If you’re noticing a decrease in organic traffic, your website’s rankings, or your website isn’t showing up in relevant searches; it may be time to get a complete SEO audit. An audit can reveal issues that are hindering the performance of your site architecture.
What to look for to know if your website needs a detailed SEO audit:
- A sudden drop in organic traffic.
- Website redesign, re-dev, or migration.
- Lost links or sudden increase in inbound links.
- Changes to main navigation and internal link structure.
- New competitors in your industry or location.
A site audit can also give insight into what potential changes could help improve the visibility and performance of your website. SEO audits are recommended for new and existing sites as they provide a baseline understanding of the website’s structure and content, so you can immediately ensure everything is adequately optimized.
A sudden drop in organic traffic in search engines
A sudden drop in organic traffic can indicate a problem with your website’s visibility. It may be an issue like incorrect URL structure, duplicate content, or simply that your website needs to be optimized for search engines.
Examples of traffic drop causes:
Poor content optimization
Poor content optimization can seriously impact website traffic, particularly regarding organic searches. With bad content optimization, search engine algorithms can’t crawl your website effectively and identify what it is about. As a result, your pages won’t show up in relevant results – even if you rank highly for specific keywords, you may still not appear as high as you could if the on-page content was optimized correctly.
To avoid traffic drops from poorly optimized content, ensure your content is written with SEO best practices, including relevant keyword usage throughout, and refrain from keyword stuffing. Optimize titles, descriptions, headings, opening sentences, and URLs for target keywords to improve visibility and increase your chances of appearing higher up the rankings.
Incorrect keyword selection
Incorrect keyword research can have a dramatic impact on website traffic. As a result, your blog [post won’t appear as high as they could in organic searches, leading to lower traffic levels.
To avoid this issue, make sure that you thoroughly research and select the most appropriate target keyword for your content topic. Additionally, using an experienced keyword optimization specialist can help you identify the best keywords for page titles and meta descriptions, improving your website’s search traffic.
Lack of internal links or incorrect site structure linking
Linking internally to relevant pages of your website is an integral part of optimizing site architecture for traffic. These internal links are necessary for search engine bots to be able to effectively crawl your website, leading to higher visibility and more visits.
Internal linking helps establish trustworthiness with the algorithm and could harm rankings if done incorrectly. To avoid this issue, link to relevant pages throughout your content and use appropriate anchor text. Linking from deleted pages and having links pointing to redirected pages can affect the way users navigate, decrease page authority, and lower organic search performance.
Sluggish loading times
Sluggish loading times can have a direct, negative impact on website traffic. When pages take too long to load, visitors may become frustrated and simply leave the website without engaging with the content. If pages aren’t optimized for mobile devices, this could further damage user experience and lead to higher bounce rates.
To avoid these issues, ensure that your website loads quickly across all devices, paying particular attention to mobile optimization and page speed optimization techniques. Focus on the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) and Cumulative Shift Layout (CLS), especially for mobile devices.
Duplicate content can cause a substantial drop in website traffic, as search engines may need help determining which page is the most relevant for a query.
To avoid duplicate content issues, make sure that you create unique content and, where necessary, use canonical tags to indicate the main version of a page. Carefully plan content calendars, so the same topics are found on only one page. Do not republish content from other websites; rewrite it or mention the source material if needed. Focus on providing value to visitors by creating original and exciting content that’s likely to be shared with others.
Unexpected changes in Google’s algorithm
Unexpected changes to Google’s algorithm can cause a significant drop in website traffic. While predicting these changes is impossible, staying up-to-date with SEO best practices can help you better prepare for algorithm updates.
These best practices include optimizing meta descriptions and titles, performing keyword research, creating quality content, gaining relevant backlinks, and improving site speed. Monitor the performance of your website regularly by using tools such as Google Search Console or Bing Webmaster Tools. Consistent monitoring will enable you to quickly identify any SEO mistakes which have arisen as a result of an algorithmic change.
Increase in online competition
As more and more businesses create content for web pages, the competition for website visitors increases. This can result in a decrease in traffic for sites that need to catch up with their competitors.
To combat this, areas need to stay ahead of the curve by utilizing effective SEO strategies such as keyword research, content optimization, link building, and improving site speed. Web admins should aim to create compelling content that stands out from the competition and provides visitors with valuable information.
An SEO audit will investigate the underlying causes of any issues and pinpoint areas where improvements need to be made to get your website back on track and drive organic traffic.
Website redesign or migration
An SEO audit is necessary after any website redesign, re-development, or migration to understand how changes may impact organic traffic. An audit can reveal potential technical SEO issues, such as a lack of redirects, incorrect URL structures, and missing metadata, preventing search engines from properly indexing and ranking your site’s top pages.
Examples of problems after the website redesign or migration:
Poor redirect mapping
Poorly executed redirect mapping often complicates a website redesign or migration. Redirects ensure that visitors and search engines can still access the existing content of top pages on a website after the URL structure has changed.
