What is a website audit, and why is it important?

A website audit can uncover a range of issues that can prevent a site from ranking. Simple technical issues, such as a bad robots.txt file, can sabotage any amount of work that you might invest in a website.

An audit is also useful as way to survey the structure of a website.  There's no substitute for simply browsing the site yourself, but that's a tough way to get the larger picture.  An audit will show you how much content exists and how all of that content is linked together. You can also discover issues nested deeply within the site, such as links that lead nowhere, or broken pages.

What does a website audit check?

A good website audit checks for both technical and content issues.

The basic technical issues include whether the page is served properly (i.e. does the site return an error code for that page?), and whether the page can be indexed.  

Overlooked pages can sit broken, showing visitors a server error, unless periodic audits are performed to catch these lingering issues.  Indexing issues are typically due to a misconfigured robots.txt file, or META tags that instruct crawlers to ignore the page.

An audit is also a good way to size up the content of a website and compare against the competition.  Looking at titles, meta descriptions, and H1 tags can help you understand the kind of search traffic that a website is trying to attract.  Page word counts can also offer a rough estimate of how much content a website is dedicating to certain topics.

Competitor Analysis: A Case Study

What does it look like to perform a local SEO competitor analysis?  In this case study, I'll walk through the process of analyzing the on-page content of several competitors.

For this case study, I'll focus on the Chicago law firm market – specifically, the competition for the search term "divorce lawyer."

This is a competitive search term, so the top websites have probably had some SEO effort put toward them.

Local search grid results for the top Google Maps result.

This is the search grid for John Buchmiller & Associates, the top Google Maps result for "divorce lawyer" in the area.  There are many factors at play, such as reviews, in Google My Business rankings, but for now we'll focus on their website.  

We'll also audit the websites of other high ranking results and compare them with listings that aren't performing as well.

I'll use the built-in website audit feature in Persuaded.io to scan each of the websites.

The website audit feature found in Persuaded.io

After starting audits for the businesses that rank in the top 5 and bottom 5, I now have 10 audits that we can analyze to draw some conclusions.

Just as a word of caution, looking at these metrics from a high level is no substitute for delving into the site itself!  But having a good overview of the trends, before drilling down, is a good way to start.

What metrics can we collect and examine?

Top 5 Websites Bottom 5 Websites
Avg. Pages Per Domain 257.8 86.4
Avg. Word Count Per Page 1,886.11 564.68
Duplicate Titles 11 9
Duplicate Meta Descriptions 0 49
Duplicate H1 Tags 1 18

We can see right away that the top websites have far more content, both in terms of pages, and the amount of copy on those pages.  More is not always better, but in this case it definitely correlates with having a higher ranking listing.  We can also see here that the top sites have been a bit more careful with the basics, such as not duplicating titles, meta descriptions, or H1 tags.

It's not as easy to generalize or look at site structure in aggregate.

Here's a sample of the URL structure that the number one result is using.

This is a well organized site structure.  The topic is reflected cleanly in the URL, and they're also targeting geo-specific terms, which is a good local SEO strategy.

There is so much more to analyzing a website, such as their backlink profile, but understanding site structure is a good first step!  It's also a good idea to rule out catastrophic issues, such as crawling or indexing issues, before investing in anything else.

Local SEO Software

Most of the research for this case study was done using the Persuaded.io local SEO toolset. You can use Persuaded.io for hyper local rank tracking, spam busting, and much more. New users start with a credit, and you can try it without any signup required.