What Should Be Included in a Website Audit?

This question comes up often when new webmasters or small business owners are curious about ways to improve their site.

I have provided this answer or answers similar to this on social media outlets and it has received some private thumbs up and even inquiries from small business owners.

Not every strategy that CAN be done is represented here, but this is an excellent start that should provide an outline or guide with 6-12 months of SEO work to complete.  The Website Audit can be done in about 20-50 hours.

SEO Audit Essentials:

  • Website structure
  • Content
  • Speed
  • Popularity
  • Competitor Analysis

Download Screaming Frog software right now.  It is free.  This software will review your site in a very quick format and provide excellent information on the structure of the site.

It does take a keen eye to know what to look for, but the speed in which the review is done (less than 5 minutes), and the information provided, will allow an experienced SEO to create an immediate action plan to improve the structure of the site.

screaming frog for seo audits

Screaming Frog is one of the go-to tools for professional SEOs. The best part is that it is Free.

Screaming Frog does not give you a report, it provides information for a professional to discern areas of improvement.  Once you get used to the format, Screaming Frog provides invaluable information available at your fingertips – literally.

Website Structure Includes: (but not limited to)

  • Title Tags
  • Meta Descriptions
  • H1 Tags
  • H2 Tags
  • URLs
  • 404s (and other errors)
  • Canonicals
  • Internal Links
  • Page Content
  • Image Names
  • ALT Tags
  • Image Size
  • And much more.

Critical SEO Structure Questions

  • “Are there missing Title Tags or duplicate Title Tags?”
  • “What is the length of the Title Tags?”   More than 55 is not optimal.  Less than 50 is not strategic.
  • “Do they include incentives, benefits, and a call to action?”   An entire book can be written about this.
  • “Are there missing meta descriptions or duplicates?  Are they too long or too short? “
  • “Are the meta descriptions & H1 tags strategic, like the Title Tags? Or are they 1 or 2 keywords along with the company name?”
  • “Are the Title tags and H1 tags the same?”  They should not be the same, they should complement each other.
  • “Are H2 tags used strategically with good labels and anchor text?”
  • “Are the images optimized and proper size?”
  •  “Do they include ALT tags?”

seo audit questions

To an experienced SEO, this is the harbinger of an SEO assessment.  If there are problems with your top level SEO elements, there will be problems and opportunities everywhere else.

Text Decoration and Internal Linking

I will look at Category Pages, Services Pages and other high-level pages to see if there are internal links and text decoration that makes them readable. I will note this in the audit.  Items included:

  • readability
  • text decoration
  • internal links
  • anchor text

The word readability will get flagged in MS Word as a spelling error, but it is a real thing.  Is your content easy to read?  That’s readability.

Readability improves when the content has good text decoration.  Text decoration means using appropriate colors to highlight a word or phrase.  Text decoration also means using boldface type, italics, or underlined text.

When your content includes a list, it is always easier to read a bulleted list than a series in a paragraph.

Text Decoration helps to keep peoples’ interest.  Few people can read blocks of text.  Blocks of text have been shown to cause unpleasant physiological responses including:

  • nervousness
  • irritability
  • impatience
  • increased heart rate
  • sweating

Internal links are links on your site to other pages on your site.  Link equity (link juice), which is the “credit” given by Google for your page popularity is shared with other pages on your site.

Pretend that one page on your site is super popular and many websites are linking to it.  A great strategy is to link to other pages from that one popular page.  As a result, those linked pages become slightly more popular.

It is sort of like being friends with the popular kids.  Your popularity improves as a result.

Information Architecture

seo site audit information architectureDuring an SEO Review, I will review the information architecture of a site to ensure the site build-out is thorough.

Site Build-Out means every possible page or nugget of information about the company, product or service has been created and presented on the site in a logical manner.

If you want to learn everything there is to know about information architecture, Read this book: Information Architecture for the World Wide Web If you read this book and pay close attention, take notes and apply the concepts to your current sites, you can sit in any website architecture meeting and provide valuable feedback, understand how the architecture will affect usability and SEO.

This is one of the most important books in website development.

Service sites like dentists offices should have pages for every service, sub-service, procedure descriptions, Q&A, reviews & testimonials, directions and parking info (with interactive maps), insurance information, Smile Gallery (before & after), and the like.  The labeling on the menus should be intuitive and the writing should be appropriate to the target market.

Ecommerce sites need to have different pages than the ones listed above. This means e-commerce sites have list pages like Category, Brand, Brand + Category, Product Pages, Variant Pages, Family Pages, Discount Pages, Review Pages, and other linkable content.

