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Australian Search Marketing Academy - Practical SEO Audits for WordPress




Peter Mead: It's Peter Mead. And welcome to the Australian Search Marketing Academy, made possible by SEMrush. Today, we've got a very special SEO cool guy, Brodie Clark, talking about practical SEO audits for WordPress.

Yeah, so Brodie Clark, how are you?

Brodie Clark: Hey, Peter. I'm doing very well. 

Peter Mead: Now, let's move on to introduce Brodie. Brodie Clark, he's worked for the most respected SEO agencies in Australia. He's an independent consultant for mid to large sized companies, some of the most well-known brands in Australia. 

Brodie is a well-respected columnist for the two largest SEO news sites, Search Engine Land and Search Engine Journal, and Brodie's also a regular speaker at conferences, and a great contributor to the SEO community in general. Brodie, welcome to the webinar. What's hot in SEO for you right now?

Brodie Clark: Just one of the things I've been working on recently is an article for Search Engine Land. It was an article I've been working on for the past couple of months. A lot of hours put into that. 

The topic is on organic product carousels. At the moment in the US, there are these carousels that show up (in google), there's three of them; the best products, popular products, consumer products. And they're appearing really frequently across a pretty wide set of queries.

The reason I wrote the article was that, for one, they take up a lot of space in the US, and it's pretty complex how they work as well because they work with product feed. But the main reason that I published it is that Google announced in a blog article at the start of the year that they're launching that globally, probably in a couple of months now. It's definitely something that, if you have an e-commerce site, and you haven't submitted product feed through Merchant Center and Manufacturer Center, (Google's products), then you should definitely get around to doing that.

Peter Mead: Well, why don't we just get straight onto the main topic. And Brodie, I believe you've got a bunch of slides you want to share with us. Let's get straight into it. Let's get into the presentation.

Website Audit Tip: Carry Out Due Diligence

Brodie Clark: Okay, let's get into it. The focus of this presentation is on SEO audits. Audit considerations. It's really important that before you even start your audit or writing notes or anything like that, that you have a good understanding of the business that you're working with. You don't need to know the business inside out, because a lot of the times, it doesn't matter if you've had experience with a particular industry in SEO too much. One of the things I like to do is, even before I start running the website through tools, is to actually read the website. Get a good understanding and read some key pages before you even get started.

This presentation is going to be using one website that was submitted to me for auditing. With this website that's submitted, I obviously haven't done an extensive interview with the client, just because it's something submitted for this webinar. But if I was working with a client, I'd want to have a pretty lengthy discussion about their experiences with the website, any past issues, any pain points, anything like that.


Just by asking some open-ended questions, sometimes you can get some really interesting insights and it often makes your audit a lot easier to do, because you know where to focus on.

You can see with some tools like the traffic estimation tool in SEMrush, you can see when things have taken a bit of a dip, and it's often good to confirm that with the client, so if there was major core updates like there was in August of last year. It's often quite useful to get a confirmation from the client to say, "Hey, yeah, that was something that we're aware of." 


It's also good to know what the competitors are of your client. Again, you can see this for yourself by running the site through some tools, but it's often good to understand what your client thinks are their competitors because they might not necessarily be the ones that are ranking for similar keywords. 

Access Client Google Accounts and Create a Website Audit Outline

And finally, the last thing that I recommend to do beforehand, which we obviously haven't done for this example because it's not a client of mine, is gain access to all their Google accounts. The main ones that I always get access to are Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Google Tag Manager, and Google My Business. 

While you're starting the audit, so I recommend starting off just with a document with a bunch of notes. It's just to get an idea of once you've been reviewing the site along the way, just some points that you've made that you want to make sure to highlight in the actual document. Once you've completed that rough document, you can create a bit of an outline, just headings of the areas that you're going to do your analysis on.

When you're going to present your findings to a client, just remember that if you find something that you think is a stupid easy win, so, maybe there's something to do with the CMS or a technical issue that you thought was amazing and they're going to love you for it, just be careful about how you approach that recommendation. Because a lot of the time, if they're really big companies, they will probably already have an idea of what that issue is, so it might not be news to them. Think about how you deliver these recommendations.

