Posted by Hiren Vaghela
May 19, 2014
A professional SEO will never jump to hasty conclusions. Ask any SEO expert about what they do primarily when they come across a client’s website, and pat comes the answer – “Website Audit”. A thorough website audit is unavoidable as it enables the experts to explore the website from the scratch and come out with an indomitable SEO solution.
In an eventful industry like the search engine industry, you simply couldn’t afford to implement any given SEO strategy without a complete audit report. Believe it or not, but SEO audit is a science in itself. With thousands of tips and hundreds of tools available to perform a successful SEO audit, it is unquestionably the core part of an SEO strategy.
When it comes to identifying the imperative parameters of SEO, why not ask the industry experts and know those three vital things they will never skip while performing an SEO audit.
We at Blurbpoint got 70+ responses for one simple question:
“Which are the three major elements you consider while performing a website audit?”
We got an overwhelming response from the SEO experts around the globe and we are thankful to all of them for having spared some time to make this post a resourceful material that will be referred by all SEO enthusiasts.
Here is my reply.
#1 Design and Usability If people are not going to want to be on the site, why would a search engine want to send people there? It’s a terribly under-looked aspect of website audits, and it’s also tough to have these conversations with clients, but its essential if folks want to take their website to the next level.
#2 Google’s Index of the Site Even if you’re running a crawl test with Moz or Screaming Frog or any other another tool (which you absolutely should) there’s often a huge difference between what you find and how Google actually crawls and indexes your site. Use of the site: operator is one of the first tools you should use for any site audit, and is something you should return to again and again.
#3 Low Value and Under-Performing Pages It’s not that these pages should be eliminated (although sometimes they should) the more important question I want to ask is “why” are these pages under-performing. Is it sub-par content, poor site architecture, over-optimization, a link equity problem, or something else? You often learn more from your low traffic pages than your high traffic ones.
By website audit, I assume we’re talking about an SEO audit. Also, let’s assume that this website isn’t being impacted by any Google penalties, since that would likely require looking at more than just 3 things. Given this scenario, if I could only pick 3 things to look at, I’d review:
#1 Growth Metrics: I want to see massive growth in your Web presence. Obviously, monthly organic traffic should be growing consistently – ideally by at least 5-10% / month. The absolute rate of growth rate doesn’t matter as much to me. What I care about is that the monthly growth rate be more or less consistent over time. For example, wordstream.com grows web traffic consistently about 8% / month for the last 60 months to the point where it now does over 600k visitors / month with a very small team of just myself and 2 bloggers. Growing traffic is wonderful, but I’d also look for improvement in other key user engagement rates like time on site, repeat visitor rate, bounce rates, conversion rates, social media shares, email subscriptions, etc. Consistent growth in these metrics can give me an indication to the extent to which your SEO strategy is helping build your brand and drive real business value, which is the ultimate goal here.
#2 What’s Changing: A second thing I look at is to determine what is changing on the site. For example: much content is being published and what kind of engagement does that content drive? How is the Link Profile growing over time? How is the shift to mobile impacting the site? (etc.) I’ve found that in most marketing departments, a mere 4% of your actual work produces 64% of the actual results. Meaning, the other 96% of the work done by you and your entire team provides little or no value at all. Figure out what are the activities that impact your business growth and do more of those things, and eliminate the things that produce little or no results at all. For example, a few years ago we had a goal to blog every day. We later found that 4% of our content drove around 64% of the results, which meant that the vast majority of our content wasn’t even worth producing. So, we changed our strategy to focus on fewer, higher quality content.
#3 Review SEO Strategy: Finally, and most importantly, I’d want to talk to the site owner about their SEO strategy. What are your key growth goals for the next year (do you even have goals?), and how do you expect to make those goals happen? Will you be doing content promotion? Remarketing? using bounce rate reduction tools? our doing more social media marketing? The answer better not be to rely on dated grey-hat SEO tactics. Growth doesn’t happen by itself – it requires coming up with a detailed plan and executing on it. And it also means thinking beyond just SEO since any successful SEO strategy requires integration with Social Media, PPC, and other adjacent internet marketing channels!
here my answers:
#1. Site Architecture;
#2. Duplication and substantial Duplication issues plus canonicalization;
#3. Keyword and Topical optimization.
These are the main on-site elements I consider in a web-audit, as every other issue stem from one of them.
Obviously there are other things we must consider when auditing a site as:
#1. Audience targeting, because it is essential for determining how a site should be designed and what keywords/topics should be really target and how;
#2. Link Profile analysis, because we can have a perfectly optimized site, but if it link profile is poor or even toxic, nothing can be achieved, especially in competitive niches.
It depends on the goals, but all things being equal there are a few key things I always look for. First thing I look for are the obvious quick wins for SEO. For example, I pull all the links from my favorite link tool, and crawl the link targets to find all the places the site is leaking link equity. After that the next step is the content audit so we can identify the key places in the user decision journey that the site is missing content and determine what content is performing based on the key metrics. In the content audit there’s also a lot of work that we do in identifying conversion issues as well particularly in determining whether CTAs are clear or if the content speaks to the target audience.
There’s more than 3 things that go into a great audit, but for staring points I look at:
#1. Link profile (quality, quantity, anchor text) and compare it against the competition
#2. Web analytics data (what are the top pages, how do those pages look, how can they be improved) and compare that against other top sites in the niche (via a tool like SEMrush)
#3. Historical traffic patterns (has traffic been rising or falling, were there any sharp shifts of note which could be associated with penalties)
Although there are more than just three elements of an audit, here are three ares that we commonly look at.
#1. Onsite Fundamentals – Although for smaller sites, making sure that onsite fundamentals are in place is easy, the larger your presence gets – say after the 500,000 page mark – not having the fundamentals in place can really have an impact. Usually, the things that we look for here are items like, internally linking to redirects, duplicate title tags (across 1k+ pages or a whole template type), index-ability of pages, and duplicate content issues generated by parameters, which is a very common issue that large sites have.
#2. Over-Optimisation – Since releasing several noted updates, such as the Panda and Penguin update in recent years, we have become increasingly vigilant regarding over optimization, both onsite and in terms of the backlink profile.
#3. Content Strategy – Content strategy is more than putting keywords on a page. Content strategy is about drawing prospective customers in at the awareness, consideration, and transaction levels. We conduct extensive research and mapping to create a complete content experience for all user types (user personas) and we make sure that our strategy touches on all of the components of the funnel for the client and their niche.
