If you lack the experience, starting a new SEO project can be overwhelming and difficult to manage.
You may not be able to quickly and clearly see the best approach to take.
There are so many things to do, so many directions to go that make you easily lose focus and wander around doing everything at the wrong time, with no efficiency.
But until you have achieved that experience, you can do as I did. Use a blueprint to guide yourself through and bring you back on the right track whenever you get carried away by the SEO turmoil!
Here is a brief list I use to make sure I have covered all important areas of an website audit and be able to thoroughly plan the things that need to be done.
First of all it’s important to acknowledge the fact that you can perform a website audit from multiple perspectives:
- User experience
These areas are not fully separated one from another. On the contrary! They are much connected and influence each other quite a lot. Therefore, even if you will only perform SEO, you must also pay attention to these other aspects as they will affect your performance and results.
Expect to find in this list, tasks from all areas, grouped accordingly, but all with impact over your SEO strategy planning.
It’s impossible to do SEO for a website in a niche you have no idea about. So you must start with the vaguest, but also most important part of the audit: the business environment analysis. At this stage you should be able to:
- Get familiar with the specific language used in the industry (extremely useful further when researching for keywords)
- Identify the targeted audience and their needs
- Place the service/product on the market
- Evaluate the overall quality standard for the industry
- Meet the competition
This is the website’s medical inspection. You can’t build anything good on an ill medium or it will damage your work later. So make sure you won’t skip these aspects before starting to work on a website’s SEO as these will alterate your further work:
- Google Webmaster Tools account is set up (you need it for further check ups)
- Bing Webmaster Tools account (sometimes shows different data than Google’s)
- Hosting (reliable, scalable, easily manipulated & secure)
- Site speed/loading time (host average IP ping response time less than 200 milliseconds)
- Site working on all browsers
- The use of Flash on website (affects the site loading speed and indexation)
- The use of static/dynamic links
- XML Sitemaps files well formed
Design & User Experience
Although beyond your SEO duties, the website’s design is something you should also be concerned about. Things such as the website’s page hierarchy, content structure and readability, or the amount of adds on a page are essential for ensuring a prolific background for your work.
Keep in mind that even the best SEO work will fail on an ugly, bad structured website.
Therefore, get in touch with the website design responsible and make sure you will be able to further collaborate in order to achieve success.
First of all you need to check the status of your website’s current relationship with the search engines. Whether you’re friends or foes, there are objective reasons for that and you shall take control over them:
- Existing search engine bans or penalties
- Duplicate content (on website & across the web)
- Hidden links or text
- Check accessibility & indexed pages (robots.txt, robots meta tags – noindex, nofollow, internal link structure)
- Check for 4xx errors and 5xx errors
- Canonical tags
- Proper use of 301s and 302s redirects
At this point you can also check up if the Google Analytics account is set up properly.
This is the point where you sketch an overview of the website’s SEO. You need to see what was done, define what you wish to accomplish and thus be able to understand the distance you need to cross and the steps to perform in order to achieve the goal.
- Evaluate the currently targeted keywords(if both relevant and profitable)
- Perform new research if needed
- Determine a list of terms worth to optimize for
- Analyze and correlate the website’s landing pages with the keywords you chose (make sure these pages cover all keywords and avoid keyword cannibalization)
- Determine the pages to keep, the pages to remove and the new needed pages to create (for this evaluation also consider the pages’ authority and avoid removing important pages of the website)
Once you decided the pages to keep and the keywords to target, you can roll to analyzing the optimization of each page:
- Title: no missing or duplicate titles on website; no more than 65-70 characters long for the title to be fully displayed in search results
- Meta descriptions: unique descriptions on all pages, 150 – 160 characters long
- Keywords in title and meta description of all pages (preferable closer to the beginning of the title and description)
- No keyword stuffing
- H tags (1-6) present on website pages
- ALT attributes
- Number of built links for each page – see to which pages the most link building efforts were directed to
- Anchor text distribution for links to each page
At this point, I wouldn’t go any further with the pages’ optimization analysis as this information should be just enough to document your SEO strategy preparation and also keep you focused on the big picture.
Social media & Community
Since social shares have become a pretty important ranking factor, social exposure has gained its undeniable spot on the list. Therefore, whether you are in charge of the website’s promotion or not, you also need to know:
- On which social platforms the website is currently present
- Community size on each platform
- Level of engagement developed on social platforms
- Frequency of updates
It’s up to you to take this list, practice, add even more items to it, then practice some more until you have reached a level of expertise that will make you throw the list away.
Any thoughts on this? I’m looking forward to your comments!
Photo credit: robert82