SEO Audit Essentials in 2017 #Semrushchat

Maria Kalyadina

Jul 03, 201713 min read
SEO Audit Essentials in 2017

The world of search is constantly evolving, and in turn, your SEO audits must as well.

To walk you through the essentials of performing a technical SEO audit of your site in 2017, we invited Stephan Spencer to our SEMrush Chat. Stephan is an SEO expert, a three-time author, a professional speaker, a consultant, and the Founder of Netconcepts. He and our other chat participants shared their secrets to the perfect SEO audit checklist, issues that can hold your conversions back, and much more:

Q1. SEO Audit Checklist: which reports do you include when pitching to a client or reporting to your boss?

It is critical to understand what it takes to beat the competition. By showing your potential clients organic keywords and featured snippets of their top competitors, you can address their pain points and persuade them to perform a site audit. 

When pitching to a client, the dilemma that many SEO professionals face is how to persuade a potential client to conduct a site audit without giving too much away during your pitch.

Therefore, it’s worth convincing your potential customers gradually through incremental sharing of information.

When telling your potential client about the issues, try to explain it in a way that is understandable, provides actionable recommendations and instills confidence.

JoMarie‏ @JoMarieT pointed out that she creates her own report using several helpful tools, such as Screaming Frog, Pingdom, PageSpeed Tools, Google Search Console, and Google Analytics.

Some of our chat participants don’t include any reports in their pitch at all.

SEO Audit Checklist reports to include when pitching to a client

Thank everyone whose tweets we used to make this image:  @lillihol, @sspencer, @esseaoh, @nathanbrown29, and @fannyhueck.

When pitching to a client or reporting to your boss, use audits to talk through a starting point and be strategic about what to put on the table first.


Clients and bosses can feel overwhelmed with too much data. As an SEO specialist, your job is to help them prioritize and understand next steps.

Q2. What SEO issues can hold your conversions back?

If you have been working on increasing your conversion rate, but haven’t seen any gains yet, it means there may be some issues holding your conversions back.

SEO and Conversion Killers

Stephan Spencer‏ @sspencer named several issues that can have a negative impact on your conversion rate. Here they are:

  • Slow page load time. In the digital age, people expect a convenient and fast experience with websites. A slow-loading site has an impact on both SEO and user trust, as people tend to view poor performing sites as untrustworthy.

  • Mobile-unfriendly sites. In the times when mobile phones are becoming the norm, site owners need to take into account their audience’s preferred method of Internet access. Users are searching on mobile devices in increasing numbers. If your site isn't mobile-friendly, it will be difficult for you to boost conversions, and your competitors will be more than happy to serve your customers. Not to mention, Google is currently experimenting with the major updates in its ranking systems. To learn more about mobile trends in 2017 and beyond, you can check out the recap of our most recent SEMrush Chat.

  • Thin content. Thin content can be identified as low-quality content that adds little or no value to your site's visitors. The quality of what you produce can be measured through user satisfaction; if users bounce from your page, it looks as if your piece of content doesn’t provide the value they were expecting to get, instead of taking the steps you want them to take.

  • Keyword stuffing.Keyword stuffing will quickly drive your visitors away. Nobody wants to read irritating, keyword-stuffed text. If people leave your page as soon as possible, you will gain no conversions.

  • Redirect chains. A redirect chain is a series of redirects that go from the initial URL to the destination URL. Redirect chains lead to increased page load time and poor user experience. As a result, your conversion rates can suffer.

Some of our chat guests pointed out that before your users can convert, they have to find your site first. Here is where search engine optimization comes into to play: a  well-planned SEO strategy includes certain steps that make sure your website’s design and content can bring about the best possible organic search results.

You need to combine two types of optimization: SEO and CRO. First, you must bring the targeted audience to your site and then provide them with certain elements that have been put into place to convert your site visitors into real subscribers or customers.

What makes a high-converting call-to-action?

One of the key elements of a high-converting webpage is an effective call-to-action button. Take a look at these call-to-action statistics that prove the power of CTAs, in terms of conversions:

The more you make your CTA attention seeking, the higher chances that your visitors will become your customers.

It is also important to change your CTA based on your user’s behavior. You need to pay careful attention to whether or not your site visitor is ready to take an action.

Your job is to find out why they came to your site and try to offer them some help.

The Importance of Conversion Tracking

The ability to retain and convert your site visitors into your loyal users or customers also highly depends on how effectively you can optimize for the right metrics. You need to define the conversion goals you can measure and then use conversion tracking data to make informed decisions about your current and future efforts. Without a clear understanding of how much each traffic source is converting it is difficult to understand which of your efforts contribute to conversions and make smart optimization decisions.

Let’s sum up the following points:


Now that you know some of the most common conversion killers, you can start identifying conversion leaks on your site and fixing the issues.

Q3. Out of these issues which would you fix first and why?

When doing SEO, you are investing a large amount of time and effort into it to rank for relevant keywords on the search engines without a strong guarantee that you will maintain your achievements in the SERPs. The worst part is that you can quickly lose the results of your hard work. It can happen due to some SEO issues that you haven’t fixed.

We listed several serious SEO issues and ask our chat participants to name those they would fix first:

  • Broken links

  • Speed


  • Redirects

  • Keyword cannibalization

  • Duplicate content

Here are three issues that most of our chat guests mentioned:

  • Page Speed

Page speed is essential to keep users on your site long enough and convert them into subscribers, followers, or customers, depending on your goals. A Radware study shows that in 1999, the average user was willing to wait 8 seconds for a page to load. In 2010, that number, as reported, accelerated to just 3 seconds. According to surveys done by Akamai and, 47% of customers expect a webpage to load in 2 seconds or even less. It means that practically every second does count.

