What You Need to Know to Conduct an SEO Audit in WordPress

You’ve developed a beautiful WordPress site for your client. It launched. They’re pleased with what you did. Now what? Well, obviously it’s time to start working your magic for other clients in need of awesome WordPress sites.

Build. Launch. Repeat.

But is this how your project life cycle always has to go? I don’t think so. I think there are plenty of opportunities to reconnect with former clients and extend the relationship you have with them long past the launch of their site. Offering an SEO audit service is one way in which you can reopen dialogue with a client who previously entrusted their WordPress site to you.

What you have to do in this case is leverage that trust and discuss with them the importance of conducting SEO audits on their WordPress site. The thing is… well, SEO audits can be really expensive when you pay a professional SEO to do them, especially since they’ll insist on auditing the site monthly or quarterly. But, with your assistance, an SEO audit can be done once a year and for a reasonable price since you’re already familiar with the WordPress site.

If you’re interested in adding “SEO Audit” to your list of WordPress services, let’s look at what needs to be done to evaluate the health of your clients’ sites.

How to Conduct an SEO Audit on a WordPress Site

SEO is not easy, especially if your specialty is strictly in WordPress development or design. But that’s why you have things like mid-development SEO checklists and pre-launch SEO steps to follow along with as you build new websites. So long as you’re given the tools and information to optimize or, in this case, audit a site for SEO, you’ll be fine!

In the below SEO audit recommendations, I’m going to provide you with various tools you should be using to generate the report you deliver to your clients. Keep in mind that the goal in conducting a technical SEO audit is not to implement any changes. You’re simply assessing a WordPress site’s current performance in search and creating a list of suggestions and a plan of action for the client to consider.

1. Run WP Checkup

WP Checkup is an online scanning tool that not only checks for SEO issues, but also checks performance and security. This should be your starting point for every project as it will save you a lot of time in looking into problem areas and brainstorming fixes for them.

SEO Audit - WP Checkup
This is the WP Checkup tool from WPMU DEV.

Insert the URL of the website you want to scan and let the tool do its thing. Once the results are generated, download the report as a PDF.

SEO Audit - Download WP Checkup Results
Once your report is ready, snag up the PDF copy of it.

You’ll receive a breakdown of your scores as well as actionable tips on how to get the site back in line in terms of SEO. Since security and site speed play a role in your site’s search ranking, you’ll want to pay attention to those as well.

SEO Audit - PDF Results
Use the data in this report as the base of your SEO audit analysis later.

While you could just as well send the report to your clients, this is a technical breakdown of what’s wrong and how to fix it. When you deliver your SEO audit results, you’ll want to break each point and suggestion down into layman’s terms. So, save this PDF and use it as a base for the client-facing report you deliver later.

2. Review the Domain

There are a couple things you’ll want to check for when it comes to the domain.

For starters, ensure that it can be located in a Whois lookup.

SEO Audit - DomainTools
DomainTools provides a number of Whois services.

Using DomainTools, run your website through the scanner. The results of this test will confirm that the domain is associated with the correct web hosting company.

It should also reveal whether or not there’s a known history with the URL prior to it being owned by your client. That said, if you want the results of that history, you’ll have to pay for the upgrade. It’s worth it though if you’re concerned with a prior domain owner giving the domain an unsavory reputation in search in the past.

Another thing to check when it comes to the domain name is the searchable web address. Regardless of what users type into the search bar when trying to navigate to the site, there should be only one instance of it. This means that:

SEO Audit - WWW Domain
For people who still search using “www.”
SEO Audit - HTTP Domain
For people who don’t know you moved to HTTPS.
SEO Audit - HTTPS Domain
For people assuming you have a secured domain.

And even:

SEO Audit - HTTPS WWW Domain
And let’s not forget this combo.

Should all take users to the same exact domain name every time. If the site has an SSL certificate (which it should), that means https://yourdomainname.com is the domain they all redirect to. If you’re finding that’s not the case, then this needs to be called out and resolved immediately.

3. Assess On-Page SEO

Next, you’ll want to make use of your WordPress SEO plugin. It’s not just there to guide users in adding metadata as they craft new content. This is a tool you can utilize in your SEO audit to call out specific pages, posts, and even images that aren’t optimized as well as they could be. While WP Checkup will point you to issues within some pages, the SEO plugin will help you do a deeper dive into each.

SEO Audit - SmartCrawl SEO Plugin
The SmartCrawl plugin is now free.

So, let’s review how the SmartCrawl SEO plugin handles this. (By the way, did you know there’s a free version of SmartCrawl available in the WordPress repository? If your clients aren’t paying for a WPMU DEV membership, they can still reap the benefits of this SEO plugin!)

First, ensure that these settings are activated:

SEO Audit - SmartCrawl Settings
Enable the following SmartCrawl settings.

These will add the analysis capabilities you need to review your content.

On the dashboard of your plugin, activate the overall SEO analysis and readability analysis modules:

SEO Audit - Overall SEO Analysis
Let SmartCrawl let you know which pages need some work.

It will take some time for this data to populate, but, once it does, you can use it to zero in on problem pages.

I’d also suggest taking advantage of the Advanced Tools in SmartCrawl. The internal linking tool is pretty cool as it will automate part of the internal link building process, which is quite helpful in SEO.

4. Review Keywording Success with an SEO Tool

Within SmartCrawl’s Advanced Settings, there’s a Moz integration module. Moz was one of the WordPress SEO tools recommended by Maddy Osman last year and I think it’s something every business should be using for their site if they want to make serious progress in getting to the top of search engines.

