How to Conduct an Enterprise Level SEO Audit

31 January 2019

What is an SEO Audit and Review

Everyone wants to uncover the reasons why websites appear in certain positions within the unpaid section of Search Engines’ Results Pages (SERPs)

No matter what your SEO guru friend says, only the organizations behind the search engines themselves have full knowledge and can answer the question with certainty.

Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai testified to Congress in late 2018 that their search engine algorithm relies upon an AI system called ‘Rank Brain’ which considers over 200 different ranking factors.

With that said, skilled and experienced SEO professionals can use their resources in live environments to uncover many ranking factors via scientific testing methodologies.  We also do this via a system of controls and test sites.

Poor SEO professionals are easy to find – they are everywhere. Highly skilled SEOs are very difficult to find. We know from own experience. Most of the best either don’t work for other people or run their own business.

SEO audits help investigate and uncover any inhibiting factors which may be preventing a website from appearing in the highest possible positions on search engine results pages (SERPs).

After an Search Engine Optimization audit has been conducted you should expect to receive a comprehensive analysis of any areas that can be improved and some degree of guidance for remediation. Your internal digital marketing or engineering team can then make the required changes necessary for improvement.

Often we find, additional advisory work is required for these changes to be successfully implemented, such is the technical demand on internal teams. SEO onsite optimization affects many layers of the code base and requires an extremely high degree of knowledge at a structural and front-end design level.

What You Will Need To Provide a Professional SEO Auditor

These are generally the things you’ll need to communicate to your auditor depending on the website type:

  1. If you’re a localized business trying to rank in maps, you’ll need to give manager access to your GMB account via email invite
  2. If the site was manually penalized, the auditor may need to create a new Google account to add to webmaster tools so they can get reconsideration requests done without leaving huge footprints behind.
  3. Your auditor will require a brief history of who worked on the site previously, when their links were added or removed, etc. to save them time diagnosing why things may have gone up and down.
  4. They’ll need the keyword targets and the domain live, indexed on Google.
  5. Your auditor will need access to your website analytics program, Google Search Console and any other relevant tools you use for your SEO workflow that are deemed important. Many tools can detect issues from an external perspective, but others will require internal access. Be willing to share access to these tools.
  6. Some tools may require temporary IP or bot white-listing in order for some of the program’s diagnostic tools to run without interruption.

If you have a new website, auditing the website before the site goes live can be done, but it’s really hard to see what could break unless it’s already in the index.

If your site is a content-heavy site like a general news site where there are thousands of unrelated keyword and it’s important they need to move in a positive direction – this is a very large project and will require a longer scoping/quoting process.

Defining the Audit’s Scope

1 – Reason for auditing

Defining the general goals and objectives for the audit both at a business and department level. Is this part of a general best-practice governance process or is there a pressing business case to improve the performance from this channel? Being clear about your aims will set the scene for the entire audit process.

2 – Target phrases

Prioritize the most valuable conversion phrases. Group into vertical groupings. Check current page assignment. Discuss whether phrases are being assigned by the search engine to the correct target URL.

3 – Site breadth

Create a list of pages, sections, and investigative areas which should be excluded from the audit process. Identify which of the remainder is most important by giving a priority ranking from most important to least.

4 – Offsite vs Onsite

Does the audit process extend to external signals such as back-links and citations or is it just contained to onsite factors?

5 – Search Engines

Defining which search engines are to be included i.e. Google, Yahoo, Bing, Naver, Yandex etc

6 – Tactical Implementation or Identification

Does the audit require just the identification of areas that require attention in technical SEO speak or are detailed explanations required to go with this identification list. Then, are specific actionable steps for remediation required as well?. The level of this specificity depends on your team’s depth of knowledge and experience in the field of SEO.

How much does an SEO Audit Cost?

Apart from the general size of the site (measured in indexed pages), these are the main factors that have a large effect on the price you can expect to pay for an audit.

  1. Foreign languages
  2. International and multi-language hreflang issues
  3. Excessive javascript to crawl and render in the style of Googlebot
  4. High amounts of product pages and categories that need juice flow modified – this is generally dependent on the size of the website
  5. Manual penalty fixes 

For smaller sites that are common for SME’s – expect to pay for an SEO audit around $1000  to $3000

For larger enterprise websites – expect to pay $6000 – $20 0000 for an SEO audit. The typical page size will generally be over 5000 pages

What’s important here is not the number of pages, but rather the number of different structured pages (page templates) and any website complexity that makes universal checks time consuming. Larger, more complex websites require more work and higher-grade diagnostic tools. Websites under 20 pages can be done manually very quickly.

Personally speaking, we could spit out an automatic audit using a few online SEO audit tools in the matter of minutes and still charge a large fee – but the insight will be thin and the information less than useful for remediation.

