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SearchLeeds 2019 - Bastian Grimm - Peak Ace - Why most SEO audits are sh*t

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To navigate Google’s several hundred ranking factors and signals, SEOs often create staggeringly vast audit recommendations without taking a client’s industry, available resources and current circumstances into account. This can have a serious negative effect on revenue streams and ROI. Bastian Grimm's SearchLeeds talk explained how to intelligently prioritise these measures according to impact. He shared his tips, tricks and best practices
based on over 200 audits that his team implemented over the past 3 years, broken down by industry/vertical. No more trial and error – here’s how to apply an SEO strategy that’s effective, efficient and truly tailored to your needs.

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SearchLeeds 2019 - Bastian Grimm - Peak Ace - Why most SEO audits are sh*t

  1. 1. Bastian Grimm, Peak Ace AG | @basgr An actionable framework to prevent yours from being shit too. Why most SEO audits are SHIT!
  2. 2. Who had a freelance consultant or agency deliver an SEO audit in the last 12 months? A quick show of hands please:
  3. 3. … you were 100% happy with what was delivered? Everything was feasible, well-documented and tailored to your specific needs? Keep your hands up if…
  4. 4. … you implemented everything that was recommended? Keep your hands up if…
  5. 5. pa.ag@peakaceag5 Only 12% of clients are completely satisfied! 34% cited the delivery to be “a total disaster” and 54% were “only partially happy” Source: Peak Ace survey; 212 participants / May 2019 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% completely satisfied only partially happy total disaster
  6. 6. pa.ag@peakaceag6 Why should YOU care? How will this help YOU? If you are on the client-side and/or work in-house Requesting an audit based on this framework will: ▪ Allow you to implement actions/changes that genuinely cause the maximum impact ▪ Consequently save time, money and resources that would otherwise be spent on actions that add little or no value If you are an agency and/or a consultant Using this framework will: ▪ Allow you to recommend and prioritise actions based on maximum business impact ▪ Which will lead to increased ROI for your clients ▪ And therefore, to happier clients
  7. 7. Follow this process to stop wasting time and money on ineffective, bullshit audits!
  8. 8. pa.ag@peakaceag8 Speaking of bullshit audits: Please stop selling exports from SEO tools as (your) audits, because they are not! Sending a ScreamingFrog redirects export to your client and advising them to change those links so as to pass on more link juice is not an SEO audit - and you’re most certainly not an SEO specialist…!
  9. 9. The top 3 biggest problems with SEO audits Basic issues/topics
  10. 10. What does your audience really need? #1 Wrong format/output
  11. 11. pa.ag@peakaceag11 I am quite sure you’ve all seen something like this? A massive 46-pager is not always the right answer… You need to understand them, their needs and expectations before producing anything!
  12. 12. pa.ag@peakaceag12 Choose the right format based on your goal(s) Also, depending on the recipient, the format might vary. Often, you’ll need more than one (or perhaps even all of them): When you want to inform and persuade C-suite/management into committing to an SEO budget or a specific SEO program, a short and precise, high-quality slide deck is certainly the best format choice. i Goal? Task? Recipient? Format? Inform Provide a brief overview All Excec. summary / e-mail summary Persuade Persuade recipient to utilise the program C-level, management High quality presentation (including most effective solutions for maximum impact) Guide Provide in-depth audit results SEO Manager/tam Full-scale audit doc (with background info, impact, code samples, etc.) Realise Implement recommendations Dev team/agency Prioritised items list / ready-made tickets (Jira, etc.)
  13. 13. pa.ag@peakaceag13 Directly deliver audit findings e.g. using Jira tickets Adapt Jira tickets to your clients’ IT/dev teams needs for faster implementation:
  14. 14. Executive summary, proper formatting & grammar, named sources, a document index as well as priorities are a must-have - make it easy to use! When creating in-depth audits:
  15. 15. For technical changes, provide copy/paste-able code examples/snippets whenever feasible Provide code examples
  16. 16. Put some effort into your work, please!? #2 Symptoms vs. causes
  17. 17. pa.ag@peakaceag17 Does this sound familiar? Further, in our audit we discovered a significant amount of duplicate page titles; overall the crawl returned 55,000 duplicate title values. We recommend using unique page titles whenever possible to prevent duplication.
  18. 18. pa.ag@peakaceag18 Or even worse: you get a Excel/CSV spreadsheet "Here is a list of all the broken URLs which we found during our audit”
  19. 19. Start thinking in patterns!
