Summary: SEO Audits on #SEOchat

Do you start all your SEO projects with a full site audit?

@GaryLHenderson: It’s always a goal. I would say some get FULL audits and some get MINI audits (depending on budgets)

@dan_patterson: I think it’s always a good idea to start with at least some form of an audit, even if it’s just to get yourself familiar with the site. However, the “fullness” of that audit will depend on the site and scope of the project.

@bloomreachinc: Yes! It’s important to know what you’re getting into.

@Ravenjeremy: You really need to get a feeling for the site’s current health so you allocate your resources to get the biggest fix

@shuey03: For me, I do far more than just a “site audit” before engaging in an SEO campaign or project. I perform a site audit, analytics audit, and webmaster tools audit… to me, that is a FULL audit.

@tannerpetroff: Every project starts with some kind of audit, but the depth of the audit depends on the project, goals, and budget.

@thompsonpaul: Do you find clients are leery when you recommend an audit? How do you justify the need?
@scott_dodge: We have had an insurgence of clients looking specifically FOR an audit. I think more often than not, clients are leery of what you might dig up… Chances are you can make certain employees look bad.
@LorinSteel: More often than not it’s the “web developer” that gets upset that you’re messing with their “creation”.
@tannerpetroff: Most clients are happy with a site audit. Good ones want to know what they can change on their site to help as much as possible.
@GaryLHenderson: I think clients are leery of the cost. They typically like the deliverable.
@tannerpetroff: Honestly, clients should be leery of cost. But it shouldn’t be togh to spell out what a site audit means for them.
@LorinSteel: I think sometimes they’re just a little uptight about messing with their “baby”, but It’s never to hard to explain.

@thompsonpaul: Are you seeing more demand for audits recently?
@scott_dodge: Absolutely. It’s been crazy.

What percentage of your audit is onsite factors vs offsite?

@scott_dodge: Totally depends on everything. Sometimes it’s 50/50, sometimes it’s 90/10.

@GaryLHenderson: It’s about 40% onsite and 60% offsite. We take #PR into account very heavily.

@thompsonpaul: I usually use analogy to a doctor’s diagnosis for an audit – need to find causes not just symptoms. In fact, often use word “diagnosis” as it sounds less intimidating than “audit”.
@scott_dodge: I use car repair myself. Audit is an inspection. Certain items need to be replaced in tandem, some need to go.

@dan_patterson: Probably not the answer you want, but it depends on the site :) Some sites have major on page problems, some have major off site problems. So it depends on the site and the issues they face.

@bloomreachinc: Interested to hear the different steps/processes each of you includes in an audit.
@Ravenjeremy: Start with “Housekeeping” like 404s, site structure and on page analysis – Then look at Analytics and existing tools.
@bloomreachinc: Solid plan of attack. Assuming “existing tools” are webmaster tools.
@Ravenjeremy: Webmaster Tools as well as whatever tools the client has been using before- see what data you have at hand. There are times when a site doesn’t include all aspects of the business it could/should – Find those quick wins!

@LorinSteel: Starts with internal to find out just how much “help” the site needs before you look at external.

@tannerpetroff: Every audit is different, and definitely depends on the project, site, and goals. Usually 60/40 or 50/50 ish.

@thompsonpaul: So you guys are saying that you do a preliminary review to decide whether site needs focus on internal/external issues?

@SEObryan: Always start with on-site, then move to off-site.
@dan_patterson: That’s the way I do it as well. No sense driving links to a jacked up site

@scott_dodge: I personally bucket a ton of hours, and spend them as necessary. I dig around to see what’s fishy, and go from there.
@dan_patterson: Digging around is crucial IMO. You learn a lot from a good crawl, but also lots from manually digging around the site.
@tannerpetroff: Just found some shady stuff by digging around during an audit last week. Always a good step.
@dan_patterson: Great example: Crawl shows you that there is an H1 on every page, but the manual view shows you it’s in a weird spot. Gotta do both.
@BrettASnyder: Automated crawl + manual digging + search advanced search queries = golden

How much business analysis do you think a site audit should include?

