SEO can be really fun sometimes. Sexy even. Creating awesome content, doing influencer outreach, and all in the pursuit of growing revenue. Sexy. Audits, however, are not sexy. The word itself is deeply unappealing, conjuring up images of the IRS. And yet, we start every SEO campaign with a site audit. A technical site audit looks at your site through Google's eyes, and picks apart every problem that could be preventing it from ranking. Your site could look fine, and yet have serious structural, UX or technical problems holding it back. Which means that if you start with content and link building, then you're basically throwing a jet engine on a car with flat tires.
SEO is a lot like adulthood. You know the people who claim they want to be a kid again? Bump that. I can basically do whatever I want - on a recent Saturday I played video games for six hours, ate some pizza bagel bites, then hung out with my friends watching soccer. I can buy ice cream WHENEVER I WANT. Being an adult is awesome. But with freedom comes responsibilities. Paying bills, doing the dishes, buying groceries, doing laundry. A site audit is kind of like that - we get the house in order first, before we can have friends over. Your website is the same. And when I tell a client this, they're often bummed out. After all, by the time they start working with me, they've heard all about our great content ideas and plans to do great things; and then I have to put on my responsible adult hat and say "we have to do our chores before we start having fun with this." But there's good reason we do the site audit first.
Make Sure Google Can Crawl Your Site (Correctly)
So why not start with content and link building? Because all the great content in the world, the authoritative inbound links, it all means nothing unless Google can actually read and analyze your site.
Google needs to be able to crawl your site easily and understand what the webpage is about; otherwise, Google won't know to return your webpage when someone searches for a keyword we're going after with our keyword strategy. Your website doesn't look the same to Google as it does to a user, and the way your website is structured technically makes it readable for both parties. Because of this, our very first order of business is to make sure your site is crawlable, particularly when it comes to robots.txt (which tells Google the pages you DON'T want crawled) and sitemaps (which tells Google the pages you DO want crawled). To spare you the technical jargon that has made many of my previous dates roll their eyes in boredom, our site audit makes sure that:
- The pages of your website are in fact contained within Google's index.
- The robots.txt file is blocking the appropriate resources, and not site content.
- Sitemaps are set up properly in a way which makes it easy for Googlebot to navigate the website.
- Nofollow and Noindex tags are utilized where appropriate.
- Pages with similar content have canonical tags applied.
- Redirects are set up correctly - we should not be returning dead pages in the index.
At the end of the day, brilliant content and keyword optimization and authoritative links (as discussed below) don't mean anything if Google can't crawl your site or figure out where things are.
Qualifying and Quantifying Results
The goal of link building efforts is, of course, to improve keyword rankings, drive qualified traffic and ultimately bring more conversions to your business. But that's a pretty vague answer. What keywords would we ideally like to be ranking for? How do we know the traffic we bring in is qualified? Once that traffic hits your website, is it converting from visitor to lead? Taking a step back even further - do you have the right tracking systems in place? Are you tracking lead forms and phone calls in an appropriate manner that provides you with clear, actionable data? Do you know the value of your leads and the different types of leads that come through your website? Before we can even get to the part that really drives our results, we need to have systems in place to quantify those results. Ensuring Google Analytics and other tracking programs are set up appropriately are a critical part of an SEO campaign and one of the first things we address during our website audit.
This step is also where keyword research, keyword mapping, and content analysis all come into play. Of course, we want to do link building and promotion, raising the authority of your website - but it order for that to truly have the best effect, we need the site to be appropriately targeted towards those keywords. This is where things like title tags, meta descriptions, and on-page content come into play. They aren't the fun part of this process, but a necessary prerequisite to ensure you get the best value for your SEO efforts.
Improve User Experience
As you may know, Google's goal is to provide the best user experience for their customers. That means they want people to be able to find the answers to their questions quickly, easily, and without mistakes. To that end, Google rewards sites by ranking them higher if they provide a great user experience. The technical items that are uncovered and addressed during a site audit mostly revolve around creating a better user experience, through improvements such as:
- Faster site speed.
- More high-quality content.
- Easy navigation.
- Ability to use the site on any device.
- Clear calls-to-action and directives.
As it turns out, what's good for SEO is often great for users. Most of Google's on-site ranking factors are things that are going to please your users and turn them from visitor into lead. We address all of these items - site speed, mobile responsiveness, on-page content, conversion funnels, navigation elements (and so much more) in the course of a website audit.
Link Building and Proving Authority
Once we've built a kick-ass horse, then we start talking about the carriage. We can then move onto link building and proving our client's authority in a given area. Link building is one of the most important tactics for SEO success, and search engines treat links to your site as votes of confidence in your site's content and quality. The more links you have from high authority sites, the more Google will view your site as a helpful place that should be featured highly in search engine rankings. Additionally, links become much more valuable when they point to a well-optimized site, since Google can crawl it faster and understand the connection between linking domains better. But remember - all these great links don't mean much if your website isn't crawled by Google and friendly to users. My job as an Account Manager is to make sure your brand shines, that the awesome work that Kyle and Tom do will provide great results for your company. None of that happens if your website isn't good to users and good ol' Googlebot. Our website audit ensures that we make your website a platform on which we can build some awesome success with.
Since we're already on the topic of horses and carriages - they take some time to get where they need to go. Not exactly the fastest mode of transport, but it is pretty stylish. Much like SEO - it takes some time to build your carriage, find a horse, and trot your way to the top of the Search Engine Rankings. How long does it take, exactly? While there's no exact answer, our guide can help you learn what to expect.
Learn more about the factors that affect each phase of SEO with our collection of case studies illustrating how long it takes to see SEO results.