  20. 20. pa.ag@peakaceag20 Ensure that your audit items tackle the root problem! Almost all modern sites utilise templates to generate output; identify the root causes and provide actionable items and documentation: The cause for 336,000 short meta descriptions is template XYZ using a fallback when no unique description has been specified. Please find attached our suggestion for: a) manual descriptions for the top-100 most important URLs b) a syntax template regarding how to generate a unique fallback description Find the largest number of URLs affected, understand the patterns and turn them into a couple of root problems.
  21. 21. ...or bad prioritisation, as well as a lack of potential impact estimations #3 No prioritisation
  22. 22. Show the most valuable impact items first Every item in the audit should be prioritised!
  23. 23. Experience, SEO & A/B testing, log files & revenue/traffic figures can provide necessary guidance Create a table/list with every action, sorted by impact & effort
  24. 24. pa.ag@peakaceag24 SEO audits often ask for way too many things Massive audit documents can be quite overwhelming, but there are various reasons why: ▪ Due to SEO being quite niche, we often work in very close proximity to our particular craft, preventing us from seeing the overall picture ▪ SEO problems can be difficult to quantify, however, measuring the impact of individual audit items correctly is essential – but also very hard ▪ Often, audits highlight a vast range of potential issues as an insurance policy for when the next Google update is rolled out ▪ Adding more items to a list creates a sense that more work has been done, but these added measures may not actually be very effective ▪ As good SEO takes time to fully come into fruition, there can be a focus on getting quick wins which doesn‘t always prove beneficial in the long run
  25. 25. Use the appendix wisely. Nothing says “this is not really that important” more effectively. Do NOT include everything
  26. 26. This really depends on your brief; discuss this with the other party first OK, to be fair…
  27. 27. There will always be compromises – try to anticipate where it’s unlikely that your preferred recommendation will be accepted Have a plan B in place
  28. 28. Begin by assessing the business type, their business objectives as well as the scope Specific issues/topics
  29. 29. pa.ag@peakaceag29 What type of audit/audit items should you expect? Different types of domains and their scopes require audit customisation: * Brand = e.g. Uber (not a priority to sell on the site) vs. eComm = e.g. Nike (online shop) or Emirates (ticket shop) Type of domain Number of URLs (scope) eCommerce Publishing Classifieds Lead-gen Brand Other <1,000 <10,000 <100,000 <1,000,000 1,000,000+ Which quadrant are you in?
  30. 30. pa.ag@peakaceag30 Segmenting these further: A publication such as WebMD has different challenges compared to Daily Mail Online – even though they’re both operating in the publishing sector: * Brand = e.g. Uber (not a priority to sell on the site) vs. eComm = e.g. Nike (online shop) or Emirates (ticket shop) Type of domain Number of URLs (scope) eCommerce Single retailer Multi retailer … Publishing Special interest (e.g. health) Daily newspaper … Classifieds Lead-gen Brand Other <1,000 <10,000 <100,000 <1,000,000 1,000,000+ Which quadrant are you in?
  31. 31. pa.ag@peakaceag31 What type of audit/audit items should you expect? Different types of domains and their scopes require audit customisation: * Brand = e.g. Uber (not a priority to sell on the site) vs. eComm = e.g. Nike (online shop) or Emirates (ticket shop) Type of domain Number of URLs (scope) eCommerce Publishing Classifieds Lead-gen Brand Other <1,000 <10,000 <100,000 <1,000,000 1,000,000+ Which quadrant are you in?
  32. 32. Align the audit to what the site is trying to achieve for the overall business’ goals/objectives/KPIs Top 5 most important specific audit items
  33. 33. Scope: 10k-100k URLs eCommerce/online shopping
  34. 34. pa.ag@peakaceag34 #1 Handling multiple versions of a product (colour/size) Caused by/refers to: Product detail pages Issue brief: Demand is too low for the PDPs being indexed (in all their combinations). Link equity/ranking potential is lost. Issue categories: Duplicate content, crawl inefficiency, ranking issues Suggested change/fix: Consolidate to a default product whenever possible (e.g. strongest selling colour/size) Comment: Client-side JS or, at a minimum, canonical tags are needed
  35. 35. pa.ag@peakaceag35 The exact same Vaporfly 4 Flyknit, just a different colour Nike uses individual URLs for each of their available colour/size variations AJ3857-400 Not enough people search for “Nike Vaporfly 4 Flyknit Red” and “Blue” respectively. Demand is too low for the PDPs being indexed (in all their combinations). Link equity/ranking potential is lost/split.i
  36. 36. pa.ag@peakaceag36 A solution could be to canonicalize to a root product: A canonical tag is only a hint, not a directive. Google can choose to ignore it entirely. When using canonical tags, please be extra careful: ▪ There may only be one rel-canonical annotation per URL - only ONE! ▪ Use absolute URLs with protocols & subdomains ▪ Rel-canonical targets must actually work (no 4XX targets) – they need to serve a HTTP 200 ▪ No canonical tag chaining, Google will ignore this! ▪ Maintain consistency: only one protocol (HTTP vs. HTTPS), either www or non-www and the consistent use of trailing slashes ▪ etc.
