Program Description: How to Conduct an SEO Audit
There are sites that offer free “SEO Audits” that identify a few of the glaring problems with your site, but comparing those to a professional SEO Audit is like comparing Wix to WordPress.
The SEO audit is the first step in a long-term SEO campaign. It identifies what’s working, what’s not, and where the site’s SEO can be improved.
In this presentation, John Locke, SEO consultant at Lockedown Design & SEO, will walk through how he does in-depth SEO audits for clients.
Some things he’ll cover in this special session:
– What things he looks for when it comes to increasing rankings
– How content is arguable the most important factor in rankings
– Why your link profile is still important to Google
– Looking for patterns is necessary for improving SEO
– How building your brand will help your SEO
– User experience is the most overlooked factor in SEO
– Why you need to monitor your information on other sites
– How reviews and reputation directly affect your search rankings
– What factors you should address first if you’re starting from zero
Be prepared to take notes: this is an information-packed session!
About the Speaker: John Locke of Lockedown SEO
John Locke got his start in web development and digital marketing after a two decade career working in commercial and retail bakeries, working his way up from an apprentice to journeyman to manager. He studied web design and web development for two years in between shifts at the bread factory in preparation for the next phase of his working life.
In 2012, he founded Lockedown Design as a web development shop. Later, after noticing he had a knack for SEO, he moved the business towards online marketing and search engine optimization.
Slides: How to Conduct an SEO Audit.
The purpose of an SEO Audit is to give a website the best chances of ranking. It is an investigative process. Doing it properly takes time, nuance, and an understanding of context.
A good SEO audit should give you a six-month blueprint of things to improve. A professional SEO audit will have depth and many actionable items.
Automated SEO reports are trash. They have some nuggets you can use, but they only tell part of the story.
Section 1 of my SEO audits is a summary of why we were called in the first place. This is a assessment of the situation (competition, revenue, what they need to have happen, what’s at stake). It is there to reaffirm that we understand their situation, and assure them that we’re all working on the same problem.
We want to do more than list a series of keywords and their search volume. Ideally, we are looking at ideas for content, as well as our “seed” keywords. This helps qualify or disqualify keywords based on volume of searches, so we don’t chase keywords that will yield small volumes. If we are doing local SEO, we also look at the monthly keyword search volume for target cities in the area. (Do we need landing pages for specific cities?) At the end of this section, we make suggestions. [We have made big content decisions from this type of analysis alone in the past, upon discovering that our target customers searched for products/services one way and not another.] I use KWFinder to get keyword search volumes, and I look at top keywords/pages for competitors in Ahrefs to get ideas for keywords. The keyword list the client gives us is only a starting point.
We look at selected search queries and break down each of the top ten results for that search results page, including the map (if there is one). The biggest thing we are looking at is pattern matching and determining searcher intent. How many keyword phrases we break down is our discretion. Usually at least four major keyword phrase. Larger sites usually need more. We learn a lot from this, and this is something that automated “SEO reports” cannot do.
Searcher intent (go with the flow not against). Tools you can use to check the SERPs: Mangools SERP Checker, Ahrefs, or plain Google in Incognito Mode.
Things to look at in technical SEO section: site speed (specifically TTFB – use Chrome Dev Tools), hosting infrastructure, mobile friendly, HTTPS, 404s (use Google Search Console or Ahrefs) and broken links, HTML & XML sitemaps (use Varvy), If Modified Since (use Varvy.com), structured data (use Google Structured Data Testing Tool, check against Google My Business), Terms of Service page.
We look at all major pages (Home, About, Contact, Reviews, Services) and on small sites, we look at all the pages. We also look at the global elements of each page: header, footer, sidebar, etc. We do a breakdown of each page, what should be there – based on what we have seen in searcher intent, what’s actually ranking, and analysis of competitor sites that are already ranking. This is why we look at the patterns of what Google is ranking first, then do a content analysis. We also give suggestions for the next six to twelve months of content *that we need to close the content gap with competitors*. Without content, you won’t get links, or traffic, or have potential to rank for keywords.
URL and site structure suggestions (aka siloing, goes here)
How to build links? You will need best-in-class content to earn links. Create the content, get a few people to link to it, share it on social media and to your email list, and drive traffic to it. If other people with authority in your space link to it or share it, it will gain traction.
We’re going to look at your link profile and those of your competitors. Unlike an automated SEO audit, we’re going to give you a list of links that you should attempt to get. Most automated tools only count total number of links and linking domains. Instead, we want to go for links that are going to move the needle. Additionally, some of the links your competitors have may be unavailable. This happens quite often, because old unmaintained sites are normal. Let’s find similar sites that you should look at. Also, what incoming linking sites are common to everyone in the top ten of your competitors? Look for patterns in linking, this tells us what ones we need for a foundation. We’ll also look at foundational citation sites if we’re doing a local SEO audit. (We use Ahrefs for the competitor backlink profiles, and Moz Local for citation link scoping).
Business name correct everywhere? Business categories, hours of operation, reviews, address, website, photos. Suggestions
Reviews and reputation (Google, Yelp, industry specific)
Looking at the actual UX of the site. IS the font legible? Does everything work? How does it stack up against your competition? Do you need a redesign? We may use CrazyEgg or HotJar over the long term to investigate theories we have about your UX (long term, not in this initial audit).
Big part of user experience is “Can people complete the task they come to do”?
Other forms of marketing? Facebook Pixel or other tracking needed? Branding notes? Messaging? All that goes here.