How do agencies perform SEO audits?

Most people follow a checklist when performing an SEO audit however depending on the level of formality, ownership and expertise though, there can be times when a more instinct-driven investigation is best, both at the super-low and super-high budget ends. There will be a lot of agencies that expect SEO managers and senior SEO execs to either design an audit template from scratch or contribute to improving it.

A real top-level audit would be a bit like a valuation which considers all the main things. Let’s say we wanted to internally audit any given site, the type of audit would depend on our reason for wanting the audit. For businesses who have a decent level of experience in SEO most likely we wouldn’t want to be patching errors because we are already confident in the integrity of our content and code to a certain level. More likely for our needs, we would want to audit the backlink profile in terms of strengths and weaknesses, ie how many super strong links, how many risky toxic/spammy links, how relevant the topics and keywords, how diverse the link type and wording, basically all the ‘power factors’ and ‘spam factors’.

However if we were an agency auditing it for a site owner with little experience in SEO, we would cover all the things they might not know, such as quality of content and code. Hence if doing the audit as an agency, i would usually put a lot of work into identifying technical ‘errors’ and ‘spam factors’ (these are the two types of potentially critical problem); then i would continue the audit by looking at non critical problems to fix/improve, and then go into ‘opportunities’ – ways we can improve the campaign by adding value and maximise the site’s potential after fixing immediate errors. Essentially a checklist could still be used but with plenty of room for qualitative info for each checkpoint/section.

Technical SEO audits should totally follow checklists but if auditing a domain’s value and potential, or a brand, or something less technical, then it’s different. In this case a few good ideas can be worth as much as a thousand ticks and crosses. Ultimately it all boils down to what the client expects from an audit.

There are other factors that aren’t typically considered in SEO audits, or at least aren’t as highly prioritised as they should be. This includes conversion rate optimisation (CRO) because that’s the new age of SEO, creative campaign design because that’s the key factor in outreach & content marketing beside sales/negotiation with clients & partners, and business strategy/vision which is similar to campaign design but on a higher level.

What is Progressive Enhancement?

The idea of layering content within semantic markup (HTML) first, then CSS styles next, then JavaScript next, so that each layer can be peeled off by devices that don’t support it without affecting layers beneath, is called Progressive Enhancement. It sums up the general best-practice web development strategy for how to manage the relationship of these technologies.

One of the possible further layers on top, even more advanced than JavaScript, is jquery (a framework for JavaScript). The main thing to consider is to ensure jquery within a webpage does not destroy the site’s usability, which is termed as ‘non conflicting jquery’. There is a trend in jquery to use shortcut lines of code beginning with a $ sign like $(), which is short for typing jQuery(), and this frequently causes errors where other scripting libraries try to also use the popular $ sign at the start of each line of code. Technically this isn’t so much an SEO issue but if we’re doing from the bottom-most levels to the top, then jqeury is a suitable thing to put at the top of the layers and non-conflicting is the recommended ‘type’ of jquery.

What is Blogger Outreach?

Blogger outreach is the process of initiating contact with bloggers within the target industry for link negotiation, with the desired goal of getting an inbound link to your site. This can either be done through organic passive linkbuilding, offering a useful product which they link to the site on their own free will, or through offering incentives such as free products as part of link negotiation.

What is Black Hat SEO?

Black Hat SEO refers to the use of certain SEO techniques that are often called unethical but are often perfectly legal and no less ethical than other means of aggressive marketing tactics. These techniques often violate the webmaster guidelines set out by search engines, thus they differ from White Hat SEO tactics which aim to perfectly adhere to search engine preferences.

What is HTML?

HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language. Pages on the World Wide Web are marked-up in HTML. Similar to CSV files, HTML files are stored in plain text format and can be edited using plain text editors like notepad. On the server, a HTML file usually has a .html extension, although this is not strictly required, for instance .htm extensions are also common, this comes from the days when all extensions were three letters long.

What are Cookies?

A cookie is a piece of data stored by browser software at the request of the website you’re on. It can be used to store any small piece of information such as a username, the status of a shopping basket, the act of clicking specific buttons, etc. Cookies are not necessarily stored as standalone files, for instance they can be stored within a database.

What are Breadcrumbs?

A set of breadcrumbs is a set of links that follow the user’s path, usually from the homepage to the currently viewed page, in order for the user to see at a glance where they are within the site as a whole, so they can understand the structure of the site and navigate to any given ‘parent page’.

What are Meta Keywords?

The Meta Keywords tag was originally designed to be used to highlight keywords or keyterms (search terms) targeted by the page, to inform search engines what terms the page should rank for. Previously, search engine algorithms were not able to identify the relevance of these terms for themselves, hence webmasters had to manually highlight them using the Meta Keywords tag. As these have previously used for spam purposes (excessively highlighting keywords or including terms not featured on the page) meta keywords are no longer used by most SEO professionals. Many rookie SEO professionals and web developers attempting SEO still use Meta Keywords tags, contrary to their redundant nature.

What is Keyword Density?

Keyword density is a measure of how dense (how richly distributed) keywords or keyterms (search terms) are, within an article or other span of content.

It’s a rather dated (often abused, and easily detected) indicator of relevancy for search engines.

What is Link Baiting?

Link baiting is the art of creating content that provokes the audience to link to your site.

What are Brand Keywords?

Brand keywords are trademark type words belonging to a brand, such as a company’s brand name. Brand keywords can also include words found in slogans and other branded wording.

What is a Brand?

A brand is an identity, such as a company or product name of some kind, which can illicit a unique emotional response that helps to distinguish it from its competitors.

What are Redirects?

In web terminology, redirection refers to moving users (including search engine crawlers like Googlebot) to another file or from one web address to another, such as a webpage being moved or moving to a new secure homepage after logging in to an account from a login screen. These can be initiated from within the browser (client side) using JavaScript for example, or from the server side using a serverside language such as PHP. Where a webpage has been relocated permanently a server-side HTTP 301 status code is used, whereas HTTP 302 status codes are used for a temporary change of address.

What are Conversions?

Conversions occur when a desired goal in a user’s journey has been reached, regardless of whether or not this is achieved through prompting (via a call to action, advertising or otherwise). This can apply to a wide range of goals depending on what you wish to achieve, for example, the most basic form of conversion is usually a product sale on website that sells things such as an ecommerce store, or a service request via a corporate website.

What is SEO Copywriting?

SEO Copywriting is composing (writing and formatting) textual content for websites, either from scratch or by editing existing content, with the aim of improving the performance of the pages that the SEO copy is placed on. This in turn can improve the performance of the site in general and can positively affect externally linked sites too.

What is ALT Text?

ALT Text means Alternative Text and refers to the value of the HTML attribute ALT that is often found within IMG elements (images) and within other HTML elements that don’t always load or otherwise aren’t always accessible.

ALT Text exists as a substitute form of information for when images, videos, sound files, Flash objects, Java applets and other rich media formats can’t be seen or interpreted by the user. It’s there in order to help you understand the meaning of the content that you’re unable to see or interpret.