Which are the three major elements you consider while performing a website audit?
#1. The crawling & indexation status and potential issues
#2. The Web architecture & internal linking
#3. The content relevance towards the targeted terms and topics
I look at
#1. The links and the anchor text they are using.
#2. I look for duplicate and canonical issues.
#3. I look for index to sitemap pages ratio.
and a lot more.
I always check the 3 pillars of SEO: On-site content, social media, and inbound links.
Here you go!
The latest thing I’ve been looking at is how a site performs on mobile. There are a lot of testing tools that are out there but a good old-fashioned manual check on various mobile devices is something that I like to do. Obviously I look at links: internal linking structure, outbound links, and inbound links. I also run Screaming Frog to check for crawl issues.
The three major elements that I consider while performing website audit are:
#1. Ranking Potential – What is the current ranking potential of the website? Does the website need small tweaks or major work to improve its rankings. Does the website has any chance to rank for targeted keywords? How strong or weak the website is in comparison to its competitors? Backlinks analysis, domain authority, social media presence, brand power etc all play an important role in determining the ranking potential of a website.
#2. Sales Potential – How good the website is converting existing traffic into sales/leads? Does the website need small tweaks or major work to improve its sales potential? How good the products and services are (reviews, ratings etc)? Is there a market for the type of products/services the website sells?
#3. Management – Who are the people behind the business? How good they are in adapting rapidly in response to changes in the marketing environment. This is very important because no amount of recommendations and convincing is going to work if the client makes delays in resolving query, providing necessary access and documents and implementing recommendations in a timely manner. In the end success of an online business depends upon how rapidly they can deploy solutions and not from the level of insight they have accumulated in the form of recommendations.
Here are the 3 major areas of on-site audit I mostly look into:
#1 Site architecture, and making sure that all the site’s key pages are easily accessible to both users and search crawlers (this also involves finding possible duplicates and poor-content pages from the site that shouldn’t be indexed).
#2 Content from the site’s key pages. Making sure that these pages match the search terms they are aiming to rank or get searched for (as this also improves the activity and overall experience for searchers that can directly impact how the site will perform on SERPs).
#3 Analyzing and understanding the site’s top performing traffic sources, to get more ideas on how to fully improve the site’s ability to drive more traffic and conversions.
#1 Basic setup including: meta tags; keywords in title tags; browser compatibility
#2 Navigation and on-site linking structure
Which are the three major elements you consider while performing a website audit?
The first thing is to get them to fill out our questionnaire so we understand their offering, their customers and their business strategy. From an SEO standpoint these days the first thing I do is look at SEMRush and see if they had a major traffic dip in May 2012 when Penguin hit- and if so, did they address it or do we need to now. And SEO now has merged so much with content marketing and social media, although keywords are important, I look for blog posts, ebooks, white papers, infographics, videos and other content to see how far they’ve come in solving the content creation or sourcing issue. Then there are all the little things like does the page load fast enough, does it look good and function well on mobile, etc. There’s a ton (more than three things!) but starting with our questionnaire helps us round up a lot of them.
We let the data lead us during a website audit, and the important things are different for every site.
For the business trying to decide how much to invest in CRO, we ask for three metrics: Monthly traffic, monthly new revenue and average order value (or average lead value).
With these three numbers we can calculate the transactions, conversion rate, revenue per visit and what we call the “Basic Upside Unit”. The BUU is a number that we can use for budgeting. A BUU is the yearly revenue generated by adding .1% to the Conversion Rate. For example, 10 BUUs is a doubling of annual revenue. The BUU is more conservative for businesses with higher conversion rates.
The 3 major elements I would consider are need consideration:
#1. Usability: How easy is it to navigate and use the website?
#2. Content: Is there are depth and breadth of content that makes the site a portal and “go to” place for your customers and prospects?
#3. Conversion: Are there call to action links and landing pages that convert visitors to customers?
The three most important aspects I never overlook when performing a social media audit are the audience, the engagement, and the types of updates posted. Are you reaching your target audience? Is your audience engaging with you, and if so, which updates make them to engage with you? I think these are all extremely important questions that should be answered every time you perform a social media audit.
My answers below:
When we perform website audits we take into account anything that might affect the site’s performance. We typically try to establish the client’s goals beforehand so we can structure the report in order to offer the most value; so rather than a ‘tick box’ approach we try to identify the specific action points that will make the biggest difference. Bespoke advice doesn’t nicely split out into ‘3 major elements’, but to consider the type of things we most often deal with:
#1. On-site SEO
Basic on-site SEO is the foundation of any good website. In most cases, as long as your on-site is pretty good you can perform well within your target niche (with sufficient links, of course). However it is amazing how many websites we see that haven’t got fundamental factors right in their page templates. We advised a client a couple of weeks ago to optimise their title tag and H1 tag on their homepage, and they saw a jump from position 34 to position 12 within a few days of setting the changes live.
To audit a site in 2014 and not consider risk would practically be professional negligence. With Google actively targeting SEO tactics, it is incredibly important that we analyse a site’s risk profile – both from on-site and off-site perspectives. If they have lots of manipulative links, they need to be advised how to deal with them to help avoid potential penalties down the line. The sad truth is that we find ourselves increasingly performing ‘Traffic Drop Audits’ or penalty removal work rather than giving constructive, forward thinking advice. Many site owners have suffered traffic drops and have no idea why, and some don’t even realise they are in trouble. Case in point, we recently did a Panda audit on our blog of the website Dundee.com. We reached out to members of staff there to say ‘here’s some free advice about how to fix your site’ but heard nothing back!
With SEO becoming increasingly challenging for site owners with smaller budgets, it is important that they are able to maximise the value of the traffic they do get. We offer CRO suggestions and usability suggestions – not based on months of testing and very expensive surveys – but based on our experience and analysis of Google Analytics data. Sometimes these are really straightforward suggestions – like moving CTA buttons into more prominent positions, but other times we have had complex situations where a muddled IA leaves customers unable to navigate the site properly. Whilst this type of heuristic analysis isn’t ‘pure CRO’, most are common sense suggestions that do yield significant improvements once implemented. One site implemented a range of suggestions we put forward and immediately saw an increase of 600,000 pageviews from the previous month.