  37. 37. pa.ag@peakaceag37 Salomon does a great job minimising URL overhead Crawl-budget & link equity advantages due to consolidation on "supercross.html" – one URL gets all the link love! Salmon PDPs with strong rankings #848=15694#848=15692
  38. 38. pa.ag@peakaceag38 #2 One product, but reachable via multiple categories Caused by/refers to: Product detail pages Issue brief: Product detail pages should be reachable via multiple URLs (due to the category name being part of the PDP URL) Issue categories: Duplicate content, crawl inefficiencies, ranking issues Suggested change/fix: Category-independent product URLs Comment: Alternatively, define a default category to be used in the URL slug
  39. 39. pa.ag@peakaceag39 I like Monkey 47, but it seems like GIN KIOSK doesn't!? Two different URLs serving the exact same product minimises the chances of it ranking well; also from a crawling perspective, this isn‘t a good solution: most-popularinternational-gins
  40. 40. pa.ag@peakaceag40 #3 Brand filter vs. branded category: /watches/breitling vs. /breitling/all Caused by/refers to: Category pages and their filters Issue brief: A brand category that targets the exact same keyword set vs. a category that allows filtering for a brand name Issue categories: Keyword cannibalisation, crawl inefficiency Suggested change/fix: Canonicalize, prevent indexation of one URL variant Comment: PRG pattern for large-scale scenarios (e.g. preventing an entire block of filtering from being crawled/indexed)
  41. 41. pa.ag@peakaceag41 Another classic: brand filter vs. brand (category) page If you index both, which one is supposed to rank for the generic branded term? One keyword, one URL: try to minimise internal competition as much as you can. Two (or more) pages targeting "Breitling watches" make it unnecessarily hard for Google to select the best result!i
  42. 42. pa.ag@peakaceag42 #4 Facetted navigation, sorting & filtering (e.g. in categories) Caused by/refers to: Category pages that allow for filtering and/or sorting Issue brief: Various sorting/filtering/facets time categories and sub- categories can lead to millions of (worthless) URLs Issue categories: Keyword cannibalisation, crawl inefficiency, thin content Suggested change/fix: Individual indexing strategy (based on demand) per filter and facet, prevent crawling/indexing for sorting Comment: Very difficult to get right, usually requires individual solutions
  43. 43. pa.ag@peakaceag43 Facetted navigation can cause SEO headaches! “A facetted search is a restriction of the selection according to different properties, characteristics and / or values.” If zalando would allow for all these options to become crawl-able URLs, this would lead to millions and millions of useless URLs. Only allow crawling and indexing of URLs that target keywords and keyword combinations with actual search demand. Pay special attention to internal keyword cannibalisation.i
  44. 44. pa.ag@peakaceag44 Champagne – or champagne? Alllllllll… the sorting! If you need sorting options, ensure they're being used (analytics is your friend) – otherwise remove them & prevent them from being crawled
  45. 45. pa.ag@peakaceag45 Boots handles this excellently using client-side JS From a user's perspective, using JavaScript for features such as filtering feels much faster since the perceived load time decreases #facet:-100271105108108101116116101,-1046543&product
  46. 46. pa.ag@peakaceag46 #5 Expired/(temp.) out of stock product management Caused by/refers to: Product detail pages Issue brief: PDPs for products that are (temporarily) out of stock can cause bad engagement metrics (e.g. high bounce rates, etc.) Issue categories: Engagement metrics, website quality, inefficient URLs Suggested change/fix: Implement OOS strategy (redirects, info layer, disable (410) entirely, etc.) Comment: Hughley complex topic depending on the size, the volatility of the inventory, and much more
  47. 47. pa.ag@peakaceag47 Deal with your out of stock items - but not like M&S does! Are they just temporarily unavailable (and for how long) or will they never come back? Also, what type of alternative versions are available? M&S keeps all of their out of stock pages indexed: <meta name="robots" content="index, follow"> <link rel="canonical“ href="[…]/chef-hard-anodised-28cm-saute-pan/p/p22467321"> i About 233.000 results (0,23 seconds)
  48. 48. A mix of product redirects (e.g. same but diff. colour/related/successor), redirects to internal search and 410s, combined with a text layer to keep customers properly informed How to handle OOS properly?
