How to Perform SEO Audit for a Website

Website audits serve the same purpose of a physical. They’re an opportunity to take a complete, top to bottom accounting of a site to note what is working, what’s broken and what needs to be improved. Once completed, the audit should help inform the larger strategy and sometimes, shape the desired outcomes and the time frame in-which those goals will be reached. Says Jason White (@Sonray ), Director of SEO and Website Audit Whiz at DragonSearch

jayson white dragon search seo

The website SEO audit Q&A with Jason White is finally here. Jason recently guest lectured in my NYU class demonstrating a website audit to graduate students.  He does SEO websites audits daily at DragonSearch so you should hear him out. 

Who is Jason White? Cycling, high-fives, copious coffee consumption and burrito judging is where he starts. Running SEO for DragonSearch is where Jason continues. He has been actively involved in many different forms of marketing including: branding, print and media buys, guerrilla marketing, pay per click, mobile campaigns, connecting multiple platforms to create holistic campaigns that deliver results. Jason has spoken at Search Marketing Expo and the Mid-Hudson Valley Digital Marketers with work featured on Search Engine Journal, The Marketology Blog and interviews appearing on Inc., CNBC, WordStream, CIO and Techwyse. Find Jason Google+.

What are the benefits of an SEO audit?

I’m creeping up on a milestone birthday this year so I don’t know this firsthand but it’s my understanding that folks of a certain age should have regular checkups and a physical with their doctor.

Website audits serve the same purpose of a physical. They’re an opportunity to take a complete, top to bottom accounting of a site to note what is working, what’s broken and what needs to be improved. Once completed, the audit should help inform the larger strategy and sometimes, shape the desired outcomes and the time frame in-which those goals will be reached.

check up audit


Credit: George Hodan (http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=53728&picture=man) 

What are the must-have components of SEO audit?

Before you begin. When a new project comes in we request any and all information that a client has including previous reports. Sometimes an audit has already been completed and largely, those audits were run by a program with little feedback from a human or explanation as to why something is being flagged as an issue. The computer programs know to only look for what they’ve been told to look for and they don’t understand that fixing 5,000 duplicated title tags isn’t going to have as much benefit as implementing an XML sitemap.

robot human

Credit: Piotr Siedlecki (http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=31785&picture=robot-topio)

When we deliver a website audit to a client, we want them to easily be able to identify the largest issues which are going to help get the site in a better standing. Budgets are always tight so the faster we can improve the amount of money a client is making from their site, the better for everyone. We want our clients to know exactly what can be fixed today, next week, next month and what will require additional resources in six months as well as understand how we’re recommending to fix the issue and why it’s a problem.

Cookie cutter audits don’t serve the client’s need so each audit needs to be focused on that initial impact while communicating the right level of urgency to the issues uncovered in a way that educates the client without scaring them

Site audits are often the first major deliverable for a project so it’s execution and delivery is paramount in not only identifying issues but in building a relationship with a client and earning their trust.

How to perform SEO audit for a website?

Constantly hone your SEO audit process. We always want the audit we’re delivering to be the best one we’ve ever delivered so we’re constantly honing the process and hunting for improvements. Our SEO audits are technical and focus on search engines but we place a large emphasis on the user and their experience which I feel is an important differentiator. Just because it’s the internet doesn’t mean that we can cut corners – the principals of suburb marketing still apply.
You need to look at a website from a perspective of a user. Users are savvy; they have an abundance of choice and they know they don’t have to deal with a company that isn’t focused on their needs so we start by looking at the site from their perspective. Here are couple questions that we ask ourselves when you audit a website:
  • Does the site serve the need, does it answer to a problem and can a visitor come to the homepage and know instantly what products and services are offered?
  • Are the resources well thought out, are blog posts simply written because it’s a best practice or are they focused and high quality?
  • What happens when a user fills out a form, picks up the phone or makes a purchase?
It seems simple but these aspects are quite often overlooked. The technical aspects are easier to fix and identify but digging and finding the user issues can sometimes point to a larger, cultural or customer service related problems with a brand that once fixed, can have a much larger impact globally.

