Digging through your site and making sure the appropriate elements are optimized can be a daunting task. It is easy to forget what you checked and what you did not. We have made this audit checklist so you can stay organized while analyzing your site for search.
A technical audit (as it relates to SEO) is a thorough analysis of a website and the elements that could conceivably be optimized to help it rank well for a particular search term. I am sure there are various other definitions1 but this one is mine.
Search Engine Accessibility
Check to see if you have a robots file (visit www.yoursite.com/robots.txt). Search engines will still crawl your site without one however it is best to have one in place. You should only have directories or pages blocked under the following circumstances:
Here is some great additional information2 on robots files that you can read.
Does your site follow a logical theme in terms of content? Is there one over-arching theme on the home page leading down to sub-categories of that theme. Sites structured in this way (especially if their file structures are built this way) perform much better in search. This is known as a content umbrella3 and can help search engines (and users) more easily find information on your site.
Important directives for SEO include rel canonical and 301 permanent redirects among others. You should have canonical URLs for pages of your site and any pages that have moved permanently should be 301 redirected. Any 500 (server not found) errors should be corrected and if there are a high ratio of 404 errors (page not found), those should also be redirected to working pages. You can use a tool like Screaming Frog4 to check directives across your site and see what is working and what is not.
Does every page have a title tag? Do pages that are optimized for a specific keyword phrase have that phrase in the title? Are title tag lengths no longer than 65 characters and are they all unique?
Does every page have a meta description (does every page need one5?)? Do pages that are optimized for a specific keyword phrase have that phrase in the meta description? Are meta description lengths no longer than 160 characters and are they all unique?
Do pages optimized for a specific keyword have the phrase in the URL? URLs should be free of special characters. They should use hyphens to separate words and should be descriptive of the page content. Google encourages users6 to keep their URL structure simple.
Do all images on the site have an alt attribute with text? Do pages designed to target a specific keyword have that keyword in the alt attribute if appropriate?
Image file names
Are images on pages designed to rank for a particular keyword phrase named after that phrase?
Does the website have a sitemap and has it been submitted to major search engines?
Does each page of a site have more than a few hundred words of content on it? More is always better and it should also be informative content or in some way helpful to the target audience.
This should be taken care of with rel=canonical however there should minimal duplicated content. Don’t count things like printer friendly versions of pages or mobile versions. Do use canonicalization to combat this issue.
Is structured data used on important elements like reviews, bread crumbs, name, address, phone number and other business related information?
Has authorship been configured for the site? If not authorship and the site publishes content as an organization, has rel=publisher been configured?
Site speed/Page Speed
Do the pages of the site load fast? A good range to shoot for is 3-5 seconds on average for the first load and about 1-2 seconds after a page has been cached.
Does the site use Flash to render important content? If it does, this should be changed so important content does not need Flash player to be seen. If you must use Flash, there are some important considerations7.
Google has emphasized8 the importance of security and is using it in their weighting system for rankings. Do you have a security certificate installed on your site?
Are all of the pages you want indexed from your site indeed indexed in major search engines? They should be otherwise there may be some issue with crawling your site. Use Google’s search operator site:example.com to see what pages it has in its index.
Keywords in WMT
Do you know which keywords you are already ranking for in Google Webmaster Tools? It is important to know what phrases your site is showing up for. This could give you insight into how Google sees your site in terms of content.
Do you have any links leading to your site. These are extremely important for ranking well in search.
Does your site or business have a social presence? If not it should. Social signals have been correlated9 with good rankings in search.
Are there mentions of your business name on other websites? For example Yext provides a service where they populate dozens of business listings with your company’s information. Listings should be consistent, contain website and phone number information and should be filled out completely.
There are many more elements you can evaluate. This is just an overview to get you started.
What things do you look for when auditing your site? Is there anything you would add to our list? Join in the conversation by commenting below.