An SEO audit is where you find opportunities to improve a site’s search performance.
To find all of these opportunities, you have to search in different places: content, links, glitches, and more.
This is something Google Search Console and Ahrefs Webmaster Tools are designed for. And if you use them both for what they do best, you can do a full SEO audit without spending a dime on tools. Let’s take a quick overview of them.
Google Search Console (GSC) is a unique and probably irreplaceable tool in any SEO toolbox because it offers the most accurate data when it comes to Google search related products, such as organic traffic data, click-through rates, index coverage, etc.
If you haven’t already set up GSC, all you need to do is log in with your Google account, verify ownership of the site you want to check, and wait for the data to arrive. By the way, we also recommend submitting a sitemap via GSC as soon as possible (this helps Google discover and index your pages faster).
How it helps
Here is a list of SEO checks best performed with GSC.
Organic traffic control (from Google)
Probably the most common use case for GSC, and one of the reasons it’s unique: getting organic traffic, impressions, and click-through rates straight from Google.
With the Performance tools in GSC, you can check things like click trends over longer periods (up to 16 months) or pages with high rankings but low click-through rates.
Verification of manual actions
When Google thinks that a page or entire website is attempting to manipulate search rankings, it can issue a so-called manual action. This can result in a lower ranking or even being excluded from the Google index.
Google uses GSC to communicate any manual action. If your website has one, you’ll find it there, along with directions on how to fix the problem.
Check for scanning problems
Crawling is the ability of a search engine to access the content of a page. If a page is not accessible from Googlebot, searchers will not find it on the SERPs.
The Scan statistics report in GSC is useful for detecting potential problems with Google crawling your website. For example, 5XX server errors, page timeout, or robots.txt file not available.
Google recommends this report for advanced users with sites larger than 1,000 pages. However, pretty much all of the potential errors here, including sudden drops in crawl speed, can affect even the smallest sites.
Make sure your website is mobile-friendly
Optimization for mobile devices is part of Google’s Page Experience signals (has an impact on rankings). Google doesn’t want to rank high-level pages that are slow or difficult to navigate on mobile devices, as too many people browse the web and search for local businesses using their phones (Google stats).
GSC automatically monitors the entire website for mobile usability. If action is needed, you will see what needs to be fixed and where.
Major Web Vitals
Another part of the Page Experience signals. Core Web Vitals (CWV) is a set of parameters for the loading time, interactivity and stability of a page’s content while loading.
You can also set CWV in Ahrefs Webmaster Tools. And in case the CWV report shows “insufficient data” message, you can look at Ahrefs’ page speed metrics to spot slow pages.
All of the above reports are site-wide. But if at any point you only want to check one page of your website, you can use the URL Inspection tool.
Ahrefs Webmaster Tools (AWT) is a tool that monitors the SEO health and SEO performance of your website.
Compared to GSC, it monitors more SEO problems (also explains how to fix them) and offers more data on backlinks and keywords. You can think of it as a tool that fills GSC’s gaps.
To set up AWT, create a free account. Then add and verify your websites so the tool can start crawling them. You will be able to use your GSC account to check if you wish.
AWT is free for an unlimited number of verified projects, up to 5,000 pages in total. If you need more, consider a premium Ahrefs membership with access to additional SEO tools.
How it helps
The tool consists of three main tools: dashboard, Site Explorer and Site Audit. Most of your SEO audit will be done in Site Audit and some in Site Explorer. Let’s take a look at some details.
Site Audit (for technical issues and on-page SEO)
If you know what types of SEO issues you are looking for after the crawl is complete, you can go straight to the All the problems report in Site Explorer. You can change the importance of the problems and use “Importance” as a filter.
For each problem, you can view the details with tips on how to fix it.
If not, you may want to start auditing with the Indexability report. It is a fundamental report because, without indexing, the pages are invisible to search engines and cannot bring search traffic. If there are any canonization issues or misplaced “noindex” tags, this report will warn you.
In the Inner pages report, you will be able to spot any broken pages with 4XX or 5XX response codes. For example, nonexistent pages with the code 404. Then you can see the number of domains referring to those pages by adding a column to the report.
This report also helps you find pages that use HTTP instead of HTTPS. (HTTPS is a small ranking signal, as part of the Page Experience signals.)
Any problems with links on your website will show up in Connections report. For example, orphaned pages, dead-end pages, or pages with links to broken external pages.
For low-content on-page optimization opportunities, go to Content report. Some problems can directly hinder your ranking ability, such as problems with title tags.
The above reports are examples of 13 predefined reports available in AWT. You may also find other reports useful, such as image-based reports, localization issues, or a special cluster report that shows sets of pages with duplicate content. Additionally, you can create your reports with four Site Audit tools:
- Page explorer
- Explore links
- Internal Linking Opportunity
- Structure Explorer
After resolving the issues reported in Site Audit, you can schedule regular site scans.
AWT will email you when the scan is complete so you can check for improvements, new issues, or just your overall SEO health score. The tool will also keep a history of the site’s scans for three months.
Site Explorer (to check keywords, traffic and backlinks)
Unlike GSC, AWT has no limits on the number of organic keywords and backlinks reported.
With the Organic keywords report, you can see the keywords you are already ranked in. And based on the SEO metrics provided, such as location, keyword difficulty (KD), volume, you can identify content that may need an update or an opportunity to acquire a featured snippet.
With the Backlink report, you can see all the backlinks they point from specific pages (GSC only shows domains) to your website. The data comes with some useful SEO metrics, such as Domain Rating (DR) and organic traffic to the page. (You can also sort and filter through these metrics.)
Some other things you can do with AWT for your audit:
- Find out how fast you are acquiring backlinks and keywords
- Evaluate the quality of your backlinks
- See which pages have the ability to go from the second to the first SERP
- Find out about the traffic dips that coincided with Google’s major updates
- Look beyond GSC’s 16-month organic traffic limit
- Detect negative SEO attacks (through spam anchors or sudden spikes in referring domains)
- Use SEO data to assess the value of your website
SEO audits can be overwhelming, so it’s good to start with a game plan. We recommend our SEO audit checklist, in which we have identified 14 places where you should look for impactful SEO issues. You will be able to score 13 of the 14 points only with GSC and AWT.
Feel free to play with both tools and come up with your own game plan. You can learn more about the tools below:
Do you have questions? ping me on Twitter.