Website Audit Competitor Comparison

Okay, so into the audit itself. The website that I'll be giving an overview of how it's performing is a website called Nextiva. They're a VoIP company, they focus mainly on cloud-based communication. 

These are just some competitors that I want to look at because that's obviously a key part of any audit that you do for a website; how the website is performing compared to other websites in the niche. The other three websites I'll be looking at are RingCentral, Dialpad, and also Intercom. 

This is the traffic estimation report that I spoke about earlier. It just shows an estimation of how the trending traffic has been over time. But what we can see here is based on the trends line for Nextiva is that it has been upward-trending, which is awesome to see. This is compared to their competitors, it looks very positive. 

Here's another tool by SEMrush which is super-useful. This shows you all the different keywords that those sites rank for and where they overlap, so which keywords they have in common. As you can see here, RingCentral, which we saw in the last slide, had some pretty good growth in more recent months. They occupy a very large slice of the pie with respect to search traffic on Google. They rank for a lot of different keywords. 


And interestingly, RingCentral and Nextiva have quite a big overlap in the terms that they rank them for. Aside from that, there's also Intercom, which has much smaller overlap, but there's still some common keywords there. And Intercom is a pretty similar size, based on the keywords that they rank for, to Nextiva. 

RingCentral being obviously the big player in this market, based on search traffic. Obviously Nextiva have had some really awesome growth in the past couple of years. You'd probably say that you’d want to look at your keyword gap analysis between Nextiva and RingCentral. RingCentral have around about 102,000 keywords that Nextiva doesn't have. That's the slice of the pie that potentially Nextiva wants to go after if they had relevant keywords.

And in the SEMrush dashboard, they actually allow you to then explore all that data, so all those keywords that RingCentral ranks for, but Nextiva doesn't rank for. That's a lot of different keywords there that are going to be worthwhile them digging through, and I just added a little export there that they can have a look at it. 

But yeah, you probably want to look at the keywords that RingCentral are ranking highly for, and have lower competition. And they might be queries that are irrelevant to Nextiva, so I would recommend that they dig through that particular report and create a hit list of maybe 20 different keywords that are relevant to them, and that they want to go after, and take more of that, that slice of the pie.

Website Crawling and Checking Site Structure

Moving onto another tool that I use for every single audit that I've been completing at the moment, is Sitebulb. Sitebulb does a crawl of your entire website and it identifies all the different URLs to the pages. And each of those lines coming out from the dots, they're links between pages. This is the crawl of the website, just showing how the architecture is set up there.

This is the Nextiva crawl map. And it's an interesting looking one. It's important not to make too major recommendations just by looking at this visualization because there's always more to the story. You have to dig in and actually look at what those URLs are, and if they make sense to be there. You can see that there's some important pages built around the home page there in clusters, which is a healthy-looking crawl map. 

But above that, there's all these little pages that are linked together really, really far away from the home page. This is a pretty common thing to see and definitely something that I'd recommend looking into in more detail. You just need to make sure that none of those pages that are up the top there are important ones. If they're just author pages which you're not relying on to rank, then it's probably fine.

The crawl map is just based on all the indexable URLs on the site. One common search operator that a lot of people use in SEO industry is the site search operator. And this is a really useful way just to quickly see what pages Google has in their index. You don't need to rely on any tools for this. You can just set your results on Google to 100 results per page and just review all the different URLs. You can basically do 100 at a time that way and just work through the pages.

Basically this Chrome extension here by Detailed allows you to remove the breadcrumbs temporarily, just in your browser there. When you do that site search operator, you can go through and actually see the URL structure, which is the whole purpose of this particular search operator. If you don't have that one installed already, I'd recommend adding it to your Chrome browser and just turning it on while you're doing analysis.

After just doing a quick site search operator for Nextiva, and looking at the URLs that have been indexed for the website... I found a lot of pages built on subdomains here that are login pages. They're just for potentially, internal use. Being the consultant here, you need to talk to the client, to get an understanding of those pages. 