  49. 49. pa.ag@peakaceag49 Tip: establish an exit-strategy for paginated categories Categories with high churn need to deal with paginated pages coming and going (e.g. what happens when there's not enough products to display a 2nd page?): About 3,065 results (0,28 seconds)
  50. 50. Scope: 100k+ URLs News sites & content portals
  51. 51. pa.ag@peakaceag51 #1 Indexing strategy: tags, archives, categories, etc. Caused by/refers to: All types of overview/listing pages Issue brief: Tag pages competing with categories, or super deep archives causing crawl & indexing problems Issue categories: Crawling inefficiencies, website quality Suggested change/fix: Crawl/indexing strategy dependent on size/page types
  52. 52. pa.ag@peakaceag52 Establish both a crawling and indexing strategy Depending on the age, scope and volume of a publication, there can be a lot of URLs to deal with; carefully consider what you want to serve to Googlebot: Source: https://spiderbites.nytimes.com
  53. 53. pa.ag@peakaceag53 Tip: for date-based archives, ensure URL parameter order For Google these are two different URLs, so ensure that your GET parameters are kept in proper order and use the same sorting method for them at all times! https://www.peakace.de/?year=2019&month=06 vs. https://www.peakace.de/?month=06&year=2019 ▪ The same applies to URLs that can be called up with and without a slash (“/”) at the end. ▪ The same applies to parameters and their values which can be upper / lower case.i
  54. 54. pa.ag@peakaceag54 #2 Content quality: syndicated, thin & outdated content Caused by/refers to: Article/content pages Issue brief: 3rd party content, short news releases as well as old/outdated content which causes quality issues Issue categories: Website quality, duplicate content, thin content Suggested change/fix: Content quality to be monitored carefully, e.g. establish noindex rules accordingly
  55. 55. pa.ag@peakaceag55 Prevent indexing of low-quality content Make sure to prevent crawling/indexing of your search results. Google considers e.g. SERP in SERP to be a poor user experience! Other types of low/thin content: ▪ Feeded content (e.g. through white label solutions, affiliate feeds, press distribution services (DPA, …) ▪ Different “no result pages” (no comments for product A, no ratings for product B, no comments for article C, etc.) ▪ Poorly written content (e.g. grammatical errors) ▪ Generally speaking: the same content across different domains About 86.900 results (0,40 seconds)
  56. 56. pa.ag@peakaceag56 #3 Discovery: (XML) sitemaps, internal crawl hubs, etc. Caused by/refers to: Better/faster article indexing Issue brief: Sitemaps and crawl hubs for better internal linking, discovery and additional canonicalisation signals Issue categories: Crawl efficiency, internal linking Suggested change/fix: Establish a proper XML sitemap (creation) process, find the URLs that Google hits heavily & use them to link internally
  57. 57. pa.ag@peakaceag57 Understanding the most/least crawled URLs and folders Frequently crawled pages/folders could be used for additional internal linking (add link hubs), infrequently crawled areas need to be linked more prominently Can be used for additional, internal linking (improve discovery of other content) Clearly weak, either irrelevant (remove) or requires more attention
  58. 58. pa.ag@peakaceag58 Only include indexable URLs that serve a 200 response! No redirects, no URLs that are blocked via robots.txt or meta robots, no URLs with a different canonical tag! ▪ ScreamingFrog ▪ Mode > List ▪ List from a file
  59. 59. pa.ag@peakaceag59 #4 Accessibility: ad integration, interstitials, content locker Caused by/refers to: Article/content pages Issue brief: Overlays preventing access/heavy ad integration slowing down sites - both resulting in poor engagement Issue categories: Website quality, engagement Suggested change/fix: Reduce/remove – or at least make it less bothersome
  60. 60. pa.ag@peakaceag60
  61. 61. pa.ag@peakaceag61 With Googlebot rendering, this could be a problem…
  62. 62. pa.ag@peakaceag62 #5 Google News specifics: sitemaps, news bots, AMP, etc. Caused by/refers to: News articles Issue brief: Loads of Google's news-specific tasks/requirements should be considered to engender strong news performance Issue categories: Crawling, indexing, discovery Suggested change/fix: Dependent on setup
  63. 63. ...but we only have 25 minutes; sorry! This would be a deck of its own…
  64. 64. Scope: 500k+ URLs Classifieds/market places
  65. 65. pa.ag@peakaceag65 #1 Indexing strategy: 3rd party, thin, bad quality, UGC, etc. Caused by/refers to: Single listing pages Issue brief: 3rd party content, UGC as well as old/outdated pages causing quality issues Issue categories: Website quality, duplicate content, thin content Suggested change/fix: Content quality to be monitored carefully, e.g. establish noindex rules accordingly
  66. 66. pa.ag@peakaceag66 #2 Handling multiple listings with the same attributes Caused by/refers to: Single listing pages Issue brief: Feeded content (or UG listings) are often identical (e.g. 100x Audi S3 with the same features) – thus causing (near) duplicate content issues Issue categories: Domain quality, crawl inefficiencies, ranking issues Suggested change/fix: Establish a “root” listing page process & consolidate, or differentiate, based on e.g. listing the number in title, etc.
