Case Study: Watch Me Do A Full SEO/Site Audit [Over The Shoulder]

Filed in Blog, Case Studies by on June 13, 2014 9 Comments

Ok, After sitting here twiddling my thumbs thinking of a great new post that I could write! I thought it would be a good idea to show you guys exactly how I perform a full audit on my sites. I was just looking in my Google analytics account when I spotted an old site that I created a few years back as a sort of ‘practice’ site!

 

 

orangeback

 

To my surprise I noticed that the site had over 4000 visitors last month! And I remembered that I had set up Google Adsense a while back, so I logged in to see if there was any action!

 

Jeeeez!! This niche site is actually making some money $$

As you can see, the site had made £12 last month and a total of £120 since I added Adsense!

 

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-13 at 15.15.59

 

 

Now I know you may not think this is great, and I totally agree, but this site is making money and I am doing absolutely nothing with it!

Surely there is some potential right here!!!!

Last time I checked this site ranked for hardly any popular keywords, so the fact that it’s getting over 4k visitors a month is really promising. This got me thinking and sparked an urge inside of me to see if I could push this site further and increase it’s profits.

I know a lot of you probably have old sites that you once started but never really carried forward to their maximum potential. So this post will hopefully give you the kick up the arse that I needed :-)

 

I will split this audit into 4 sections. I will work through each section and make note of all the changes that are required. Here are the 4 sections we will be focusing on:

1) Health Check

2) On Page SEO

3) Off Page SEO

4) Site structure & Monetization

 

The site in question is growyourownmushrooms.net and it’s a site I put together a couple of years ago and then never really did much with it!

 

Section 1:  Health Check

I’ll be looking at a number of factors to determine the health of the site, including……Crawl errors, HTML errors, CSS Errors, Page Load Times, Broken Links and SEO metrics.

 

Start With Google Webmaster Tools

The first point of call is to identify and diagnose any potential issues that the site may have. Basically you just want to check the basic things. The first thing I like to do is to check my Google Webmaster Tools account to see if it brings up any issues. It also tells us what keywords are picking up organic traffic, which is something I will be discussing later.

Here is a quick snap shot of my dashboard:

Screen Shot 2014-05-22 at 14.53.27Screen Shot 2014-05-22 at 14.44.58Screen Shot 2014-05-22 at 14.45.04

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No site errors and everything looking ok!

Interesting to see 900 queries and a whopping 336,139 impressions!! Who would have thought that mushrooms were so popular!

You can also see that the sitemap is ok and it is showing 42 URL’s are indexed.

 

Errors

Having checked other areas of my GWT I found a lot of errors under the structured data tab. A total of 42 items with errors. This is to do with how Google extracts data from your pages. The reason I am getting these errors is because my ‘Author’ page is dead, so basically there isn’t one! and I have no Google authorship set up.

 

I found this post that explains how to easily fix these errors: - http://www.momscribe.com/2014/03/how-to-fix-error-missing-required-field_24.html

 

 

Crawl Errors

GWT is also telling me that 3 of my pages are showing 404 errors. So I will correct these errors by using re-directs.

Screen Shot 2014-05-23 at 13.05.22

 

There were no other errors or issues in GWT

 

If you want to know how GWT can help you with SEO, check out this article that I came across: - http://www.lunametrics.com/blog/2014/05/21/how-to-use-google-webmaster-tools-for-seo/#structured-data

 

 

Lets See What WebSite Auditor Can Come Up With

Whenever I perform any kind of audit I always use Website auditor. It offers a ton of information and is an extremely helpful tool.

It’s really easy to set up. I simply entered my URL and the software does the rest. Here are the results of my website report.

 

 

Screen Shot 2014-05-22 at 16.05.28Screen Shot 2014-05-22 at 16.05.36

 

Lets take a look at the data above:

1 – Crawl availability – This is completely fine, no issues here

2- Content and structure crawl stats – It is showing that 9 pages have a ‘too long title’ and 9 pages have a duplicate page title.

3 - HTML and CSS Validation – 98.4% of the pages have Errors and this is something I need to look more closely at. It’s probably linked to the previous errors that we discovered using GWT.

4 – Broken Links – There are 73 internal broken links. This is not great so it’s something I will be fixing up!

