By Amanda DiSilvestro published April 16, 2014

How to Audit Your Website Content for SEO

seo light bulbWebsite content audits for SEO purposes have had a negative stigma associated with them for quite some time. It’s true that they can be tedious and time consuming, but by now most content marketers know that they are absolutely necessary for driving website success.

Thanks to Google’s frequent algorithm updates and improvements, SEO rules and best practices are constantly changing. Reevaluating your SEO and your strategies is one of the only ways to stay on top of these changes and continue to move your website content forward.

An SEO website audit doesn’t have to be stressful or difficult, but it helps to have a plan before you and your team dive into this type of analysis. You need to know what you’re looking for, who is going to make what changes, and what tools are available to help you implement those changes.

What to look for when completing an SEO audit

Before actually diving into an audit, you need to know what you’re looking to learn from the analysis of your SEO performance data, and what website content goals this information will help you accomplish. Once you have a list of your aims, you can start creating a checklist of items to identify and evaluate:

  • Collecting your analytics: A key part of any SEO audit is going through and gathering all of the data and analytics out there regarding your website content (traffic, keywords, referral traffic for each landing page, etc.). This data changes frequently, so it might help to set up dashboards that make it easier to keep tabs on this data and track it accurately for every audit you perform.
  • Analyzing targeted keywords: You always want to go through and analyze the keywords you’re targeting and using most frequently in your website content — to identify any changes in their performance, as well as for relative value to your business compared to your competition. You should also conduct research on overall keyword performance trends so you are always on top of the latest terms that may be worth pursuing in the immediate future.
  • Identifying domain issues: Make sure that there are no unsanctioned domains and/or subdomains out there that are linked to your company. Particularly, you want to make sure there are no 301 pages that could be affecting your traffic.
  • Tracking potential sitemap concerns: Creating an XML sitemap can help you make sure that search engine bots are seeing what they should be seeing and indexing and caching your pages quickly. You want to make sure users see the most updated version of your pages, so you should check your sitemaps regularly to make sure there are no glitches.
  • Looking for indexed pages: You want to make sure all of the pages on your website are being indexed correctly and that your best content is making the cut. One of the first things you can do to check for this is to type “site:www.domain.com” into the search engine to see what content that you’ve uploaded is appearing in the list of indexed content.
  • Checking for linking concerns: Obviously, it’s important to make sure you don’t have any broken links on your website. As part of your audit, you should routinely go through and spot check internal links to make sure everything is still working — especially on pages where your older content resides. It’s also important to have at least 1 or 2 internal links within all of your content. This is good practice for creating a quality user experience, as well as for SEO.

You also want to use an SEO tool (discussed in the next section) to help you identify links from outside sources that are pointing back toward your site. If external sites have poor or broken links that point back to your site, it can significantly impact your SEO. So if you find this to be the case, you’ll want to try and get them removed by either talking with the publisher or using the Google disavow tool.

  • Keeping an eye on page speed and load times: You always want to make sure that your pages load quickly and completely so you don’t turn your visitors away. While significantly improving your load times can require the work of a skilled developer (I recommend checking out this article for a more detailed explanation of what’s involved here), at the very least you should be able to address some of the most obvious causes of slow load times. For example, you can make sure your images are compressed and optimized appropriately, remove unnecessary JavaScript, and minimize the use of unnecessary CSS and HTML code.
  • Bonus tip: Always, always, always record everything you do: If you find an error on your website in any of the above sections, always document it. You want to keep a record of things you’ve changed and fixed so that when you go back and perform your next audit, you can get an idea of what progress has been made. Tracking these changes on a spreadsheet that you can always refer back to will make your future audit processes go much more smoothly, so at the very least make sure you are noting the dates, page URLs, the errors you found, what you did to fix the problem, and who was responsible for each change that was made.

Helpful tools for your SEO audit

Of course, Google Webmaster tools and Google Analytics will always be key in making sure your SEO audits are performed correctly. But there are many other solutions that are available, as well, and I highly recommend using a few different tools to help you gather your data and perform your audits. Some of the most popular options include:

  • Open Site Explorer: This Moz tool will show you up to 10,000 links to help you see what websites are linking back to you, which can help you determine where inappropriate or broken links may exist. The tool also provides information about your competitors’ links, and will sync up with Google Analytics to help you analyze your traffic.
  • Screaming Frog: This tool helps you crawl your entire site, offering data on potential SEO problems it finds. I think this tool is great for those who are a little bit unsure about coding and development because it points you in the right direction.
  • MySiteAuditor: This tool will actually allow you to audit specific web pages or landing pages (as opposed to your entire site), so you can really target the website content and pages you’re most concerned with. It provides comparative audits, allows you to export data directly to your audit spreadsheets, and even lets you embed the tool in your content in order to generate more leads.