SEO Audit - Free Moz Tools
Start with Moz’s free SEO tools.

I would suggest starting with Moz’s free SEO tools. The Keyword Explorer and Open Site Explorer tools are the ones you’ll definitely want to use. If the site correlates with a local business, then you should also take advantage of the local SEO tools provided by Moz.

You shouldn’t need to pay for the premium products as much of that site auditing work was already done with WP Checkup. Just focus on:

  • Learning what you can about the current keyword setup.
  • Compiling a list of keywords that competitors rank for that you can later suggest your client uses.
  • Gathering suggestions on link building for your site.

5. See Your Site from Google’s Eyes

Your WP Checkup analysis is going to provide insights regarding H1 title tags and meta descriptions, and your SEO tool is going to tell you what’s going on with your keywords. That said, it’s still good to dig into Google and see what you’re able to find there.

In search, the first thing you should do is Google the domain name:

SEO Audit - Domain Name Search
Is your domain the first one that appears?

If the website is not at the very top of search results and it’s had at least a month’s worth of indexing under its belt, you have a major problem.

Next, Google the site’s brand (if it’s not the same as the domain name):

SEO Audit - Brand Name Search
Hopefully, Google recognizes that your site is associated with your brand.

With this one, the first search results should be the home page of the website. If the others are linked social media pages or related web properties, that’s fine.

6. Review Google Search Console’s Stats

By now, you’re familiar with the Google Search Console. It’s not something you use much when first developing a website, but it is definitely a good tool to keep tabs on once a WordPress site goes live and has had a chance to be indexed by Google bots.

To add this to your SEO auditing process, tackle each section one-by-one:

Under Search Appearance:

SEO Audit - Structured Data
If you want the right rich snippets showing in search, pay attention to this.

Within the Structured Data report, you can find out which pages are missing the necessary data to create rich search results for your site.

If you’re using Google AMP to improve your site’s mobile search results, be sure to review the Accelerated Mobile Pages tab.

Under Search Traffic:

SEO Audit - Search Analytics
There’s no need to use Google Analytics for this. Search Console will give you the most pertinent details.

Search Analytics is a great way to get a high-level overview of what’s happened with the site’s content. In other words, which pages are attracting the most attention? Which keywords lead to the most clicks? Were there any major drops in search traffic that might be indicative of a search penalty? You can propose a better internal navigation and link building strategy based on this data.

SEO Audit - Links to Your Site
Are you seeing high-quality referrals here? Dig some more to find out what’s happening with your backlinking strategy.

Links to Your Site is helpful if you’re curious about how well your backlinking strategy is working. You’ll learn about:

  • Which sites link to yours the most
  • Which pages are most frequently linked to
  • What kind of anchor text is used when linking to your site (ideally, they should be linking to your site using the brand name)
SEO Audit - Internal Links
If your own internal links aren’t pointing to the highest quality pages on your site, you’re missing a big opportunity here.

Internal Links will give you an idea of the health of your internal link-building strategy. If you discover there are high-quality pages not being linked to frequently enough, you can make those suggestions in your report (and vice versa).

Also, be sure to give the Mobile Usability tab a quick look here. If you’re using a responsive theme and the site has passed Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test, then you should be fine.

Under Google Index:

SEO Audit - Index Status
Does Google’s number of indexed pages match what you expected?

Your index status will let you know how many pages on your site have been indexed. If that number seems way off, then do a search in your browser window to find out what’s going on. Type “site:” and then append your domain name to the end. So, it would look like this:

site:suzannescacca.com

SEO Audit - Pages Indexed Search
Google’s search results will tell which specific pages are actually indexed.

The results will provide you with every page that is indexed and searchable. Use this as a guide on which pages that need to be resubmitted to search (if they’re missing) or blocked from search (using the noindex directive).

SEO Audit - Blocked Resources
Unless you explicitly blocked Google’s bots from indexing files, there shouldn’t be anything here.

Definitely take some time to poke around the Blocked Resources. If Google bots are prohibited from indexing different images, scripts, or other essential files on your site, the site experience served to visitors could be less than ideal.

Under Crawl:

SEO Audit - Site Errors
Crawl errors are a big deal and are probably why you’re seeing pages not indexed.

Check the Crawl Errors report. If the top doesn’t show three green checkboxes, those need to be fixed right away.

Also, if you’ve encountered any errors up to this point with indexing, be sure to give your robots.txt a look in here. It will tell you if the site or certain pages were accidentally disallowed.

SEO Audit - Sitemaps
Check your sitemap to ensure it’s feeding Google the right information about your site and its content.

Finally, review the Sitemaps indexing check and status report. Make note of any errors flagged by Google and include them in your report.

Wrapping Up

Personally, I think adding SEO auditing to your WordPress services is a fantastic idea.

For one, there’s the upsell factor. You conduct the audit and provide a list of suggestions on how you think the site should be fixed. The client will, of course, pay you for the audit, but you could also then get paid to carry out those search optimizations if they decide to move forward with them. There’s lots of money to be made here.

Secondly, you could always outsource the auditing piece to another (cheaper) freelancer. That way, you can keep developing websites while the audit takes place. Then, you can swoop in to deliver the audit results to the client and sell them on the SEO update.

And, finally, I find that any process you repeat enough times–even if it’s not something you’re initially good at or even officially trained in–is one you’ll eventually learn inside-and-out whether you had intended to or not. So, while you might not be an SEO expert right now, if you conduct enough of these audits, you might very well be in a year’s time. And, who knows? That might be enough to justify raising your WordPress development rates.

Suzanne Scacca
What other kinds of upsell services or products do you offer your WordPress clients?