Technical Site Audit Checklist {solid}

SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog

Posted by Geoff Kenyon

We all want to deliver actionable site audits, but doing the research can be a bit overwhelming if you donít have a process in place to systematically go through a site. I have created a site audit checklist that will walk you through how to do a site audit. This will work for most sites – in many cases you will need to customize the checklist a bit as some aspects won’t be relevant or are unable to be changed.

Make sure to look at really important pages (high priority landing pages, pages with a lot of links, pages flagged by crawl tools, or pages that the client has specifically asked for help with) in addition to the template pages.

At the end of your audit, donít write a document that says whatís wrong with the website. Instead, create a document that says what needs to be done. Then explain why these actions need to be taken and why they are important. What seems to be really helpful is to provide a prioritized list along with your document of all the actions that you would like them to implement. This list can be handed off to a dev or content team to be implemented easily. These teams can refer to your more thorough document as needed.


Quick Overview

Check BoxCheck indexed pages  
  • Do a site: search
  • How many pages are returned (this can be way off so donít put too much stock in this)?
  • Is the homepage showing up as the first result?
  • If the homepage isnít showing up as the first result, there could be issues, like a penalty or poor site architecture/internal linking, affecting the site.

Check BoxSearch for the brand and branded terms

  • Is the homepage showing up at the top, or are correct pages showing up.
  • If the proper pages arenít showing up as the first result, there could be issues, like a penalty, in play.
Check BoxCheck Googleís cache for key pages
  • Is the content showing up?
  • Are navigation links present?
  • Are there links that aren’t visible on the site?
PRO Tip:
Don’t forget to check the text only version of the cached page.

Content

Check BoxHomepage content
  • Does the homepage have at least one paragraph?
Check BoxLanding pages
  • Do these pages have at least a few paragraphs?
  • Is it template text or is it completely unique?
Check BoxSite contains real and substantial content
  • Is there real content on the site or is the ďcontentĒ simply a list of links.
Check BoxProper keyword targeting
  • Is the intent right?
  • Are there pages targeting head terms, mid-tail, and long-tail keywords?
Check BoxKeyword cannibalization
  • Do a site: search Google for important keyword phrases.
  • Check for duplicate content/page titles in the SEOmoz Pro Campaign App.
Check BoxFormatting
  • Is the content formatted well and easy to read quickly?
  • Are H tags used?
  • Are images used?
  • Is the text broken down into easy to read paragraphs?
Check BoxGood Headlines on Blog Posts
  • Good headlines go a long way. Make sure the headlines are well written and draw users in.
Check BoxAmount of content v ads
  • Since the implementation of Panda, the amount of ad-space on a page has become important to evaluate.
  • Make sure there is significant unique content above the fold.
  • If you have more ads than unique content, you are probably going to have a problem.

 

Duplicate Content

Check BoxThere should be one URL for each piece of content
  • Do URLs include parameters or tracking code – This will result in multiple URLs for a piece of content.
  • Does the same content reside on completely different URLs?
Pro Tip:
Exclude common parameters, such as those used to designate tracking code, in Google Webmaster Tools. Read more at Search Engine Land.
Check BoxDo a search to check for duplicate content
  • Take a content snippet, put it in quotes and search for it.
  • Does the content show up elsewhere on the domain?
  • Has it been scraped? – If the content has been scraped, you should file a content removal request with Google.
Check BoxSub-domain duplicate content
  • Does the same content exist on different sub-domains?
Check BoxCheck for a secure version of the site
  • Does the content exist on a secure version of the site?
Check BoxCheck other sites owned by the company
  • Is the content replicated on other domains owned by the company?

Accessibility

Check BoxCheck the robots.txt
  • Has the entire site, or important content been blocked? Is link equity being orphaned due to pages being blocked via the robots.txt?
Check BoxTurn off JavaScript, cookies, and CSS
Check BoxNow change your user agent to Googlebot.
PRO Tip:
Use SEO Browser to do a quick spot check.
Check BoxCheck the SEOmoz PRO Campaign
  • Check for 4xx errors and 5xx errors.