When first looking at a website, the first 3 things I look at are:
#1. The link profile – which sites are linking to the site, and what is the average DA, PA, # of links, and link diversity ratio (how many LRD”s) of those websites
#2. The information architecture – How is information structured between the content of parent and child pages? Is this being reflected in the URL architecture? Are they flowing pagerank properly from the home page to the central hubs and then downstream? Are there any leaks?
#3. The existing rankings and potential – I fire up SEMRush, use the organic keyword report, export to Excel, and then do a quick keyword opportunity audit . From here I focus on rankings between page 1 and 2 to identify quick wins and potential for large gains in traffic.
I’m a non-technical SEO guy so my answer might be a little different than most.
#1. I would first start off with analyzing your content. Is the content fresh and updated. If you have content that’s old and getting a lot of clicks, sometimes it’s a good idea to update that content. I would recommend putting up a follow up post to that content as well.
#2. Is you site marked up correctly. Do you have social sharing buttons? Do you have rel-author enabled? Are you internally linking to other posts within your site?
#3. Stop caring about the number of posts and start paying attention to the quality of posts. I’d recommend scaling back the number of posts and increasing the length of posts. Research has found that longer posts are dominating the majority of top 10 positions on Google. If you want to rank posts and get traffic from them…longer posts are key to more traffic.
Here is a little blurb you can use for my response:
#1 The first major element I like to note right away is the importance of recording absolutely everything. Website audits are tedious, and I’ve been through the process where I thought “I’ll remember this,” and trust me, one year later when you do another audit you won’t remember. I like to keep every little thing recorded in a spreadsheet so that I’m not backtracking. No change is too small!
#2 If you are going to try and group different things into major elements, I would say that content is one huge element and along with content comes linking factors. If you referenced an old article see if you can change your reference to something newer. You need to check and make sure your content is current, and look at your analytics to see where your content is thriving and where it’s failing. It’s also important to go through all of your links and find those that are broken.
#3 I suppose the next major element would simply be issues coming from the backend of your website. Make sure there are no sitemap concerns, your pages are indexed, and your site isn’t full of plugins that are slowing it down and affecting your page speed/load time negatively.
It depends on the type of site and it’s goals, but three pain points I see often are:
#1. Taxonomy Structure – If a website has a lot of products a sloppy taxonomy can cause huge issues from both an SEO and usability standpoint. For example, if a product fits into several categories and all those product pages don’t have the proper canonical tags, you could have massive duplicate content issues. At the same time, you also don’t want to confuse the user trying to find the product. I see this happen most often with websites that used to have very few products then grew to a much larger size without rethinking their structure.
#2. Content – I know at this point everyone’s tired of hearing about content, but sadly a lot of website owners still don’t get it. Or maybe they do, but missed a valuable piece of it. For example, I recently did a quick audit as a favor and the website had some fantastic visual data. However, it wasn’t easy to share the content, they didn’t have a huge following, and they didn’t do much promotion for the data. Because of this, it never got much reach.
#3. Onsite SEO – I’m not sure if this is too broad, but this is another issue that’s typically not too complicated to fix. Don’t get me wrong, depending on the nature of a site it can get crazy complicated… but most of the time I see lots of on page issues on nice and simple websites. Not much to say here, other than make sure you always keep up with the basics.
The first things we look at is what traffic the site is presently generating. The number of visitors, where from, the bounce rate and the source of the referrals.
If it is not generating sufficient qualified traffic, (if it were, they probably would not be calling me), we look for any technical issue with spidering, crawling, indexing, dead links 404’s and so forth. As long as the site is spiderable and indexable, we then start reviewing the back links. In the present search environment we are finding the majority of inbound links causing far more harm than good.
The final step is looking at the text/functionality and navigation. Here we’re checking for the text/content being semantically relevant to target terms, as well as reviewing functionality and navigation to determine how well the site creates a “sales funnel” that would lead a qualified visitor to a conversion. We find that so many sites think they are providing a service when actually all they are doing is creating a diversion from the sales funnel. The most common example probably being a click box at the end of order forms making the visitor click to indicate the visitor has read and agrees to the site’s Terms of Service. Placing that there leaves no other option for the ALMOST customer to either leave the order to go read several paragraphs of legalese which would turn off just about anyone, or to stop and question their decision significantly deteriorating trust. There should be NOTHING to distract a potential customer between the payment info and the order now button. In my opinion this one factor is the single largest design error responsible for as much as 77% of visitors abandoning the order form before submitting the order.
Three key areas for a website audit.
#1. Site Architecture – Making sure that the websites structure is set up correctly, making sure that no code elements are blocking pages from been effectively indexed.
#2. Accessibility of website pages – making sure that key pages are indexed on the website using areas such as XML site maps and making sure that no sections are blocked by meta tags or robots.txt is an important one. Sometime devs will block specific areas for no apparent reason.
#3. Pre-Existing Penalties – Many websites are penalized in today’s market and they do not even know it. My advice is to audit any potential past manual or algorithmic penalties for websites which request audits.
Only three is tough for me. I do a lot more consulting nowadays than the SEO nitty gritty stuff, so I look at things differently than I used to.
#1. The code and site architecture are #1 because they are the foundation and If the foundation isn’t there than nothing else matters. This is step #1 for me, always. Does the site work on all browsers and devices?
#2. User friendliness and the ability to easily find or understand what the site offers. Is it a product or service? Can I find it?
#3. The quality of the content starting on home and from page to page.
-Is it quality content?
-Does it explain what the company does or offers? (believe it or not many businesses miss this)
-Is it convincing? Does it create a need, an urgency and trust?
-Does it explain what the reader needs to know?
-Does home lead to the money making pages? Effectively?
-Do the money making pages offer everything a reader needs to know? Do they lead to related services/product? Related educational content?
-Does the content lead to contact info?
-Would I trust the site?
There are many things to consider when conducting an SEO audit. Here are the top three things I look for:
#1 Site Architecture – Make sure that the site is structured properly and that there are no technical issues that are hindering the site’s SEO. This can be done by running a crawl with tools such as Screaming Frog or Mozto identify issues such as broken links, server errors, duplicate content, etc. Another thing to take a look at is Google Webmaster Tools, and see how many pages are being indexed. If there are greater or fewer pages indexed than you expect, that can signify an underlying structural issue.
