SEO Audit Checklist

The Ultimate Guide to Conducting an SEO Audit

A comprehensive SEO audit is extremely important for your website no matter whether its large 10,000+ page news site or small 500 page blog.

SEO audits are important because not only can small changes make drastic improvements to your organic traffic and rankings, but Google’s algorithms have also evolved greatly over the last 12-24 months, which means you website needs to keep up with the latest in SEO standards.

The following SEO checklist has been put together to troubleshoot and analyze any potential issues with your website. We’ve also included external links to explain how each of the factors below can affect your website’s organic search performance.

For more information on SEO audits, view our SEO audit order page here with prices starting from just £300.

1.    Search Engine Crawler Accessibility and Sitemap

The main way that Google indexes your site is by sending Google Bots to crawl the pages on your site on a daily basis. A high quality site that publishes fresh content on regular basis should have a high crawl rate in Google Webmaster Tools. If your site has issues with regards to broken links, lack of fresh content or load speed, the Google Webmaster Tools Crawl Data is the first place to look for potential issues.

Graph that shows Google having issues crawling the site from December - January

Graph that shows Google having issues crawling the site from December – January

2.    Internal Site Architecture

One of the main ways that Google ranks website pages is by external and internal links. However, because it’s harder to control the number and variety of external backlinks to your site, the very least you should do is ensure that your internal link structure if optimized for your most popular, highest traffic or highest converting pages. The internal site architecture is probably the most common issue that we find in our site audits, as even high quality sites can fail to manager their link flow effectively.

3.    Broken Links and 404 Errors

Often as websites grow, they update their content, remove out of date pages, change CMS (content management system) or alter their URL parameters.  Over time, this can lead to hundreds of broken links and 404 errors, which can negatively impact your sites performance in the search results. Broken links not only lead to lost link juice and poor user experience, but they can also prevent Google from crawling and indexing the correct pages on your site. In order to prevent 404 errors from happening in the future, you should always add 301 redirects to pages in your .htaccess file before deleting or moving them permanently.

404-Not-found-Screaming-Frog

You can use tools such as Screaming Frog, Xrumer and Google Webmaster Tools to find 404 errors and broken links on your site.

4.    Website and Page Load Speed

Slow loading pages are extremely bad for user experience and SEO. As early as 2010, Google stated that website load speed was a part of Google’s algorithm. Page load speed is also one of the easiest things to fix, which is why a comprehensive SEO audit can be worth its weight in gold.

Google recommends that a good website load speed is 1.5s or less, while the majority of Internet users expect a website to load within 2s.  That means if your website load speed is anything more than 3s then you’re more than double above Google’s recommended page peed, which will negatively impact your rankings.  Furthermore, a 1s delay will cost you 7% in conversions while 40% of users will abandon a shopping site if it takes more than 3s to load. This means by halving your average website speed from 3s to 1.5s you can increase conversions and revenues by more than 10%.

website-load-speed-pingdom-after

In order to test your page load speed, you can use a variety of tools including Pingdom and the Google’s own page speed tool. Simple measures to increase your overall website speed include upgrading your hosting plan to a VPS, leveraging browser caching, improving HTML coding, optimizing images, upgrading all plugins and removing any unnecessary features/themes.

5.    User Experience (UX) , Bounce Rate and Content Quality Audit

Since Google launched Hummingbird in 2013 and baked the Panda update into their core algorithm on a weekly basis (everflux), it’s more than likely that the quality of your overall content and user experience will be having a significant impact on your rankings.

1a6

A comprehensive SEO audit should take UX and content quality into account by studying all of the pages and watching out for any poor performing pages with low visitor time, high bounce rate or little page views. Of course, each of these factors varies according to the nature of the site that we take into account in our audit. For example, news/magazine/blogs generally have a higher bounce rate than in ecommerce. In either case, Marcus from VentureHarbour.com has written an excellent guide to weeding out low quality content on your site here.

6.    Title Tag Length and Descriptions

Title tags are one of the most important factors that Google uses when ranking pages for relevant search queries. In addition to making sure that your title tag is relevant and engaging to the user (ensuring a high CTR% from the search engine result page which is important for SEO), you also need to make sure you don’t have too many duplicate title tags or title tags that are too long to appear on the search engine results page.

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If your title tag is too long, not only will it get cut off (hurting your CTR% and user experience) but it can also lead to Google re-writing your title tags with horrible effects.

7.    Backlink Analysis

In my opinion, backlink analysis has become an increasingly tricky and subjective factor when performing an SEO audit on your site.

This is because if your site is ranking well, it’s easy to look over most links and give them an OK. However, if your site is ranking badly (or hit by an unnatural links penalty) then every link becomes a possible suspect that needs removing or disavowing.  We’ve heard from lots of agencies how x% of links should be your brand or x% of links should be from root domains or only x% amount of links should go to the homepage. The truth (in my opinion) is that what is natural varies depending on the industry, the nature of your site and your content. As such, we aim to act like Google when performing a backlink analysis.  We’ll ignore duplicate/syndicated links but look out for links on spammy networks, optimized anchor text, multiple links from the same C-class IP, site-wide links and anything else that looks manipulative in nature.

8.    Google Algorithm Update and Traffic Level History

An integral part of any audit is to analyze your traffic history, look for unusual traffic losses/rises with regards to previous Google updates to see if these could be impacting your site. You can actually install a few Google algorithm checker tools such as Chartelligence and Panguin Tool on to your Analytics dashboard to compare traffic level changes with previous updates. Otherwise, you can use Moz’s algorithm update history page to see if any of Google’s historical updates correlated with traffic changes on your site. If Panda hit you, you’ll likely see a 30-50% traffic loss, where as Penguin will be significantly more.

9.    Mobile Responsiveness

Mobile responsiveness should probably have come earlier in our checklist: mobile users now make up 30% of all internet traffic; Google has already stated that a lack of mobile responsive design negatively impacts your mobile rankings; and its only a matter of time before a lack of mobile responsive design hurts your desktop rankings too.

10. HTML Markup, Google Authorship and Google Places Listing

Finally, it’s important to make your website stand out as much as possible in Google in order to maximize your CTR% (positive ranking factor) and traffic. In addition to improving your CTR% however, Google authorship and business places listings also helps you rank for local SEO and prepare for Author Rank in the future.

Google Plus Authorship

Adam Grunwerg

Mr grunwerg has written 22 post in this blog.

Adam Grunwerg is the founder of Searchable.co.uk and has numerous years of experience in SEO, inbound marketing developing brands online. He has also previously written for the Guardian, SearchEngineJournal and AffiliateFYI.com.

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  • http://www.webdesignreview.co.uk haris awais

    My website was slower though but now fixed with google’s own tool and pingdom, very nice information really helpful

  • nifty options tips

    Very Good Site and awesome writing too , and great thanks to the writer

    Supernsetips

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    Great blog. Good Tips Provided SEO Audit Checklist. I Recommended every seo experts read blog.thank for sharing

    Shareshoppe