300 site audits. That’s a rough estimate of the total number of SEO audits I have performed over the past few years. Comprising more than one billion indexed pages.
This list is designed as a reference to anyone wanting to improve their audit process.
While countless resources exist to help you do the work of or manage Search Engine Optimization, as a professional who specializes in forensic site audits I’ve come to learn some resources are better than others. Some can become serious distractions and present you with massive volumes of data and information that might have value in certain situations, but where those are often as much shiny objects as they are useful.
This list is designed to help you become better focused on what really matters at the strategic level.
Even when a particular resource may be individually helpful to me, I find that I still need to limit the specific data or insights I make use of from most tools available. There’s so much information that can be obtained, so many individual and even micro-data points to evaluate, that time and resource management can become a real struggle to deal with.
As such, I encourage you to explore, experiment, and find what works best for your unique process.
Ever-Changing Tool and Resource Functionality
The last issue I need to mention before getting on with my resource list, is the unfortunate fact that even the best of them can be frustrating to work with at times. A primary reason for this is that even once you’ve become intimately familiarized with how something works, and where to find a specific individual piece of data, tool and resource providers will come along and change things. Usually the “how to get to this piece of data” aspect of their offering.
Site Auditing Tools
A strong site requires strong analytics and data on actual user activity. While other analytics programs exist, I’ve found GA to be the best at providing the most important data vital to SEO, presented in the most intuitive layout.
Google Search Console (formerly “Google Webmaster Tools)
A successful site is only as successful as it’s overall technical health. GSC provides critical insights into potential flaws in structure, organization, reach and messaging.
Another reason GSC is vital is if Google imposes a manual penalty or finds critical flaws in your site, you’ll only be informed if you’ve got GSC set up.
Mobile Friendly Test
Google cares more about mobile usability than they ever have. Their mobile friendly testing tool is vital for checking whether your site is properly coded both for mobile friendliness and for allowing their systems to confirm that fact.
Page Speed Insights
Google’s tool for testing whether individual pages are efficient for overall page processing speed. Another critical tool for SEO.
Bing Webmaster Tools
If you truly want to maximize brand visibility online, you’d be wise to set your site up with Bing’s webmaster tools system. It’s got its own insights, knowledge base and helpful reporting system that may just ensure your site gets to that next level. Especially if even a portion of your visitors search on Bing or Yahoo’s search platforms.
URIValet.com is a quick resource for checking individual page functionality and performance tests. It’s 1.5 mbps speed test is a good general indicator of speeds similar to those that Google Analytics sees in the overall usage of sites.
WebPageTest.org is critical to my audit work and can offer deeper understanding of where page processing bottleneck issues can come from.
Screaming Frog is THE go-to standard for performing sample crawls of a web site. This robust tool offers many important reports that help site owners and managers identify patterns within a site’s technical implementation that might need to be corrected. Ideally suited for smaller sites (up to 50,000 URLs), SF can also be used to get a sampling of pages on larger sites.
Like Screaming Frog on steroids, DC is for power users who want even more insights into a site’s overall health and is best for larger sites (into the millions of pages).
Moz’s OSE is a great tool for evaluating inbound links, their anchor text, and the relevancy of pages that link into your site. Works hand-in-hand with GSC’s inbound links report, AHrefs and Majestic link data for a more complete understanding of that data.
AHrefs works hand-in-hand with other inbound link reports in providing a more complete view of inbound links pointing to your site.
Offers even more insights into the overall health of a site’s inbound link profile and has its own unique data views.
SEMRush offers many different insights into a site’s overall health, and can provide quick hit competitive landscape data.
Need to track ranking data? Need to check it at the geo-location level? Need a great tool to help manage your ongoing SEO work? Authority Labs is a top tool for that work!
Algorithm Change History
Moz’s handy calendar base list of known Google algorithm changes with explanations and links for deeper understanding. I like this resource because it gives me insights into and access to more info about each known update, and I can see where various updates were deployed sequentially in a handy to use calendar layout.
The Panguin Tool
When roaming Moz’s descriptive calendar of Google algorithm changes isn’t efficient (for more complex sites with many roller-coaster ups and downs organically, the Panguin Tool is the answer. A great visual tool designed to show where specific, known Google algorithm changes line up with actual Google Analytics organic visitor data. Help quickly pinpoint where one or more known updates has caused drops in organic search traffic.
W3C Code Validation
While sites don’t have to validate to 100% perfect at the code level for SEO, each additional code error increases the potential for delayed crawl efficiency and subsequent confusion within search algorithms regarding quality, topical focus and trust signals. The W3C Code Validator is an important tool in any SEO’s arsenal.
W3C CSS Validation
Just like the Code validator, the CSS validator is vital for detecting flawed style sheet implementation that can harm search crawler and search algorithm understanding of a site.
W3C Mobile validation
Great tool for testing mobile code validation!
Structured Data Test
Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool can help quick-check individual pages to see how well the structured data has been implemented at the code level. Whether it’s customer reviews, office location NAP information and store hours, event listings, recipes, or a host of other types of niche data important for maximized SEO, this tool can help confirm this important information’s implementation.
AdWords Keyword Planner
Not just for AdWords managers, the AdWords keyword planner is my go-to source when I want to find out whether a site’s existing keyword focus is maximizing opportunities based on real-world searcher intent and language. And it’s a great tool for proper keyword planning for organic optimization work because it’s based on humans who actually spend money for visibility in search results.