#2 On Page Optimization – Even post-Hummingbird, on-page optimization still matters. Making sure titles, URLs, and headers are formatted properly is SEO 101 stuff, but still important. Other things to look out for are alt attributes on images, content length and duplicate content issues. Semantic markup and authorship are also important on-page factors for getting rich snippets and future-proofing your site.
#3 Social Optimization – Although social sharing does not directly lead to improved SEO, it can have many indirect benefits . One of the ways to encourage social sharing and reap these benefits is to ensure that your site is optimized for social. That means having social sharing buttons on your content, having social buttons at both the top AND bottom of the page, using markup such as OpenGraph, Twitter Cards, and schema.org to make your content look good when it’s shared, having good images, and having social CTAs. Doing so can lead to increased social engagement, with cascading effects for SEO and organic traffic.
#1. site architecture
#2. duplicate content (title tags and webpage content)
3 major elements:
#1. On-page: (404s, titles, h tags, internal links)
#2. Content: Is it duplicate? Is it written with search intent in mind?
#3. Links: how many? are they clean/dirty? Any negative attacks? Any penalties?
Below is my response:
Starting with the “big picture” and working my way down into specifics, I’ll typically begin a website audit by looking at the following: user experience, inbound marketing, and foundational SEO. While you certainly shouldn’t limit yourself to these three categories, this is a perfect starting point when conducting a website audit. I broke down each of the categories in more detail below:
#1. User experience – This includes everything from the website’s load speed to functionality, design, hierarchy, and navigation. Beyond design and functionality, identify whether or not trust factors (certifications, testimonials, awards, etc.) are present and accessible to website visitors. This User Experience Checklist by Mediative dives deeper into UX.
#2. Inbound marketing – This typically includes a brand audit, identifying personas, conducting a content inventory and social media analysis, as well as identifying lead gen offers plus any landing pages, CTAs, forms, and thank you pages associated with them. HubSpot’s Marketing Grader is a great starting point if you’re not familiar with the essentials of inbound marketing.
#3. Foundational SEO – This includes keyword analysis (branded and non-branded), meta data, index status, content analysis (formatting, checking for duplicate copy, etc.), accessibility, redirects, and so much more. Moz has a Technical Site Audit Checklist that covers almost everything that you should inspect when auditing a website.
The Three Most Important Elements that I look at when performing a website audit are essentially…
#1. Site Usability (Page Speed, Responsiveness, and Site Navigation) – The main focus of all the factors are to provide great user experience. I am convinced that no further explanation is warranted here. If your pages loads very slow, lacks responsiveness on mobile or portable devices, and has plenty of broken links and takes forever for a user to find what they are looking for, then it is likely that you will have some serious problems ranking well on search results.
#2. Content Quality – Again and this is probably one of the most important elements of an audit and one that requires nearly a “manual intervention”. Everything today is about providing value to users. Having useful and informative content is what makes your articles being shared on social networks and being linked to by other sites that are relevant to your niche. All this gives you authority and are extremely important from an SEO perspective.
#3. On Page Optimization Consideration – While most of your websites content and other essentials should be first and foremost for users experience, you also can not neglect the fact that it is also important to “help” search engines what your site is about. Titles, descriptions, tags, images, among other things should be optimized to help you get greater visibility for the search engine bots.
When it comes to a website audit, 3 most major elements that I will keep in mind are Indexibility, Relevance ( content), and Authority ( links) of the site.
#1. Indexibility ( crawlibility analysis included ): this will cover all indicators that determine whether the audited website is read and indexed correctly by the search engines. Robots.txt, http status codes, crawl efficiency ( response time, compression gzip), no. of (no) indexed pages, XML site map , duplicate issues ( canonicalization, pagination) , just to name a few need to be examined.
#2. Relevancy ( meta & content analysis) : Two most fundamental questions that the search engine machine has to answer before giving away a grade to a page for a particular search query are 1- how relevant the page is to the search query & how useful the page is to the search query . As such, website audit should look into the relevancy and usefulness of the website contents. This will include assessment on whether targeted keywords ( main content of the page) are placed in optimal locations that can send strong signal to search engine, missing title tags, meta description, H1-H3 , pages with low word count, duplicated contents, etc.
#3. Authority ( link analysis ) : Hyperlink is still important ranking factor for any search engine. As such, internal links, backlinks, broken links, missing anchor or alt text , over-volume links are also needed considering
Those would be:
#1. duplicate issues
#2. indexing issues
#3. other potential vulnerabilities.
That said, a great part of site audits I do are SEO security audits and not just SEO audits – hence the list.
Here are my 3 overall points!
#1. URLs – the syntax, structure and organization of these SEO assets
#2. Semantics – what all Google-readable elements are communicating (copy, tags, anchor text, etc.)
#3. Page Relationships – evaluation of linking structure and groupings
This is what I came up with. Let me know if it works:
It depends on if we’re talking website audit for a potential client or website audit for a potential target site. I assume you mean client site, but there’s a drastic crossover between the two. If I was helping a potential client with a site, I’d want it to look at LEAST as solid and reputable as any target site I might approach for a link.
I’m not as knowledgeable as some folks are about super technical, on-site SEO (see my own friend/colleague Nicholas Chimonas’ response for that), but I do know what I look for as a writer, marketer and general internet enthusiast.
#1. Contact Page – A real contact page is essential from an SEO standpoint and from a “human beings visiting” standpoint. Basically, it needs to look like a real human runs your website, and a contact page is a great start for that. A real name, phone number, address, photo, email address and contact form need to be on there somewhere. There’s no bigger sign of a black blog, spam site or “we don’t give a hoot about anything other than affiliate $$ or ads (not that there’s anything really wrong with those sites, they just wouldn’t ever be my clients)” than a bare or non-existent contact page.
#2. About Us Page – Similarly, if there’s no “about us” anywhere on your site, that’s a big problem. It’s a problem for SEO, but it’s also a huge problem for anyone who’s genuinely curious about who you are or what you do. There are some amazing ‘about us’ pages out there (Hit Reach and Drake Cooper both come to mind), but it doesn’t need to be anything mind-blowing. People link to people. People buy products and services from people. If there’s nothing to distinguish you from a tiny Blogspot site about chemtrail conspiracy theories, why would I ever give you my money, link to you or build links for you? This should be fun and easy– every real business or organization has talent and ideas, and an about page is where you can showcase your people and your values.