  67. 67. pa.ag@peakaceag67 #3 Expired listing management (e.g. the item was sold) Caused by/refers to: Single listing pages Issue brief: Items which are gone (sold) cause bad engagement metrics (e.g. high bounce rates, etc.) Issue categories: Engagement metrics, website quality, duplicate content Suggested change/fix: Implement an expired listings strategy (redirect, info layer, disable (410) entirely, etc.)
  68. 68. pa.ag@peakaceag68 #4 Discovery: (XML) sitemaps, internal crawl hubs, etc. Caused by/refers to: Better/faster listing index Issue brief: Sitemaps and crawl hubs for better internal linking, discovery and additional canonicalisation signals Issue categories: Crawl efficiency, internal linking Suggested change/fix: Establish a proper XML sitemap (creation) process, find the URLs that Google hits heavily & use them to link internally
  69. 69. pa.ag@peakaceag69 #5 Facetted navigation, sorting & filtering (e.g. in categories) Caused by/refers to: Category pages that allow for filtering and/or sorting Issue brief: Various sorting/filtering/facet time categories and sub- categories can lead to millions of (worthless) URLs Issue categories: Keyword cannibalisation, crawl inefficiency, thin content Suggested change/fix: Individual indexing strategy (based on demand) per filter and facet, prevent crawling/indexing for sorting
  70. 70. Some audit items are universally applicable…
  71. 71. pa.ag@peakaceag71 Must-have topics for any audit Some items are universally applicable and need to be included in any technical SEO audit, no matter the industry and/or scope robots.txt (and general accessibility testing), ensuring that search engine crawlers can discover your content JS status quo (e.g. use of infinite scroll, JS framework implementation, rendering, etc.) GSC audit (performance, index coverage, fetch & render) Web performance (paint timings, font/JS loading, ATF performance, dependencies, etc.) hreflang setup (<head> vs. XML sitemap) and its performance Broken URLs/crawl errors & orphan pages (in general, everything concerning site hygiene) Page title/description duplicates (primary focus on minimising DC flags; de-dupe vs. uniqueness) Internal linking (full audit based on goals, incl. prioritisation, cannibalisation, etc.) Mobile vs. desktop parity (and other mobile-specific recommendations) Tracking implementation10 9 8 7 6 4 3 2 1 5
  72. 72. pa.ag@peakaceag72 A quick summary: better SEO audits for everyone! #searchleeds 01 The right format Choose the right format based on your goal(s) as well as the recipient; sometimes multiple formats are needed. 02 Tackle the root cause Never provide a report that just highlights the symptoms. Make it actionable and provide guidance. Prioritise ruthlessly! 03 For in-depth audits Executive summary, proper formatting & grammar, named sources, a document index and priorities are a must-have. 04 Type & scope matter Individualise audit focus-areas and starting points for each business/domain type and their respective scopes. 05 Tailored, always Audits that come straight out of the box and 1:1 tool exports etc. are not SEO audits! Don’t. Just don't!
  73. 73. pa.ag@peakaceag73 bg@pa.ag Care for the slides? e-mail us > hi@pa.ag Bastian Grimm twitter.com/peakaceag facebook.com/peakaceag www.pa.ag ALWAYS LOOKING FOR TALENT! CHECK OUT JOBS.PA.AG

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