Home – New Forums Tech talk 17.6 billion Reasons for an SEO Audit

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  • #981439
    JohnW
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    I think many SEOs would suggest that the starting point with any new client is an audit of their search market, competition and own website.

    I’m not talking about one of those useless reports spat out by some piece of software and which is full of meaningless information. (I love taking on people who base audits on these useless tools and I’ve not lost one argument yet, in 18 years.)

    I have my own list of what should be addressed in an audit, but I invite the other SEOs on FS to start building an audit topic list and explaining what each topic means to small business owners.

    Why is this important?

    Here is the latest SE usage information:

    comScore Releases December 2012 U.S. Search Engine Rankings

    The USA search market for Dec 12 grew to 17.628 billion explicit searches for the month.

    When it comes to attracting new business online, the comparison is still search engines and daylight. You need to know whether your website is performing or whether it is unproductive cyberjunk.

    Come on SEOs, help build a contents list for a SE audit. And explain to business owners why your suggested topic is important.
    Regs,
    JohnW

    #1130440
    MatthewKeath
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    Great idea. I look forward to seeing what is discussed.

    #1130441
    Snakeman
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    OK, no bites …
    Now I am NOT an SEO expert, but my limited knowledge has divided it to two things – on page (your website) and off page (broadly = backlinks).
    Obviously both are critically important.
    Maybe the next posters should perhaps divide their key points between the two elements.
    All the best

    #1130442
    Shaukat Adam Khalid
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    To an SEO, what does a “performing” website do or look like?

    JohnW, post: 147851 wrote:
    When it comes to attracting new business online, the comparison is still search engines and daylight. You need to know whether your website is performing or whether it is unproductive cyberjunk.
    JohnW
    #1130443
    MatthewKeath
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    Khalid Adam, post: 147917 wrote:
    To an SEO, what does a “performing” website do or look like?Search engine referrals that result in conversions. The more conversions the better performing the website.
    #1130444
    Aidan
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    Well this has the possibility of turning into a long thread but in the interests of kicking things off I’m going to nominate crawl-ability as one of the structural elements.

    In order for SE’s to index (and hopefully rank your site) well, they need to be able to crawl it easily i.e. navigate easily from page to page to see all your content. This issue therefore means an SEO will be checking for any blockages and looking to see that the content is indeed readable and has some meaningful structure as to it’s layout on your site.

    You’d be amazed how many sites have their robots.txt files still asking SE’s not to index the site after construction has been completed! I still also come across some folk who have put their text into images in the interest of making it look nice but unwittingly hiding it from the SE’s. I still see home pages with only flash navigation particularly in the fashion industry which is still not a good idea.

    All of those sorts of issues can be mean your site never gets started in the rankings competition.

    #1130445
    Greg_M
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    My interest in this is mainly on the coding side, and this is my take from what I read … happy to take criticism if I’m on the wrong track.

    Keep content and visual design separate (coded separately), use CSS not tables for positioning.

    Document semantics are important, for eg. Title, followed by h1 tags, then downwards with logical sub headings h2, h3, etc. I often see in sites using a CMS (read WYSIWYG) h1, and other tags being used as design elements (size) rather than logical headings, gotta be confusing for text based crawlers.

    Metatags … I wont get into an argument about which ones to use, but they need to be unique to the page or document in question. Again, I’ve used CMS’s where this is problematic, especially generating “description” tags.

    HTML5 is offering more tags to clarify what’s actually going on in the document structure

    #1130446
    Greg_M
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    Aidan, post: 147922 wrote:
    Well this has the possibility of turning into a long thread but in the interests of kicking things off I’m going to nominate crawl-ability as one of the structural elements.

    In order for SE’s to index (and hopefully rank your site) well, they need to be able to crawl it easily i.e. navigate easily from page to page to see all your content. This issue therefore means an SEO will be checking for any blockages and looking to see that the content is indeed readable and has some meaningful structure as to it’s layout on your site.

    You’d be amazed how many sites have their robots.txt files still asking SE’s not to index the site after construction has been completed! I still also come across some folk who have put their text into images in the interest of making it look nice but unwittingly hiding it from the SE’s. I still see home pages with only flash navigation particularly in the fashion industry which is still not a good idea.

    All of those sorts of issues can be mean your site never gets started in the rankings competition.

    Forgot about images and Flash (sorry Nathan, wherever you are), and I wondered how many DIY website owners (and some designers) know what a robots.txt file is, where it’s hidden and the correct way to edit it?

    #1130447
    Shaukat Adam Khalid
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    Conversions? Do u mean clicks?

    MatthewKeath, post: 147919 wrote:
    Search engine referrals that result in conversions. The more conversions the better performing the website.
    #1130448
    MatthewKeath
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    Khalid Adam, post: 147964 wrote:
    Conversions? Do u mean clicks?

    No I mean conversions of the clicks into sales and leads.

    As I know you know, traffic is worthless unless it makes you money. SEO has a part in getting you good traffic which maximises conversion rate.

    Now back the thread topic…

    #1130449
    JohnW
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    Khalid Adam, post: 147917 wrote:
    To an SEO, what does a “performing” website do or look like?
    Hi Khalid,
    To me a “performing website” is one that delivers targeted potential clients to the website. With SEO we are talking about using generic search results to attract them.

