The saying goes that there are two certainties in life: death and taxes. And if you’re in the SEO space, the third certainty is doing website audits. Whether you are talking to a prospect or onboarding a new client, a site audit is the first step towards any successful optimization campaign. Even if you’re a business owner, a site audit can help you determine the quality of your SEO service provider.
Website audits help you uncover what’s wrong with a site and lay out (hopefully in a methodical way) what parts of a site need to be tackled first to bring in maximum returns. Obviously, something like meta data updates would come before engaging in any long-term link building outreach plans.
Personally, I have performed more than 200 site audits, ranging from e-commerce sites to local businesses in the US, Canada, and Australia. My experience covers the entire spectrum of SEO “flavors”. But for the purpose of this tutorial, we are going to focus on local SEO audits.
Since I have to do multiple site audits every week, I try to work efficiently and complete a full site audit within 30 minutes (without skimping on quality). This is for both on-site and off-site analysis. It’s important not to skip an off-site audit as that can uncover any past or future penalties (like on Panda, Penguin, etc). So let’s jump right into it.
On-Page Optimization Audit (Total: 15 Minutes)
Relevant Keywords in Meta Data (5 Minutes): the first step is to check if the site’s meta data has relevant, geo-modified keywords. It’s really difficult to rank in a market if your website does not contain relevant keywords in the title tag, meta description, and header. You can check this pretty quickly using a tool like Screaming Frog or manually looking at the source code. Remember, the title should be less than 55 characters and the description should be less than 155 characters (to be safe). You can use this character count tool to quickly check for character count. It’s imperative that the title tag contain relevant keywords and be geo-modified (for local SEO).
Duplicate Content Check (5 Minutes): Another error I see propping up quite often is internal duplicate content. Many new sites just copy the content across the site with little regard for SEO. There are several tools that check for duplicate content, like Copyscape or Siteliner. Plugin the website URL into the tool and let it do all the work for you. Do keep in mind that almost all sites have some amount of duplicate content because of the header and footer sections of the site that are the same across all pages, but anything more than 20%-30% duplicate content, as reported by Siteliner, is something to be alarmed about. The below example is from Siteliner.
Contact Information (5 Minutes): It’s difficult for a website to represent a local business without a clearly stated address and telephone number. I have seen countless sites leave this crucial bit of information out. Check to make sure this is listed clearly on the site—preferably site-wide and in the header, footer, or both.
Off-Page Optimization Audit (Total: 15 Minutes)
Google+ Verified Business (5 Minutes): If a local business does not have a Google+ verified account, it’s going to be pretty difficult to rank in the local space. A quick way to check for this is using the following search string (there is only a single space between the two parts):
If you do find the site listed on Google, make sure it’s been verified (see below what a verified Google+ account looks like).
Citation Audit (5 Minutes): Citations are the backbone of local SEO. The more you have, the higher you can expect to rank in the local SEO space. To do a quick citation audit, simply use MOZ’s local citation checker. For ease of use, the tool spits out a number from 1-100 based on how many citations have been claimed/missing or incorrect. The higher the score, the better the website is in terms of local visibility (see below as an example).
Backlink/Penalty Analysis (5 Minutes): Living in a post-Penguin and Panda world, we need to look out for any previous or future penalties for shady backlinks. You can analyze this part fairly quickly using a tool like Ahrefs site explorer. Once on Ahrefs, plugin the website URL in the site explorer tab. Once you get the results, scroll down to the section titled “Anchor Phrases.” Do you see mostly branded keywords (business name) or do you see keyword rich anchor text like “plumber dallas.” If you see a large amount of keyword rich anchor text, the site could be in trouble and more backlink analysis will be required (and maybe even a full disavow). Below is an example of site with a very high percentage of keywords in the anchor text (definitely not a good sign).
And there you have it folks. A no-nonsense local SEO audit in less than 30 minutes flat. You can churn these audits out fairly quickly and still provide a huge amount of value to your prospective clients or partners. Do keep in mind, this is a quick audit. It is always recommended to do a full site audit before starting an on-going campaign, as that would uncover many more clues that a quick audit can never really uncover.
So how long does it take for you to do a local SEO audit? What would you include or exclude from the process?