It’s too easy to fall into a rut with your SEO audits. If it doesn’t meet best practices it ought to be fixed, right? Not always. Though an SEO audit is essentially a checklist, it’s important to both customize your approach and prioritize your fixes to be efficient and effective with your time and effort. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Kameron Jenkins teaches us her methods for saying adios to generic, less effective SEO audits and howdy to a better way of improving your site.
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Hey, everybody. Welcome to this week’s edition of Whiteboard Friday. My name is Kameron Jenkins, and today we’re going to be talking about the SEO audit. We’re going to be talking about how to take it from its kind of current generic state to something that’s a little bit more customized and it has prioritization baked in so hopefully we’re going to be doing these SEO audits for higher impact than we’re currently doing them.
What is an SEO audit?
So I think it’s safe to start with a definition of what an SEO audit is. Now, depending on who you ask, an SEO audit can mean a lot of different things. So if you were to boil it down to its just barest of bones, here’s what I would say an SEO audit usually is. This is what someone means when they say SEO audit.
An SEO audit is a checklist to see if your site is compliant
So it’s a list of checks basically. You have all of these things that are SEO best practices, and you run your site through this sieve and you try to see is my site compliant or not compliant essentially.
So you have things like: Missing H1s, yes or no? Broken links, yes or no? Duplicate title tags, yes or no? So you end up with this whole big, long list of things that are wrong and not according to SEO best practices on your site.
Purpose = improving SEO metrics
The whole purpose of this is usually to improve some kind of SEO metrics.
Maybe you’re trying to correct a traffic drop or something like that. So you have this whole laundry list of things now that you need to fix as a result of this SEO audit. So usually what you end up saying is, hey, dev team or client or whoever you’re giving this to, “You need to fix these things because they’re SEO best practice.” What’s wrong with this though?
“Fix it because it’s SEO best practice.” What’s wrong with this picture?
I think there are a couple things wrong with this.
1. May or may not be hurting you
Number one, it means that we’re addressing things that may or may not actually be the culprit of whatever issue we’re facing. It’s just a list of things that didn’t meet a best practices list, but we don’t really know and we’re not really sure if these things are actually causing the issues that we’re seeing on our site.
2. May or may not have an impact
So because we don’t know if these are the culprit and the things that are hurting us, they may or may not have an impact when we actually spend our time on them.
3. May be wasting time
Number three, that leads to a lot of potential wasted time. This is especially true, well, for everyone. Everyone is very busy. But this is especially true for people who work at enterprises and they have a very large website, maybe a really strapped for time and resources development team. If you give them a list of fixes and you say, “Hey, fix these things because it’s SEO best practices,”they are just going to say, “Yeah, sorry, no.I don’t have time for that, and I don’t see the value in it.I don’t really know why I’m doing this.”
So I think there’s a better way. Move over to this side.
How to customize
Customization and prioritization I think are a lot better alternatives to doing our SEO audits. So there are three kind of main ways that I like to customize my SEO audits.
1. Don’t look at everything
Number one, it may sound a little bit counterintuitive, but don’t look at everything. There are plenty of times when you do an SEO audit and it makes sense to do a kind of comprehensive audit, look through all kinds of things.
You’re doing links. You’re doing content. You’re doing the site architecture. You’re doing all kinds of things. Usually I do this when I’m taking over a new client and I want to get to know it and I want to get to know the website and its issues a little bit better. I think that’s a totally valid time to do that. But a lot of times we’re doing more work than we actually have to be doing when we look at the entire website and every single scenario on the website.
So maybe don’t look at everything.
2. Start with a problem statement
Instead I think it could be a good idea to start with a goal or a problem statement. So a lot of times SEO audits kind of come in response to something. Maybe your client is saying, “Hey, our competitor keeps beating us for this. Why are they beating us?” Or, “Hey, we’ve had year-over-year decline in traffic.What’s going on? Can you do an SEO audit?”
So I think it’s a good idea to start with that as kind of a goal or a problem statement so that you can narrow and target your SEO audit to focus on the things that are actually the issue and why you’re performing the audit.
3. Segment to isolate
Number three, I think it’s a really good idea to segment your site in order to isolate the actual source of the problem. So by segment, I mean dividing your site into logical chunks based on their different purposes.