The largest website we’ve audited has been a 10 000 000 page website in the US. Most domestic websites in Australia tend to be smaller in size. These have been SaaS, services and e-commerce product sites. The nature of the product offering really has little bearing on the audit process.

How the SEO Audit Process Works – SEO Audit Checklist

After the scope of the audit has been defined, your auditor should generally look into the following areas which can be used as a quasi SEO audit checklist

Hosting Environment Check

Investigation into trust factors related to the particular host or hosting environment of the website. Further access maybe required prior to this task being undertaken, especially if proxy servers or CDNs are in use.

Code Integrity

Analysis of the robustness and efficiency of the websites code which is in-turn rendered by a browser and displayed to the user. Factors such as inline styling, HTML tags and other on page scripts are covered.

Tag or Script Management Analysis

Analysis of how tags are managed site-wide. Recommendations given if changes to or implementation of tag management systems are necessary.

Internal Link Analysis

Analysis of the way pages are linked between each other. Identification of any major target orphan pages, primary & secondary menu systems and footer link review.

Page Speed Analysis

Analysis as to the major impediments to improved page load speed on a per-page basis. Note: some impediments will be site-wide, while others will be specific to that particular URL.

Device and browser rendering

Analysis of mobile vs desktop vs tablet devices and respective ranking influence. Identification of any major negative user experience signals that will prevent sustained SERPs.

Content and Copy

Analysis of keyword density, keyword depth, word count length, heading breakdowns and general readability. HTML to text % ratios, content quality and uniqueness, duplicate content tests (internal and external).

Page meta-titles and descriptions

Page meta titles and descriptions will be analyzed and adjustments proposed to optimize for click-through and specific high-value keyword rankings. Much has changed in this area over the mid 2017-2018 period but they are still a highly relevant ranking factor.

URL Taxonomy and Permalink Structure

The most important URLs will be analyzed and optimized, if possible, depending on the influence of any automated rule-based permalink structures.

Link and Citations

Analysis of all back-links, known and unknown. Filtering for trust, domain rank, dofollow vs nofollow, salience, contextual relevance, age, link velocity, geographical markers, link format, link anchors ratios, broken links, poisonous links, redirects etc.

Subsequent, provision of a list of any high-quality link building opportunities based upon competitive intelligence and specific industry knowledge.

Offsite citations also considered and analyzed according to similar parameters mentioned above.

Localization and geographic markers

Google My Business Optimization if relevant. Review and optimization of any missing fields for Google My Business maps listing.

Secondary analysis of specific suburb, city, state or country markers which need addressing. This includes a focus on localized back-links and citations as well as onsite references to these locations.

Webmaster Tools aka Search Console

Review of the data provided via Google’s Search Console program. This program is useful for diagnosing any critical issues with the domain and for use in keyword research, rectifying onsite issues and more.

Website Analytics custom SEO Dashboard

Possible implementation of a range of dashboard metrics using Google Analytics or Google Data Studio widgets or other applicable Analytics programs which specifically relate to and measure organic search traffic.

General SEO advisory and discussion

Casual hours of SEO campaign advisory or general discussion to allow for any further matters related to Search Engine Optimization to be resolved.

The James Hammon SEO Audit Approach

We take a fully accountable, growth-centric approach to our audit process and just like all our growth related work, it is focused on high-value outcomes

We prefer a personal high-touch work style and for this reason we recommend an in-house placement for large extensive audits if possible. This will increase speed and responsiveness between parties.

The audit style is a mix of analysis, problem identification and suggested task-based implementation – includes estimates of organic traffic uplift and time lag.

Sensitive information can be shared between parties due to our comprehensive Non-Disclosure Agreement that features in all of our general services contracts

Examples of the results from successful Audits

There are a few examples we can share legally. Most audits we conduct are done under a strict NDA, however there are a few exceptions where the client has allowed us to share the findings with the public. We can also share some examples from sites we directly own and control.

Best to contact John James or a member of our team first.

The Champagne Strategy Podcast – Episode 12 – Keaton Hulme Jones

Programmatic, display, pre-roll, containers, banner ads, skyscrapers, home page takeovers, leaderboards, Mrecs, what the hell does it all mean. In the digital world, if you’re not advertising on search, social,…

The Champagne Strategy Podcast – Episode 15 – Andrew Roper

You will never find real entrepreneurs doing laps of the motivational speaking circuits and flogging a bunch of online courses to the masses on social media. They are very busy…

The Champagne Strategy Podcast – Episode 13 – Jon Manning

Pricing is one of the 4 P's of marketing. Before the bean-counters and financial analysts took over this domain, pricing sat firmly in the remit of the marketing department. Then…