Table of Contents
Auditing should be carried out at least every quarter at minimum, quite often if you are managing the site it will just pick up small things that you didn’t notice. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t be monitoring what is going on day to day with your site, having tools like these:
These show you pretty much instantly any changes to a site, which is great when you have clients who may go in and mess things up from an SEO standpoint. An example of this is one of our (now) clients changed all the ‘&’ symbols in their URLs to ‘and’ without 301ing the old URLs, this caused their site to tank nearly to the point where they had to start laying off staff. This would have all been picked up using either one of these tools and any most SEOs would pick up on it instantly.
When starting an audit I like to start broad and narrow it down. So I will go onto the site and get a feel for the site, see if I can browse it easily and whether there are any glaringly obvious things I can see that are wrong. I may use SEO Quake and link checkr to have a brief look at certain pages during this process. I’ll be looking to see how the design of the site feels, are there images and videos? Is the content formatted well (e.g. using bullet points)? Whether the posts are well written, if the posts feel like they are being keyword stuffed. These are all things that come with some time and experience doing SEO.
Then I move onto the more technical audit to begin with I will use one or a combination of the following tools:
Screaming Frog (free up to 500 URLs or £149 per year for unlimited)
All these tools can be used for a baseline audit, they aren’t going to show you the full picture but they give you a birds eye view which can be especially useful when working on sites that are already established opposed to a new build.
If I was to pick one just for auditing I would probably use screaming frog as it gives you 99% of the stuff SEMRush does and there is no monthly fee, but SEMRush is not just an auditing tool and can be great for keyword research.
Above is an example of an excel sheet I will use for an audit.
Here are the main things I look at, which I’m sure with these audits:
- Missing title tags (or if they’re too long or short)
- Missing H1 tags
- H1 and title being the same
- 4XX and 5XX errors
- Alt tags (while these may seem insignificant because most websites aren’t doing them correctly it also means it is a way to gain an advantage)
- In meta forensics they have a section which shows your largest image which can be useful especially if you’re struggling with page speed
- Which redirects they are using and on what pages (ensure that a 301 is used opposed to a 302 as this is only supposed to be used as a temporary redirect and doesn’t pass down link juice)
- Making sure there isn’t duplicate content
- Ensuring each meta description is unique (or if they’re too long or short) and the pages that are hopefully going to receive the most traffic are CRO’d
As you can see these are pretty much the things covered in previous chapters but now are going to be done at scale. Even with clients which are making 5 figures profit per month often you will go in and audit and see at least a few of these things being done, so don’t assume just because a site is making good money the SEO is perfect. It is still worth going in and double checking as these things really are the easy gains.
These tools are by no means perfect and if it goes against your judgement then you should probably go with your gut. For example the meta forensics often will report your content score to be low due to spelling mistakes but a lot of the time these are when you are using abbreviations or technical jargon.
Check SSL Certificate
Ensure that the site has a valid SSL certificate at if it is an ecommerce site consider the EV SSL.
Check Robots.txt and Sitemap
Make sure the website has a robots.txt and sitemap correctly set up.
Use google’s tool to make sure that the schema is set up correctly and if the site doesn’t have schema add the relevant schema.
Check URL Structure
Manually check the URL Structure by navigating the site for potential issues. You want to ensure the URL structure adheres to standard protocols. For example:
- Level 0 = Home page
- Level 1 = product / category
- Level 2 = product / category depending on previous order
These tools also don’t pick up things such as keyword proximity, so this is something that you should manually check on all pages ideally but on a monster site start with those with the highest value keywords and work your way through it with time.
You want to ensure that your keyword is being used close to the data which google’s crawlers are looking at so example of this are the H tags, the first and last paragraph as well as embeddable media.
Internal linking is a vital part of on-page SEO you want to ensure that the link juice is flowing to your money pages as we have previously mentioned. The best way to do this is make sure that pages with links have internal links to your money pages. This is a time consuming process but can make a real difference for your site. So I start with the pages which have most backlinks pointed at it and work my way down the list. Ideally stick to the 50% target anchors and 50% misc anchors.
Term Frequency *Inverse Document Frequency is the algorithm used by google to help understand what the content is about. For example if someone is searching for a word with multiple meanings it will use the words around it and within the content to decide which it is referring to. So if I search amazon am I talking about the amazon rainforest or amazon the online retailer. This is the formula used by Google to decide which search results are relevant for your query.
Here is a good article to refer to and to test the tool provided.
Audit Canonical Tags
Ensure that canonical tags are used correctly if they are being used on the website.
Other SEO Considerations
Topical clusters are the new SILO structure for bigger sites. When creating a topical cluster the category page is the main topic you are going after and you create supporting content around this, as you can see below. This supporting content is internally linking to the category page and vice versa where relevant.
This is how things are indexed in google’s secondary index, where all the information retrieval and indexing takes place (this is where all the patents are being applied). Whereas, the primary index is the search that we see (SERPs). The secondary index affects the primary index, so you want to create these topical clusters and even sub-topical clusters when planning a site.
Co-citation and Co-occurrence
Co-citation is where google looks at the similarities between web pages, so “if site A and B are cited by site C they may be related on one another even though they don’t directly reference each other. If A and B are both cited together many other times they have a stronger relationship” source.
This is in part why it is thought linking out to authority sites may improve rankings, but it is also why you want to ensure that websites you are linking out to aren’t in bad neighborhoods.
Co-occurrence is often thought to just be the use of LSI keywords, but this isn’t the case. “Co-occurrence refers to the association of some particular phrases – or more specifically, important keywords – that come in close proximity to each other” source. If we consider that if the keyword (or a simile) is mentioned twice in the same sentence the distance is 0 and then if they are in a sequential sentences the distance is 1 and so on. Using a keyword and a simile within the same sentence can increase the co-occurrence which may help the ranking and show relevancy of the page.
This relates to the internal linking which has been mentioned earlier.
Where backlinks are in the content has an effect on the link weight. So for example a contextual backlink is the most powerful kind of backlink where as navigation and footer backlinks being the weakest with the sidebar backlinks being somewhere in between.
If we think of link juice as 100 divided by the amount of backlinks on a page if we’re trying to rank a particular page a way to do this may be by reducing the amount of backlinks from the internal pages which link to it.
An easy way to do this is often by reducing the amount of backlinks in the sidebar widget or in the navigation bar instead of having drop down boxes make it so that you click on the category which takes you to a custom built category page.
Reducing the amount of backlinks on a page increases the link flow division to the pages that it is linking to.
Now we are going to cover how to audit a websites’ content, in order to improve single page performance.
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