So, for example, maybe you have product pages. Maybe you have category pages. You have a blog section and user-generated content. There are all these different sections of your website. Segment those, isolate them, and look at them in isolation to see if maybe one of the sections is the culprit and actually experiencing issues, because a lot of times you find that, oh, maybe it’s the product pages that are actually causing my issues and it’s not the blog posts or anything else at all.
So that way you’re able to really waste less time and focus, take a more targeted, focused look at what’s actually going on with your website. So once you’ve kind of audited your site through that lens, through a more customized lens, it’s time to prioritize, because you still have a list of things that you need to fix. You can’t just heap them all onto whatever team you’re passing this on to and say,” Here, fix these all.”
How to prioritize
It’s a lot better to prioritize and tell them what’s more important and why. So here’s how I like to do that. I would plot this out on a matrix. So a pretty simple matrix. At the top, your goal goes there. It keeps you really focused. All of these little things, say pretend these are just the findings from our SEO audit.
On the y-axis, we have impact. On the x-axis, we have time. So essentially we’re ordering every single finding by what kind of impact it’s going to have and how much time it’s going to take to complete. So you’re going to end up with these four quadrants of tasks.
So in this green quadrant here, you have your quick wins.
These are the things that you should do right now, because they’re going to have a really high impact and they’re not going to take a lot of time to do. So definitely prioritize those things.
Schedule & tackle in sprints
In this blue quadrant here, you have things that are going to make a really high impact, but they also take a lot of time. So schedule those after the green quadrant if you can. I would also suggest breaking those larger, time-intensive tasks into smaller, bite-sized chunks.
This is a good idea no matter what you’re doing, but this is especially helpful if you’re working with a development team who probably runs in two-week sprints anyway. It’s a really good idea to segment and tackle those little bits at a time. Just get it on the schedule.
In this orange down here, we have things to maybe deprioritize. Still put them on the schedule, but they’re not as important as the rest of the tasks.
So these are things that aren’t going to make that high of an impact, some impact, but not that high, and they’re not going to take that much time to do. Put them on the schedule, but they’re not as important.
Just don’t do it
Then in this last quadrant here, we have the just don’t do it quadrant. Hopefully, if you’re taking this really nice targeted look at your site and your audit through this lens, you won’t have too many of these, if any.
But if something is going to take you a lot of time and it’s not going to make that big of an impact, no one really has time for that. We want to try to avoid those types of tasks if at all possible. Now I will say there’s a caveat here for urgency. Sometimes we have to work on things regardless of what kind of impact they’re going to make on our site.
Maybe it’s because a client has a deadline, or it’s something in their contract and we just have to get something done because it’s a fire. We all have love/hate relationships with those fires. We don’t want to be handling them all of the time. If at all possible, let’s make sure to make those the exception and not the rule so that we actually get these priority tasks, these important things that are going to move the needle done and we’re not constantly pushing those down for fires.
One last thing, I will say impact is something that trips up a lot of people, myself included. How do you actually determine how much of an impact something is going to have before you do it? So that can be kind of tricky, and it’s not an exact science. But there are two main ways that I kind of like to do that. Number one, look for correlations on your website.
So if you’re looking at your website through the lens of these pages are performing really well, and they have these things true about them, and they’re on your list of things to fix on these other pages, you can go into that with a certain degree of certainty, knowing that, hey, if it works for these pages, there is a chance that this will make a high impact on these other pages as well.
So look at the data on your own website and see what’s already performing and what qualities are true about those pages. Number two, I would say one of the biggest things you can do is just to start small and test. Sometimes you really don’t know what kind of an impact something is going to make until you test on a small section. Then if it does have a high impact, great. Put it here and then roll it out to the rest of your site.
But if it doesn’t have a good impact or it has minimal impact, you learn something from that. But at least now you know not to prioritize it, not to spend all of your time on it and roll it out to your entire website, because that could be potentially a waste of time. So that’s how I prioritize and I customize my SEO audits. I think a lot of us struggle with: What even is an SEO audit?
How do I do it? Where do I even look? Is this even going to make a difference? So that’s how I kind of try to make a higher impact with my SEO audits by taking a more targeted approach. If you have a way that you do SEO audits that you think is super helpful, pop it in the comments, share it with all of us. I think it’s really good to share and get on the same page about the different ways we could perform SEO audits for higher impact.
So hopefully that was helpful for you. That’s it for this week’s Whiteboard Friday. Please come back again next week for another one.