Conducting An SEO Audit To Troubleshoot Problems & Tune-Up Performance

If I was stranded on a deserted island and could only bring three people to keep me amused and enlightened for the rest of my days, it would be the three speakers slotted in this session. Because they are all awesome. And I love them. And I am crazy in the head.

Speaking we have some of my favorite people in search – Vanessa Fox, Adam Audette and Derrick Wheeler.  You so wish you were here.

Up first is Derrick Wheeler, my original SEO crush.  He explains how the search engines work. There are these things called spiders. They crawl your site, typically starting on your home page and venturing to all the other different pages on the site.  Then they take all the info and add it to their index so that people can search for it.

Here, he drew it out for you.  That makes total sense, right?  Stick to the day job, Derrick.

site audit

Organic search engine optimization is the process of systematically satisfying the needs of search engines and the needs of your users. Here’s how it works without the crazy drawing.

  1. search engine crawls your site
  2. search engine indexes your site
  3. users perform queries
  4. search engines rank appropriate pages
  5. users click on ranked listings
  6. users take action and/or interact with the site

Successful troubleshooting requires data. Use your log files and or Webmaster tools to see how the engines are crawling and indexing your site. Understand your keyword phrases and check your rankings on a monthly basis to see how you’re doing over time. Understand how many visits you get from search engines. Understand the paths people are using to get to the different pages of your site. Have success events built in. Try to understand what the value of a user is. [I know, they BUY THINGS! #imssosmart]

He’s done for now.

Adam Audette is up next.  He’s groggy.  Vanessa asks if “groggy” is a euphemism. Hee. We’re all “groggy”.

Site audits are part art, part science.  Site audits are a lot of work and rely on experience. Problem solving is crucial. It takes time to learn deeply and find all the new ways you can fail.  You have to be MacGyver. He’s our man.

Part Art: Follow your nose. A site or navigation just “smells wrong” sometimes. You have to dive in and figure out why. It takes diligence to dive in and find out what the problems are. It requires trust. The company has to trust you to find their issues.

Part Science: We use set tools. It’s very calculated in the processes. We’re always looking at a set number of factors and we’re documenting everything.

A framework for SEO Audits

On- Page

  • Domains
  • Sections & Categories  (how are they related to interior pages)
  • Pages (product pages on an e-commerce site)
  • Media (images, videos, etc)

What About Deliverables?

  • Summarize
  • Keep it Prioritized
  • Keep it Actionable
  • Build in Follow-up
  • Sizzle Matters

Off-Page

  • Backlinks (quantity, quality)
  • Social Media Signals
  • Cache Dates, Indexed Pages
  • Toolbar PageRank

The Big 4 Factors

  • URLs
  • Site Architecture and Navigation
  • Product-level pages
  • Site Latency

Document the issues. Explain the problem, the impact and then offer some recommended solutions.

Cool Tools

Vanessa is up. She starts off apologizing to me because she’s going to go super fast. Vanessa obviously hates me. I still have a secret yearning to braid her hair.

She shows an ugly flow chart and says that search is like an iceberg. You only see the tip when you see the traffic loss. When people call her panicked, they always think its a ranking problem and that it’s a penalty. The truth is it could be any one of a number of things. You have to dive in to see if it’s a crawling issue, a relevance issue, etc.

Search engines haven’t quite grown up yet. They’re still like babies.

When you’re diagnosing a problem, make sure you really have a problem. If you had a traffic drop, did you really drop or do you just not have the traffic?  If your ToolBar PageRank drops, have things really changed or is Google just trying to mess with you? When you look at a problem, make sure it’s really an issue and that you’re not just making it up. The same applies to relationships. Get the data first.

And then benchmark. Look at the top ten rankings you have and use tools like Rank Checker (SEOBook) to get a report of what page ranks and where. For crawling, she likes to have people run a script over the server logs to help you categorize pages. If you have a hotel site, you’d want to categorize property pages, regional landing pages, review pages, profiles, etc. If you can categorize those separately and see the crawl for each section, it can help you see where the problem is and if you really have one.  You can also get this information from Google (and Microsoft).

She looks at a bunch of extractable link issues. But again, since she HATES me, she doesn’t pause or stop clicking long enough for me to get them down. I see how it is, Vanessa.

She flips through a bunch of different checklists (luckily, some are listed on her site, so you get links!).  Things like:

If you have an affiliate feed, they’re only going to show so many pages with the same stuff.

If your rankings drop for ALL your keywords: Did the site rank for different queries before? Did you change the site content dramatically?   Check to see if you’ve been penalized, review the guidelines, identify the issue and then FIX IT. Then request evaluation. Not before.

The first step in diagnosis is to find the root cause. Word.

[Vanessa RAN through her presentation, but I very much recommend you look at the Resources section of Jane and Robot. There you'll find a bunch of tools and different checklists. I'm going to lunch.]

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About the Author

Lisa Barone

Lisa Barone co-founded Outspoken Media in 2009 and served as Chief Branding Officer until April 2012.

Get social with Lisa at Twitter

7 thoughts on “Conducting An SEO Audit To Troubleshoot Problems & Tune-Up Performance

  1. Thanks for this – I was a little ‘groggy’ during this session as well and was wondering about the locations of all the tools that were mentioned.

  2. Thanks for this post. I was waiting for someone to post on sms London, but nothing came. These places are too expensive for SEO freelancers. Following sessions on Twitter is just annoying.

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