SEO Audits | A Good Overview from Adam Audette

Adam Audette of Audette Media, an SEO company based in Oregon, like mine, Words in a Row has done a good job of summarizing what’s involved in an SEO Audit; that is, an analysis of what a website needs to do to get better search rankings at Google.

Adam presents a short list of some tools that are useful to anyone doing in-depth analysis of a website to see why it is not ranking at Google, and has organized the process into a checklist. Kudos to Adam for sharing this info! I’ve appreciated his generosity since the days (10 years ago and more, now) of his old email newsletters.

However, like most such checklists for doing an SEO audit I’ve seen online, a lot of the “why’s & wherefore’s” are left out. It just says, for example:

Internal Linking:

  • Related Linking Structures
  • Recommendation Engine
  • Cross and Category Linking
  • Nofollow Use
  • Canonicalization
  • Anchor Tech

Partial list of SEO Audit Factors

Adam gives the caveat that his is a ‘partial list’, and it does omit some important aspects of internal linking, such as “authority hubs” and “title attributes” of internal links, that should always be considered when doing internal linking.

He also doesn’t mention siloing a website by controlling the link structure and what links Google sees, versus what a human visitor sees.

But it is an overview, after all.

What the uninitiated are to do with such a list is never explained; a newbie to SEO would study over Adam’s list and be no wiser for it. Adam assumes if you’re an SEO person, you already know how cross-linking can kill the flow of PageRank within a site, and how using nofollow “leaks” PageRank, and can hurt a page in the rankings.

In my Words in a Row site and blog posts here on JMblog, I’ve tried to give explanations for these things — HOW they work, and WHY they work to optimize a website.

When doing an SEO audit, it is necessary to inspect all these things Adam lists — but only an intimate familiarity with the subject matter will allow an SEO consultant to actually use them to perform an analysis and figure out what needs to change on the site to get better rankings in the search engines. What is an analysis, after all, but comparing the existing scene to the ideal scene, and figuring out how to get there from here?

Skills Needed for an SEO Audit

In my view, SEO Analysis of a website boils down to a few key skills that, in the aggregate, comprise a LOT of SEO expertise. An SEO audit should not be done by a newbie, and should never be trusted to a software program. Here are the skills an SEO consultant needs to do an SEO audit:

  1. Knowing what exactly your keyword phrases are, that you’re targeting. This holds true even for a very large site. And then comparing that knowledge against what the site is actually doing now to “target” those keyword phrases. Do pages exist that have those keywords in their URLs? Do such pages actually use those keywords in the right places (titles, meta description tags, headings, body text)?
  2. Knowing how your site architecture affects the search engines. This means knowing better than to use frames, Flash, or Javascript to build the pieces of the site that you want Google to index and deliver in search results. How does the site currently deliver content? Can Googlebot actually crawl and index that content? Is the content of the website organized into sections that are logical/make sense? Or dispersed everywhere?
  3. Knowing how Google follows links and flows PageRank to sub-pages of the site, and how to channel that PageRank where you want it to go using <A HREF> links. This means understanding siloing, and comparing the existing linking structure of the site to the ideal scene that would flow all your PageRank where you want it to go.
  4. Knowing HOW the on-page factors (titles, headings, meta description, canonical tags, body text, and so on) affect how a page will rank at Google, and comparing that to what actually exists in the website you are analyzing, so you can see how to improve it and make recommendations to do so.
  5. Knowing the other SEO factors that may kill a website’s rankings, and being alert for them. Excessive use of 302 redirects, excessive 404 errors, incorrect sitemap.xml files, robots.txt settings that disallow Google from indexing it, etc. Being able to SEE what you SEE is also important. One actually has to look, don’t listen!. Often, I’ve found that what one is told by a webmaster or IT staff is not actually true when I went and looked for myself in the logs or in the files that make up the website.

This is why automated tools, programs like IBP (and many others) must be interpreted by a human with SEO experience — and why most of them are useless and can waste a lot of time, money and effort to handle things that aren’t the real problem with the website. I’ve had clients send me automated “Site Audit Reports” from Indian SEO firms that just run an automated report and send it out (a form of SPAM, really) in an effort to get business by confusing their prospects.

Clients often come to me and say, “I need to rank better for this keyword phrase: blahblahblah”.

When I go look at the site, I often find that there are NO pages that use that specific keyword phrase, anywhere in their site. When building their site, they completely omitted the phrase from body text, from titles, page names, meta data; it’s just not in the site anywhere. (Which makes for an easy fix!)

As Adam says, “SEO is both an art and a science.” The science is in the DATA — what you see when you look at the inner workings of the site. The ART is in knowing what that data MEANS, and the effective methods of using that data to achieve higher rankings at Google, Bing, Yahoo and the rest.

I’m not certain that’s a complete list, but every item on it is important when looking at a website to see how it can do better at Google.


4 Responses to SEO Audits | A Good Overview from Adam Audette

  1. WaterChef October 3, 2011 at 9:11 am #

    Hi Jere,

    All the on-page factors mentioned in this article are important but I have found that high quality, relevant incoming links and relevant internal links are the biggest factors. At least in my experience so far. Most of my clients are so concerned about on page factors that they have completely overlooked incoming links.


  2. Jere Matlock October 3, 2011 at 9:48 am #

    Noah – what have you found that is an effective method of getting relevant incoming links to an e-commerce website? Frankly, most of what I see out there is either link farms (which Google is actively discounting), or similar snake oil. Anything that you’ve used yourself that works?

  3. Carla January 14, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

    my best seo tip is having a blog so that if someone wants to rank for a keyword I write an article about it and send it out to directories and it shows up in a few days.

  4. Jere Matlock January 14, 2013 at 10:57 pm #

    Thanks, Carla. What directories are you using? I don’t know that I would recommend continuing to do what you outline here. It may still be working for you, and it may continue to work for a while. But I don’t think it has “legs”. Writing an article about something, sure – if you provide quality content when you write the articles. But if it’s junk content, then no. And the practice of submitting links to your site to article directories probably has a short shelf-life as an SEO practice, with the Panda and Penguin updates that are set up to basically filter out this kind of link noise in Google’s ranking algorithm.

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