#3. Content – Not every single website has to have amazing, jaw-dropping content. You don’t have to be an art gallery or an encyclopedia, but you need to have SOMETHING that shows you’re an expert and an authority in your niche. Search Engines like words, videos and images. People like those things even more. Write about your products and services, make a demo video, put some of your personality into it. It’s very possible to build links for sites without any good content (and some sites don’t need good content), but I’d encourage everyone to have at least something. No one knows what you’re about (search engines included) if you can’t show or tell them. It also helps if you can show, through content, that you’re putting regular thought into your site and it hasn’t been the same thing since 1998. People and search engines like a lot of the same things.
These are things I look for in target sites as well. I want to speak with a real human being who cares about their site. Demonstrating that you’re a real person with real ideas and real knowledge benefits both users and search engines.
#1. Link Profile – A big area I focus on to start with is links. With so many manual penalties being handed out and the risk of Penguin I think it’s very important to have a handle on your link profile.
#2. Crawlability – can the search bots crawl the areas of the site you want them to. Are the areas of the site you don’t want indexed appropriately blocked from them.
#3. Information Architecture – is there any easy to understand site navigation, one that is optimal for the flow of PageRank to important pages
The 3 major elements for me are:
#1. Accessibility – Google need to get at your most important pages, often sites are blocking key landing pages and there often quick wins to free these up.
#2. Engagement – How are people interacting with your current site, are high traffic pages showing low engagement signals like high bounce rates and low time on site? If so re purpose these pages to better answer the search query.
#3. Errors – Tidying up 404 errors and redirecting old URL’s is a great way to instantly boost your search visibility.
Three major things:
#1.The main thing is the target audience, you can’t properly look at a website and judge it without understanding the target audience. What is it that makes them tick, what keywords are they using and which type of content do they prefer. Try to understand that first before diving into the technical and tactical aspects of a website.
#2. Secondly there are the ‘basics’, which is the technical aspect of the site, whether or not the basic elements are there: meta data, performance, keyword usage, links, architecture and so on. There are tons of lists out there which can help you determine which elements to look at.
#3. Thirdly, I still believe links are a huge part of SEO. Both positive and negative. You need to analyse which links are there, whether or not they harm or benefit your site and what part of your site needs ‘attention’.
Here it is:
When auditing a website, I focus generally on the performance or the site. How much traffic it can get, how people act when they land on the site, and how to actually convert traffic to serve the goal of this particular site. There are several things to look at, but here is what I think is the most important:
#1. SEO: What can be done to increase and target web traffic to the site, I check the structure, and whether SEO is implemented correctly or need some tweaks. You will be surprised that 99% of sites I audit are doing SEO some how in a wrong way!
#2. Usability: This is related to the layout, structure and navigation of the site. If people can’t find their way on a website, they got confused and probably leave before getting what they need. Also, you also can add page load speed as an important helper.
#3. Design: Many sites I’ve seen are still having a static design, so my very first recommendation is to make it responsive, by doing just that; you’ve solved several issues and increased performance. I will check what can be removed or added to a site. However; I find myself focusing more on removing unnecessary areas than adding something to the site. I love clean designs.
When performing a website audit I will always look at the incoming links to a site — you never know who my be trying to attack your brand by placing false and harmful links out there back to your site. It’s also important to take a look at any guest blog posts you’ve written in the past. Google is changing how they measure link quality and it’s always best to set your links as nofollow to keep them in good standings. The last thing I like to look at is the overall site content, which is design, layout, loading times, broken links and everything else associated with the site. While you may not be able to control all of your backlinks and how Google looks at these links, you can always have full control over your site’s user experience, which is always a top priority.
When I do a website audit I am typically doing it from a local perspective and looking at these top 3 (onsite & offsite) elements:
#1. Onsite: Obviously onsite factors come into play in many different ways. So I look at things not only from a local SEO standpoint, but from a local usability & conversion standpoint as well.
#2. Links: I look at a number of factors with links including: number of links, what pages they point to & overall quality.
#3.Citations: I like to look at what is wrong out there in terms of NAP (what needs fixed) and where a company would benefit to be listed in which they are not yet. We also look at where they stand with Reviews & where we can help them. I would go as far as saying that Reviews are basically the 4th major element.
In my opinion this question is open-ended and could lead to a multitude of responses. I don’t believe you can segment a website audit into three major elements in a clear cut manner without being somewhat vague. Each element is likely to have a number of attributes or will otherwise depend upon the integrity of contributing factors. With that in mind the most obvious responses would be:
#1. Content / Relevancy – a very broad subject but a key consideration. Analysing the relevancy of existing content and the identifying potential opportunities. Identifying the validity of existing content with key considerations such as duplication and keyword cannibalisation and understanding factors such as the scalability of content.
#2. Credibility of the link profile– again a very broad subject, but at base level understanding the credibility of a link profile in relation to Penguin and search quality guidelines surrounding natural linking, analysing the profile for keyword misuse and other factors surrounding low-quality link acquisition.
#3. User Data – A critical part of any website audit in my opinion is the ability to understand the user statistics through Google Analytics or your chosen web analytics platform. This is a massively broad subject in which the specific metrics will depend on your specific needs.
Each of these can be further broken down into an array of considerations each holding their own importance but as “major” considerations these three are certainly up there with the best of them!
My priorities have really changed in the last 3 years or so. Engines are much better at overcoming older technical SEO issues. I don’t find myself getting deep into the H1, H2, alt tags, etc., type recommendations as much. It’s mentioned in my audits because there are still associated best practices, but it rarely becomes a heavy focus in my deliverable. I really try to focus on the things I routinely see moving the needle in terms of rankings and CTR.
#1. I almost always focus on crawl budget optimization, especially on the enterprise sites with hundreds of thousands of URLs. Untangling the mess some database driven CMS or webstores create is something that is hard to sort even with a crawl, but I’ve seen these optimizations make enormous impact to the site’s performance.
#2. I also do contextual audits in terms of site and page layout for improving the findability of content for both spiders and people. Sometimes it puts us into cool usability and testing discussions.
#3. I also do schema audits. We have a process built out to crawl the site, categorize the pages by schema type, and at a high level show what pages are missing the appropriate markup.
#1. UX Metrics
#2. Content Quality
#3. Content Relevancy (not just to ‘keywords’ but to search user intent)
When I do a website audit I like to look at everything.
