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May 9, 2013

What to Include in a Web Site SEO Audit

If you’re a website owner, designer or search engine optimization (SEO) consultant, you’ll need to conduct a Website Audit from time to time. These are especially crucial in the following scenarios:

1. Prior to implementing / costing a SEO strategy.
2. Prior to rolling out a new web design or Content Management System (CMS).
3. In advance of seeking Venture Capital or investment of some kind.
4. Prior to putting a Website / business up for sale (to accurately determine site value).

The content of your audit will be slightly different depending on the scenario you face. Below are my recommendations for what to include in any Website Audit in scenario number one – ahead of launching a search engine optimization strategy.

What is a Website Audit for SEO?

A Website Audit for SEO is a detailed overview and analysis of a site’s performance in the search engines and the site’s overall search engine compatibility. The audit should look at a range of elements of a site and how these may be impacting visibility in search engines as well as suggestions for how any issues can be addressed.

Recommended Website Audit Inclusions:

SEO Metrics:

  • External Backlinks *
  • Citation Flow *
  • Trust Flow *
  • Domain Authority *
  • mozRank (Global Link Popularity) *
  • mozTrust (Global Link Trust) *
  • CMS Compatibility
  • Image Filenames
  • Alt Img Attributes
  • Page URL and Filename compatibility
  • Link Referrals
  • Title and META Tags
  • Text Content
  • Target Keywords
  • Keyword Density
  • Sample Search Term Ranking
  • Google Webmaster Tools Account Check
  • Bing Webmaster Tools Account Check
  • Google PageRank
  • Viewed as Googlebot
  • Check against Google Quality Guidelines

The starred (*) metrics can be retrieved via RavenTools.

Site Metrics:

  • Load Time *
  • Page Speed *
  • Robots.txt Check *
  • Malware Check *
  • Canonical URL Check *
  • Domain Registration *
  • Google Analytics Integration *
  • Site Auditor *
  • HTML Validation
  • Browser Compatibility
  • Spelling / Grammar Check
  • Dead Link Check
  • Check for XML Sitemap
  • Copyright Date
  • Mobile / Tablet Version
  • Hosting Location

The starred (*) metrics can be retrieved via RavenTools.

Analytics Metrics:

  • Traffic Sources
  • Geographic Share
  • Conversion Sources
  • Site Engagement / Returning Visitors
  • Top Entry Pages
  • Top Exit Pages
  • Search Engine Share
  • Top Search Queries
  • Most Popular Content

The above metrics can be gathered via Google Analytics or another Analytics program, provided you arrange access to your client’s site account.

Competitor Metrics:

You generally only need to provide competitor metrics if your client is in a highly competitive industry, or if they seek a benchmark for where they sit compared to their competitors in the same space. You’ll need to locate the URLs of your client’s major competitors in order to include these metrics.

  • External Backlinks *
  • Citation Flow *
  • Trust Flow *
  • Domain Authority *
  • mozRank (Global Link Popularity) *
  • mozTrust (Global Link Trust) *
  • Target Keywords
  • Sample Search Term Ranking
  • Google PageRank

The starred (*) metrics can be retrieved via RavenTools.

Specific Recommendations:

This is where you highlight problem areas found during the audit that are currently impacting the site’s visibility in search engines. This area of the audit should include a list of recommendations, specific to the site being audited, to resolve the highlighted issues.

General Recommendations:

This is where you list less critical issues found during the audit that may not be impacting the site’s search engine visibility, but could improve the site’s overall compatibility / usability as a whole. This area of the audit should include a list of general recommendations for improvement and maintenance going forward.

Glossary of Terms:

Website Audits can contain a lot of jargon that stakeholders may not be familiar with. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to include a glossary of terms and/or a list of definitions for each of your reports so that recipients can fully understand the findings.

Next Steps:

In most SEO Website Audits, I like to include a Next Steps section to help clients understand what options they now have to address all issues discovered during the audit process. Depending on the complexity of changes required, this could include one or more of the following steps:

  1. Linking to your consulting services and fees (assuming you have the skills/time to make the changes).
  2. Recommending the company complete a SEO Requirements Document to establish the precise project parameters, so you can accurately quote and tailor the SEO campaign to their exact needs.
  3. Recommending an industry expert or outside consultancy become involved (assuming specialist knowledge is required or you don’t have the skills/time to make the changes).
  4. Suggesting SEO-specific training for staff to take (if the changes are minimal and/or your client wants to keep things in-house).

Provided you include the above sections in any Website Audit for SEO purposes, there should be no nasty surprises that crop up during the SEO process. Good luck!

Article by Kalena Jordan, one of the first search engine optimization experts in Australia, who is well known and respected in the industry, particularly in the U.S. As well as running a daily Search Engine Advice Column, Kalena manages Search Engine College – an on-line training institution offering instructor-led short courses and downloadable self-study courses in Search Engine Optimization and other Search Engine Marketing subjects.