Quick and Dirty SEO Site Audit
An SEO site audit is a critical first step that SEOs must take to get an understanding of a website’s SEO state.
Although there is a plethora of information available on how to conduct an audit, often we don’t have the time or budget to spend hours and hours analyzing a website.
For this reason, I’ve put together an outline of how to conduct a basic SEO site audit that can be completed in only a couple of hours and will give you a snapshot of how well your website (or your client’s website) is performing and where you need to make improvements.
SEO AUDIT PREPARATION
When performing an audit many people will jump right into the analysis. However, before we can diagnose the problems with a site we need to know exactly where the weaknesses lie; and to do so, we need to run a crawl test.
There are a number of tools available that can help with this stage. If you are a SEOMoz Pro member then I suggest using its Crawl Test, which provides the most comprehensive overview. If you are looking for a free version, I suggest Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider (it’s free for the first 500 URLs and £99/year after that).
Now that we’ve crawled the site, we have enough data to start delving deeper into our analysis.
For the purposes of simplicity, I’ve organized our audit into three categories: on-page, technical and off-page.
The on-page component of an audit will serve as the foundation for the rest of the audit. It will outline basic and obvious areas in need of improvement and provide you or your client with a guide to improving their site with some ‘quick wins’.
Each of the following can be analyzed using the information you received from your site crawl.
The purpose of the title tag is to make each page stand out as unique in the eyes of the search engine’s and SERPs.
Title tags still carry a huge weight when it comes to rankings so it is important to make each one unique, and have relevant keywords related to the content on the page. The title tag is also the first thing a user will see in the search engine results, so it needs to stand out enough that someone will want to click on it.
Using your crawl test, scan the list of your website’s pages to determine whether title tags are:
- Unique (not duplicated across multiple pages)
- Using primary keywords at the beginning of the tag, with branded keywords at the end
- Within the title length limit suggested by Google (70 characters)
Although meta descriptions don’t carry as much SEO weight these days in terms of rankings, they are still important from a value perspective. They should be thought of as ad copy, and written with the customer in mind. A more effective meta description will increase your click-through-rate (CTR) in organic searches.
They should describe what the page is about and include a good call to action. As a best practice, they should be kept under 140 characters.
If using WordPress consider installing the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin to manage your title tags and meta descriptions for blog posts.
Duplicated content will reduce the value of each page and should be avoided at all costs.
A URL is the address to your website. If you have errors in your address, no one will find you.
When analyzing a URL, here are some questions to ask:
- Are the URLs short? A common rule is to keep them under 115 characters.
- Are they descriptive and do they include targeted keywords? It’s important to use a URL that describes the content of the page.
- Are they duplicated? Avoid URLs that are the same for multiple pages.
Header tags tell the search engines what the headline of your page is.
When auditing a site you should look for proper use of H Tags – whether any are missing, are too long or if you have too many on any one page.
Alt attributes or alt tags are important for optimizing the images on your site. If alt tags are missing or have been incorrectly described this should be noted and changes should be made accordingly.
There are lots of different technical issues that can cause problems with your rankings. For our purposes I’m only going to focus on a few of the key issues that you should look out for.
HTTP Status Codes
Search engines and users are unable to crawl your site if you have URLs that return error codes (4xx and 5xx HTTP status codes).
Using your site crawl report identify any pages that returned 4xx or 5xx error codes. The most common error you will come across is a 404 error. If you are receiving 404 errors, which indicate that certain URLs no longer exist on your site, redirect these URLs to a relevant location using 301 redirects.
Your XML Sitemap is the roadmap search engines use to index your site.
The most important questions to ask yourself are:
- Is there an XML document that follows the Sitemap protocol?
- Has the sitemap been submitted to Google Webmaster Tools?
A commonly overlooked factor, the speed at which your site loads can have an impact on search rankings.
Evaluate your site’s performance by using a tool like Google Page Speed. It will also provide you with some recommendations that you can follow to improve the speed of your site. Here is an example of Google Page Speed Insights using Salesworks:
These are factors outside of your website that are much more difficult for you to control directly, yet are extremely important for your site ranking well in search results.
A site’s authority is determined by a number of factors (e.g. the number of backlinks, its social popularity, etc.).
To help evaluate a site’s authority you need to consider two metrics: page authority and domain authority. Page Authority predicts how well a particular page on your site will perform in search engine rankings, and domain authority will predict how well your entire site will perform.
Both metrics can be determined using Open Site Explorer.
Your site’s authority is largely determined by the number of other high quality websites that are linking to it. Links from authoritative third-party websites pointing to your website act like “votes” in that the search engines view one website “vouching” for the authenticity of another.
When evaluating a site’s backlink profile, here are some aspects to consider:
- Is the site receiving links from other sites? Any of those tools listed above will enable you to determine the number of external links that your site is receiving.
- How does your site compare against competitors? How many external links do your competitors use? Use Open Site Explorer to determine a comparison between your site and your competitors’ sites.
TIP: Use can also use Open Site Explorer to determine where your competitors are receiving their links and determine whether you can get links from these same sources.
- Is your site gaining traffic? Determine whether your site’s traffic is improving over time. Look for any obvious spikes in the wrong direction, which may be indicative of a Google penalty. Be prepared to alter your strategy if you are clearly losing, instead of gaining, traffic (and therefore popularity) over time.
- How is your site ranking for a particular keyword? If your site isn’t ranking very high, look to see which one ranking the highest for a particular keyword. Can you emulate their success? Should you alter your keyword strategy to target different keywords?
More and more, the success of your website is proportionally related to your level of social engagement.
When conducting your audit, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is the site represented/active on all the major social networks?
- Is the site receiving social mentions, retweets, Likes, +1s and other social currency? This is an easy way to measure social engagement of the company brand.
- What is the authority of the individuals that are sharing the site’s content? Just as with backlinks, the higher the authority of the individuals sharing your content the better for your site.
There are of course many different ways to complete an SEO audit, and this is merely one of those ways. So if you have comments or suggestions on how you conduct your audits, I’d love to hear them in the comments below.