We used to perform one audit per year circa 2008. It was called an “SEO Audit” and included a fresh crawl, new keyword research, and new SEO recommendations. We basically put the entire kitchen sink into this report and spent the rest of the year trying to get it all implemented.
These days we tend to audit specific pieces of a site at different times, which aligns better with typical development cycles and allows for continuous improvement throughout the year. This post describes some of those audits, along with when and how often they should be performed.
Technical and On-Page SEO Audits
Technical and on-page SEO go hand-in-hand. Some of the things this audit should look at include technical factors like correct use of meta robots and rel= “canonical” tags, as well as pagination, mobile, and international SEO issues. A general overview of keyword use and on-page optimization factors like title tags, headers, and content should also be included.
When to Conduct a Technical SEO Audit
Technical and On-Page SEO Audits should be performed under any of these circumstances:
At least once per year
A technical and on-page SEO audit can help you stay up-to-date with the latest best practices and opportunities in SEO. If you’re lucky enough not to have to deal with any of the situations below over the course of a year, it may be time to take a fresh look at the site from an SEO perspective anyway.
Whenever a new site launches
Some of this will preferably be done while in development. However, even if an SEO audit was performed while the site was in development, a new one should be conducted shortly after the new site launches. Things don’t always work the same once the site is “live” and crawlers can often find new routes to URLs that shouldn’t be indexed, among other things.
After URL migrations
Whether you’re moving from HTTP to HTTPS, from .org to .com, rewriting the URL structure, or just changing the taxonomy of the site –– any time a major portion of the website needs to be redirected, a post-migration technical SEO audit should be done. Inflow offers pre-migration strategies and post-migration audits to eCommerce brands. Learn more.
After a loss in traffic
Traffic drops and penalty analysis play large roles in many SEO audits. The key is to perform the audit and provide recommendations to be implemented as soon as possible. Timing is critical to recovery because the longer one waits, the more desperate (and ineffective) solutions become. Here’s a simple checklist to help you perform basic analysis after a major traffic drop.
When you hire a new SEO
Every search engine optimization professional is going to have their own toolsets, experience, and opinions. Sometimes after years on a single website, it becomes easy to miss the forest for the trees. A new set of eyes analyzing the site may be just what you to need to break through a plateau or reverse a slow decline in traffic. We often perform technical SEO audits for in-house teams looking for insight, validation, and opportunities to improve rankings and convert more traffic from search. Get in touch to learn more.
Learn more about Technical eCommerce SEO Audits from Inflow.
Content Inventories and Audits
If your website has been around for more than a few years and you haven’t performed a full content inventory and audit yet, now is the time to get started. You can learn how to do them here. We also have an eCommerce Content Audit Toolkit to help the process go more smoothly. Download it here.
When to Perform a Content Audit
Follow these guidelines for when to conduct this vital review of your indexable online assets.
At least once per year
Content audits are a form of website “housecleaning”. If you continually publish content throughout the year, be sure to review what search engines are able to index at least on an annual basis.
Before a site migration
Conduct a full content inventory and audit before any website migration. The pre-migration inventory serves as a snapshot of URLs and content as they were before the migration, which helps to troubleshoot any post-migration traffic losses or other issues. The audit portion allows you to cut out or consolidate content before the migration, ensuring a better site at launch.
After a site migration
Don’t forget the post-migration analysis. I’ve made the mistake of assuming developers had implemented everything correctly before, only to find out the migration was completely botched because none of the recommendations were followed.
There is no such thing as “set it and forget it” when it comes to paid campaigns. Setting the budget to be so small that you’re not compelled to look at the campaign for long periods of time means you’re missing opportunities. What if you could be spending 10 percent more on certain keywords for 50 percent more conversions? With that in mind, the best answer to the question below is “continually”. Short of continuous optimization, here are some trigger points for when you may want to conduct a full-scale PPC audit or paid advertising campaign review.
