03 Apr Maybe less sexy than brand. Our approach to site audits.
When kicking off new client projects we often get involved to a greater or lesser extent in some kind of site audit. It’s an important part of getting to grips with where the client is in terms of online business and digital marketing. Inevitably visibility and reputation in natural search are part of that and there’s a lot written around the SEO site audit. For starters it is worth checking out A step-by-step 15 minute SEO site audit and Regular health checks for your SEO from the guys at SEOmoz. Adam Audette is another guy worth following and he provides a more in depth look at The art and science of SEO audits. We tend to get involved in site audits as part of our strategy and planning work. Typically the audits we do tend to be broader than an SEO site audit and cover six key areas – which can be turned up or down depending on where the client is with their digital marketing and what they are trying to achieve.
Patterns are important. Where site traffic is concerned that means across the year, month, week and specific spikes. What are the trends? We look at where that traffic is coming from – direct, referral and search. Where search is concerned what is the balance between non-paid and paid search? What is the balance between brand and non-brand keywords? Who are the biggest referring sites and what is driving direct traffic? Getting to grips with integration across online and offline is a foundation of good digital marketing strategy. What are site visitors looking at and engaging with? That includes popular content pages, what is happening on the pages themselves and user journeys across the site. Clearly we need to identify who these visitors are and whilst that uses data beyond just web analytics there are clues you need to check – like mapping, language and interestingly what browsers your visitors are using. Most importantly we need to understand what is happening in terms of conversion – across key user journeys and user goals.
The depth and breadth of an SEO site audit depends a lot on the objectives associated with the particular strategy or planning piece of work. The blogs referred to above represent a good starting point and in general terms it covers things like;
- Homepage – first impressions, page title, page description, H1 and page content. How does this compare to your major competitors?
- Navigation and site indexing – identifying any immediate problems associated with the information architecture, the platform and the configuration of it.
- Category and hub pages – beyond page markup it also looks at the internal linking strategy and the strength of these pages as landing pages.
- Product pages – the depth and breadth of content, image optimisation and how specific page elements affect the visibility of the content in search.
- Site indexing – ensuring search engines can and have indexed the site content. Identifying problems such as the presence of duplicate content.
The nerdy stuff. These are the sorts of questions you might need to ask your web developer and depending on where you are with natural search the list of question might differ. To begin with it is about getting your house in order so we’ll help you identify potential issues across things like your robots.text file, XML sitemaps, 301 redirects and broken links, canonicalization, custom 404 setup, crawl frequency and page speed.
Quite simply links matter. It’s not just quantity but quality too. We run link analysis across your site and your major competitor’s sites. Beyond a comparison of quantity and quality we will look at the link profile and identify the types of links and the anchor text (the words you end up clicking on!) used across those links. Useful clues both in terms of your overall position but also a useful starting point for key phrase research and a link building strategy. Finally we dip our toe into a bit of SEO competition analysis across some obvious key words. That will help identify what your search competitors are doing across a range of factors and where you might or might not be able to compete. Interesting!
So, what happens when people do reach your site? Like SEO audits a usability audit can be as long as you want to make it but once again there is a list of things to look at which provides a really good starting point and helps identify some quick wins through highlighting some obvious problems. Date from your analytics, such as user journeys and on page click maps, come in here too but is also includes things like;
- Homepage – above all else get that right!
- Language – across content and navigation or functional elements
- Products – do they represent what the business does?
- Layout – have we applied appropriate ‘supermarket’ thinking?
- Imagery – does it support the brand and site objectives?
- Navigation and functionality – the backbone of any site.
- Key conversion pages – making them work harder
Ultimately we need to get to grips how does the site, compared to competitor sites, support the user journey from awareness, through consideration to engagement and conversion.
We call it socialisation and what we mean by that is how does the site connect with and engage your community. What does your site do to support the development of that community and empower them to act on your behalf? We have moved from an online world that is built on information culture to one that is built on conversation culture. What are you and your competitors doing to take account of that change?
So, lots to think about and six key areas that can be turned up and down according to the type of business, it’s position online and the specific objectives that you are trying to achieve. One thing for sure it definitely is both an art and a science!