It’s about ROI and you’re not going to be helping your client unless you look at everything from the technical SEO to optimizing for conversions.
I see each part of a site audit as being important and there are typically a lot of steps to a full website audit but if I had to choose:
#1. Crawling and indexation – The SEO side of things is definitely a large focal point of any audit but if search engines can’t crawl and index your website easily then it’s going to be a complete none starter. Key things to check should include (but are not limited to): robots.txt file, robots meta tag setup, utilising crawling tools (e.g. Screaming Frog ), XML sitemap generation (and submitting to Google Webmaster Tools), HTML sitemap creation, smart use of internal links, checking for broken links (e.g. Xenu’s Link Sleuth) and ensuring the site shows up in search. These are just some examples.
#2. Take a close look at external links – As much as we shouldn’t rely too much on traffic from search engines, it’s not worth giving up on. One of the key things to look at is your sites backlink profile and analysing those links.
I usually use a combination of Majestic SEO and Ahrefs for this – In particular the anchor text filtering within Ahrefs can be a great indicator of whether you’ve been doing something wrong or you’ve been hit by negative SEO. It’s worth going pretty deep and looking at individual links to get an idea for whether they could be problematic – if they look dodgy then it’s worth getting them disavowed or doing a full link removal campaign.
Doing what works now is great but thinking that way has hurt a lot of businesses so it’s time to start thinking about what will work in the future.
#3. Identify key conversion goals and optimize – If a site isn’t converting then you are just wasting your time.
No amount of traffic will ever help you.
Start off by identifying your key conversion goals and then work on improving them.
It’s also worth thinking about this from a user perspective because when you have a give users a great experience they are more likely to convert – small changes can have a big impact.
Here’s my top 3:
#1. Indexability – How many pages are being indexed in Google & Bing?
#2. Duplicate Content – And any other errors – I use Screaming Frog
#3. URL Structures, page title, H1’s H2’s etc. – I use the Moz Chrome plugin for this
If I could only look at three elements of a site, they would be:
#1. Accessibility – If search engines can’t access the content on your site, then the content might as well not exist. Making sure search engines can access and understand your content is the foundation for all other work.
#2. Site Architecture – Despite Google’s technological advances, it is still important to make sure that your most important pages are high up in the site architecture so that you maximize the amount of equity flowing to these pages.
#3. Content – Is there content on your site? Is there enough to give search engines enough context to understand what your pages and site are about? And is it optimized?
The key for us is letting the data lead the outcome. But in simple terms we would split it down into:
#1. Indexation – Looking at how the site technically appears in search is critical in achieving good visibility. Even though Google appears to have softened the Panda algorithm in recent weeks it is still imperative to control urls that may create thin duplication etc.
#2. Content and UX – In many ways this is the most critical component for us and the piece that takes the most time. Understanding what content drives traffic, what needs improving, what is missing and how visitors get to and interact with it is really important. Often we will supply spreadsheets with Content to Improve, Content to Remove, Content to Create based on the data.
#3. Links – Regularly covered but for good reason. Understanding link profile is really important in making sure visibility does not carry risk, or to map out which areas may require greater proactive work.
From a technical standpoint – maximizing indexability, minimizing duplicate content, and improving internal linking/crawling.
From a content standpoint – assessing quality of key landing pages across the site, and finding major content gaps based upon buyer needs / competitors / search demand.
When I’m performing a website audit, here’s what I look for:
#1. The core message, clearly communicated
#2. Good usability that keeps visitors from getting lost or confused
#3. Appropriate action drivers, such as strong CTAs and trust elements
Since there are multiple parts of an audit, I’ll stick to just picking out 3 under “on-site analysis”
#1. Server Redirect/Response Codes/Canonical/Rel=Next/Rel=Prev – Usual “Best Practices”
#2. General Health Check – looking at the number of indexed content, duplicate content, content length, Robots.txt and so on.
#3. Website Structure – if the page structure is right, then it’s already a great “win” for the website.
We always break our SEO audits into three main sections, Content, Site Architecture, and Inbound Links, with the long held belief the missing or screwing up one or more of those will always hold a site back from organic search greatness. Three are tons of details under each of those three sections of course, but that level of organization helps to clarify what’s really important in SEO efforts. Going any deeper than that when initially thinking about SEO assumes an understanding of Google’s algorithm that no SEO actually posesses.
There is so many things to look at when you are doing a website audit. They fall in to two main categories on page and off page. Crucial ones I believe are.
#1. Analyse for any penalties against the website by looking at Analytics and incoming links.
#2. Make sure website architecture and URL’s are optimised.
#3. Analyse on page content is fully optimised for search engines.
When it comes to performing a website audit, I’m looking at 3 things – Content, SEO and CRO.
What type of content exists today, what opportunities does the site have that it hasn’t explored and what content can the site improve on?
Can search engines crawl the site easily, how much duplicate content exists and does the site need to tighten up its onpage optimization?
#3. Conversion Rate Optimization
Does the site make it easy for website visitors to complete their (and the sites) goals, and what part of the conversion funnel has the biggest drop out rate?
These three elements are the holy trinity when it comes to website success. Creating great content can lead to increased organic traffic and if you have optimized your website to convert better, you can get more sales.
#1. Architecture & structure – For me the absolute fundamental element of any onsite audit is the architecture and internal link structure, particularly on enterprise sites with hundreds of thousands or millions of pages.
#2. Accessibility – Ensuring the site can be effectively crawled and indexed. This sounds basic, but all too often we see fundamental accessibility issues on websites such as incorrect robots.txt files.
#3. Usability – Something that SEOs often forget, ensuring the experience of the website is rich, engaging and clear. It’s important to consider how your audience are actually using your website rather than how you ‘think’ they should use it. Whether you are A/B testing, using heat maps or other testing methods, design and navigation should always have the user in mind.
My answer is:
#2. Duplication issues (www vs non-www, https vs http, faceted navigations, session parameters)
#3. Indexing barriers (content loaded client-side, content based on cookies, wrong canonicals or robots.txt rules)
#1. Technical – is everything set up correctly (Clean HTML, HTML structure, resources, Meta Data, Navigation, Image Optimization, Videos, Page Layouts, Content, Authorship, Tools for optimization & responsive design)
#2. Is website playing by the rules? We have to do our best to play by Google’s rules these days & making sure a website is playing by the rules is one of the first things I look for.