 

Site Speed

There has been a lot of argument over the importance of speed when it comes to rankings! How much Google really factor your sites speed in their ranking process is debatable, however, one thing is for certain, and that is your sites speed is critical in terms of user experience. If your pages don’t load fast, then visitors will click away, it’s as simple as that.

And do you think Google wants to rank sites that offer a poor user experience? No, they don’t. So speeding up our site and page load time is important.

I’ve run a couple of Speed checks using different Free tools.

 

Test 1 using http://pingdom.com shows a load time of 3.46 seconds

Screen Shot 2014-05-23 at 15.31.31

 

 

 

Test 2 using Neil Patels Website Analysis tool http://tools.quicksprout.com/analyze/

Screen Shot 2014-05-23 at 15.57.51

 

 

 

Verdict: We can clearly see that there is room for improvement here. My site is fairly average when it comes to load speed! There are certain things that I will be addressing to improve the speed.

1) I will use a tool to compress all images

2) I will change my hosting. At the minute the site is hosted on a crappy Hostgator shared account. It’s what I use this hosting for ‘non important’ sites. They are not great to say the least.

I usually host my niche sites on BlueHost. So far I have found them reliable and they are also cost effective!

 

Here is a great article explaining 10 ways to increase your sites speed: - http://blog.crazyegg.com/2013/12/11/speed-up-your-website/

 

My Sites Authority

An important factor that determines the credibility of a site is it’s authority metrics. The 3 metrics I focus on are ‘Domain Authority’, ‘Page Authority’ and Page Rank’. The higher these are the more authority your site has and the more Google will trust it.

A site with high DA and PA has more chance of ranking than a site with low DA and PA.

To check this I use http://www.opensiteexplorer.org/

 

Screen Shot 2014-05-23 at 17.19.48

 

These metrics are based on the strength of your back link profile. So the more high authority sites that link to you, the higher your DA and PA will become!

To help this site to pick up more traffic we need to work on increasing these metrics as higher metrics means that Google are more likely to trust the site, and therefore improve the rankings!

Check out this article on How to increase your DA: http://doseoyourself.com/how-to-increase-your-domain-authority/

 

Health Check summary and ‘To do list’

Now we have completed the fist part of the audit, which is the ‘health check’. We have uncovered a few issues that need our attention. So these are the issues that I am going to rectify:

 

tickbox

Correct ‘structured data errors’ I will add an ‘author’ page and set up Google Authorship

 

tickbox  Correct the 3 cases of ’404 page errors’ by using a re-direct

 

tickbox  Correct the 9 pages with a ‘too long Title tag’

 

tickbox  Correct the 6 pages with duplicate page titles

 

tickbox  Fix the 73 broken links

 

tickbox  Improve site speed by compressing images, updating plugins, using cache, move to BlueHost,

 

tickbox  Increase DA and PA by building high authority links (PBN links, guest post)

 


 

 

Section 2: On-Page SEO

 

On page SEO is a vital factor when it comes to rankings and traffic. We want to optimise our pages to the optimal level to give ourselves the best possible chance of picking up organic search traffic!

The first thing I do when auditing a site is to have a quick look through it to gain an overall view of how the site looks and feels. As I built this site myself I know all about it. But as it’s been a long time since I did anything with the site I’ll go through it again!

Number of posts/pages

As indicated by GWT, we have 43 indexed pages. As we are looking to increase traffic to this site I would suggest adding more pages of content. The more content we have the more likely we are to pick up traffic from long tail keywords!

 

Content – To be honest the content could be better. Most articles are 500 words and although they are unique and get the point across, they are not deep in detail. I also notice that a lot of my articles lack images and video. I would suggest adding more images to the individual posts!

I would also like to see the use of LSI keywords throughout each article. To build more traffic from organic searches we need to target more long tail keywords. I like to use a free tool called http://lsikeywords.com/

This gives us a list of the LSI keywords that are related to our article and it evaluates the top ranked sites to see what words they use the most in their content. Our aim then is to match these words by adding them to our article!

 

Here is an example:

I entered the keyword ‘How to grow Porcini mushrooms’ into LSIkeyword

Here are the top results it produced by analysing the 5 top ranked sites for this keyword:

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 14.25.33Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 14.26.02Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 14.26.24

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This shows how many times these LSI keywords were used across these top ranking sites. Now we must incorporate these words into our post!