@BrettASnyder: Everything needs to be done w/ a biz analysis mindset… should be able to tie everything to why it helps bottom line.

@pincock: I think of audits as emphasizing on-page issues. I like to do link audits and competitive audits as a next step.

@thompsonpaul:: I think tying business/mrkting goals to website & seo is big value add – wrong traffic is bad too.

@thompsonpaul: Do you spend time with client assessing business plan/goals to address in the audit?
@scott_dodge: Totally. We have a pre-audit questionnaire, which asks what the biz objectives are, how leads are qualified, etc.

@LorinSteel: Depends on their budget. Yes, Improving their biz gets cust satisfaction, but If I’m only paid for the site that’s it

@GaryLHenderson: You have to analyze/understand the business first. Know goals, benchmark success and then audit/diagnose issues!

@tannerpetroff: Depends on the project. Some people only want brand awareness and presence in SERPs, others need bottom line dollars.

@scott_dodge: I always do an organic traffic analysis – branded vs non-branded is a big eye-opener

@BrettASnyder: I actually use GA more to ID opportunity than issues…whats your fav way to use during audit phase?
@dan_patterson: Watch for trends in when drops in traffic happened. Can help you identify which Google update hit them so you know where to focus your efforts. Also helps you know which pages are currently getting traffic/sales so you know what to prioritize.
@BrettASnyder: Love it! Trends for penalties is a great way to add the “why” element to your reccos & make informed reccos.
@scott_dodge: Organic traffic analysis, pages that might be hidden, issues with tracking codes, even finding buried pages on-site.
@BrettASnyder: Do you look at these reports on a page-by-page basis or you have a more scalable solution?
@scott_dodge: Do it manually, but just take a sample of pages to determine overall strength.
@BrettASnyder: I’m thinking the OSE top pages report would be a good guide to prioritize which to look at as well.

What kind of competitive analysis do you perform during a typical audit?

@scott_dodge: In our questionnaire, we ask for top 5 competitors. Then we compare & contrast on-page, off-page, and CRO.

@mark_homer: Competitive and offsite is majority of our audit work these days I feel

@GaryLHenderson: We ask clients for competitors, perform competitive analysis based on keywords and discover competitors they didn’t know existed.

@thompsonpaul: I usually include 3 competitor sites in analysis. Surprised how often clients don’t know who 3 biggest competitors are!
@Ravenjeremy: There’s definitely a difference between business model competitors, and KW competitors.

@tannerpetroff: We usually look at who they think their competition is, then find additional competitors for their keywords. From there, we compare & contrast their site against the competitors we found, and make changes to the campaign as necessary.
@Ravenjeremy: You should also understand if they have any “Frenemies” who share their KW space, but aren’t outright hostile.

@bloomreachinc: Good to look at competitors’ sites and research their KWs. Find overlap and opportunities (long-tail, paid, natural, etc)

@amjoker: Identify competitors making rapid growth in rankings, then see if it is on or off page changes causing the growth.

Name a tool you use in your audits and how you use it effectively

@scott_dodge: @screamingfrog is the #1 tool I use by far. I use it in SO many ways. Honestly, I spend more time looking at CSV exports of the site than I do on the actual site itself.
@thompsonpaul: Screaming Frog useful for so many things – Like to use its custom code detect to check for Analytics on every page.
@scott_dodge: I’m kind of scared because one of the audits I have on deck has… wait for it… like 15 MILLION PAGES. @screamingfrog can’t seem to handle that :(
@dan_patterson: One option: change the settings to only crawl certain sections at a time. Anyway, that’s the way I’d tackle it. Seems like it would be easier to manage and then you could even custom your recommendations based on site sections since I’d guess a site that big might even have different internal departments.

@tannerpetroff: Xenu, GA, GWT, OSE and Majestic. A good crawl, analytics, errors, and link profile can tell a lot.