SEO audit is a collaborative project. Part of constantly hunting for improvements requires the SEO team to run the project lean with efficiency in mind so we can dig to find every last issue and detail that makes a site unique. We want this mindset to ooze over to both the client’s internal team and the development team to earn buy in so we can get items completed quickly.

Credit: George Hodan (http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=53739&picture=people)

Credit: George Hodan (http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=53739&picture=people)

It’s important that all stakeholders feel that they have a seat at the table and have an opportunity to provide feedback on what is recommended. If a website takes 4 seconds to load and our recommendation requires improvements which will cost $4,000 and only yield a 1 second improvement, it won’t be the best use of the resources and might cause a difficult relationship with the other teams. Earning their feedback is an important part of our process and we go to lengths to ease communication and win their favor.

When we deliver a website audit, we actually deliver two. The first one is intended for the client and contains visuals, what the problem is, why it’s a problem and our recommendation is to fix the issue. This document can quickly turn into 30-50 page beast in some cases. The second document is a much simpler spreadsheet which is organized into tabs. The main tab is a ‘to-do’ list – this is the problem, this is who needs to fix it and this is how it should be fixed. It enables the different teams to understand who is doing what and how to support the different efforts with greater speed. We’ll then provide a link to the client’s audit so if more information is needed, the development team can quickly investigate. It’s a simple way to show respect towards other people’s time and expertise while keeping the overall project on point.

SearchDecoder: Here are couple in-depth free guides, tools and resources for performing an SEO audit if you would like to learn more:

How to Perform the World’s Greatest SEO Audit

How To Perform an SEO Audit – FREE $5000 Template Included

21 Best FREE SEO Tools for On-Page Optimization


The world of SEO is fast-changing, which strategies to stop, start, and continue in 2014?

STOP chasing rankings and start courting users. Rankings place focus on things you can’t control but users help you achieve your goals.

STOP listening to the SEO echo chamber and…

START listening to marketers outside of the SEO community. Our community is great but it’s filled with the same ideas. New ideas will make you a better marketer.

CONTINUE to let your passions permeate because users will feed off of your energy.
 

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What’s your favorite thing about SEO?

It requires a blend of analytics, creativity and competitive spirit that is never the same. I have my tool box of skills, figuring out how to apply them to an objective and seeing it succeed is where I find the greatest reward.

About Matthew Capala

Matthew Capala (@SearchDecoder) is a growth-focused Internet marketer and entrepreneur. He is the founder of SearchDecoder, a place for bootstrap marketing ideas for entrepreneurs, Adj. Professor at NYU, Author of "SEO Like I'm 5" and dynamic speaker.

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4 Responses to How to Perform SEO Audit for a Website

  1. Matthew Capala May 14, 2014 at 9:18 pm #

    Great insights Jason, thanks for sharing. I always try to emphasize: SEO audit is as good as it is actionable. Making recommendation happen is the objective of the audit.

  2. Ryan Biddulph May 14, 2014 at 11:57 pm #

    Hi Matt and Jason.

    A review here and there makes things easier in the present and long run. Tweaking, changing and fine tuning your SEO targets your audience effectively.

    Thanks Guys!

  3. Jason White May 15, 2014 at 5:36 pm #

    Thanks Matt!
    I agree, the audit is only 1/3 of the process, getting everyone on the same page and completing the recommendations can be the hardest part.

  4. Bhavesh Patel May 17, 2014 at 7:19 am #

    Hi Matt,

    Auditing is damn good process. But honestly I never do it for my site. Yeah I know it’s very important and without it you can not understand your seo need. Thanks for the post matt. and Have a great weekend :)

    Regards!!!
    Bhavesh Patel

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