 

Page Optimisation Audit Report

This is something I like to do with all pages of a site, however I will just show you an example of 1 page that I have selected. I use Website auditor which actually analyses your page by comparing it with the top 10 results in Google and then it compares the differences.

Once it has done that it tells you what changes need making.

So here goes:

 

Select a Page: growyourownmushrooms.net/growporcinimushrooms/

Select a couple of keywords:

1) How to grow oyster mushrooms

2) Growing oyster mushrooms

Use WebSite Auditor To analyse

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 14.42.47

 

As you can see, the overall optimisation rate is only 35.6%, which Is not good. WebSite auditor analyses the top 10 results for these keywords and compares all of the on page factors to our page. It then recommends the changes that we need to make!

I Will Analyse Each Page And Make The Appropriate Changes

 

Title: It’s important that we include the main keywords into the tile. The Title of a page is one of the most influential factors that Google uses to determine the relevance of the page! Although It’s good to check your competitors because Google has been coming down hard on ‘over optimised’ sites! So using variations of your keywords maybe better!

Meta Description: Although Google does sometimes make up a Meta description using the info from your page, I always like to add my own because It’s a great way to pick up some long tail words. It’s vital that you include your keywords in the description. Type any keyword into Google and you will see that all of the top ranked sites have these keywords within the description.

Tip – Add extra words to form more long tail keywords, for example. I have already included the words ‘how, to, grow, oyster, mushrooms’. Now I can include other words such as ‘home’ ‘indoors’ ‘cooking’ ‘spores’.

They don’t have to be in any particular order as long as they are included. Here is an example:

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 15.35.20

 

 

 

You can pick up some great longtail traffic by doing this. It’s worth the effort to optimise all of your descriptions this way.

H1-H6 – Another important on page factor is your ‘Heading’ titles. Make sure your keywords are included in your H1-H6 headings, but be careful not to over optimise. Also use generic terms to keep your keyword density down.

Alt Image txt – Google can’t understand images, therefore we can enter an image Alt text, which basically tells google what the image is about! So you should enter your keywords here.

Body text – As I mentioned before, we want to include some of the LSI keywords into our body text. We don’t want to keyword stuff our main keyword, so adding LSI keywords is important.

 

Free SEO site check up

Here is a good tool to use that will give you an idea of your sites SEO credentials. - http://seositecheckup.com/

 

 

Over optimisation

Having looked through the site I have a feeling that we maybe over-optimising the use of some keywords. To test this I am going to use another free tool:

http://www.feedthebot.com/tools/spider/

Simply enter your URL into here and it will read the page the same way that the Google bots read the page.

Here are some of the problems that it picked up:

Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 14.02.21

 

 

The keywords are being used a lot of times and here is why:

Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 14.47.00

 

 

In the top menu the word ‘mushrooms’ is used after every variation

In the side bar there are links, and every word contains the word ‘mushrooms’

In total there are 25 instances of the word mushroom(s) in the menu and sidebar, thats 25 keywords before we have even got to the content!!!

(The drop down ‘articles’ also contains the keyword quite a few times)

And that’s just 1 word!!

The keywords ‘grow‘ and growing‘ are also over used and It’s quite clear why google might give this an over optimisation penalty!

Lets not forget, this menu and sidebar is present on EVERY page of the site.

The keywords are also in the domain/url and headings of the site!

No wonder it gets good Bing rankings, yet is bombed out of Google!!

 

On page links:

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 14.02.27

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 14.02.39

 

Wow, the bot is indicating that there are 77 outbound links on just 1 page. Although it says that it’s not too much to cause an issue, I would suggest lowering the number of links on each page!

A lot are coming from the social share buttons!

 

Advanced On Page SEO Technique To Increase Traffic

I actually learned this from Niel Patel. Basically we use GWT or SEMrush to find what keywords we are ranking for that are currently on page 2 or 3 of Google. We then do a bit of simple on page optimisation to give these posts a boost to the first page!

This is a great method to increase traffic to your blog!

 

 

On-Page SEO Summary – To do List

 

tickbox

Add more content to the blog (2 new posts per week)

 

tickbox  Add more multimedia (images/videos) to current articles

 

tickbox  Run Website audit on individual posts/pages

 

tickbox  Optimise Titles, descriptions, H1-H6, Images Alt tags

 

tickbox  Add LSI keywords to body text

 

tickbox

Decrease keyword density (change menu links and remove sidebar links)

 

tickbox  Lower the number of outbound links on each page

 

 


 

Section 3 – Off Page SEO

Off page SEO is probably the most important ranking factor. There are a few things that I do when analysing off page SEO and it’s important that you build a good picture of your current back link profile!