If redirects are incorrectly configured, it can lead to broken links and 404 errors, resulting in a degraded user experience. This can also harm SEO success by preventing the new content from being indexed correctly and reducing visibility in search engine rankings. To minimize these issues, it’s vital to set up effective redirect mapping documents before launching a redesigned or migrated website.
Incorrect URL structures
URL structures can be challenging to manage when redesigning or migrating a website, as incorrect URL structures can lead to errors in crawling key pages and broken links and adversely impact SEO performance. To prevent lousy URL structure from happening, any changes to the URL structure should be carefully planned and tested thoroughly before going live.
Set up information architecture correctly, so visitors and search engines can visit all the pages. Implementing tracking tools like Google Analytics will enable site owners to monitor the success of their new website structure and make further improvements for access to product and service pages.
Missing metadata can be a significant issue when redesigning or migrating a website. Metadata such as page titles, descriptions, and keywords in images and video optimization provide essential information which search engines use to index content.
It is necessary to check that any new content templates include the required head metadata to ensure the SEO strategy for metadata remains intact during the transition process. To prevent problems with missing metadata, it is best practice to review all existing metadata before launching any changes or updates.
Lack of image and video optimization
Image and video optimization should be at the top of the list for all your pages when redesigning or migrating a website. Images, videos, and other media that are too large or not adequately compressed can lead to prolonged loading speeds, negatively affecting the user experience and the website’s performance in search engine rankings.
It is a technical SEO requirement to ensure all existing images and videos are optimized for the best loading speed before the changes go live. This includes media metadata, image ALT text, and complete structured markup.
Mistakingly omitting structured markup
Forgetting structured markup during a website redesign or migration can be costly. Structured markup such as schema, microdata, and JSON-LD helps search engines understand the content featured on the page, making it easier for them to correctly index and rank the website.
With adequately implemented structured markup, search engines may be able to interpret the content and index the pages faster, which can lead to better visibility and high traffic from organic search. It cannot be overstated to thoroughly check all structured markups before completing any redesign or migration process to ensure that it meets current code validation guidelines.
Moving a website to a new domain
Moving a website to a new domain can be complicated and lead to issues if not properly planned. With 301 redirects from the old URLs to their corresponding new ones, customers may end up on broken pages, leading to a better user experience and decreased conversions. Search engine rankings may also suffer as search engines need time to reindex the website and recognize the new URLs.
All internal links must be updated with the new domain name; otherwise, search engines may crawl existing pages with outdated links that point to the old domain or the staging environment, which could result in low rankings for those pages.
Also, check for duplicate and thin content, too much common or boilerplate content, keyword selection, and on-page content optimization to ensure your audience can find your website easily. After significant changes are made, performing an SEO audit will help track your website’s organic traffic health.
Lost links, broken links, or sudden increase in inbound links
If there has been a significant drop in inbound, internal, or external links, it is vital to investigate the cause and if you can recover them.
Examples of decrease in links:
Broken inbound links
Broken inbound links can be a significant issue for website owners, particularly regarding crawling and indexing. Inbound links help search engines determine a website’s domain authority, with more and better quality links leading to higher rankings. When these inbound links are broken due to changes to the linking page or an incorrectly configured redirect on the receiving end, the link equity is lost, and search engine rankings may suffer.
To address lost link equity from broken inbound links, website owners should take proactive measures such as regularly auditing their site’s inbound links and removing any that are no longer high quality. Additionally, web admins should engage in PR for new high-quality inbound links, ensuring that their backlink profile remains authoritative in the eyes of search engines.
Broken internal links
Regular SEO audits are necessary for website owners to ensure that their internal links are working correctly. Broken internal links can cause a decrease in search engine rankings and lead to a drop in organic traffic.
Regularly auditing the website’s internal linking lets website owners identify broken ones and replace them with functioning versions. This helps maintain the website’s structure and ensures users have a positive experience navigating the site. Regular SEO audits can also help website owners locate opportunities for adding new high-quality internal and external links, further improving their SEO performance.
Similarly, suppose there has been a sudden increase in incoming links.
Examples of increases in inbound links:
Negative SEO links and spam directory submissions
Regular link auditing confirms that inbound links from spam directories are not negatively impacting their search engine rankings. Spam directory submissions can lead to a sudden surge of incoming links, leading search engines to view the website as untrustworthy or suspicious.
By regularly performing link audits, website owners can identify such risky inbound links and take corrective action by removing or disavowing them as necessary. Periodic link audits help maintain the website’s trust with search engines and also helps improve the site’s performance.
Guest post articles have been scraped and republished
If your website has recently experienced an increase in inbound links from guest post articles that have been scraped and republished, it’s time to fire up the SEO audit tool and get to work. Scraped content from guest posts can yield unwanted inbound links and negatively affect search engine rankings as they are seen as untrustworthy or suspicious.
