SEO Audit Guide: On-Page & Content Optimization

Lindsay Wassell's picture

For those of you who are new here, let me fill you in real quick on what I'm up to. I posted my SEO Audit Outline some time ago, then I committed to sharing my audit process section by section. Last week I updated the SEO Scorecard anddescribed how I use it.  Basically, I'm in the process of sharing my SEO Audit process from front to back. Today, I'm moving on to On-Page & Content Optimization.

I cover eight core topics in the On-Page & Content Optimization section. I will share an overview of the topics today and then dive into the details of each through the coming weeks.

Keyphrase Targeting

I use the term keyphrase instead of keyword throughout my audits because a keyphrase implies one or more keywords and a keyword implies a single word. This is a personal preference. Take it or leave it.

Keyphrase Targeting is the art of identifying appropriate keyphrases, prioritizing them, and implementing them effectively.  A successful targeting strategy is based on competitive research, keyphrase popularity and the website's relevancy.

I tackle this as one of the first sections in a site audit because it is fundamental. If a website doesn't understand what words a web user would use to find a product/service like theirs and utilize those words wisely on their website, they are missing the boat entirely.

Good luck ranking for anything with a listing like this:


Title Tags

Title Tags are next up to the plate because they're impact is significant. I share some general copy about Title Tags and that they should utilize the most important keyphrase targeted by the page as close to the start of the tag as possible. This ties in nicely to the previous section in the audit (keyphrase targeting).

Once I've set the stage by defining some best practices, I grab a few examples from the search results to illustrate the current usage and then dive in on a few specific recommendations as examples. My audits have never included a site-wide page-by-page title tag rewrite. Instead, I try to focus on programmatic solutions that pull key data elements from the page in an intelligent way. I'll get more into the methods of intelligent Title Tag creation in a later post.

Meta Descriptions

The report flows nicely from Title Tags to the Meta Description section. While not as important to search engine rankings as other data, Meta Descriptions are extremely important in gaining user click-through from the SERPs. I describe how to use keyphrases while creating a description that a searcher will want to click. I always provide a few examples. I often use the SEOmofo SERP Snippet Generator to show an example listing.

H Tags

H1, H2, H3... I know what you're thinking. They don't really matter for SEO anymore, right? Right. H Tags don't have the impact that they once did. I still include them in my reports for two main reasons.

First, I like to check for H Tag abuse like keyword stuffing, multiple H1s, etc. Just because a factor can't positively impact your ranking doesn't mean that a gross misuse won't have a negative impact.

Secondly, appropriate H Tag use makes good sense from a design and information architectural perspective.

Substantive & Unique Content

A surefire way to help boost a website's relevancy in the search engines is to have great content for users. In this section I look at the content quality and provide a high level assessment. I watch for thin content issues, repeated text, good text that is hidden within an image, etc. This is where I make recommendations about content additions and expansions.

Image Alt & Filename

Image alt attributes and filenames are the primary ranking factors for image search traffic, and both can also assist with traditional optimization for web search results. I first discuss these items here in the On-Page & Content Optimization section, but expand (when relevant) within the Vertical Search section later in the audit.

I recently audited a website that renamed their files every time they were used in a new position or page on the website. You never know what you're going to find.


Abusing keyphrase / link placement or overusing a particular keyword to manipulate rankings are against the engines' terms of service. This section is a bit of a free for all. I find something new in every audit I conduct.

"You put your most important keywords WHERE?!"

I'll share some of the things I've found when I dive deeper into Over-Optimization.

URL Conventions

There are a number of factors in a URL that can help or harm a webpage's ability to rank for target keywords. In my site audits I look at keyword inclusion, sub-folder usage, length, parameters, file extension, word separation, case, and special characters. This is a pretty big section and I can never decide if it merits its own section or if it is a part of On-Page & Content Optimization. For now, here it is.

I show examples of URLs from their site, describe what an optimum URL would look like, and make a recommendation about whether or not it is worthwhile to rewrite the existing pages. I can't wait to dive into this one with you further.

That's all for today, folks! I'll see you again in a few days when I dive into the Keyphrase Targeting section in more detail.

Happy Auditing!

P.S. Sorry there weren't more pictures... I'm told that is pretty important. I'm not a real blogger so hopefully you'll forgive me. :)

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