 

Check your backlink profile with Ahrefs

Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 09.44.41

 

 

 

As you can see, Ahrefs is telling us that we have 336 backlinks from 87 unique domains!

Earlier we checked our SEO metrics using OpenSiteExplorer and we came to the conclusion that our DA and PA needed to be improved, and to do this we would need to build more higher quality backlinks. Find out how to increase your Domain Authority Here

Now, as we are are looking to increase traffic as a whole rather than targeting 1 or 2 keywords, we want to build as many high quality generic links as possible. Lots of contextual links from niche relevant trusted sources will improve strengthen the DA and PA of this site…. which will give this site more trust and higher rankings!

 

Back Link Report

Another tool I use is SEO SpyGlass, this is great for analysing the quality of your back links and it also warns you of potential ‘harmful’ links!

I have run the site through SEO SpyGlass and it showed quite a few risky links:

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 12.11.42

 

Here I have taken a screen shot of the most high risk links. It would be a good idea to take a closer look at these and maybe worth looking at using the Disavow tool to remove some harful links.

Another great feature of SEO Spyglass is the ‘report’ section. As you can see here, it gives an analysis of your current back links:

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 12.12.59

 

 

Hmmmm…. It seems that almost 70% of our back links are dead! This is a major problem and we need more back links that actually work to lower this percentage!!

 

If you want to know how to use SEO Spyglass to find harmful links, check out this post: - http://doseoyourself.com/tutorial-seo-spyglass-harmful-links/

 

Replicate your competition

Lets go back to the example page we used earlier where we analysed: growyourownmushrooms.net/growporcinimushrooms/

Now the obvious keywords that we would target are:

how to grow porcini mushrooms

grow porcini mushrooms

growing porcini mushrooms

 

Now we type these keywords into Google and see what results it brings up: Here are the top 4 ranked sites in Google at the time of writing….

# 1 ranked site is gardenguides.com/123662-grow-porcini-mushrooms.html

Now this page has nowhere near the quality of information that my page has, but it does have a high Domain Authority.

I’ll now enter this page into Ahrefs….

Surprisingly, this page is showing just 1 back link, and its a very average back link to say the least!

# 2 ranked site is a youtube video

# 3 ranked site is hobbyfarms.com/crops-and-gardening/mushroom-farming-14815.aspx

This page is not even about growing Porcini mushrooms, it’s just about mushroom farming in general (not very helpful at all Google!!)

This page does have a few decent back links, but none of the anchor text mention Porcini mushrooms!!

Why this is ranked number 3 I don’t know!!!!

# 4 ranked site is urbanfarmonline.com/community-building-and-resources/urban-farm-bloggers/urban-farmer-rick-gush/porcini-mushrooms.aspx

The page has no back links but at least the content is relevant!!

 

Feeling confused!!

Having quickly analysed the top ranked pages for one of our keywords, we are left somewhat bemused with Googles rankings! It’s apparent that back links to these type of individual pages are not really significant enough, and the reason we are probably not ranked anywhere is because we actually built links and got penalised.

I am finding that any links with exact match anchors are getting penalised pretty quickly. The pages that are ranked the highest are there based on the strength of their Domain Authority and clean back link profile to individual pages.

It maybe worth me Disavowing the back links to this site and starting over! there is nothing to really lose because the site is ranking for nothing in Google anyway!!

Google obviously does not trust this site!!

 

tickbox  Possible Disavow some back links

 

tickbox  Build quality, niche related, high authority links

 

tickbox  Tidy up dead links

 

tickbox  Build a social presence

 

tickbox  Increase DA (PBN and guest post links to increase authority)

 

 


 

 

Section 4: Site Structure and Monetization

The site is based on the WordPress platform. Although WordPress is great for creating sites like this, it does come with a few flaws that can affect SEO.

I actually made the necessary changes a while back to help prevent duplicate content issues. Here are the steps that I took.