When to Perform a PPC Audit
PPC Audits should be performed under any of the following circumstances:
Every 3-6 months (at the very least, annually)
Negative changes in the account don’t necessarily mean a PPC audit is necessary. Likewise, continuing the status quo doesn’t mean everything’s as it should be. There are a lot of aspects of a campaign that can go unnoticed. Also, there are changes and features rolling out all the time. Regularly scheduled PPC audits are a way to step back, look at the account from a high level, dig down deeper, evaluate performance, discover trends and problems, and come up with plans of attack.
When acquisition costs go up dramatically or conversion rates plummet
A spike in CPA could mean all sorts of things. Quality scores could’ve gone down, or strong new bidders could have entered the marketplace. Depending on how you calculate an “acquisition”, it could mean there’s a roadblock in the conversion funnel on your site.
After hiring a new PPC analyst or agency
As with any marketing channel, sometimes having a set of fresh eyes on the account can make all the difference.
When important new ad features become available
Not every update to AdWords necessitates a full-scale PPC audit, but features like structured snippet extensions, remarketing lists, and expanded text ads are all worth incorporating as soon as possible. Early adoption is a massive advantage when it comes to making your ads stand out in the search results.
Analytics and Tracking
There are two major pieces to auditing analytics. First, are you tracking the right things in the right ways? This is more of a strategic-level view of analytics from the perspective of overall business needs. The second type of analytics audit is about implementation. Is the code on all pages? Are things firing when they should? Is the data accurate? The recommendations below deal with the implementation side of reviewing analytics.
How Often to Perform an Analytics Audit
Follow these guidelines for when to conduct an audit of your analytics package and tracking scripts.
At least once per year
Basic housekeeping is necessary to ensure confidence in the data being provided by analytics packages.
After a new site launch or migration
The launching of a new website is a good time to double-check all goals to ensure everything is being tracked as planned. Things always fall through the cracks during site migrations, so it’s best to perform a post-migration audit to ensure tracking code is in place in all the right places.
When business objectives change
If you’ve never tracked email acquisition and the new marketing strategy relies heavily on inbound marketing concepts like lead nurturing, it might be time to re-evaluate how this goal is being tracked.
When new tracking solutions become available
Google Tag Manager is a game-changer when it comes to analytics. So was Universal Analytics tracking code when GA first launched it. When something major changes with regard to your analytics tracking solution, it is time to have another look under the hood. Learn more about how to conduct an Analytics Audit.
Conversion Optimization and User Experience
Conversion rates and user experience are closely related. We don’t have a UX department at Inflow, per se, but our team of veteran conversion rate optimization advisors makes user experience recommendations every day. Learn more about our continuous-optimization services here.
When to Perform a CRO and UX Audit
We strongly believe in and encourage continuous improvement practices. Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) isn’t something you do once, or even just once in awhile. That said, there are certain times when marketers will want to make sure best practices are being followed, and major opportunities aren’t being ignored.
After a New Site Launch or Migration
CRO and UX should be factored into the new site or redesign process from the beginning. This typically happens during the concept and wireframing processes, but often stops once design mock-ups have been approved. However, not everything translates from mock-up to live site. It is important for the CRO expert to review the new site, potentially conducting exit survey analysis and live site reviews.
Every platform has its own idiosyncrasies when it comes to conversion optimization. For example, here are a few specific to Magento. This means any platform migration should include a new CRO audit.
After hiring a new CRO strategist or agency
Conversion rate optimization is part science, part art. In short, it is a craft. Each craftsperson brings unique experiences and insights to the job, so bringing on a new CRO or UX expert is a good time to reconsider existing strategies, and discuss new things to test.
When you change or add product lines
Price points and other factors can have a dramatic impact on how shoppers make purchasing decisions. Any time significant changes are made to the product offering, new rounds of testing should be done to ensure optimal conversions.
When the competitive landscape shifts
A new competitor can disrupt your conversion funnel. For example, if the price point was your best differentiator in the marketplace and the feature you called out most on the site, a new competitor with lower prices may require you to shift value propositions throughout the site.
When Conversion Rates Drop
Any major dip in conversion rates is obviously a reason to look into CRO. This could mean a full CRO / UX audit, or something as simple as fixing a broken link in the conversion funnel.
Digital Marketing Audits, in one form or another, can take up a lot of time throughout the year. Just be sure to save time for implementation, and to ensure your recommendations are implemented correctly.