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  • Elements of an Audit

    As we will discuss in Chapter 6, your website needs to be a strong foundation for the rest of your SEO efforts to succeed. An SEO site audit is often the first step in executing an SEO strategy.

The following sections identify what you should look for when performing a site audit.

  • Usability

    Although this may not be seen as a direct SEO issue, it is a very good place to start. Usability affects many factors, including conversion rate, as well as the propensity of people to link to a site.


Make sure the site is friendly to search engine spiders. We discuss this in detail in

  • Search engine health check

    Here are some quick health checks:

  • Perform a site:yourdomain.com search in the search engines to make sure all your pages appear to be in the index. Compare this to the number of unique pages you believe you have on your site.

    Test a search on your brand terms to make sure you are ranking for them (if not, you may be suffering from a penalty).

  • Check the Google cache to make sure the cached versions of your pages look the same as the live versions of your pages.

  • URL check

    Make sure you have clean, short, descriptive URLs. Descriptive means keyword-rich but not keyword-stuffed. You don’t want parameters appended (or have a minimal number if you must have any), and you want them to be simple and easy for users (and spiders) to Understand.

    - Title tag review

    Make sure the title tag on each page of the site is unique and descriptive. Ideally, don’t waste your time (or limited space) by including the brand name of your organization in the URL. If you must include it, the brand name should show up at the end of the title tag, not at the beginning, as placement of keywords at the front of a URL brings ranking benefits. Also check to make sure the title tag is fewer than 70 characters long.

  • Content review

    Do the main pages of the site have enough content? Do these pages all make use of header tags? A subtler variation of this is making sure the percentage of pages on the site with little content is not too high compared to the total number of pages on the site.

    - Internal linking checks

    Look for pages that have excess links. Google advises 100 per page as a maximum, although it is OK to go with more on more important and heavily linked-to pages.

  • Avoidance of unnecessary subdomains

    The engines may not apply the entirety of a domain’s trust and link juice weight to subdomains. This is largely due to the fact that a subdomain could be under the control of a different party, and therefore in the search engine’s eyes it needs to be separately evaluated. In the great majority of cases, subdomain content can easily go in a subfolder.

    - Geolocation

    If the domain is targeting a specific country, make sure the guidelines for country geotargeting outlined in “Best Practices for Multilanguage/Country Targeting” on page are being followed. If your concern is more about ranking for chicago pizza because you own a pizza parlor in Chicago, make sure your address is on every page of your site. You should also check your results in Google Local to see whether you have a problem there.

  • External linking

    Check the inbound links to the site. Use a backlinking tool such as Yahoo! Site Explorer, Link scape, Majestic-SEO, or Link Diagnosis to collect data about your links. Look for bad patterns in the anchor text, such as 87% of the links having the critical keyword for the site in them. Unless the critical keyword happens to also be the name of the company, this is a sure sign of trouble. This type of distribution is quite likely the result of purchasing links or other manipulative behavior.

  • Page load time

    Is the page load time excessive? Too long a load time may slow down crawling and indexing of the site. However, to be a factor, this really needs to be excessive—certainly longer than five seconds, and perhaps even longer than that.

  • Image alt tags

    Do all the images have relevant keyword-rich image alt attributes text and filenames? Search engines can’t easily tell what is inside an image, and the best way to provide them with some clues is with the alt attribute and the filename of the image. These can also reinforce the overall context of the page itself.

  • Code quality

    Although W3C validation is not something the search engines require, checking the code itself is a good idea. Poor coding can have some undesirable impacts. As we previously discussed, use a tool such as SEO Browser to see how the search engines see the page.

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