The Whys and Hows of Site Auditing, Simplified

Why should you worry about doing a site audit? A reasonable question, certainly, and one which this article strives to make clearer for you. Our aim here is to simplify the sometimes complex concepts and processes behind page structure and on-page content which contribute to overall site health and rank. First, an overview and breakdown of the basic audit types we do, their procedures and their goals.

  1. Basic Health Audit: Checking for appropriate meta descriptions (the snippet which shows alongside your listing on a search results page), page titles, internal links and headers. Identifying areas where there is duplicate or insufficient content.
  2. Complex Structural Audit: Complete link profile, including on page outbound links and external backlinks. In depth competitor analysis and comparative rank assessment. Locating site structure concerns, including pages which lack significant stand-alone value and pages which are inappropriately placed within the hierarchy.
  3. Technical & Security Audit: Full Google Analytics profile, including crawl health and indexing analysis. Complete page load speed investigation. Site security audit, checking for vulnerabilities and potential risk points. This level is best indicated for sites which are experiencing a sudden and identifiable downturn in traffic. Security audits are especially important for sites which contain an ecommerce component.

The reason for a tiered system of audits is simple: some websites are demonstrating different levels of concern than others. A website which is consistently performing below par will likely be experiencing different challenges than one which suddenly drops drastically in rank. Similarly, a site which has a deep and complex page structure will require a different set of interventions than one which has only a shallow set of basic pages. So when should you consider a site audit, and which one is best for you? Consider the following breakdowns.

Site Health
A basic health audit covers all of the stalwarts of SEO optimization. If your pages were not constructed with rank in mind originally, or there have been significant updates and changes to your site structure, this is definitely the starting place for you. The value of appropriately crafted meta descriptions, matching title and h1(heading) tags and useful anchor text (on page links, pdfs, downloads, etc.) cannot be overstated. Sites which are not built with these basic features will almost undoubtedly perform poorly. Additionally, as we’ve stated many times recently, relevant and useful content is very important. Duplicate content is particularly undesirable, often resulting in significant ranking losses. Most, if not all, sites should undergo regular basic audits to ensure there are no glaring issues impacting performance.

When performance issues cannot be easily identified through a basic site audit, it is probably time to consider a complex structural audit. This level takes a deeper dive into structural and external factors which may be contributing to poor rank. A complete link profile is the first step, this includes identifying and analyzing internal and external links. Sometimes, your site may be linked to from an external site whose reputation is dragging your own standing down. Other times, a complete lack of backlinks can be causing a negative rating – no affiliation with trusted, relevant authors is not a good sign. Following this, a thorough study of your closest competitors and their sites can sometimes be useful in identifying opportunities. Finally, your overall page hierarchy is scrutinized so that the structure can be optimized for user intent and ease of navigation. The majority of ranking concerns are covered between these two types of audits – together, they will guarantee some level of upturn in traffic to your site.

Perhaps the most startling and concerning scenario for website owners presents when a site which was once performing well, suddenly drops significantly in ranking and traffic levels. When confronted with this situation, it is best to perform an immediate technical & security audit. The technical portion includes a complete dissection of google analytics data, including crawl and indexing results, bounce occurrences and frequency, and page load statistics. This high level review offers a very solid understanding of what is bringing traffic to your site, and more importantly, where that traffic is being lost. An understanding of how users are navigating to and through your site can be a huge assistance in identifying problems and opportunities for improvement. The second, security portion of the audit ensures that there are not vulnerabilities present. Security is important for all types of site owners, and should not be ignored.

Regular and thorough site audits should be a mandatory regular maintenance task. If, however, you haven’t had the opportunity or the expertise to dig deep into all of the points listed above, it’s probably time to take a look. Site traffic is directly tied to performance optimization, and the effectiveness of your virtual presence has a large impact on your bottom line. Don’t leave your site’s health to chance, get an audit done today.