Most companies have policies against linking to ecommerce websites.  This results in a greater effort to gain backlinks from reputable referring domains.

Nonprofit organizations and government websites may NEVER link to an ecommerce site.  This means effort on instructional material like REI provides on their site is now mandatory for making your ecommerce site popular.  When Information Architecture, Content and Link Building begin to blend, you know you are deeply involved in SEO that makes a difference.  This is the fun part of high level SEO.

Internal Search:  Does your internal search work properly?  This matters.  Is Google indexing your search pages?  Are those pages conflicting with non-search pages?  These are all very important questions because the site owners wants the best page to appear for a searcher to gain them as a customer.

internal search seo audit

If your internal search is impeding the sites ability to convert, fix it.  If your internal search is helping, test it to the limits.  Many ecommerce companies limit their Google indexing to 3 keyword phrases in a query.  Find out what works for you, but always review your pages being indexed in Google.  Search pages are very important pages that often convert very well.

Schema

Schema is a structured data markup that is supported by major search engines.

  • Structured – A preset way to name and categorize data on a page that is accepted as universal.
  • Data – The information you have available about the page, product, service or site.
  • Markup – A particular way to format the information.

Schema SEO Audits

This helps search engines understand the information you have on your site or page to provide richer results for the searcher.
Ratings and Reviews showing on search engine result pages (SERPS) , for example.

schema example of rich snippet

If you want to review the first site’s schema:   Go to this link:  https://versus.com/en/nikon-d3400-vs-nikon-d5600 and view the data source.

Are YOUR pages using Schema?  We all like the rich snippets (reviews and ratings) on search results pages, right?  There are numerous ways to list data.  Your job is to make sure the site is using Schema if it could benefit from Schema.  That is all.

You are not REQUIRED to use schema to have rich snippets appear, by the way.  Google prefers as much help as possible and doesn’t guarantee a site will have rich snippets on SERPS either.  Everything is at Google’s discretion.

social media markup seo audit

Social Media Schema is important as well.  If a person shares your page or content, will the correct information be displayed on social media?

Share abandonment happens when a person hits the share button but the preview that is displayed is dissatisfactory and the site user abandons the process.  Usually it is a missing image, the wrong image or an incongruent title or description.  I have seen this happen often and proper social media schema can reduce share abandonment.

I always share several pieces of content to ensure the site is programmed correctly and I include my findings on the SEO audit.

Always check for proper guidance on Schema | Social Schema when doing a site audit.

URL Structure

I’ll also look at the URL structure to make sure that the URL structure is intuitive and the words in the URL reflect the content on each page.  This process only takes a few minutes.  Most recommendations are for future URLs –> changing current urls requires grave errors in programming.

I recommend getting rid superfluous faux folders like /category/ in a URL.  I also recommend changing date oriented URLs.  No one searches on the word Category and no one searches for dates – it adds nothing to have these in your URL.

It is better to have mysite.com/seo-audits/ rather than mysite.com/category/seo-audits/ or mysite.com/2018/10/seo-audit/

Always have good, efficient, intuitive, descriptive words in the URL.   If you use WordPress, it can be changed easily.  Custom sites should be strategized WAY before the development process begins, but always look for quality keywords that people use to search for your service or product or geo-location.

SEO Audit Estimate

I estimate 30-60 minutes per page for manual updates to these elements and the elements below.  If a site has 50 pages (including template pages) and 35 pages need work, 25-35 hours is the estimated time to complete that work.

At $60-$90 per hour, cleaning up the site’s structure and have that be a permanent fix – that is only $1,500 – $3,000.  In 2 weeks the work is done and the rest of the SEO budget for the year can be dedicated to link building and useful content creation.

Content

Review Actual Site Content

My first question:  “Is the content on this website useful to current or prospective customers or visitors?”

My second question:  “Is any of this content linkable content?”

In other words, is this content so good someone would link to it from their own site or possibly share it on their social media?  If not?  Make it better!

useful content when doing an seo audit

Content Benchmarking is very important when conducting site audits.  You don’t necessarily have to demonstrate perfection.  To be in the Top 3 results, you just have to beat your online competitors.  Begin by assessing your competitor’s content.  Maybe your client can do it better.

Provide useful information about content that is NEEDED and WANTED by site users and potential customers.  What is currently out there and what is working and perhaps what COULD work if the client created it.   An assessment like this will allow the site owner some guidance on a content plan for the next year.

