So this question is erroneous. No one tool can do it all, and at the end of the day, you’re going to need a mix of tools. This mix will depend on the size of your website and overall audit goals, but here’s a general list:
Your CMS: You’ll of course need access to the backend of your website (WordPress, Squarespace, etc.) so you can check and adjust metadata, HTML tags, links, and the content itself.
A mobile device: You’ll need to do some manual testing in this audit.
Google Analytics: This will help you identify which pages to audit, based on traffic and goal performance. It will also be necessary for gathering any SEO metrics you want to use, prioritizing action items, and measuring improvements. (Google shows you how to connect your site to GA here. But if you’re only just getting connected now, off on the SEO portion of the audit for about a month so you can give Google time to collect data.)
Google Search Console: GSC is essential for both the content and technical SEO audit. You’ll also need it for requesting pages for reindexing after you’ve fixed them, submitting sitemaps, and more.
SEO software: If you’re going to look at deeper SEO metrics like backlinks, competitive information, and keyword data, you’ll need a tool like Ahrefs, Moz Pro, Screaming Frog, SEMrush, etc. Some of these offer free trial versions or free services for the first 500 (or something) links. You can learn more about these in my round-up of the best keyword research tools.
Website graders: Grader tools offer a little more guidance. With SEO software, you oftentimes need to know what you’re looking for and how to make sense of the [copious amounts of] data and information. That’s not a bad thing, but for non-SEOs, website graders can simplify things and tell you what the results mean.
For example, our free website grader helps you to make sense of each item in the report, with prioritized results and an expandable “why this matters” and “how to fix this” tab for each element.
You can do these in order, jump around, or mix and match.
Light site audit
1. The light website audit
Let’s say your website is a house and a person jogging on your street needs to use the bathroom. Would they choose your house? Feel comfortable? Have any trouble finding or using the bathroom? These are the shoes to put on for your light website audit.
This audit has a little bit of everything from each of the subsequent phases and applies them to just the core pages of your site (home, about, products/services, pricing, contact, etc). It’s a nice warmup round, designed to catch any glaring errors or easy fixes you can get out of the way first (and prevent you from going insane).
Points of focus: obvious errors, first impression, accuracy of company information, intuitiveness, brand feel.
Pages to audit: main navigation and footer pages; a sample search results page, landing page, and blog post; your 404 page.
Tools needed: your CMS, a mobile device.
Light website audit checklist
Remember to check these elements on both desktop and mobile, and if you see any issues, check to see if they’re present on other browsers as well.
It’s immediately clear what industry you’re in and what your business does.
Main navigation is intuitive.
Each page has a call to action.
Users can easily and quickly find key information.
Each page has a proper meta description and meta title.
Pages are clearly titled and information is organized.
Business information and photos are accurate and up to date.
Photos and graphics of people are inclusive and diverse.
Correct spelling and grammar.
Design elements and brand feel are consistent.
Pages are linked to each other.
Popups and live chat display only where they should.
Website copy is readable, friendly, and clear.
Footer links work, contain social icons
Light website audit template
Here’s what the light site audit tab looks like in your template. You’ll see the same blue row repeat for the mobile version of the audit.
Alright, now step out of your random runner shows and into your appraiser shoes. An appraiser determines the value of a home based on its condition, quality, age, and more. From an SEO standpoint, both Google and users are your appraisers, so you’ll want to have a Google shoe on one foot (Converse?) and a user shoe on the other (Crocs?).
In literal speak: Google wants to provide only the most accurate and reliable search results for its users (expertise, authority, and trust, or EAT). Your SEO content audit here covers the quality and relevancy of your content as well as how well you convey both of those to Google.
Pages to audit: highest-trafficked pages/blog posts; highest value pages/posts, pages with significant traffic drops.
Tools needed: CMS, Google Analytics, SEO or keyword research tool, tinyPNG, Google Search Console (optional)
SEO content audit checklist
Traffic: organic traffic (to prioritize pages or compare date ranges and check for significant drops/increases). See our SEO metrics guide.
On-page keyword targeting: keywords in the meta title, meta description, H1, H2s, image file names, alt text, and [not stuffed into the] body content. We provide on-page SEO help here.
Meta description and title: front-loaded with keywords, within character count limits, optimized for organic CTR (compelling and shows value). See our posts for help with meta descriptions and meta titles.
Images: no broken images, file names contain keyword, alt text is descriptive and contains keyword, images are compressed and properly sized. Image SEO guide here.
Backlink profile: Quantity/quality of backlinks (GSC can give you some information on this, but an SEO tool will give you deeper insights). Backlink tips here.
SEO content audit template
Here’s what the SEO content audit tab looks like in your template. Since SEO content optimizations are page-specific, the items to check are horizontal as you’ll have a list of pages to audit. And you might go insane if you had 14 lines for each page you have to audit.
Not only should your site have quality information and be trustworthy, but it also needs to provide that information quickly and securely and make it as easy as possible for crawlers to identify it as such. And to find your site in the first place. This is where the technical SEO audit comes in.
In our home analogy, this involves your contractor (is the house structured right?), plumbers and electricians (are wires and pipes connected to each other and to outside sources?), home inspector (is the home safe and secure?), and let’s throw the USPS in there too (can they even find your house?).
In other words, now it’s time to put both Google shoes on, but not Converse this time. Work boots.
Points of focus: site structure, speed, security, and mobile-friendliness.
Pages to audit: the whole dang site (then any problem pages that arise, and potentially also your highest trafficked pages).