Permalinks – Set as ‘post name’

tags – No Follow them

Categories – No Follow them

In fact, here is a screenshot of the set up I used using All In one SEO

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-13 at 12.58.18

 

To find out how to set up WordPress for SEO, check out this post, doing this alone will improve your rankings… - http://doseoyourself.com/ultimate-guide-wordpress-seo/ 

 

Menus

Its important that your visitors can navigate your site easily. You should always be able to access any page of your site with a couple of clicks!

A good idea is to set up a menu and and dissect your content into various categories. I found this article about site navigation:

https://www.distilled.net/blog/seo/site-navigation-for-seo/

 

Responsive design

Mobile and tablet use is becoming more popular everyday, and more and more people are using there devices to access the internet, therefore it’s essential that your web site design is ‘responsive’ so that it adapts accordingly to mobile devices.

I need to add a responsive design to the site. There are plugins that do this but it’s always better to have a theme with the responsive functionalities built in.

 

Important pages

Check that your site contains the following pages:

- About page

- Privacy Policy

- Disclaimer

- Contact

I have recently found that a site that contains these pages are trusted more by Google + it’s always safer to have these policy and disclaimer pages in place!!

 

Monetization

The site currently uses Google Adsense as it’s means of income. I would look at experimenting with different ad positions on the pages and also experimenting with different as partners.

Here are some useful sites for monetization ideas:

http://www.blogmarketingacademy.com/top-10-blog-monetization-strategies-ranked/

http://www.searchenginejournal.com/wizardry-needed-ultimate-guide-monetizing-blog/73901/

 

Ad placement heat map

http://www.shoutmeloud.com/make-money-online-google-adsense-placement-guide.html

 

tickbox  Make sure site structure is set up correctly in WordPress

 

tickbox  Add responsive theme

 

tickbox

Test different monetization strategies

 


 

Now What?

So there you have it, thats how we audit sites and although I could have included a lot more detail I didn’t want to bore the pants off you. I hope you can take something from this and please remember to share it :-)

My job now is to implement all of the changes that I have out lined in the summary of each section.

Hopefully these changes will lead to an increase in authority and rankings, and the site should start to get more organic traffic.

The more traffic this site gets the more money it makes.

There is a lot of work to be done so I’ll be sure to report back with my results!

 

Hope you enjoyed the post!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





      


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Comments (9)

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  1. anton says:

    Brilliant post that I will I definitely use for my own project. Also some cool sites you posted that I shall use but most importantly I really got a good kick up the arse, thanks.

    [Reply]

    Jason Chesters

    Jason Chesters Reply:

    Thanks Anton, glad you liked the post and I hope it helps my readers!!

    [Reply]

  2. Thanks Jason. This is a brilliant step by step guide that I have bookmarked and will use to go over some of my old neglected sites to improve performance.

    It would be nice to see an update in a month to see how the seo audit improved your performance overall.

    Thanks again!

    [Reply]

    Jason Chesters

    Jason Chesters Reply:

    Thanks Steve, Yes Im planning on doing an update to this page in a couple of months. I’ll keep you posted!!

    [Reply]

  3. Akbar Sheikh says:

    Jason, its been i while that I have been a subscriber to your blog and thank you so much for providing immense value in your blog posts.
    As I am not too well versed with SEO and audits, i always freaked out looking those 404 and other access denied errors in GWT. This post will be of immense help to me in sorting things out. Who says: “People don’t spoon feed anymore…” You did it…. :)

    Thank you,
    Akbar

    [Reply]

  4. Jack says:

    Wow mate, going all out here with 4200 words. Will be going over this in detail when I publish up new site.

    JW, and I know you mentioned this elsewhere. Whats your opinion on using stop words in URL structure? Always remove them? Remove them only when more than say 5 words?

    [Reply]

  5. Great article

    I used most of the same steps but it’s good to hear some different tools used.

    I recently helped a friend out of a penalty and now the site is almost back up to the rankings at its peak and still climbing.

    Cheers
    Gary

    [Reply]

  6. Hello Jason,

    Great content. It really helped me improve SEO on my blog http://tenho1ideia.com

    Looking forward to receive your emails.

    But something that is intriguing me is how you manage to show your Google+ profile on the right side of your blog. Is there a widget for that?

    Thank you

    [Reply]

    Jason Chesters

    Jason Chesters Reply:

    Thanks Rafael, Glad you liked the post. To set up Google+ in your sidebar go to this link and select your required settings, then paste the code into the text widget.

    https://developers.google.com/+/web/badge/

    [Reply]

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