinks from a particular domain:

backlinks

Analyzing the content on these pages can help you understand what type of content attracts backlinks in your industry. Which can help you determine which of your pages are good backlink candidates.

Then, select the domains you want to contact for backlinks and click + Start outreach.

+ Start outreach

You’ll automatically be taken to Semrush’s Link Building Tool, where you can:

  • See an extensive list of backlink prospects 
  • Email webmasters and ask for backlinks
  • Keep track of your outreach campaigns’ progress

Link Building Tool

Further reading: How to Find Your Competitors’ Backlinks: A Step-by-Step Guide


16. Monitor Your Rankings 

To know if your tactics are working, monitor your keyword rankings. And make adjustments to your strategy as needed.

Use Semrush’s Position Tracking tool for this.

To get started, open the tool and enter your domain. Then, click Set up tracking.

position tracking

Next, you’ll be asked to configure Position Tracking.

Once the tool is ready, you’ll see a summary of your domain’s visibility, estimated traffic, and average position for your tracked keywords.

position tracking

The “Competitors” section under the Competitors Discovery tab lets you compare yourself against your competitors across several key metrics.

“Competitors” section

This way, you can pinpoint exactly where you stand in your niche. And determine whether you need to adjust to get better results.


Run Your First SEO Audit

Doing regular SEO audits alerts you to potential issues before they can hurt your rankings. Or the user experience. 

And Semrush’s Site Audit tool provides the information you need to do a thorough audit. 

It identifies over 140 on-page and technical SEO issues. And helps you prioritize SEO issues so you can tackle the most critical ones first. 

Get started today.

About the Author
Boris Mustapic is a content marketing consultant with over a decade of experience in the digital marketing industry. He specializes in helping B2B SaaS companies drive growth through strategic, product-led content marketing.