On-page SEO Audit: A Comprehensive Guide to Improve Website Rankings


On-page SEO plays a crucial role in improving the visibility and rankings of a website on search engine result pages (SERPs). An effective on-page SEO strategy involves optimizing various elements on a website to make it more appealing to search engines like Google. This article will provide a comprehensive guide on how to perform an on-page SEO audit to identify and fix any issues that may be negatively impacting a website’s rankings.

What is an SEO Audit?

An SEO audit is a process of evaluating a website’s on-page and off-page elements to identify any potential issues that may be impacting its search engine rankings. It involves conducting a thorough analysis of various factors like website structure, content quality, keyword optimization, user experience, mobile-friendliness, and more.

The primary purpose of an SEO audit is to identify areas for improvement and develop an actionable plan to enhance a website’s visibility on SERPs. By finding and fixing any issues, website owners can often boost their rankings and attract more organic traffic.

What Tools Do You Need for an SEO Audit?

Performing an SEO audit requires the use of various tools to analyze different aspects of a website. While there are numerous tools available, two free tools provide comprehensive coverage of the basics:

  1. Google Search Console: This tool allows website owners to monitor their site’s performance on Google search results and provides valuable insights into how Google sees their website.
  2. Ahrefs: A comprehensive SEO tool that offers a wide range of features, including keyword research, backlink analysis, content analysis, and more. Ahrefs’ Site Audit feature is particularly useful for performing an on-page SEO audit.

How to Do an SEO Audit

Performing an SEO audit involves several steps that cover different aspects of a website. While the specific process may vary, the following 11 steps provide a comprehensive framework for conducting an on-page SEO audit:

1. Run a Crawl of Your Website

A website crawl is a process where dedicated software scans a website to identify any SEO issues. To perform a crawl, begin by signing in to Ahrefs, then select “Site Audit” from the dashboard. Next, click on “New Project” and authorize Ahrefs to access your Google Search Console account. Finally, select your website and initiate the crawl.

Once the crawl is complete, Ahrefs will provide a detailed report highlighting over 100 potential issues that need attention. However, beginners may find it overwhelming to fix all the issues at once. It is advisable to prioritize the steps discussed below before attempting to address all the identified issues.

2. Identify Organic Traffic Drops and Their Causes

Google regularly updates its search algorithms, and some of these updates may have a significant impact on a website’s organic traffic. By reviewing the timing of any traffic drops and correlating them with major updates, website owners can identify areas that need focus.

To check for possible traffic drops due to algorithm updates, use Ahrefs’ Google Updates Report. Additionally, cross-reference these findings with data from Google Search Console to ensure accurate assessment.

If significant traffic drops are observed, it is essential to investigate further. One possible cause may be a manual action, where a reviewer at Google deems a website to be non-compliant with their guidelines. Access the “Manual Actions” report in Google Search Console to identify and address any such actions.

3. Check for Duplicates of Your Website

Ensuring that your website doesn’t have any duplications is crucial for maintaining a healthy online presence. Duplicate content can confuse search engines and dilute your rankings. It is important to verify that your website is accessible at only one version of its URL (HTTP, HTTPS, www, non-www).

To check for duplicates, use Ahrefs’ Site Audit feature and look for duplicate URLs. Additionally, ensure that each variation of your website’s URL properly redirects to the main version.

4. Find and Diagnose Indexability Issues

Ensuring that search engines can crawl and index your website’s pages is essential for achieving good rankings. To identify any indexability issues, check Google Search Console’s Coverage report for any “Noindex page” warnings.

It is important to double-check that these warnings are not associated with pages you want indexed. If they are, remove or edit the associated noindex tags to allow for indexing by search engines.

5. Ensure Your Site is Mobile-Friendly

Mobile-friendliness has become a crucial factor in search engine rankings since Google’s mobile-first indexing. It is essential to ensure that your website is optimized for mobile devices.

To check for mobile usability issues, refer to Google Search Console’s Mobile Usability report. This report will highlight any URLs with errors that affect mobile usability. Alternatively, you can use Ahrefs’ Site Audit feature or Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool.

Some additional tips for mobile-friendliness include optimizing page load times, using a responsive design, and avoiding the use of intrusive interstitials.

6. Benchmark Your Core Web Vitals Scores

Core Web Vitals are essential metrics that Google uses to measure user experience on a website. They include metrics like page load time, interactivity, and content stability during page load. In 2022, Google confirmed that Core Web Vitals play a significant role in search engine rankings.

To benchmark your Core Web Vitals scores, start by using Google Search Console’s Core Web Vitals report. This report provides insights into your website’s performance on these metrics. You can also use Ahrefs’ Site Audit feature to monitor these metrics.

7. Reclaim Authority by Fixing Broken Pages

Having broken pages on your website can be detrimental to your SEO efforts, especially if these pages have valuable backlinks. It is important to identify and fix any broken URLs to ensure that your website’s authority and ranking potential are not wasted.

You can identify broken URLs by using Ahrefs’ Site Explorer tool. Enter your domain, go to the “Best by links” report, and apply a “404 not found” filter. Sort the report by referring domains to identify broken URLs with backlinks. Once identified, you can either redirect these broken URLs or create new content to replace them.

8. Ensure Your Sitemap Doesn’t Have Any Issues

A sitemap is a file that lists the pages of your website that you want search engines to index. It is important to ensure that your sitemap accurately reflects your website’s structure and does not include any redirects, non-canonical pages, or dead pages.

To monitor your sitemap issues, use Google Search Console’s Sitemaps report. This report will highlight any issues with your sitemap file. Ensure that your most important pages are included in your sitemap and any non-relevant pages are excluded.

9. Ensure On-Page Elements Conform to SEO Best Practices

Optimizing your website’s on-page elements is crucial for improving its visibility and click-through rates. Ensure that every indexable page on your website has a unique title tag, meta description, and H1 tag.

To identify and address any issues with these on-page elements, use Ahrefs’ Site Audit feature. The “Issues” tab in the report provides a comprehensive overview of missing or empty title tags, meta descriptions, and H1 tags. Click on any issue to view the affected URLs and prioritize the fixes based on estimated organic traffic.

10. Find Declining Content to Reclaim Rankings

Over time, content can become outdated, resulting in declining search traffic. However, you can often resurrect rankings by refreshing and republishing the content. Identify declining content using Google Search Console’s Performance report.

This report shows the pages on your website that have experienced a decline in search traffic. Prioritize the pages with significant traffic drops and consider updating the content to make it more relevant and valuable. WordPress users can automate this process using plugins like Rank Math or Yoast SEO, which provide suggestions for content updates.

11. Find Keywords Competitors Rank for, But You Don’t

Identifying keywords that your competitors rank for but you don’t can help you uncover content gaps and opportunities for improvement. To find these content gaps, use Ahrefs’ Content Gap tool.

Enter your domain and your competitors’ domains, and the tool will provide a list of keywords that your competitors rank for but you don’t. Identify relevant keywords with significant search volume and create high-quality content around those topics to increase your organic visibility.

Keep Learning

Performing an on-page SEO audit is a continuous process that requires ongoing monitoring and optimization. Stay updated with the latest SEO best practices and algorithm updates to ensure that your website remains competitive in search engine rankings.

To further enhance your SEO knowledge, consider exploring reputable sources like the Google Webmasters BlogMoz, or Search Engine Journal.

Remember that SEO is a long-term strategy, and optimizing your website for search engines takes time and effort. However, by following the steps outlined in this guide, you can improve the visibility and rankings of your website, driving more organic traffic and achieving your online goals.