I can go as granular as you like, from 100-200 page audits, to a short, action based document of 10-30 pages. Let’s cover the key areas that I look at as part of my process.
Areas of Analysis
So, when I am auditing a site, I analyse is across a host of different areas, and look for action points for improvement. These can either be handed to a developer / designer, to management for consideration, such as changing platforms or hosting, or implemented by an SEO, content team or PR team, i.e. optimization, content creation, outreach.
Here are the main categories I look at:
Keyword Research: I review the keywords being used on the website, and I’m particularly looking for keyword gaps – areas and types of content which are missing from the site, i.e. opportunities. Also existing search positions, past fluctuations, and to understand why the site is where is it, and why other sites might be above it. Also I look at headline KPIs like search visibility.
Site Speed: Always a go to area. Sites should load in under 2 seconds (less, really), and it’s a ranking factor. I use GTMetrix, and read the reports on areas for improvement, to look for suggestions on what could be improved technically on the site. I consider everything from minified CSS and JS to changing hosting provider.
Technical Factors & SEO: What CMS / ecom platform is in use, the hosting & server types and locations, the code and coding language, etc. Asking the development team the right questions can often yield useful insights. I ensure I look to see how essential SEO meta tags such canonicals, noindex, nofollow, etc., have been implemented. It’s vital to take a look in Search Console and Analytics and look at the data here, particularly changes and trends. Also checking HTAccess, Robots, Sitemaps are in place and optimized for the site is essential. Important to consider security, such as SSLs. Log File analysis can yield useful insights, as well.
Link Audit: Doing a full review of the links to the site, sources, quality, velocity, etc., and of course comparing these against competitors to look for gaps and opportunities. Looking at low quality or bad links that need to be disavowed, fake / PBN links, and quality editorial links. Quick wins like directory links are always good, and I believe social signals help, but ideally it’s about quality relationship building with third party sites. I look for examples of that, including when looking at competitors and think creatively about how to elicit more (thinking about content here).
UX / CRO: It’s not enough to look at SEO in isolation, as this is about getting Google to rank your site and attract visitors – that’s just the first step. The goal is to give users a good experience that results in conversions. As part of any process, I always look at page paths, mobile experience, and how a site feels / looks for users. Can things be improved, so there are more sales / leads?
On Page Optimization: I look at all of the main areas such as good word count, creative sub headings that use keywords and heading tags, title tags, canonical tags, and meta data. Internal linking is essential, particularly structured, programmatic linking (e.g. breadcrumb trails, etc). Metadata should be optimized – doing this creatively can improve click through rates, for example.
Content: Always a key area. I look at the technical side, but I’m also looking at the areas of coverage. Do products have descriptions? Are they just duplicated content which has been cut and pasted from the manufacturer? There is a LOT to consider in this area. Good FAQs, Buyer / User Guides, creative, and high quality content which is keyword driven and highly engaging is key. There are almost always gaps, and these can be discovered through competitor analysis, keyword research, looking at social media and news / magazine sites for inspiration, and creative brainstorming. As a former journalist, I’m always good at coming up with ideas.
Mobile: Always important to have a mobile hat on. Running the site through various tools, such as Google’s own, yields insights.
Competition: Always a great place to look for gaps in content and backlinks, as well as best practice when it comes to design and layout. When a site is outranking the one being audited, and ranking across a greater range and diversity of keywords, the question is ‘Why?’. Running these through Ahrefs and SEMRush competitor research and analysis tools can be handy.
Tools I use
As part of the site audit process, I like to use a range of tools but here are the main ones.
Ahrefs – Their link index is the most comprehensive. Easily the single best third party SEO Tool aside from those produced by Google.
SEMRush A really comprehensive tool, with a lot of data. Good for monitoring lots of aspects of the site, when set up.
Keywords Everywhere Free and easy to install, for search volume, competition data and suggestions.
Screaming Frog Particularly good for meta data. and useful for creating XML Sitemaps.
Rank Tracking Software – SERPBook, ProRankTracker, etc.
Search Console: Google’s own tool is the one of the best for data, particularly on what keywords are ranking, click through rates, search volumes etc. You can also spot issues in meta data, spam links, and submit disavowals. Also important for submitting an up to date sitemap.
Google Analytics: Of course, the original tool for analysing website visitors and use. I also use Google’s other tools, such as their Mobile friendly tool, Structured Data tool, Rich Results, PageSpeed Insights.
Siteliner: I use this to get a quick look at duplicate data.
Copyscape: Again, looking at duplicate data & whether or not it has been copied through rewriting / spinning.
Site audits are something I enjoy doing, as they bring out the detective or journalist in me! Looking for places where a site can be improved and made better is always rewarding, as it can lead to action points that can really help the business or organisation that owns it. It feeds my interest in both creativity and geeky technical / data analysis, using all of my brain.
If you’d like me to do an SEO Audit for you, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org .