Site Audit are health check ups of your site to identify eventual errors and poor performing elements that prevent the site from achieving the best results in terms of traffic, user experience and therefore ranking. A Site Audit can be performed using many free automatic tools available on the Internet; however, manual audits offer the best insight as someone’s knowledge and expertise can pin point exactly what needs to be optimized on the basis of a site history, performance, audience, goals and vision. The most common site audits are:
- Site Health Audits: To identify the general site health or when there is a site health issue such as loss of traffic or ranking.
- Red Flag Audits: Assessing a site for potential penalty issues which could cause loss of ranking and therefore of traffic.
- Competitive Site Audits: To identify site gaps both in the site structure and among its competitors in order to find new opportunities for growth.
- Conversion Optimization Audits: To analyse conversion issues, which can be due to lack of on-site SEO optimization or technical errors.
- Negative SEO or Attacked Site Audits: To analyse downturns in site metrics due to negative SEO methods, such as black-hat strategies.
- Penalty and Recovery Audits: To analyse downturns in site metrics when a site has been automatically or manually penalized.
- Security Audits: Security audits for site vulnerability especially important in high-risk verticals and high value sites, but everyone should have one.
Site Health Audit
A general site audit to identify potential performance issues. It focuses on:
- Quick Overview (indexed pages, landing pages)
- Technical (e.g., hosting, server metrics, down time, caching)
- Onsite (e.g., content, design, meta and schema tags, URL construction, page speed)
- Accessibility and Indexation
- Site architecture and internal linking
- Mobile Optimization
- Internal (e.g., internal link structures, anchor text, site architecture)
- External (e.g., links to your site, value, acquisition patterns, anchor text)
- Social media (e.g., profiles, optimization, links)
1. Quick Overview
- Start with Site:Search by entering in Google site: yourdomain.com
- Count the number of returned pages. Google gives you an indication of how many pages the search engine found.
- If the Homepage is first result, it is a good indication of a well designed site architecture.
- Check if your designed landing pages appear in the Site:Search. If you own an e-commerce site a good landing page example could be your most popular product page or a sign up page. Independently from your site, a great landing page shows only key, essential content, a call to action (sign up or social share) and the user’s benefits.
- Search for the brand or branded terms. If they show up, it is a good indication that the site has not been penalized.
2. Technical Audit
Technical Audit are performed to identify technical issues that might make it difficult for search engines to crawl and index your site. In that instance, ranking might be compromised and as consequence, traffic or potential business might suffer.What follows is a checklist of items you should watch for when conducting a technical SEO audit. Here are the parameters that should be considered when performing a technical site audit.
- Hosting evaluates the security issues your website data might have.
- Server Metrics to consider
- Requests per Second (RPS) is the evaluation of how many requests per second are being sent to a target server and it is often referred to as Average Load. It is usually calculated as a count of the requests received during a measurement period expressed in seconds (in the range of 1 – 5 minutes).
- Error Rates is calculated as a percentage of problem requests relative to all requests and therefore measures the“performance failure” of a site. Generally, it is expected an Error Rate of less than 1% for a website to be considered successful.
- Average Response Times (ART) measures the duration of every request/response cycle during a Monitoring period and then calculates the mathematical mean of all the response times , which allows to determine how long the web application takes to generate a response.
- Uptime is the amount of time that a server has stayed up and running properly. The value can be calculated as an absolute value or as a percentage of actual server uptime to ideal server uptime.
- CPU utilization is the amount of CPU time used by the Web Application while processing a request, which indicates how much of the processor’s capacity is currently in use by your application.
- Google’s cache for key pages As discussed in the above point, time is an important parameter when it comes down to user experience. Caching is a method to improve load speed time and therefore your website traffic. While there are many methods for generating page caching, you can use a tool such as CacheView to visualize how a search engine, such as Google, cache your webpages. The cached version should not appear any different from the non-cached version: the content (both images and text) should be present, navigation links should not be missing and no extra content or additional navigation links should appear.
- 3xx Redirection is a class of status code that indicates the client must take additional action to complete the request. 301s are used for all redirects when a page has been moved permanently. therefore, this and all future requests should be directed to the new given URI, without relaying on redirect chains. Other 3xx redirects include: 302s and 307s, a temporary Redirect, which indicates that the request should be repeated with another URI.
- Canonical version needs to be specified when there are several versions of the same page to establish which one the search engine should be referring/redirecting to and therefore not counting the additional versions as duplicated content. To define a canonical version, you need to add:< link rel=”canonical” href=”http://yourdomain.com/canonicalpagename”> to the non-canonical page <head>.
3. On-page SEO
According to Moz “On-page SEO is the practice of optimizing individual web pages in order to rank higher and earn more relevant traffic in search engines. On-page refers to both the content and HTML source code of a page that can be optimized, as opposed to off-page SEO which refers to links and other external signals.”
- Title Tags should be optimized and unique, the brand name included to improve click-through rates and about 55-60 characters to be fully displayed.
- Description Tags should be optimized and unique, compelling enough to entice users to click on the page and about 255 characters to be fully displayed.
- Primary keyword phrases that best describe your site’s goal appear multiple times as well as variations and alternate keyword phrases. They are also contained in <h1>headlines</h1>.