Slow sites offer a bad user experience. You need to analyze your site’s performance and make sure that your users don’t think that they are just losing their time on your site.

  • Duplicate Content

Although there is no such thing as a “ duplicate content penalty,” you still need to fix all of the duplicate content issues. If you have several pages with the same content, crawlers will have difficulty indexing the right content between different versions. Also, bots don’t know whether to direct the link metrics (e.g., link equity, authority, etc.) to one page or keep it separated between different versions. What is more, they have trouble determining which version of your content to rank for query results. Therefore, you can face a drop in traffic.

Sometimes you don’t want or just can’t avoid a duplicate version of your content. For example, a site owner of an eCommerce site has authored original product descriptions. However, they sell several versions of the same product (e.g., different colors, sizes, etc.). As a result, each product version has a different page with the same content.

Luckily, the search engines introduced the canonical link element. To prevent duplicate content issues, if you have multiple versions of the same piece of content, you can use the rel=canonical element to point the search engines to the right “canonical” version.

Broken links create a poor user experience and serve as a signal to the search engines of low quality. If a user encounters a broken link, there is a high chance they will be discouraged from continuing viewing any other pages. If your site visitors spend less time on your site, it may be a reason for the search engine algorithms to assume that your site isn’t providing visitors with what they were looking for. This may lead to lower rankings.

Broken links block search engine crawlers from indexing the webpages on your site When crawlers encounter a broken link, they stop crawling it. Any page that wasn’t crawled will not be indexed.

At the same time, our chat participants suggest that starting with the issues that can be quickly fixed will bring your site the most significant results. 

To prioritize on-page SEO issues and decide what to fix first, you need to understand which of them have the most negative impact on your site.


To find out what SEO issues can hold back your site, you need to conduct an in-depth site audit.

When talking about off-page SEO, we usually mean different activities that aim at increasing the authority of your domain via getting links from other websites. However, off-page SEO isn’t limited to links; brand signals are becoming increasingly important in establishing trust with Google and increasing your exposure in search. They show that your brand is credible and trustworthy.

To track brand signals and analyze backlink profile, you can try out the following tools:

Brand signals

Social media has a huge impact on the relationship between a brand and its audience and provides the opportunity to reach out to a large number of potential customers and users. Therefore, social networks have become the ideal place to hear what your audience is really saying about your brand.

Being active on social networks is critical to building brand signals. What’s more, high social media activity can create credibility to help gain new links to your site. People are more likely to link to a page on a site that they know and trust.

Also, try to make the most out of your site’s social buttons. Think about the most relevant pages where you can add these buttons. For example, your homepage or contact page may be not the best part of your site for the sharing buttons. On the other hand, landing pages, blog posts, and other sources of useful content are what people would be interested in and might want to share.

Ryan Johnson‏ @rsj8000 also shared a few practical tips to increase your exposure in search engines by building brand signals and earning links.

Ryan Johnson‏ @rsj8000 a4) Guest post, interview external experts for your content, invite guest posts, host chats, find influencers in community #semrushchat

You can guest-post on relevant websites that are highly-respected in your niche and invite experienced authors to guest-post on your own blog. Find and try to align with an influencer in your industry who will connect your brand with your target consumers. Influencers can bring their audience and their audience’s network to increase your social media exposure and build brand awareness.

Many thanks to the following chat participants who shared some helpful tools for checking brand signals and backlink profile: @sspencer, @dannyraylima, @R8chel_Marie, @CoreyW85, @theAJSingleton, @MarketingMeisha, @ThinkSEM.


How do you keep track of your brand mentions and link profile? Do you know any techniques to improve them? Let us know in the comments!

Q5. Post implementation: How can SEOs simplify the process of fixing mistakes?

Fixing mistakes can be a time-consuming and frustrating process. However, to save time, you can simplify the process of fixing issues by taking these easy steps:

1. Create a Customized Checklist

2. Create a Task Timeline

A task timeline includes key tasks and milestones and helps you to effectively plan an important process.

With a priority component involved, you have a better understanding of which tasks are more important and which should be done first. This can help you to show your clients how problems arose and effectively explain to them how to do things correctly.

3. Establish an Effective Communication Channel

Without a well-established communication channel, the process of fixing mistakes is more chaos than not.

It’s important to make sure that there is an effective communication between SEO specialists and their marketing team. Marketers should clearly understand the value of their SEO channel to avoid repeating mistakes that SEOs will have to fix.

4. Perform Site Audits on a Regular Basis

Regular site audits help you to find the probable cause of why your site doesn’t attract, retain, or convert visitors and provide you with some insights into their behavior. @ThinkSEM suggests making notes in Google Analytics to denote when some changes and fixes were made. By doing so, you can get a bigger picture of how these changes influence your site’s performance and prioritize things that should be addressed first.

Let’s sum up!


That is it for today!

Follow the tips from this post to understand which factors can influence your website’s performance to stay competitive!

We would like to thank Stephan Spencer and our other chat guests for sharing great insights into SEO audit essentials! To learn more about Stephan's Audit tips, check out our webinar with him. Please join us this week as we discuss "How to build a world-class content marketing plan" with Julia McCoy!

Author Photo
Maria KalyadinaMaria is the Social Media Marketing Manager at Semrush and the host of the weekly #Semrushchat. You can always connect with her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter! Join the #SemrushChat every Wednesday at 11 am ET/ 4 pm BST!
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