Website SEO Audit Guide

website seo audit guide

Website SEO Audit Guide

The Website SEO Audit Guide is written to help you do a standalone audit of your website, this differs from audits done as part of an SEO program in that it should be more in-depth and comprehensive. 

This post was originally written in September 2015 and updated in November 2015 and then again February 2016, if you feel there is something missing, then leave a comment and I will incorporate it into the next revision,.

Website owners can do much of this work themselves, to really begin to understand what it takes to rank in search. Website owners can also use these methods to check up on their webmasters to see if they are doing what they are supposed to be doing.

The sections are laid out to give you questions to ask yourself while looking at data, and tools are linked to that can help collect data, though throughout, Google’s Search Console (formally Webmaster Tools), Bing Webmaster Tools and Screaming Frog will give much of the data you need. In some sections I offered tools to help fix problems if they are encountered. I have also linked to a few articles to help you understand what needs to be done on your web pages, and why.

SEO Terms

The SEO Website Audit Guide assumes familiarity with SEO terms, for a primer on SEO terms see: Understanding SEO Terms

Keyword Research

To begin with the keyword research must be complete before doing the audit. You can read here about how to do Keyword Research.

Register for Webmaster Tools

To have access to some of the information you will need to perform and audit you need to register your site with Google and Bing. Here are some resources to help you do that:

 

Domain

We are looking for the Good, Bad and Ugly here, make notes on:

    • Domain Age? domains naturally get better with age.
    • Where is it hosted? make a note of this, you should know.
    • Name server history, how many changes in what period.
    • Server: use MX SuperTool to see if there are any server problems like blacklisted neighbours.
    • Are there sub-domains? As a general rule of thumb, sub-folders are used to separate ideas, sub-domains are used to separate geo-locations.

Location and Local – geo-location

Here we are looking at geographic consistency.

    • Where is the server?
    • Is there a Google+ Business Page and does the Contact information on the website match it. Is the G+Business Page optimized for Keywords?
    • Are there multiple locations, there should be separate G+ business pages for each location and each location’s website should be separate or in a sub-domain of the main domain.
    • Is the Google Maps listing correct? If the marker is in the wrong place, here is a video to help you get it changed https://youtu.be/ezUMqLftCI8 .
    • Where do backlinks originate from? Locally or far away?
    • Are there links from local directories? Search Google “local directories in cityname” and you should be able to find a post that will help you get listings from local directories in your area.

Indexation

In Google and Bing see how many and what pages have been indexed, you get this information from Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools . Things to be aware of here:

    • Are all pages indexed, if not, why not? Look for problems in the robots.txt, robots meta tag, htaccess file. Are you redirecting away from a page by mistake. Does your robots.txt block robots from crawling a page? You can read about these two methods in Eric Enge’s Does Google Respect Robots.txt NoIndex and Should You Use It?

On-Site SEO Analysis

Basic Tags

For a good primer on this see the On Site SEO Basics Guide.

Screaming Frog is a great tool to look at these.

URL’s – do they contain keywords? Are hyphens used in naming convention?

Title Tags & Meta Description: look for length, adherence to keywords and clickability in SERPs.

h1 tags: There should be only 1 per page and check for adherence to keywords.

h2-h6 tags: Should break the content up into sub-topics and should contain semantically related keywords like Mustangs and horses, or Mustangs and Ford, depending on what the page is about.

image alt=”” attributes: are they filled in? Does 1 contain the keyword for the page?

In general each web page should serve one idea only and be represented by a keyword phrase. That keyword phrase should be employed in each tag (and the url) as stated above.

Duplicate Content

Screaming Frog is a great tool to look at these too.

    • Assume there is duplicate content almost 30% of sites do, especially if the site has a content management system.
    • Are rel=”canonical” attributes used?
    • www vs. non-www domain: check .htaccess for redirects to a single domain.  Insert Code #1 in the top of your .htaccess file to redirect to all to your www.domainname.com .
    • check your IP address for the website and ensure the site does not open with an IP address. If it does insert code #2 below into your .htaccess file.

Code #1

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^yourdomain.com [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.yourdomain.com/$1 [L,R=301]

Code #2

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^xxx\.xxx\.xxx\.xxx [nc,or]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^example\.com [nc]
RewriteRule (.*) http://www.example.com/$1 [R=301,L]

To fix the problems on WP sites YOAST WP plugin will put canonical links in posts pointing t

To fix the problems on WP sites YOAST WP plugin will put canoni

cal links in posts pointing to a single version of the post.

Schema

Schema is a type of microdata that makes it easier for search engines to interpret the elements on your web pages more effectively so they can serve more relevant results to users based on the search query a user enters. You can use Google Structured Data Testing Tool or SEO SiteCheckup, gives a nice little report, upon checking if schema is present and working properly.

Navigation and Structure

In navigation there are 2 things to be aware of: ease of navigation and file structure. If people are confused about where to find what they want, they will leave – there is a lot of really bad navigation out there. Broad topics should be separated horizontally across the top level of the menu structure and related items should move the user deeper into a topic in the second and third level of the menu structure.  One should strive to have no more than 3 levels of menu structure, 2 is better.  Also menus should be found easily, users will leave quickly if they are unable to find the menu.  Ultimately, in websites, form must follow function.