- Images file names and alt text are optimized to include the primary keyword phrase associated with the page.
- URLs are descriptive, include keywords, have few or no IDs/parameters and finally are less then 115 characters.
- The Homepage should contain at least 150 words.
- All pages should present original content and not just a series of links.
- All pages contain <h1>headlines</h1> that attract readers attention.
- All pages contain keywords that match the intent of the homepage and landing pages.
- Users can easily convert as conversion pages are easily accessible.
- Users can learn about the product through well-optimized product description pages.
- Formatting is optimized through the use of CSS-stylesheets.
- Check for duplication by copying a snippet of content and search for it in Google Chrome. Otherwise, you can use a free plagiarism checker. The content is defined as unique when:
- It has not been copied from another site
- The same content does not appear on multiple pages
- It has a Single and Unique URL of idetification
- SITE SPEED
- Enable caching. If you want to learn more read this blog about caching for SEO.
- Enable compression using Gzip
- Optimize images, Reduce size without losing definition.
4. Accessibility and Indexation
- By default search engines assume that they can crawl everything unless you tell them otherwise. A solution for completely blocking the index of a particular page is to use a add a robots.txt file to your webmaster tool page and specific which pages should be excluded. The file can be easily generated by using online Robotx.txt Generator and the pages that should be ignored by the search engine should be defined as follow:
- <meta name=”robots” content=”noindex“> <– the page is not indexed, but links may be followed
- <meta name=”robots” content=”noindex,nofollow“> <– the page is not indexed & the links are not followed
- The Sitemaps protocol allows a webmaster to inform search engines about URLs on a website that are available for crawling/indexing. Add a sitemap and submit it to Google/Bing Webmaster Tools using a sitemap generator.
- Open Google Webmaster Tool Googlebot to check if the site is accessed correctly.
- Use a software such as Screaming Frog to check for 4xx errors and 5xx errors.
5. Site architecture and internal linking
A site structure that is accessible both to users and search engines allows any business to gain organic traffic and better ranking. From the point of view of users, it means that a site easy to navigate will be more easily visited, referred and shared. From the point of view of the search engine, a clear structure means that the site is crawled more easily and therefore indexed more rapidly. To learn more of how site structure affects ranking read this blog entry.
- Number of links on a page should not exceed 300 links
- Vertical and Horizontal linking structures are in place
- Main menus (category) re-direct to sub-menus (products) and item pages (product) as appropriate.
- Menus and item pages link to other relevant menus and item pages.
6. Mobile Optimization
As more and more people access the internet through mobile devices, a website needs to be optimized for mobiles to avoid the risk of losing traffic.
- A mobile site needs to be set up with a responsive design to optimize button and image sizes for small devices. In the first instance, CSS is set up in a manner that sizes are expressed in pixel and therefore as relative values of the entire page size. On the Internet you can find many free responsive design templates.
- Google Analytics tracking codes are set up if separate mobile content exists and it is different for mobile users.
- In case the mobile users’ experience is different, the site needs to be redesigned according to the intent of mobile visitors.
- The relationship desktop/mobile device needs to be established with rel=canonical
Internal links are hyperlinks that point directly to a target contained in the same domain of the source; in short, an internal link points to another page on the same website. Internal links are important as they help users to navigate the site, give search engine an idea of the site structure and spread ranking power along the pages of the site (it is often referred to as link juice). As crawlers cannot access specific types of links, it is wise to keep them to the minimum as they will not be indexed. These links are:
- Links in Flash or Java
- Links that can be accessed only through search boxes
- Links blocked by Robots.txt files
- Links buried too deep in the site structure
External Links are hyperlinks that point to a target that belongs to a domain other than the source domain; in short, an external link points to your website from a different one or vice-versa. External links that point to your website are the most important ranking factor for search engines as they are difficult to manipulate and express a vote of popularity (a sort of “thumb up”). However, not all links are the same and therefore particular attention to link-quality must be paid when linking to an external site. In specific, links must show:
- Relevance: they must be connected to the topic of your website; for instance, a link to a yoga site from a business site would not make sense. However, if you write about how to release stress, get in shape despite a busy life-style, the link gets immediately relevant.
- Popularity: the link is sent to a well established, content-rich site. If we consider the above example, the yoga site should contain relevant content and in addition, be a well established site in the yoga community.
- The anchor text used to link the page
If you want to know more on how to get external (or inbound) links to your site, read this article on inbound linking.
Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram have become powerful tools to increment the number of links pointing to a website at basically zero cost. They offer brand exposure, customer outreach, social shares and even potential free marketing (for instance, when a user subscribe to your page).Each platform presents its own unique characteristics and therefore it should be considered carefully before spending energies on a platform that does not suit the brand or the marketing strategy. If you want to know more on how to optimize your digital marketing strategy, please refers to these articles about Pinterest and Twitter. However, independently from the platform, you should always:
- Write a compelling page profile that includes your name, photo, logo, even mission statement and vision.
- Include hyperlinks that point to your main site.
- Write consistently with relevant and quality content (do not spam!).
- Engage with your audience (answer their questions, solve their problems, etc.).