@thompsonpaul: Microsoft actually makes great technical audit SEO Toolkit for IIS – can be installed locally. http://ow.ly/eWCjp. WebPagetest.org my go-to tool for assessing site performance. Closest to actual user’s experience. http://ow.ly/eWEmZ. For site speed issues.

@Ravenjeremy: Naturally @raventools but also a shout out to Screaming Frog, and Xenu
@thompsonpaul: What’s one capabiltiy or Raven Tools you’d especially poin to as effective for audits?
@Ravenjeremy: Research Central has a great Dashboard view of all our major Data – http://bit.ly/SfqDuB Great for seeing trends. Includes Majestic Backlinks data, Moz data, SEMRush data . It’s all about the Data.

Are most of your audits one-off design or do you stick to a template?

@LorinSteel: Def start with a template for time’s sake, but each on we put a personal touch.

@BrettASnyder: I stay consistent w/ how I present reccos thematically but no 2 sites are the same and reccos need to be tailored accordingly
@scott_dodge: Totally agreed. We do high / med / low priority recs – how we get there and what that contains is totally independent.

@bloomreachinc: Yes and no. We have a standard process but there’s some flexibility depending on the site (vertical, large brand, etc).

@thompsonpaul: I use my template as a framework so I don’t forget anything, but focus is customized. Cant say Ive ever had two audits go the same. Everything starts the same direction, but so many variables.

@tannerpetroff: Can’t say I’ve ever had two audits go the same. Everything starts the same direction, but there are so many variables.

@dan_patterson: IMO a loose template would be the way to go since the recs will vary so much from site to site.

@GaryLHenderson: I use a baseline checklist but the design/content/structure is customized

How many hours do you typically invest performing an audit?

@scott_dodge: Depends on the contract. Most of the time, it’s just shy of the triple-digits, but that includes a LOT of extras. The definition of a quick win. “Oh hey, you want 10,000 links back? Fix this one thing”.

@GaryLHenderson: It depends on the size of the site. All said and done our average is 30+ hours. We are also typically dealing with smaller sites. Hotels, Biz, some ECommerce.

@tannerpetroff: Depends on the project. Some audits are really simple and don’t take much time. Some audits take a lot of time. Usually just contains issues we have found along w/ recs. We try to only give them actionable info. Usually between 1-5 pages.

@bloomreachinc: That varies wildly. Unraveling a site that’s in bad shape can be very time consuming (but have a huge upside).

@thompsonpaul: I put a lot of work into an executive summary and plain-language prioritized recommendations

@scott_dodge: Don’t want to step on any toes, but how do you guys spec your deliverable? And how do you deal with presenting your findings to people that don’t understand SEO?
@GaryLHenderson: Common analogies. Plain english and geek out when they want us to.
@mark_homer: Analogies and Visuals help.
@Ravenjeremy: I used to work with lots of Realtors, you need to use Metaphors and models that parallel experiences they’ve had.
@scott_dodge: Is education ever a part of your scope?
@GaryLHenderson: It’s almost always a part of our approach.
@scott_dodge: We just recently did a monster one, did a presentation to 12 people at the biz. Built out a huge 101 preso, did that FIRST. I think I’m doing that every time – it helped get 12 people completely on board, and made presenting my findings so much easier.
@Ravenjeremy: I’m always surprised by how little about SEO and online marketing that Small businesses actually know. I think that Chambers of Commerce in cities SHOULD do SEO training for ALL their members.
@mark_homer: We wrote a book & perform training in our market – helps with them understanding when we talk about what they need.

How often should an audit be performed? You in-house folks, how often do you do them?

@dan_patterson: I run a basic crawl of the site at least once a month to make sure no new issues popped up. The @seomoz campaign tool does a weekly crawl as well which is very helpful. You can’t customize it though, so I still do my own. It’s also crucial to regularly check GWMT for issues.

@GaryLHenderson: I think you should consistently evaluate audit criteria to gage success, set new goals and maintain your comp advantages.

@Ravenjeremy: Once you do your initial audit, in-house you should define your longterm strategy and then LIVE in the data.

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