Tools needed: Google Search Console, PageSpeed Insights, GTmetrix, Copyscape/Siteliner, SEO tool
Technical SEO audit checklist
Indexation: all (and only) intended pages are indexed without errors. Done through the GSC index coverage report. This will show you if you need to make any adjustments to your sitemap and robots.txt files
Robots.txt: (find this by going to yourwebsite.com/robots.txt ); tells Google what pages not to crawl, is named “Robots.txt,” has only one version, follows Google’s robots.txt guidelines, and includes location of sitemap. If you make changes to this file, you’ll need to resubmit according to instructions from your website host.
Here’s what the technical SEO audit tab looks like in your sheet. You’ll notice it’s a vertical list as most of the steps are site-wide. Although you may want to create a column or separate tab for scores and results so you can benchmark and compare once you’ve made improvements.
For the next three phases of your website audit, pack your bags because we’re going to evaluate our house as an Airbnb tenant. We’re not just looking and evaluating. We’re sleeping in the beds. Using the washer and dryer. Searching around for the spaghetti strainer.
In website audit speak, this part covers the functions and feels of the website for someone doing more than stopping in.
Pages to audit: all of ’em, with particular focus on main navigation pages, pages along your red routes (frequent and critical activities).
Tools: CMS, eyes, a mobile device.
Design/UX website audit checklist
Navigation: navigation menu is intuitive, consistent across pages, with literal labels; header logo links to homepage; mobile menu at least 46px.
Functionality: red routes free of barriers; repetitive actions are effortless.
Forms: clearly labeled, show errors in fields before submission; completion give a success message.
Text: Two type families or less; fonts readable in all forms (all caps, italics, bold, etc.); font sizes and styles consistent across the site.
Visual design: visual hierarchy clearly prioritizes the most important things for a visitor to know; elements other than color convey meaning, hierarchy, and function; whitespace around important elements to focus attention; clear contrast between foreground and background design elements; page layouts use existing design patterns; site has a favicon (so your logo shows in browser tabs).
Perception: users can identify your industry and product/service immediately; can quickly intuit where to find key information; can perform key functions easily and quickly; buttons and links make it clear where clicking will take them; intended action on each page is clear; brand look and feel is consistent across the site.
Design/UX website audit template
Here’s what the design/UX audit tab looks like in your website audit template:
Accessibility refers to making sure the information on your website can be consumed and understood by individuals with disabilities. For this website audit, we’re focusing on visual and hearing impairments, but a full accessibility audit should cover everything, including epilepsy, learning disabilities, cognitive impairments, and more.
Note that W3.org and ADA.gov can provide a full list of accessibility tools and checklists. Here is our light list (for insanity prevention purposes).
Text: HTML tags indicate titles, headings, subheadings, lists, call-out text, etc; body text at least 16px (ideally 18px) with contrast ratio of at least 4:5:1; large text at least 24px; bold and linked text has contrast ratio of at least 3:1; line spacing is at least 1.5; anchor text is clear and descriptive; text can be enlarged or made smaller
Image, video, audio: Images have detailed alt text, audio and video have subtitles or transcripts; users can pause, mute, or exit auto-played content; images of tables or text are accompanied by the actual tables and text.
Usability: Users can navigate and function on the site with only a keyboard; page titles are clear and descriptive; menu order is the same throughout the site; no time limits imposed.
Website accessibility template
Here’s what the website accessibility audit tab looks like in your template:
The BOTTOM of the CVS receipt. (The survey you’lll never fill out).
This, coincidentally has to do with the bottom of your funnel (well, all stages of it for that matter). Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the set of practices designed to convert as many visitors to your website into customers and qualified leads. User experience, page speed, and information quality impact CRO, which is why it’s important to get the above audits taken care of first. But now it’s time to drill down even further into the details.
Points of focus: ease of use, brand feel, trustworthiness, automation.
Pages to audit: any page with a CTA (so…all of them), but prioritize navigation pages, red routes, top landing pages, top trafficked pages, high intent pages.
Tools: CRM and automation tools, SEO software, mobile device.
Website CRO audit checklist
There is MUCH more to consider for an ecommerce site, but (because insane), here are the core elements to hit:
CTA: prominent CTA on homepage; CTA buttons look like buttons, stand out with color contrast, size, whitespace, and directional cues; are above the fold; (CTA best practices here).
Copywriting: CTA copy is descriptive, and desirable; page copy is clear, concise, conversational, not too salesy, communicates value and trust (here’s how to write copy that sells).
Page design: Not cluttered, well organized, enough whitespace, visually appealing.
SEO: gated content is not indexed, important pages are optimized for content and technical SEO.
Forms: labeled clearly, organized, minimum fields, detect errors before user hits submit; submission sends thank you message or optimized thank you page, information syncs to CRM and other automation tools, user receives offer.
Popups/chat: appear only on pages intended.
Mobile: everything functions on mobile.
Website CRO audit template
Here’s what the CRO tab in your website audit template looks like.
So hopefully you didn’t end up going insane. With these lists and templates as well as what each item means and the resources and tips to take care of them, you are now well-equipped to do a website audit. As mentioned above, you can also get a free website audit with the LocaliQ Website Grader.
To go to our free website grader click here and get an instant audit on your SEO and online presence.
Kristen is the Senior Managing Editor at WordStream, where she helps businesses to make sense of their online marketing and advertising. She specializes in SEO and copywriting and finds life to be exponentially more delightful on a bicycle.