#3. Quality of Links – too many changes lately regarding links & making sure to perform a link audit during the website audit is critical.
here ya‘ go:
#1. Indexation status quo which mainly focusses on proper and efficient implementation of robots.txt, Meta Robots and Rel-Canonical Usage (both HTML as well as header based).
#2. Internal linking which obviously aims in understanding if a website is “crawl-able” at all; also considering URL structure, redirects and also looking at how (often) internal sites are connected with each other.
#3. Keyword targeting and content placement: Is a proper keyword targeting in place? E.g. do titles fit with the sites’ content, are they properly structured and machine-readable, etc.
please see my answer below,
It’s difficult to narrow it down to to three focal points for a technical audit, as there are so many things to look at. I suppose if I had to choose three things to look at, it would be the number of pages in the index (and how that correlated with pages on the site), the quality of pages that are accessible to search engines (dynamic pages, think pages etc) and also how easy it is for search engines to access content (looking at use of meta robots tags, the canonical tag, the robots.txt etc).
Although there are lots and lots of other areas, these points are key and are likely to correlate with rankings and indexation / accessibility issues.
#1. Site speed – Does the website load? Not only will a slow website create a frustrating experience for your audience, but it will also dampen your search visibility.
#2. Design and user experience – Is the layout intuitive, and can I get to where I need to with ease? Your audience must be able to walk a guided path and have no confusion on where to find every resource or product that they’re looking for.
#3. Content, content, content – From your brand messaging, product descriptions, resources, and blog posts, content reigns king. First, from the top-level, your content should be cohesive and aligned with your brand throughout your website. Second, your words must always be clear. It’s surprising how many posts are thrown up in haste, only to stick out like a sore thumb. Lastly, be smart with your words. No one wants to see keyword-stuffed text. All content on your website should have a purpose, be human-readable and useful, and be 100% unique.
#1. Does the website work?
This is the process where we take a look at the website from the top-level. Is the brand message coming across? Is the website resonating with the target audience? Is the messaging clear?
#2. Technical analysis
Here, we take a look at search visibility, site speed, and other technical elements that impact not only the user experience, but the ability for others to find and engage with your site.
#3. Competitive analysis
What are you doing well, and what are your competitors doing well? Where can you improve? Here, we prescribe a set of recommendations to better position you so that your voice is louder and your value proposition is delivered more clearly.
In practice, we always use our methodology, but if we were forced to focus on just three things then the following ones would be a good start:
#1. Identify why visitors aren’t converting. Unfortunately, this information isn’t easily identifiable just by looking at the site itself. You need to use detective work: web analytics, customer surveys, and interviews with customers and with the company’s best sales people.
#2. Look at the calls to action. What does the company offer, and what do its visitors want? How can we match them up so that the response rate is highest? It’s surprising how much scope there is for increasing sales just by honing the value propositions—or even just optimizing the way in which they are described.
#3. Study the headlines. The most valuable part of a page is whichever part is seen first. Eye-tracking studies show that this is often the headline. A good headline concisely grabs the readers’ attention. Some people say that a headline must communicate the product’s top three benefits, but unfortunately it’s a bit more complicated than that. There are many formulae for creating successful headlines, and the only thing they have in common is that they capture and keep the attention of the qualified prospects.
Here is my answer for your question:
Answer: 3 important factors that I consider important while conducting a website audit are:
#1. Title and Description Optimization
I have seen people usually underestimate the power of on-page optimization and that is why there titles and descriptions are not really optimized as per the division of keywords. I consider this one of the important parts in my SEO audits because without optimizing your titles and descriptions you might not find the true power of it.
#2. Crawling and Indexing Issues
This is another issue that I have noticed and the worst part is people usually have no idea about it. If search engine cannot crawl or index your site, how will it rank you against the keywords? In my audits I try to look in to crawling and indexing issues and try to fix everything at this end.
#3. UI and UX issues
From the color of the design to how faster your website loads the page, all comes under the SEO. In my audits I give special attention to the minor details in this area like colors, call to action buttons, site load time and more.
The first thing I look at is the content. Is it informative? Is it
well-written? Does it provide answers and solutions in an
easy-to-understand way? if the content is bad (or non-existent!), it
doesn’t matter how many links you have pointing at you or how many social
media followers you have. I also look for an “About Us” page, because
it’s vital that your visitors know exactly who’s “talking” to them.
After that, I look to see how easy to site is to navigate. If it’s too
confusing to get around, visitors won’t bother. You could have the
greatest content in the world, but if no one can figure out how to get to
it, it won’t help you!
From there, I look at a few of the site’s top competitors. What are they
doing that you’re not? Do they make certain points better than you do?
Do they offer on-site features that you don’t (like a blog or a FAQ
section, for example)? After all, these sites are at the top of the
search rankings for a reason! It’s important to see what the “big guys”
are doing so that you can try to beat it.
#1. Goals of the website with regards to it’s marketing objectives. These dictate the level of resources that would need to be deployed and give a comparison metric in relation to competitors.
#2. Internal linking structure must be useful to the website user and follow best practice. Keyword strategy should be reflected in the internal link structure.
#3. Content assets and the ability for them to attract new links. Analysing content to look for future wins
#3.1 External sites which link in and why and what can be learned from this. Enabling future links to be acquired.
Here is my answer:
#1. I would start with checking site indexed pages in Google. A simple command site:domain.com shows indexed pages,and I will start with reindexing low-quality pages, directories or URL parameters link.
#2. I will use tool like integrity or broken link checker plugin for WordPress to find all broken links and work on removing or updating them as require. This also means redirecting all broken pages from the website to appropriate page or leave it 404.
#3. Last but most important would be content level auditing. Getting rid of pages/posts which are not useful and outdated. This will fix a major issue with user-experience, and further I will work on improving the content, internal-linking and making posts more share worthy.
These are the major 3 steps that I usually start with, and after this there are various stuff like checking uniqueness, meta values, authorship which I usually focus on.
#1. Backlink Profile: As an inbound marketing account manager, I am responsible for many of our clients’ link building strategies. Therefore, this is an area I am involved with most. For example, all new clients have a routine backlink audit, to ensure there are no inbound links that are breaking webmaster guidelines.
So this is where I would start initially, ensuring there are no threats to the website’s current rankings.
#2. On-page SEO: This includes page titles, meta descriptions and headings etc…. Although basic, the importance of these must not be forgotten.