Search engine crawlers will identify risky inbound links before you do. Hopefully, with the right SEO audit tool, you can take corrective action before too much damage is done. Doing so will help maintain the website’s reputation and ensure its visitors are not negatively impacted.
Excellent PR campaign planning, and your content go viral
Websites sometimes experience an increase in inbound links as a result of excellent PR campaign planning and content going viral. Such campaigns can lead to an influx of quality incoming links seen as trustworthy search engines.
On the flip side, website owners can identify risky inbound links from well-executed PR campaigns that have been scraped and take corrective action by removing them if necessary. This helps maintain the website’s trust with the search engine and ensures its overall SEO performance does not suffer due to a few bad links from an otherwise stellar PR campaign.
In any case of significant increase or decrease, it is crucial to ensure that all of these are legitimate and relevant, as excessive amounts of low-quality links could result in a penalty from search engines. In both cases, an SEO audit will help you identify issues with your link profile and take action accordingly.
Changes to the main navigation and internal link structure
Suppose you are making changes to your website’s main navigation and internal link structure and want to address any potential SEO implications. In that case, conducting a comprehensive SEO audit may be beneficial.
An audit will help you analyze the impact of any changes to your website structure and identify other areas that need improvement. This could include checking for broken links, assessing meta tags and descriptions, auditing page hierarchies, and interlinking structures, evaluating keyword performance, and analyzing competitor URL structures.
Examples of changes to navigation or internal link structure:
Changes such as shortening navigation item anchor text
By shortening the anchor text of navigation items, you can improve how search engines crawl through and interpret your website or app’s content. This type of change can also improve usability, as it makes finding pages easier for users.
When making changes to navigation anchor text, however, you should conduct an SEO audit afterward. This will ensure that all the new updates align with best practices and that key components like meta titles, meta descriptions, and keyword placements remain intact. Any errors found during the audit should be promptly addressed to prevent further issues.
Adding additional drop-down menus
Adding additional drop-down menus to your website or app’s navigation and internal link structure is a great way to streamline the user experience.
A new crawl is recommended whenever new drop-downs are added to navigation. This helps ensure that all updates align with website best practices and that errors found in the process are quickly addressed. Adding more drop-down menus may require rearranging existing content on your website or app pages.
Adding or removing sub-category navigation
Whenever adding or removing subcategory navigation from your website or app’s internal link structure, it is important to conduct a site audit to ensure the internal crawling of links is improved.
Rearranging existing content to accommodate the new subcategories may require a technical SEO and on-page review. An SEO audit will also identify any potential errors that could occur due to the new navigation structure, such as broken links and redirect chains.
Adding or removing contextual links
Adding or removing contextual links can significantly impact the usability and SEO of any website. Contextual links help guide users to content, provide additional avenues for discovery, and can improve navigation.
A website with too many contextual links can become disorienting or overwhelming. However, with more contextual links, users may be able to navigate to the content they are looking for. For these reasons, consider the balance and placement of contextual links when adding or removing them from content.
By doing an SEO audit before and after making changes to your website’s navigation structure, you can ensure that the new setup is optimized for maximum search engine visibility.
New competitors in your industry or location
The emergence of new competitors in your industry or location can significantly affect your website’s SEO performance. Although you may be aware of changes to the competitive landscape, it is essential to review and assess what those competitors are doing in terms of their online visibility.
Examples of changes in search results due to new competitors:
- New competitors enter a market or region.
- A new competitor has better SEO than you do.
- An existing competitor has better SEO than you do.
- Competitor websites may appear higher in the rankings.
- Search engine algorithm updates pushed your website down.
The competitive analysis could include conducting a comprehensive SEO audit where you look at their backlinks, keyword use and structure, meta tags, meta descriptions, and more. By comparing their organic search rankings with yours and how they differ, you can gain insights into which areas need improvement and how best to optimize your website for online success.
Knowing when to use a site audit tool
By regularly assessing your digital marketing and SEO performance and making adjustments accordingly, you can ensure that your website remains visible and competitive in search engine results.
- Optimize for UX signals
- Check for manual actions
- Check for mobile friendly issues
- Speed up web pages with advanced server configuration
- Flatten website architecture
- Make sure search engines index only one version of your website
- Check for duplicate versions of your website
- Find and fix indexing problems
- Analyze backlinks
- Fix broken links and find missed backlink opportunities
- Conduct a competitor analysis and benchmark against competitors
- Improve on-page SEO
- Find a delete zombie pages
Knowing when it’s time for a comprehensive analysis can be challenging, but there are sure signs you should look out for when using SEO audit tools.
- If your website rankings have dropped recently or seem to be dropping steadily over time, it’s a good indication that something is not working correctly, and an audit could help identify what needs to be changed.
- If you find yourself lagging behind new competitors, this could signal the need for an audit.
- If you have yet to conduct an audit in the last six months, it’s likely time for in-depth website analysis and strategy refresh.