File structure should mirror navigation. Are the files grouped by ideas i.e. keyword themes?  Are there pages in sections that don’t have anything to do with that section? Are the keywords used in the web pages related to the keywords for the section of the overall website?

Can people get lost in the navigation? Do they have to go HOME to get to somewhere else they want to be?

W3C Validation

W3C Validation is not a ranking factor in Google, though it is still a good thing to do. Matt Cutts talks about W3C validation :

Design

Design is subjective to a point. You must keep in mind a few things:

Who is the intended audience? The design must resonate with the audience, they must see themselves in the images, or who they want to be, and sometimes who they want to be with, it will not resonate with the audience if these conditions are not met.

Is the message above the fold clear? Time is very short, it used to be 3 seconds, I don’t think it is that long anymore. You must get the message, “You came to the right place” across very quickly, using a few words and targeted images.

Does the information below the fold relate to the main message? If your message above the fold says, “this site is about funny cat photos” than as the user scrolls down below the fold they expect to see funny cat pictures, not girls in bikinis or political commentary.

How does the content render on mobile? Pretty self explanatory, it is nice to have an image in the top left, but if the title and first paragraph are more important, then put it in the top left, because that is what will render first on mobile. In general divs line up left to right, top to bottom.

Are Marketing Funnels set up? This is falling outside the SEO aspects of this post, but, the end goal for any website is to convert an unqualified searcher into a customer, and to do that we need to get them to click further into our website where we can dazzle them with our brilliance. So it is good to know if there is a silo structure set up.

Branding Across Social Media Platforms

Basically, are logos, images, tag lines, contact information and other important business information consistent across the social media channels you participate in. They need to be to present a solid brand image, especially to potentially new customers.

Linking

Internal Linking

Do supportive pages link to pages that reflect the main keywords for the site? Are the conversion pages the most linked to? Does the anchor text for internal linking make sense, or can it be better?

Check for 404 status codes do the links work? Links have to work to be of any value.

Again, is rel=”canonical” being used correctly?

Does the site use pagination? Are the hreflang tags being used correctly. Eric Enge also has a good video on How to Implement Hreflang Tags

Is there hidden text on a page? In general Google ignores hidden text so you may be devaluing your content by not showing it all.

Is there a robots.txt and is it set up logically? Are “robots” meta tags also being used? There is a tool in Google Search Console to help you do this.

Is there a sitemap.xml, is it up to date? A sitemap.html for users is a good idea too. Use this tool to generate sitemaps https://www.xml-sitemaps.com/ and you can submit your sitemap in your Google Search Console.

External Linking

Outside resources, that are linked to, should extend the authority of the web page, thus links should go to authority sites within the web page’s niche. If the authority of the external link is in question, then the rel=”nofollow” attribute should be included in the link.

Reciprocal links, domains linking back and forth to each other, should be avoided. Some is okay, but lots is a bad sign to search engines that the page has engaged in gaming tactics to gain links. Similarly, link pages are no longer encouraged, i.e. pages that are set up to just link to other pages.

Inbound Links

Inbound links, also called backlinks, are the backbone of SEO. Since the Panda Updates, not just any link will do. It is better to have a few high quality links than tons of poorer ones. So this is what you have to look for:

Anchor text is the text someone else uses to link to your content. It should contain keywords from your content but also should vary naturally from site to site, because different people wrote it.

The Relevance of the link to your content is important: for a plumber in Toronto the relevance of a link from a plumbing supply wholesaler may be much more relevant than a link from a gaming site.

Geolocation is also important. Backlinks for a plumber in Toronto from a site based in China, are not really useful. Backlinks should come from a realistic service area for the business, or at least there should be a concentration of them in the area.

Diversity describes the differentiation in types of links from different sources. So even though some links are more relevant to your content, a cross section of links from different sites is desireable. Links should come from:

    • Industry sites
    • local directories like the Chamber of Commerce
    • Social media
    • industry forums
    • articles & blogs
    • Wiki’s if possible
    • Blog commenting

Mobile Friendly

Is the website mobile friendly? More than 50% of websites are accessed by mobile devices today, web pages really need to be mobile friendly. Google offers a nice little testing tool here: https://www.google.ca/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/

User Experience

David Amerland wrote in The Social Media Mind

“In developing its powerful search engine algorithm Google has used the end-user experience as a yardstick…As a matter of fact every Google refinement in search is intended to maximise the ease and good impressions the end-user has of it”

User experience (UX) plays a role in how a website ranks. If users consistently spend little time on a site, that site begins to fall in rankings. This can be caused by many factors. If the site navigation is confusing, users will leave. If the content does not match the keywords, or the content is too thin or too cerebral, users will leave. Users tend to remain on sites where the content is well written, the images are engaging and the content follows a well planned path.  The Flesch-Kincaid readability test can help you to determine the level at which you write and adjust it if need be. 

Existing Rankings and Action Plan

With the keywords in hand, the ranking for the web pages on the website should be noted and both short term and long term plans should be drawn up. Long term plans can take years to accomplish, like rank #1 in a broad keyword. So shorter term goals should be set as stepping stones.

I hope the foregoing helps you to get a better understanding of how to audit your website and tools to help you to do it better.  If you need help, you can contact me through my main web pages www.harrisweb.ca

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