But just by looking at it, when doing a quick audit here without access to anything, I can see that there's a lot of login pages. You probably don't want those to be in Google's index. Unlikely to hurt the site, but why does Google need to access that information? Do people actually search for that on Google, or is it something that's not actually useful to the wider public? The recommendation is to potentially noindex those pages. 

Auditing for Structured Data Issues and Opportunities

Another tool that I've been using more regularly is Custom Extraction through DeepCrawl. In this example, I've taken a sample of 1000 URLs from the site. I think from memory there were 4500 URLs that are indexable on the site, so around about 25% of the URLs, I took a sample of. 

Out of those 1000 URLs, I found only 319 actually had structured data on them with JSON. That's definitely something that they want to take a look at. Schema markup is important to some extent. It's good to let Google know what information you have on your page and give them a deeper understanding of the content. Only having 32% of those pages in the sample with structured data probably isn't ideal.

If you have Yoast or other plug-ins like Rank Map installed on your WordPress site, there are settings within those plug-ins where you can configure this a bit. The left-hand side is all the different URLs that have the scripts on them. And on the right-hand side, these are the URLs that don't have scripts on them. 

You can see here there's some important ones there like product-related pages, company pages, support pages, all that sort of thing. These are still important pages that you want to have a markup on, especially this one that I've highlighted here. This is a product page, business phone service by the looks of it, and this doesn't have a product markup. That's something that they definitely want to have a look into, it's an important page. 

Finding Website Technical SEO Issues

And looking at technical issues on the site. A good way to identify these is just do some manual testing, look at the code, or you can run it through a bunch of different crawlers like Screaming Frog, DeepCrawl, Sitebulb, SEMrush has an equivalent as well. The example here is that the canonical... basically you're telling Google the page to pay attention to: the recommendation that this canonical is giving is pointing to the non-secure version of the page. 

It's going to that HTTP, although the site is on HTTPS. Google's pretty good at figuring this sort of stuff out. This particular issue probably isn't causing them any problems as you can see in the growth that they've had to the site, but it's definitely something that they would want to get their developers involved with and get those fixed.

This is one of my favorite tools in SEMrush and I am constantly surprised about how many people don't use this tool. It's an insert screenshot functionality within the keyword section of the website. But what this feature allows you to do...is that they allow you to go back, I think it's four months...on higher search volume keywords and actually see a screenshot of what the search results looked like on that particular day on Google. The best thing you can do as an SEO is actually look at the search results, rather than just rely on tools to give you the data that you need.


Peter Mead: Can I jump in with a question right here from one of our viewers? Lauren Hawkey, and I'll just read it out. She's saying, "What's the easiest way to check the technical issues if we don't know technical SEO, but we still need to conduct the audit? I'm talking about identifying not fixing. Or the answer is we should have someone else taking care of the technical side?" I mean, maybe I'll just put my two cents' worth in, and then I'll hand over to you.

My first one would be, definitely using a tool like SEMrush and do the audit. It will pick out, it will point to a lot of technical issues but certainly so far as knowledge, I think everyone (who's doing SEO) can benefit from learning more about technical SEO. I think everyone really should know about stuff, really spend the time to learn it. If you're talking about SEO in general, really technical SEO and SEO, in general, go hand-in-hand, I would say.

Brodie Clark: Awesome. Okay, so I showed you the desktop screenshot view. And SEMrush also has the mobile view, which is so, so handy, having that on both devices here. Because often results on desktop vary from results on mobile, and the type of features that they display there. 

Final Touches for a Website Audit

Okay, now, I'll just finish off with some more practical parts of this presentation with doing audits. When you've done your analysis and you've put together your document, it has a nice table of contents on there, everything is looking really well laid out. You want to put a priorities list at the start of the document. This is outlining all the different primary areas that you looked at in the audit. You might have technical content, local on-page stuff, structured data links. 


You want to outline all of those different issues as projects for the client. And also give them a value estimate. If you were to fix a particular technical issue on the site, you could say that's high value, because maybe it might take the developer a few hours to change that, and it's going to have long-term benefit for the site. 

