I am, according to those who know me, a very structured person. In order to function, I have to live by spreadsheets, task lists and processes. Without them, I’m lost. It’s just life. Isn’t everyone like that?
But despite my obsession with structure and process, I don’t like giving clients a one-size-fits-all web marketing campaign. It just doesn’t make sense. Every website is different and has different needs; therefore, the online marketing plan will have to be different as well.
The problem is, you really can’t know what any particular site’s needs are until after you’ve gone through and performed a thorough site audit — and that can take upwards of 5-20 hours depending on the site.
We can’t really give away several hundreds of dollars worth of work each time we get a request for a proposal — but we won’t do cookie-cutter, either. Quite the conundrum!
I’m sure we are not all that different from many other SEOs that will perform a quick assessment of a site in order to provide some specific feedback to the prospect. But we always want to make sure our assessments are meaningful. We don’t want to just say, “Hey, look at us, we know something!” We want to put together a proposal that addresses many of their marketing needs, so they understand that we truly have a grasp of what needs to be done.
Yeah, we could run the site through a couple tools that spit out some basic SEO information, but they can — and likely do – get that from anyone else. Instead, why not put a bit more effort into your initial audits, without breaking the bank on time?
Below are 12 key SEO/marketing areas to assess — plus a quick PPC review — when drafting a proposal for prospective clients (or for any reason, really). When reviewing each of these areas, you should be able to uncover some definite actionable tasks and get a broader understanding of the site’s overall marketing needs.
One of the first things to look at is the overall keyword optimization of the site. Some sites have done a decent job writing good title tags and meta descriptions — others, not so much. Look through several pages of the site, glancing at tags, headings and content to see if keywords are a factor on those pages or if the site is pretty much a blank slate requiring some hardcore keyword optimization.
Next, look at global architectural issues. Things you can look at quickly are broken links (run a tool while you’re doing other assessments), proper heading tag usage, site and page spiderability, duplicate content issues, etc. None of these take too much time and can be assessed pretty quickly. Some of the solutions for these are quick and some aren’t; and undoubtedly, once you start digging deeper you’ll find a lot more issues later.
Does the navigation make sense for the site? Look to see if it’s too convoluted or maybe even too simplistic. You want visitors to easily find what they are looking for without being overloaded with choices and options. Determine if the navigation needs some tweaking or all-out revamping.
Product category pages can have all kinds of problems, from poorly implemented product pagination to a lack of unique content. Look at each of these pages from the perspective of value and determine if a visitor or search engine will find any unique value on the page. You might need to add some content, product filtering options, or better product organization to make the page better for both visitors and search engines alike.
Product pages can be tricky. Some searchers might look for a product name, a product number or a specific description of what the product can do. Make sure your product page content addresses each of these types of information searchers. You want to make sure the content of the product pages is largely unique, not just on your site, but across the web, as well. If not, there may be a lot of work ahead of you.
Sites that are local, rather than national, have an entirely different set of criteria to analyze. For local sites, you need to see if they are doing a good job with their citations, maps, listings and other off-page signals. You don’t have to do an exhaustive check; a quick look at some of the main sites that assist with local signals should do.
Aside from off-page local signals, you should also look at the on-page optimization of local keywords. This often goes one of two ways: either there is very little local optimization on the page or far too much, with tons of local references crammed into titles, footers and other areas of the site. Assess the changes you’ll need to make, either way, to get the site where it needs to be.
No assessment would be complete without at least looking at the status of the site’s inbound links, though you’ll have to dig a bit to get some information on the quality of the links coming in. It helps to do the same for a competitor or two so you have some basis of comparison. With that, you’re better able to see what needs to be done to compete sufficiently.
Internal linking can be an issue, outside of navigation. Is the site taking advantage of opportunities to link to their own pages within the content of other pages? Rarely does each page of a site stand alone, but instead should be a springboard of driving traffic to the next page or pages based on the mutual relevance of the content.
This is a bit more of an in-depth look at the site’s content overall. It’s not about the amount of content, but the quality of the content throughout the site. Assessing the content’s value will help you identify problem pages and determine whether there is a need to establish an overall content strategy.
Social presence matters, so jump in and see where the brand stands in the social sphere. Do they have social profiles established? Is there active engagement on those profiles? Is social media being used as an educational tool or as a promotional tool? These things matter a great deal, especially when determining the course of action that needs to be taken.
Web marketing is not all about traffic. If you’re getting traffic but not conversions, then it doesn’t matter how good the “SEO” is. Look through the site for obvious conversion and usability issues that need to be fixed or improved. Just about every site can use conversion optimization, it’s more obvious (and urgent) for some sites than others. This assessment helps you determine if your time is better spent here or somewhere else.
The items above primarily deal with website and optimization issues. But if a PPC campaign is running, take a look at that and make sure it was set up and is being executed optimally. Many people don’t believe PPC can be profitable. Most of the time it’s not, but only because of poor management. If there is room for improvement with PPC, you’ll want to know.
Of course, you can spend hours assessing each of these areas, but that’s not the point. A quick 5-10 minute look into each of these areas can give you a wealth of information that you can use to improve the site.
This is the starting point, but as you dive into each of these areas, more opportunities will arise. The point is, you have to start somewhere. This is the most authentic quick SEO and marketing review you can give, without getting lost in the details or in an endless pit of time.