Site Architecture

Check BoxHierarchy
  • Are category pages set up in the appropriate way to flow link equity to key pages?
Check BoxLanding pages
  • Do they have landing pages high enough in the architecture to receive enough link equity to compete for competitive terms?
Check BoxNumber of category pages
  • How many category pages are there?
  • Have they been scaled out too much?
  • Category pages should be built out only when there is enough demand for new or sub category pages.
Check BoxPagination/Faceted Navigation
  • Is pagination or faceted navigation more appropriate? Or, should they be used in tandem?
  • Does pagination exist to help long tail content get indexed?
  • Is the pagination prohibitive to crawling (uses JavaScript).
Check BoxNumber of clicks to content
  • Pages targeting really competitive head terms should be one or two clicks from the homepage.
  • Pages targeting moderately competitive keywords should be 2 or three clicks from the homepage.
  • Pages targeting the long tail should be 5 clicks away (obviously exceptions must be made here for sites with a ton of content).
Check BoxPrioritized content
  • Most important content should be higher up in the pagination

Technical Issues

Check BoxProper use of 301ís
  • Are 301ís being used for all redirects?
  • If the root is being directed to a landing page, are they using a 301 instead of a 302?
  • Use Live HTTP Headers FireFox plugin to check 301s.
Check BoxUse of JavaScript
  • Is content being served in JavaScript?
  • Are links being served in JavaScript? Is this to do PR sculpting or is it accidental?
Check BoxUse of iframes
  • Is content being pulled in via iframes?
Check BoxUse of Flash
  • Is the entire site done in flash, or is flash used sparingly in a way that doesnít hinder crawling?
PRO Tip:
Flash is like garlic. A little bit of garlic in your food can make it taste better. Eating a plate full of garlic would be quite terrible. Likewise, Flash can be added to a site in a way that improves the user’s experience, but creating the entire site in flash is not a good idea.
Check BoxSite Speed
Check BoxAlt text
  • Is alt text present?
  • Does the alt text use keyword phrases?
  • Does the alt text reinforce the topical themes presented in the content?
Check BoxCheck for Errors in Google Webmaster Tools
  • Google WMT will give you a good list of technical problems showing up on your site that they are encountering (such as: 4xx and 5xx errors, inaccessible pages in the XML sitemap, and soft 404’s)

Canonicalization

Check BoxCanonical version of the site established through 301ís

Check BoxCanonical version of site is specified in Google Webmaster Tools

Check BoxRel canonical link tag is properly implemented across the site
Check BoxUses absolute URLs instead of relative URLs
  • This can cause a lot of problems if you have a root domain with secure sections.

URLs

Check BoxClean URLs
  • No excessive parameters or session IDís
  • URLs exposed to search engines should be static.
Check BoxShort URLs
  • 115 characters or shorter Ė this character limit isnít set in stone, but shorter URLs are better for usability.
Check BoxDescriptive URLs
  • Get your primary keyword phrase in there.

Internal Linking

Check BoxNumber of links on a page
Check BoxVertical Links
  • Homepage links to category pages.
  • Category pages link to sub-category and product pages as appropriate.
  • Product pages link to relevant category pages.
Check BoxHorizontal Links
  • Category pages link to other relevant category pages.
  • Product pages link to other relevant product pages.
Check BoxLinks are in content
  • Does not utilize massive blocks of links stuck in the content to do internal linking.
Check BoxFooter links
  • Does not use a block of footer links instead of proper navigation.
  • Does not link to landing pages with optimized anchors.
Check BoxGood internal anchor text

Check BoxCheck for broken links
  • Link Checker and Xenu are good tools for this.

Title Tags

Check BoxUnique title tags
  • Every page should have a unique title tag.
Check BoxKeyword rich
  • Pages should contain the primary keyword phrase.
  • Is possible to use the secondary keyword phrase in a non spammy way?
Check BoxPrimary keyword phrase at the beginning of the title tag

Check BoxPage titles include branding
  • In most cases the brand should be included at the end of the page title to help build a brand or entice users if you are a well known brand
Check Box65 – 70 characters in length
  • If the title is longer than this, the entirety will not be displayed in the SERPs.
Check BoxHave they been keyword stuffed by someone else?

Meta Tags

Check BoxMeta keywords tag used
  • This data should be removed as competitors can scrape this data.
Check BoxMeta description is appropriate
  • Each page has a unique meta description.
  • Meta descriptions are representative of the content and entice users.
Check BoxRewrite meta descriptions for key pages
  • For key landing pages, write meta descriptions by hand instead of systemically implementing.
Check BoxMeta robots tag
  • Noindex pages only appropriate pages.
  • Not blocking important pages.

Geoff Kenyon Twitter

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