For the Nextiva example audit, structured data would probably be a higher value estimate one for them, because they had... 32% of that 1000-page sample didn’t have structured data. 

And finally, you want to end up with a timeline of when these problems are going to actually be addressed because recommendations without a timeline are basically useless and they can get pushed behind very easily. You want to have a timeline of the month that you're in, all the different issues that you outlined as projects, and you want to put them in a table and say which months you're actually going to work on them. 


If you do the audit effectively, this allows you to outline all the different problems on the site and give the client some peace of mind that they have a roadmap that they can reflect back on in several months' time and you can review collaboratively how things have gone.

Website Rebuilds: When to Launch

Peter Mead: Great. Another question just quickly here, Brodie, from the viewers here. Kayla Fan, this is a bit different, this question, it's not necessarily related to auditing, but I guess it can be. If we identify in the audit that, really, the website kind of needs to be rebuilt, or something, Kayla Fan says, "Hi, I have a client asking to rebuild their website but they're not ready for any effects in their traffic. Is there any good solution for this situation in terms of URLs?" Does that question make sense to you? 

Brodie Clark: It sounds like she has a client where they're been rebuilding a site and they're about to launch it, but they're ... she doesn't think they're ready, SEO-wise, to actually launch that site. Maybe they don't have the right content, maybe the URL structure isn't right. Maybe the site speed is really slow and they haven't fixed any of those. 

But you're on a schedule and you need to get that site launched, and often for big organizations, the SEO is an afterthought which isn't ideal, but it does happen. And in these sort of scenarios, if you think the website isn't ready, if it doesn't have the right content, if it's not technically sound, you need to let the client know that and give them an idea of the impact, if they do launch the site without these issues being fixed, what that'll have on traffic and rankings. You need to make that really clear with them.

But is there any good solution for this situation in terms of URLs, it's a case-by-case basis, so it just depends on what's actually going on with the site. You want to have your URL structure logical. Ideally, if you're changing a lot on the website, a lot of content, you might not want to change the URL structure too much, because that gives you a greater chance of losing a lot of traffic in the process. Just changing URLs for the sake of it? Probably wouldn't recommend it.

Peter Mead: Almost always results in loss of traffic in my experience.

Brodie Clark: Yeah.

Wrapping Up

Peter Mead: Brodie, we're nearly out of time, and thanks so much for that presentation. I just think what I will say though is make a comment here that if we didn't get a chance to address your question, apologies for that, but we will address it when we do the follow-up blog post. We'll put all the questions together and we'll do the best we can to answer them. 

I've just got a question here though for you, Brodie, maybe just a last one. And that is, specifically, this methodology that you're using for the auditing. Is there anything kind of specific that you would do differently for WordPress compared to just any other website, whether it be another CMS, or maybe another e-commerce platform, Magento or something like that. Is it that much different for WordPress, or do you have a specific way of doing it?

Brodie Clark: Yeah, based on my experience, when you're looking at higher-level issues on the site, it doesn't matter too much about what the CMS is, based on your role as a consultant or the in-house or the agency. 

The CMS doesn't really impact the recommendations that you make, it's the implementation of those recommendations. 

Peter Mead: Great. So, look, we're out of time. It's been fascinating getting your insights, and as I said, we will follow up further after the webinar. But Brodie, how do people stay in contact, what's the best channel for people to connect with you and stay in touch in the future? 

Brodie Clark: Yeah, probably on Twitter. I'm pretty active on Twitter, I post most days, just articles that I read and interesting findings that I locate on Google. Yeah, probably on Twitter. My handle is Brodie, B-R-O-D-I-E, SEO.

Peter Mead: Terrific, yeah, I love the tweets that you do on there. And there's always so much going on on the Twitterverse for any SEO topic.

Okay, well, we're out of time. Thank you so much, Brodie, we'll love to get these slides, we'll post them on the blog post afterwards. In the meantime, anybody else has questions, please feel free to reach out, and we'll do the best we can to answer them.

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