    That is only half the job. The site needs to convert the visitors into action takers.
    Regs,
    JohnW

    #1130450
    JohnW
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    The post is contents of an SEO Audit troops…

    One important topic is how people search and what information do they want?

    I am specifically avoiding the term “keyword research”. I think there are too many different interptretaions and misconceptions about what “keyword” means.

    An SEO needs to be able to explain the limitations of tools like Google’s Keyword reports.

    There seems to be one school of thought that talks of targeting frequently used “broad” keyword search phrases, to use Google’s terminology.

    “Broad keyword” searches are the numbers of searches using all of the individual words in the search phrase, in any order, or any synonyms and with any other words.

    Eg: Google says Australians made 6,600 searches per month for the broad keyword, “railway sleepers”.

    These 6,600 searches included:

    • 880 searches made with the exact term, “railway sleepers”.
    • 91 who searched for “railway sleepers Sydney”
    • 58 who searched for “used railway sleepers”
    • and more than 1,000 other exact search phrases used during the month.

    It is typical for “exact” search phrases to represent only around 10% of the “broad” search phrases reported. If a site is only targeting “railway sleepers”, it is perhaps missing 90% of the people looking for its information.

    The “how people search” topic of an SEO Audit, to me should identify/assess:

    • Targeted customers’ search methodologies
    • What information targeted customers seek as they progress through the purchase cycle
    • Is G’s “freshness” algorithm likely to kick in for certain search terms
    • What “action” words are used
    • How important are location words
    • What is the impact of mobile search vs desktop search

    (Not a complete list.)
    Regs,
    JohnW

    #1130451
    Shaukat Adam Khalid
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    So it seems that SEOs see themselves as traffic drivers.

    1. How can quality of traffic be established in the audit?

    2. Do clients want traffic or customers and if it’s the latter, what are seo doing to bridge the gap? Should this not also be covered in the audit?

    JohnW, post: 147971 wrote:
    Hi Khalid,
    To me a “performing website” is one that delivers targeted potential clients to the website. With SEO we are talking about using generic search results to attract them.

    That is only half the job. The site needs to convert the visitors into action takers.
    Regs,
    JohnW

    #1130452
    JohnW
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    Khalid Adam, post: 147984 wrote:
    So it seems that SEOs see themselves as traffic drivers.

    1. How can quality of traffic be established in the audit?

    2. Do clients want traffic or customers and if it’s the latter, what are seo doing to bridge the gap? Should this not also be covered in the audit?
    Hi Khalid,
    As Aidan has said, this could be a long thread…

    I’m assuming you posted your comment before you saw the one I posted above. I’m hoping that one answered your first questions.

    As to your second, IMHO, a good SEO should be doing their best to educate clients to target potential customers, not simply increasing traffic to the site.

    I would not necessarily include this in an audit report. My audit’s content would make it rather evident. I certainly would be talking with the client about this issue.
    Regs,
    JohnW

    #1130453
    NickMorris
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    IMO an ‘SEO’ audit should really just deal with issues that will affect organic traffic and if you have expertise in other areas, such as conversion rate optimisation, that should be labeled as such and not lumped in with ‘SEO.’ But I guess that depends on your definitions and processes and those will be different for almost every person.

    I’ve separated the SEO audit process into three steps;
    1) Website analysis
    2) Additional research and analysis
    3) Recommendations

    I’ve used the word ‘could’ because the more information the better but most businesses, especially small businesses, will be limited by their budgets so an SEO report will likely only focus on a smaller number of aspects.

    I’ve also separated ‘onsite’ and ‘offsite’ in a few places.

    Website analysis could include;
    Onsite
    – Keyword targeting
    – Technical issues
    – Existing Content
    – Schema.org markup
    – Google Places / Google+ Local
    – Existing Data e.g. analytics data
    – Services / Scripts / Tools
    — Analytics
    — Google webmaster tools
    — Social sharing buttons
    — CMS
    — Plugins, themes, extensions

    Offsite
    – Backlink analysis

    Additional research and analysis could include;
    – Keyword research and analysis incl. keyword competition
    – Competitor website research and analysis
    – Market analysis
    – How your target market searches (difficult to determine)
    – Some of the other purchase process related things that John mentioned in his post

    Recommendations could include;
    Onsite
    – Website changes/redesign/restructure/major update/overhaul incl. change of CMS, themes, plugins etc.
    – Changes/additions to services/scripts/tools
    – Keyword optimisation
    – Additional content
    – Ongoing content strategy
    – Schema.org markup
    – Google Places / Google+ Local optimisation

    Offsite
    – Link building strategy
    – Social sharing strategy

    As John mentioned, the word ‘keyword’ can be confusing. I use it to refer any one or string of individual words that could be searched for.

    Its worth pointing out that different aspects will have different effects on different websites.
    – Large websites including e-commerce sites can suffer significantly from technical issues
    – E-commerce sites in particular often suffer from lack of original content
    – Small websites can suffer from lack of content and poor keyword optimisation
    – In competitive industries the quality and number of backlinks will play a more important role

    I think this ‘technical site audit checklist’ is a good resource: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/how-to-do-a-site-audit

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