By the time I was faced with producing my first SEO Audit, I had been doing SEO for a while. I was pretty confident I'd touched on most major SEO factors and felt like I had a good sense of the overall SEO picture. Despite that, something about the task of preparing a full top to bottom audit was terrifying. So much to cover!
Back then, I searched high and low for a template, outline, or sample and came up empty handed. As part of my research for this post I looked around again and even leveraged a tool that wasn't available to me the first time around, Twitter.
I don't have a ton of followers on twitter but its a really responsive and helpful group made up mostly of SEOs. I was surprised that nobody had a resource to point out. The following tweet was also met with the online equivalent of a blank stare. I wasn't as surprised.
It looks like it would be just as difficult to get started today than it was back then! Once I started asking people why they wouldn't share their audit templates, the silence was broken. Here are a few of the reasons:
- They spent the time to build their own audit from scratch, why give some newcomer a head start?
- Their company's policy forbids them from doing so. It's proprietary.
- The audits they produce are highly customized. If they pull out the client stuff, there would be nothing left of value to share.
- Some audits are computer generated. The 'template' is code and algorithm based.
- Peer review can sting.
Despite some reasons not to, today I'm happy to share with you the basic audit outline that I use. The first version was created years ago and I've carried it with me as my SEO career has evolved and had a number of smart folks weigh in. The point of this post is to give you a starting point if you are new to auditing or something to compare your own audit against if you've been at this a while.
Sample SEO Audit Outline
II. Scorecard (link to download template)
III. Most Pressing and Valuable Changes
IV. On-Page/Content Optimization
- Keyphrase Targeting
- Title Tags
- Meta Descriptions
- H Tags
- Substantive & Unique Content
- Image Alt & Filenames
V. URL Conventions
- Keyword Inclusion
- File Extension
- Word Separation
VI. Site Architecture
- Content Hierarchy/Organization
- Internal Anchor Text
VII. Crawling, Indexing & Technical Issues
- Meta Directives
- XML Sitemaps
- Crawling Problems
- URL Redirects in Place
- Expiring Content Policies
- Site Speed
- Duplicate Content
VIII. Search Guidelines & Spam Protocols
- Canonicalized Site Versions
- Search Result & Sort Pages
- Link Acquisition Practices
- Outbound Linking Practices
IX. Link Opportunities
XI. Vertical Search Opportunities
XII. Competitive Comparison
XIII. Keyword Research
Combine this audit outline with a couple other nuggets I've shared recently on SEOmoz (4 Ways to Improve your SEO Site Audit and SEO Site Audits: Getting Started) and you've got yourself a pretty good starting point, if I do say so myself!