My Analytics and Site Health How-To Guide
My own creation, this downloadable guide was created initially so that I could help my own audit clients in their need to figure out how to make use of the tools and resources I use and rely upon most often in my work.
It’s tailored to focus specifically on the most fundamental and most important data to track month to month, and though far from comprehensive, offers a clear way to help front-line team members the ability to dive into data and get to that most important information.
My SEO Audit Checklist & Scoring System Spreadsheet
Launched June 16, 2015! I took my original checklist (published in 2011) and have just updated it – it’s fully current, and more robust than the original. This one is not only a straight-forward audit checklist – it’s also a fully functioning audit scoring spreadsheet!
Advanced SEO Articles
There’s a lot of information online regarding SEO. It’s difficult for most people to sort it all out, to know what to read and whether to trust the information provided.
This is a short list of some of the best of the best content out there, both from myself and other experts. Far from comprehensive, it covers some of the most important aspects of SEO you’ll ever need to get a deeper understanding of.
QUART – the 5 Super Signals of SEO
My preeminent write-up on what I refer to as the five super-signals of SEO – Quality, Uniqueness, Authority, Relevance and Trust. Every aspect of SEO needs to be filtered through the 5 Super-signal test. If any single aspect of SEO fails to pass any three of these signals, it’s almost guaranteed that aspect is not sustainable.
Claim Your Local Business Listings
This handy “flash-card” designed post was created by Max Minzer, an expert in the topic of Local SEO. Includes links to each step in the process of setting up and managing business listings on fifty-five different local directories that matter for SEO.
Local Listings – A Deeper Dive
This is the more extensive, detailed post Max wrote to help site owners and managers get properly listed across the most important local listing directories online. Includes more links and help resources for each.
Andrew Shotland’s Local SEO Resource List
Andrew is one of the top people in our industry when it comes to Local SEO and if you want to go down the rabbit hole of local, this resource list he’s put together will take you all the way…
Pagination Best Practices with Rel=Next & Rel=Prev
Google Webmaster Tools how-to for properly implementing the rel=next & rel=prev header tags critical to paginated content indexation and content relationship understanding.
Maile Ohye’s Video on Pagination
Maile Ohye is one of Google’s best kept secrets! She’s a product manager at Google who’s passion is helping site owners and webmasters maximize the ability their sites have to properly communicate at the code level so that Google’s systems can best understand what’s happening. This video is a must-watch for pagination.
SEO Tips for eCommerce Sites
This post from Maile may be from 2012, however it’s still relevant today. Offers great tips on how to set up an eCommerce web site optimally for site visitors AND SEO.
Improving Magento Speed Performance
Magento is a widely used platform for web development. Except it’s one of the most difficult platforms to get under control for SEO. This post helps provide actionable guidance for improving speed performance within a Magento framework site.
Web Page Speed Performance Guidelines
Google’s own rules for how to optimize performance of web sites. Can’t go wrong with this invaluable developer knowledge base.
21 High Performance Best Practices for Speeding Up Your Website
Jey Pandian is a technical wizard. This amazing post covers a lot of territory in offering actionable steps to deal with speed issues.
Want to reach people around the globe? Have content unique to different countries, languages or regions? Great resource you need to read!
Multi-Regional / Multilinqual Site Structure Recommendation Doc
Google offers different site need scenarios here and communicates the pros and cons of going with country specific domains vs. subdirectories vs. subdomains.
How to Crawl the Right Content
Google’s in-depth guide on how to set up a complex, multi-faceted navigation type site so search engines can more efficiently crawl it and understand what to index and what not to. WARNING – even after you’ve taken my course, this is extreme advanced stuff – and only extremely advanced SEOs should be responsible for implementing this knowledge. Making ANY mistakes along the way here will potentially cause CATASTROPHIC SEO problems that could take YEARS to deal with. (No joke!)
Infinite Scroll Search Friendly Recommendations
Responsive design is all the rage. Implemented properly it can help users, and SEO. Unfortunately, too many sites I’ve audited that had responsive design at the presentation layer also had critical coding failures that came from add-on functionality, including infinite scroll. This guide is critical to help avoid that scenario.
Can You Escape A Link Penalty By Simply Getting Good Links?
Important read written by one of the world’s preeminent link cleanup experts, Dr. Marie Haynes.
Beginner Guides to SEO
While I happen to be experienced in this work, and though many of my readers are likely also at least intermediately skilled or advanced themselves, some of you reading this may be new or relatively new to the world of SEO and audits.
Because of that possibility, I felt it would be remiss of me to not offer suggestions on ways to get a leg up on the learning.
So to that end, and because the work of SEO is more complex, more intense, and requires more critically deep thinking now than ever before, if you or someone on your team wants to get SEO right, it’s really best to first start with learning the most fundamental concepts.
The Moz Beginners Guide to SEO
This is the starting point I encourage anyone new to SEO to begin with in the journey to becoming a professional in our industry.
My Guide to SEO for Content Writing
This guide, first published in 2011 and updated in 2014 (and yes, it’s recommendations still apply today!), offers forty-five actionable tasks for implementing SEO at the content level.
The Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors
This great resource from SearchEngineLand is just an all around handy quick reference for people needing to understand the core concepts of SEO.