SEO site audits should all be at least a bit unique. Everyone has their own process for pricing and conducting SEO audits, but one of the important things to keep in mind is the different needs of different types of sites.
The core issues and focuses in auditing a twenty page B2B lead gen site will be very, very different than the key things you want to think about and address in auditing a large e-commerce site.
The same is true of conducting an SEO audit on a publishing or news oriented site, and as a result I wanted to call out five key considerations that you’ll need to account for in your SEO audits for publishing sites (in addition to all of the typical blocking and tackling you’ll want to consider in any SEO audit).
Scalable, Flexible Information Architecture
Obviously, thinking through information architecture is important for every site, but with publishing sites it’s particularly important to consider ways that you can structure the site to help account for the fact that:
- They’ll likely be adding several pieces of content per day/week
- Much of that content will often be very time-sensitive
- The aggregate of that content will often drive significantly more organic search traffic than any of their static category pages (and even the site’s home page)
As a result, you’ll want to identify different ways to pull archived content closer to (as in: fewer clicks away from) the site’s home page (which conserves most of the link equity); and, you’ll also want to find a way to get more link equity to newer pages. A few tactics that will work for most sites in doing this include:
One opportunity to “flatten” your site’s information architecture is to move from simply having “previous and next” links on your home and category pages, including numerical pagination (1, 2, 3, etc.) to allow you to keep more historical content closer to the site and category home pages. Obviously you’ll want to be sure to adhere to general pagination best practices.
An Index of Indices
By creating a page that functions as a collection of links to other collections of links, you can have pages that all have ~100 links per page. This allows you keep large volumes of content only a few clicks from the main page.
The thing to think about here is what you can create that would actually be a useful collection of links for folks who click on the page: what data do you have tied to individual blogs posts? This could be tags or some other classification.
What People are Searching for Widget
To ensure you’re pushing a lot of link equity at the most temporally-relevant posts, you might consider building a widget that leverages your analytics data to keep the posts that have received the most search traffic in the last day or week in a navigation box.
Other ways of surfacing popular posts can also ensure you’re flowing equity to your most topical content, such as most shared/commented on widgets that focus on fresh content:
By building a publishing-specific information architecture, you’ll put the site in a better position to rank across each of the different terms and pages they’re trying to drive more traffic for and to.
Use Of Tags & Categories
Tags and categories on publishing sites can be particularly problematic from an SEO perspective. Here you want to work to answer a few questions:
- Who is tagging content, and what criteria are they using to create tags?
- How much thought is going into creating new tag pages and/or assigning a post to a specific tag?
- Are too many tag pages being created (meaning there is a lot of dilution of link equity and several thin pages housing one post)?
- How much thought was put into the category structure?
- How much value is being created for users by the current tag and category structure?
Many of these will be questions you’ll have for the client; and in a lot of cases, you’ll have to consider the utility to the user with an existing structure (even if it looks sub-optimal from an SEO perspective).
But, in many cases, little to no thought has actually been put into category and tag structure (and particularly tagging), so you may have to really re-think the current implementation altogether. Obviously whatever the current set up information architecture is really important for SEO.
Google News Inclusion & Optimization
If you’ve primarily worked on lead gen and e-commerce sites, Google News may be a bit of an unfamiliar entity for you. Basically, you want to think about two potential issues:
They’re Not in Google News But Should Be
Assuming they’re publishing lots of quality, news-oriented content, you’ll want to point out that they should be included in Google news. A list of qualifications for inclusion can be found here, but basically they include:
- Unique & news oriented content (you clearly have this)
- Individual post URLs should include 3 digits and be unique (the dates included in the URLs meet this requirement)
- Pages and links need to be clean, crawlable HTML (you meet this requirement as well)
They can simply submit their site here.
And, it’ll be reviewed. You’ll also likely want to recommend submitting a Google News sitemap via Webmaster Tools (this option won’t be available until they’ve been accepted). There’s more information on that that you can point them to here.
They’re in Google News, But Their Content Isn’t Showing Up
As with the main organic search algorithm, there are a lot of different ideas about how best to improve rankings. Some resources you’ll want to check out would include:
- The Top Ten Most Important Google News Ranking Factors
- The Top Ten Negative Google News Ranking Factors
- Ranking Factors According to Google
Some of the things mentioned above as ranking factors that you’ll want to focus on to improve rankings – such as creating an authoritative site, getting people to share your content, getting people to link at your content, and having the story first – probably seem pretty obvious, but there are also some things to keep in mind that might be a bit less obvious, including:
- Leveraging the Standout Tag - Google offers you an opportunity to designate certain content as higher quality via the standout tag, so you can differentiate higher quality, original reporting from thinner content you may be re-writing or even republishing from a feed.
- