Down and Dirty Audits for Quick Wins
It’s that time of the year again: tax season. And, what comes along with tax season? That’s right. AUDITS. This year, fear the audit no more, and let’s put them to our advantage. While I can’t help you out with a government audit (save recommending a good CPA or tax attorney), I can help with creating a simple, effective baseline audit for your clients to help get you some quick wins.
I run this audit for clients who don’t want a full-scale audit (and the reams of pages of information it generates), to give us a solid baseline of where the website is at before we start stabilization and optimization. And, with a couple of tweaks to the baseline, you’ve got a fast audit you can run every month or two months to make sure things are still on the right track.
The Quick Wins Audit
Many small business owners have neither the funds or time to invest in a full-scale audit. It took numerous hours of beating my head against the SMB wall that just wouldn’t move; they wanted a prognosis sooner, they wanted a diagnosis sooner, and they wanted out of the mess they were in sooner.
Not unlike their larger corporate counterparts, when they think it’s urgent, someone better do something to fix it now. Right this second. Dollars were simply vanishing into thin air because their search and online presence was crap. No one is a fan of getting their ass handed to them by someone they feel is of a lesser caliber.
Crawl the Site
There are many tools to crawl sites, but my personal favorite is Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool. This is the first step because this will give you a good idea, in about 10 minutes, what major technical and canonicalization steps you’ll need to take to turn their ship around. A quick tip is to spider both the non-www version and the www-version; very rarely will one or the other link over to be discoverable by a crawler like Screaming Frog, so make sure you check both.
Right off the bat you can get quick wins here: clean up nasty 404 pages, 302 redirects that should be 301 redirects, canonicalize duplicate content, and make sure the domain is canonicalized. By the next crawl cycle (under the assumption what you prescribe is implemented and followed), you’ll have strengthened the signals for content and domain authority and trust. And, that’s a huge win in the Panda-era algorithm.
If you’ve used Screaming Frog, then you also get to look at all the meta-data on the site as well. With a couple of simple Excel sorts, you can get a very quick overview if the client is targeting the site at all, or if there’s some cannibalization going on. You get the double-bonus and leg up on keyword research.
Site Operator Check
This is might be one of those under-utilized operators that everyone should be using, but no one does. This operator will give you insight into over-indexation problems (which you may have already had a clue about based on your crawl of the site), but will provide just how bad the over-indexation is.
For example, after crawling the site, you may end up with 300 pages of true content (knowing that you’ve got some technical issues to clean up), but Google might have the site at 1400 pages. Even with your technical clean up, it wouldn’t come close to that amount. Therefore, you know something more severe is happening.
This is your opportunity to rifle through the index and see exactly what Google is that Screaming Frog might not have picked up.
In-Bound Link Check
This is always a dangerous area to talk about; we all have the tendency to want to dive deep from “go”. However, for a Quick Wins audit, you have to resist that urge. Remember, the reason you have to do this type of audit in the first place; fast diagnosis and quick wins. Getting stuck in the minutia of, “well you’ve got some authoritative links here, and a not-so-great cluster of inbounds here,” will only help turn you upside-down.
Personally I use Majestic SEO to run these checks. The things you’d want to look for are:
- Historical/Fresh Cumulative Inbound Link Growth: looking for no extra-long stagnant periods or unusually quick growth
- Normalized View/Historical Index: looking for any unusual activity
- Backlink Discovery Check vs Competitor/Historical Cumulative: simply finding out how big the gap is between the competitor that dominates the SERPs and your client
- Inbound Anchor Text: gives you a very quick idea what the majority of anchors look like (and where they come from) and if they’re going to be in trouble with over-optimization
If you use Chrome, here’s the fast, easy way to run page-speed analysis on your client’s site. First, open up a new tab in Chrome, and type “about:flags”. This will take you to a menu of specific flags/warning Google Chrome will throw up. Enable “Experimental Extensions API”. Restart your browser.
After restarting your browser, go here: https://developers.google.com/speed/docs/insights/using_chrome and load the extension. Now you can run page speed tests on your client’s site and make quick, easy .ht access recommendations to give the site an extra boost of speed.
Creating Recommendations and Action Plans
On these checks alone, you can create effective recommendations of how the site should be optimized going forward and the roadmap to get there. Best of all, these are quick wins that not only move the needle in SERPs for clients, but also help to create a solid foundation for optimization to come in the near future.
Tweaking for Fast Checks on Progress
The best way to make sure your recommendations are being followed is run crawls on the site. You can see if the client is properly implementing 301’s where they need to be, and making sure that while they are implementing changes, they aren’t creating more problems. It takes about 5-10 minutes (depending on the size of the site).
If your client doesn’t have Webmaster Tools on the site (Google and Bing), get them on there. They offer a different and unique perspective on crawl rates and crawl errors, as well as page speed components. You can set up sitemaps, customize Google’s/Bing’s crawl experience (advanced users only), and get some sweet query data to boot. It’s a must have. And, you can spend 30-45 minutes digging around to make sure everything is on the up and up.
With those two tools in your belt, you can do mini-audits quickly and painlessly without breaking a client’s budget and still getting the information you need to make the right decisions.