By Paul Morris
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) audits are a great way of understanding a potential clients SEO, winning business and then ultimately creating a sound base to improve the clients SEO KPI’s in the medium-long term.
This SearchMuze post divides an SEO audit in to 4 parts (prep, onsite, offsite and ‘other’ media). For several reasons I have chosen to omit the fifth part – presenting the findings – from this post.
How to conduct an SEO audit: Prep
Before you audit anything you need to understand what you’re auditing.
You need to understand the site purpose, what the current KPI’s are and then how the client is going about achieving those at present. Your audit should not be driven by their current KPI’s (as they could be unrealistic or flawed) however you definitely need to understand their current position, what drives them, how they measure success and what their SEO strategy is.
Rare until you win the business however if you can gain access to their analytics package, webmaster tools, etc then clearly do so for additional detailed insight.
How to conduct an SEO audit: Onsite review
Page titles – make sure they are tailored to the target keywords and page content, are unique per page and are not too short or too long.
Content – make sure the client has decent quality unique content that contains the targeted keywords. Ensure they are using the canonical tag, no index or 301 redirect correctly for any duplicate content. Ensure the site is not keyword stuffing and is using target keyword related synonyms. The homepage, important category level pages and the navigation/ footer should have content married with relevant anchor text to pass link juice to important pages.
Techy optimisation – Meta tags, redirects, http headers, header tags, robots, meta description, 404 pages, test urls with and without www, etc should be optimised/ working. Also check other areas such as domain age and page rank to give some further background as to why they may/ may not be ranking well.
Internal linking – make sure important lower tree level pages are accessible from higher up the site structure and they are using optimised anchor text.
url/ site structure – nice clean short urls with targeted keywords is the way to go. Study the url site structure (do they have an indexable sitemap that is updated regularly?) and look for errors/ areas of improvement. Also look at the site structure without style elements (e.g. in Firefox change the ‘page style’ to ‘no style’) to see what the bot sees. Also use Google advanced seo operator queries such as Site:url to check there is a natural site hierarchy order.
How to conduct an SEO audit: Offsite
Analyse inbound links. Use Link:url, Linkdomain:inurl and/or Majestic SEO and/or Linkscape and/or Yahoo Site Explorer to do so. Do they have ‘enough’ links? How are they doing compared to the competition? Are the links they have from good quality pages/ sites? Any links from bad neighbourhoods? A proportion clearly purchased? Do they use relevant anchor text? Is the anchor text varied ‘enough’ (i.e. there needs to be an element of chaos theory to your link building activity)?
Universal Search Opportunities – Within the offsite seo audit consider the smorgasbord of Google services (the ones along the top of Google’s homepage) as your additional checklist.
Images – Many companies do not care if their images are well optimised for image search however images still need to be optimised.
Video – Do they have videos? If they have videos have they been syndicated? If they have been syndicated have they been optimised correctly?
Maps – Check for local visibility for brand + location and then relevant keyword + location. Are they showing up for relevant searches? Is there a lack of consistency with the map listings? Do the links go to where they should? If not look at the map feed (particularly optimise name, categories, phone number format and description) It is also an idea to check other local business sources as well e.g. touch local, scoot, BT phone book, 192, etc.
Shopping – Check for visibility for brand name and then for relevant keywords. Make sure they have a Google merchant account and are submitting/ optimising their product feed.
Google news – Check and make optimisation recommendations (obvious faults are a lack of a 4 digit reference in the url, needs to be written by independent authors, quality unique content and is not just about their brand)
How to conduct an SEO audit: ‘Other’ media
As search engine optimisation is about ‘searching for stuff’ you need to look outside the conventional SEO definition and also audit the clients presence on PPC and in social media and also look at the customer journey/ conversion rate (as SEO should ultimately be measured from an ROI perspective).
How to conduct an SEO audit: SEO Tools
I finish by giving you some tools to conduct the above with:
SEOMoz tools (the ‘linkscape visualisation and comparison’ tool is particularly nice), Google advanced seo operator queries, yahoo link checker, Webconfs, seomoz toolbar, Google toolbar, xenu link sleuth, Radion 6, SEM Rush, your seo brain, etc.