For Example:   I may review the top 5 organic results for SEATTLE DENTIST OFFICE to assess what type of site content, architecture and backlinks they receive and compare with my client, especially if my client is ranked on the 3rd page.

I will review different types of content including:

  • How To Articles
  • Demonstrations
  • Video
  • Infographics
  • Interactive
  • Online Tools
  • Helpful Industry News
  • Product Descriptions
  • Specification Descriptions
  • Comparisons between products or services
  • User Reviews
  • Blogs
  • Bulletin Boards
  • Instructional

Is the content limited to simple descriptions of the product or service or is there more?

Additional content:

– Q & A
– Reviews & Ratings
– Other Similar Products
– Also Purchased
– Specifications
– Options
– Activities
– Success Stories

Do they have any content that others would find link worthy?

Obviously, you want to look to see if they have a Blog & are actually writing content daily or weekly.  Are people linking to that content?  That is important.  Maybe the blog isn’t working.  They need to know.

This is all very important information that must be reviewed and assessed.

Site Popularity

site popularity seo audit

Lastly, I will do an assessment of the total popularity as it relates to search engine optimization.

I use three tools for popularity SEMrush, Ahrefs and Majestic to look at the following:

  • Total backlinks
  • Referring domains
  • Authority of those referring domains
  • Geo-locations of referring domains
  • Link ratios  (total backlinks÷referring domains= link ratio)  I have measured link ratios for over 4 years and it is a useful calculation when reviewing your site and your competitors.

I typically do a comparison with top 5 online competitors.  That is Actual competitors not directory-type websites (Avvo, Findlaw, Yelp).  I provide feedback on actual businesses that compete with that client’s site.

I often (not always) provide all the backlinks from their competitors in MS Excel format.  This way, the client can attempt to contact those sites and gain backlinks or provide that information to their webmaster.

When you create an audit where the customer is convinced that you had their best interest in mind they are more likely to choose you to actually do the work. In my opinion, your name and your reputation are on the line, so make it a valuable investment and a working document that can help your client improve their site to make more sales.

My personal quality control test is to think of the best and most highly critical SEO to ever walk the earth and read it through their eyes.  Until I think they will say “It was well worth the money,” I keep improving the report. That way, I know I have provided my client with an excellent guide moving forward for the next 6-12 months.

Page Speed

Go to GTMETRIX.com right now, put in your domain name and see how fast and efficient your site is compared to your competition.  It is FREE!  It also gives instructions on what issues your site has and provides an indication on how to fix those issues to make the site pages faster.  Every experienced SEO uses GTMETRIX.com.  Here below, you can see just 1 item gets me a failing score.  I’ll fix this next week and I’ll have a score in teh 80%.

gtmetrix seo audit page speed

After 30 minutes, I changed a plugin and added a plugin.  I deleted the cache and retested.  After a few more minutes, that score was made even better:  Excellent!!

speed test seo audit

These scores were obtained on November 5th, 2018 or so on GTmetrix.com. You can test it yourself… go ahead. Go To GTMETRIX.com and enter: https://www.clickhail.com. It may fluctuate a few points here and there, but these are solid stats for now.  Here is the latest test on May 19, 2019.

seo gtmetix seo audit

Google also has a tool called Page Speed Insights that provides details of your site.   If you are connected to Google Analytics, there are tools located under the Behaviors Tab:

Site Speed

  • Overview
  • Page Timings
  • Speed Suggestions
  • User Timings

Additional Assessments Included:

Design – If the design is keeping people from buying products or calling for services, design will be addressed.  It could be large images, poor aesthetics compared to competition, old design, outdated technology (flash) or design usability like menu flyouts that don’t work well.  Imagery is also another issue that I will occasionally address.

Once I had a client that used himself as the model for all his products.  The problem was that he didn’t shave his face – always looked unkept.  This is not an SEO issue, it is a design and aesthetics issue that affected his business, but he didn’t know it.  I made gracious suggestions.

Usability – Google has stated that good usability = good SEO.  If a site makes it difficult for a user to use the site, it affects business.  This might include the decoration of anchor text, faceted search & filtering, findability, or “People Also Purchased” features of ecommerce sites.

Mobile usability is very important since about 60% of visitors are visiting on their phones or other mobile devices.  I will always review a client’s site through my phone and make comments about the site’s usability.

This is a beginning for site owners and webmasters that want to assess and improve their site.

Send me an email and I’ll include some of your favorite audit techniques as well.  We can all improve together.

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