Once these have been optimised, I would begin to review the content, checking for pages that may have high bounce rates and/or thin content.
#3. Technical Foundations: Although not necessarily my forte, I understand the importance of reducing as many barriers as possible, allowing search engines to crawl and index as much content as possible.
#1. 404 pages, especially those with existing backlinks. Many non-SEO oriented people delete successful pages once they’re out of date, often that earned many natural links. They should instead 301 those pages to a more relevant up to date page, or update the page content. Regardless of the reasons for these 404 pages with many backlinks, I like to use OSE (www.opensiteexplorer.org), hit up the “Top Pages” tab, and download a CSV. Then I’ll apply a data filter to the sheet I’m working with and look only at pages with a 404 status. Sort the sheet by number of linking domains, and you have yourself a prioritized list of what pages to backlink, re-create, or redirect.
#2. On-page SEO fails. These are generally easy fixes with quick ROI once optimized properly. My tool of choice is the excellent free SEO spider from http://beamusup.com, which has NO crawl limit (I know, for free?!) Czech it out if you never have. I pay for Screaming Frog, but I still use this masterpiece of SEO software. This tool automatically displays errors based on best practice rules, such as “To Note: Status 301”, “Error: Title Duplicate”, “Warning: Title Too Long”, etc. Click the errors and see all of the offending pages. Awesome. If you don’t pay for Moz/OSE, you could accomplish my first tip of 404 link reclamation by crawling with BUU, then sorting by 404 pages. Double awesome.
#3. Traffic & Backlink History. Am I trying to gold plate a pile of shit (sub crap if shit is too offensive for you)? This is the most important preliminary work before embarking on *any* internet marketing campaign. If you don’t know where your client has come from, you can’t accurately predict the effectiveness of your work. I like to use feinternational.com/website-penalty-indicator to quickly scan traffic for potential penalization/algorithmic negativity, but always double check any potential trend I’m looking at in Google Analytics (and of course look for manual penalty notification in WMT). Then I’ll check out anchor text distribution and quality of referring domains with Majestic. For a walk through on how I do that, read my tutorials on Majestic’s blog: Negative Domain Research Part 1 – Anchor Text Segmentation and Negative Domain Research Part 2 – Filtering Majestic’s Referring Domain Data
The three for me:
#1. Technical, including duplicative URL issues, crawl space concerns, and areas such as faceted navigation, pagination, sorts and site search.
#2. Clear prioritization, meaning I don’t want to provide teams with a laundry list of issues, but rather a clearly prioritized list of recommendations that will actually improve performance.
#3. Content concerns. A website audit isn’t necessarily the best place to include deep content strategy and content marketing recommendations, but certainly for gap analysis (what types of content are in demand by searchers but not featured on the site?), keyword mapping (making sure the right terms are on the right pages), and for content analysis (are there too many thin pages and weak content?).
Bonus: I’d include competitive analysis and benchmarking in any site audit.
Here is my answer:
The very first thing I do before starting an audit is asking the client if they’ve had SEO work done before, when it took place, and what exactly they did (or said they did). I try to get as much detail from the client about past SEO efforts because it can be a quick way to set my expectations and what I should look for. The “when” is important too because that can be indicative of the “what” since various tactics were used during different time periods. Along these same lines, I always ask if there have been drops in traffic, manual spam actions or unnatural link warnings.
Next I check the analytics. Not only am I looking at the data itself, but also if it is set up correctly. Invalid data is almost useless, so I just look for proper implementation of tracking codes, GA profile settings, etc. Proper analytics configuration is important for so many reasons, but as a consultant this will prove your worth so it has to be functioning properly before any work is done.
I’ll usually move on to the link profile next. Natural link profiles and “constructed” link profiles are vastly different, and depending on the level of sophistication or effort put forth in this arena, it can be indicative of the health of the site overall.
The three elements I prioritize when conducting a site audit these days are:
#1. Risky Links: Google continues to turn up the heat on link spam and manipulative link practices, so it’s key to comply with their terms of service or risk getting your domain de-indexed. I typically pull a link report in Webmaster Tools to uncover high-risk links.
#2. Crawl Errors: This one is about low hanging fruit and quick wins. Here I focus on cleaning up any 404s with inbound links, so that the link equity can be reclaimed and redirected. The same goes for 301ing any 302s with IBLs. You can pull those status code/IBL reports using either Ahrefs or Screaming Frog.
#3. Duplicate Content: Even if your site is technically sound and has a squeaky clean link profile, duplicate content will kill your performance in the SERPs. Ecommerce sites are even more prone to dupe content issues . I use Moz to crawl for dupe content, and I run a series of intitle, inurl search operators and quoted text to manually check the SERPs as well.
#3. Proper SEO (keyword in the page title, heading, and actual text)
It varies from site to site, but generally most of the aspects I look for fall under the following three areas: authority metrics, crawlability metrics, and relevancy metrics.
#1. Can each page be indexed and crawled, and is there only one version of each page indexed?
#2. Are the keywords we’re targeting actually on the pages that we want to rank?
#3. How does the website handle mobile requests? Is it responsive or is there a mobile version?
There are two phases. The onsite and offsite audit. The onsite audit should be about:
Identify the user flow through the pages of the site.
#1. Spot under-optimized content.
#2. Analyze linking structure in order to detect optimization anomalies.
#3. Knowing to run and then read a backlink audit is utterly important nowadays, particularly when one of the key signals of the Google algorithm is the “link”.
Regarding the back link audit here are three major elements that I am looking at:
#1. Understand the naturalness of the anchor text distribution (commercial vs brand keywords)
#2. Asses the risk of the entire link profile in order to understand the potential penalty that the site has or might have.
#3. Identify the main link building strategies used by the site by looking at the types of sites and links that are linking to the site.
I always look for anomalies in the site or link profile in order to detect possible problems
When auditing a website, my first actions are always to ensure that it can convert visitors into buyers.
The very first thing to check is that there is analytics and any other necessary conversion tracking items on the site and that all actions are being tracked. The next step is to ensure that each page has a conversion activity (or multiples) on it since every page of your site should be treated as a landing page. Finally, its time to examine the layout and make sure that the user’s flow on the site naturally guides their actions towards the conversions points on each page. These three simple steps will ensure that as you create your content that users can easily convert once they are persuaded to take action.
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