Why you need to perform regular SEO audits

I touched on it a little bit above, but it’s worth noting that an SEO website audit needs to be done regularly — not just once for the lifetime of your website. A good rule of thumb is to perform an audit once per year; although many experts (myself included) recommend at least two per year. Keep records of everything you do and it should only get easier and easier. A few reasons this has to be done regularly include:

  • Algorithm updates and webmaster guideline constant changes.
  • Content gets outdated quickly.
  • Website errors, including broken links, can cause you to lose traffic fast.
  • You always need to evaluate your link profile because negative SEO and poor sites linking back to your site can be detrimental to your SEO.
  • An SEO audit can serve as a marker so that you know when something went wrong and how long it’s been going wrong. This will also help you determine the cause of the problem.

Whether it’s you and your team performing the audit or you’re hiring an SEO agency to help you, it’s important that you keep up with it and check off all of the things on the list above. The first one might seem daunting, but I promise it gets easier and easier each year.

Have you ever completed an SEO website audit? What tips do you have for webmasters just starting out? Let us know your story and your thoughts in the comments below.

Cover image credit: bbexmarketing.com

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Author: Amanda DiSilvestro

Amanda DiSilvestro is a graduate of Illinois State University. Although she graduated with an English Education degree, she found herself working as a full-time blogger in the SEO/social media department at HigherVisibility.com, a leading SEO for franchises. Follow Amanda on Twitter @ADiSilvestro.

Other posts by Amanda DiSilvestro

  • Jeremy Swinfen Green

    A very useful and thorough post and I especially like the advice about Google Disavow. I have done a fair amount of “on the page” SEO work over the years and I’d really like your thoughts on how best to analyse the effectiveness of content keywords. It’s a while since Google stopped providing organic keyword information. In the absence of that, what sort of analysis do you propose for content marketing purposes? In addition do you have any thoughts about how to compare content effectiveness on PCs with mobile devices which of course may be showing content in different ways, hiding certain content, or even delivering totally different content on m. sites?

    • Amanda DiSilvestro

      Although we don’t have that type of organic information anymore, we still have Bing and Yahoo insights along with AdWords insights (Google did just make an announcement about this, but really the data hasn’t gone anywhere so I wouldn’t worry too much about that!).

      As for your second question, hopefully there isn’t any different content being shown on a PC vs. mobile. I like the PageSpeed Insights tool from Google (it’s free, just Google it) for seeing how your SEO is doing for both mobile and desktop. Does that help answer your question?

      Thanks for reading!

      • Jeremy Swinfen Green

        Using Bing and Yahoo data makes sense, although I suppose it may be thin for smaller clients. I don’t have any reason to suppose that “Bingers” behave differently from “Googlers” or respond to different things although I suppose there are some demographic differences (Bing skews older and is more US-centric than Google) that might upset the analytical apple cart.

        Thanks for the tip on Page Speed. I will take a look. For the record, I think it is sometimes appropriate to display different content on certain types of mobile devices, especially smart phones (rather than tablets which are largely domestic devices) as context of use may be different.

      • AA

        A good way to identify the impact of a keyword targeted derived page is to look at what queries you index for (and where), on-site engagement metrics and landing page level and the number of visits accrued through natural search

        Also displaying different content on a m.variant is fine as long as you have configured the robots.txt accordingly (assuming you don’t want both variants of the website to index for the same keyword) – as long as the human faced content is crawlable and nothing is masked then your fine.

  • http://www.dotlogics.com/ John Wilson

    Webpage content should be atleast 600 words minimum and have a keyword density of less than 5% to get better ranking on search engines. For more info visit dotlogics.com

  • Anthony Romero

    Great advice Amanda! Thanks.

  • BigcomDevloper

    Thanks Amanda, for sharing this, By “content,” we mean any information that lives on the web and can be consumed on the we, Perhaps the most important SEO factor after creating good content is good keyword research. There are a variety of tools that allow you to discover the specific ways that people may be searching for your content.