Below is the SEO Audit template I use to audit content-based websites when I do not have access to the clients analytics. Before I get started with the SEO Audit process, I like to get a good idea of what the potential client expects to get out of his website and what the targeted keywords are. Once I do that, I dive into the SEO audit process and check to see if the website is optimized to achieve the clients goals and meets basic SEO best practices.
On Page/ Content Optimization
- What are the targeted keywords?
- Which keywords/phrases is the client site already ranking for?
- Are specific pages being optimized for targeted keywords?
- Cross check targeted keywords with related/similar keywords and phrases to ensure the right keywords are being targeted.
- Are the targeted keywords being used in the Title tags?
- Are the Title tags too long? (as close to but not over 70 characters?)
- Is good ad copy being used in the meta descriptions to draw clicks?
In Content Keyword Use
- Are the targeted keywords being used in the content?
- Are the targeted keywords being overused in the content (keyword stuffing)?
- Is correct site architecture being used to display the content?
- i.e. does the content link up to the appropriate category page?
- Are breadcrumb links being used?
- Are links being used in-content to promote targeted pages/keywords?
- Check permalink structure; are keywords being used?
- Check the title tag
- Are images being used? Are image Alt attributes optimized for targeted keywords?
Notes: Often the problem with content is that is gets buried too many clicks away from the homepage and it doesn’t link up to targeted category pages. At this point I’m not looking at the quality of the content, just making sure it’s properly optimized and easy to find.
- Are the URLs optimized for the targeted keywords?
- Are the URLs too long or unintelligible by search engine spiders?
Notes: Obviously the biggest problem here is typically URLs with too many parameters or URLs with a bunch of malarkey on them (and no targeted keywords). In my experience and in conversations with other SEOs, it seems that switching to SEO optimized URLs is seen as a beneficial change when executed properly.
- Does the design and layout of the website look trustworthy?
- Is it easy for users and visitors to share the content on the website?
- Is the content worthy of being shared?
- Is unique content being used throughout the site?
- Content on category, sub-category pages and content pages should be good enough to attract links on their own. Is it?
Notes: This is usually a part of the audit that is a bit more difficult because it is a lot more subjective but with Panda running wild it’s imperative that the website have the look and feel of a trustworthy website.
The quality of the content is also a huge issue during this part of the process. Compare the content from the client website to the content of the top 10 results for their targeted keywords. Is it comparable? After looking over the content, I like to ask myself: “Would I link to this content? Why or why not?
- Is the content organized in clearly defined groups?
- Are all pages on the same level or is there proper site/link architecture?
- Is good content only a minimal number of clicks away from the homepage?
- Are there links on the homepage to all important category pages?
- Are targeted keywords being used in the anchor text of internal links?
- Does the homepage link to all targeted category and sub-category pages?
- Are there excessive links in the footer?
- Are there links in the footer or navigation to unimportant/non-targeted pages?
Category and Sub-Category Pages
- Do category and sub-category pages link down to related content?
- Are outbound links kept to a minimum to target sub-category pages and related content?
- Are there excessive links in the footer to unimportant/non-targeted pages?
Notes: Post Panda I’m seeing good site architecture playing a bigger and bigger role in rankings. For larger websites targeting a larger set of keywords, good site architecture is imperative to overall good rankings.
- Are Meta tags being unnecessarily used to no-index or no-follow content?
- Are important pages being dis-allowed in robots.txt?
- Are meta directives being used over robots.txt to no-index or no-follow pages?
- Crawl website and list crawl and server errors along with recommendations
Notes: I like to use Screaming Frog and Link Assistant’s Website Auditor for this portion of the audit. Website Auditor gives me a good view of the website’s hierarchy which helps during the information architecture portion of the audit as well. This part of the audit is pretty simple; run the software and report the results.
- Check total number of inbound links and the number of root domains linking to the main domain
- Check the anchor text distribution of the inbound links
- Make a note of the most valuable incoming links; are there good, quality links in the profile?
- Are there any shady or spammy looking links?
- Would you link to this website?
- Is the content good enough to attract links naturally?
- Is the content easily shareable? Are there links to share content via Twitter, Facebook, etc.
Homepage/ Site Quality
- Make a note of your first impression. Is the site trustworthy?
- What’s in the footer?
Notes: At this point I just want to get an idea of what type of links the client has been building, if any, and make note of the most prominent links. I mostly use Majestic SEO for this part of the process but also incorporate Open Site Explorer and Yahoo Site Explorer.
Google Targeted Keywords
Initially get an idea for the level of competition by checking the serp’s for the client’s targeted keywords. (Make sure personalized search is off)
- Make notes of the top 10 results
- Domain age of top results? Wikipedia results? Big Brands? Spammy domains?
- How did the top results get there? (brief observations – total # of inbound links and unique referring domains)
- How many sponsored ads in the serp? (More can be a sign of high competition)
- Are there any Universal results in the SERP?
- Check meta-descriptions of top results. How does client site compare?
Competitive Link Analysis
- Check total number of inbound links and the number of root domains linking to the main domain for the top 10 results
- Check the anchor text distribution of the inbound links for the top 10 results
- Check the quality of the links; are they in-content links on authority websites or footer and sidebar links on a link network?
- How does the client’s link profile compare to that of the top 10 competitors in the serp result?
Notes: I’m not going to throw any numbers out there but I think as SEOs we can all agree that inbound links are a big part of Google’s algorithms. At this point in the process I like to ask myself how the client link profile compares to that of the top 10 results for their targeted keywords.
And that’s all folks!
This is what I would call a preliminary SEO Audit because a much more extensive audit will take place when I get access to the client’s analytics and do a much more thorough inbound link analysis of the competition. At this point, I’m just trying to get a bird’s eye view of the competition and give myself a good idea of the website’s overall health as it relates to SEO best practices.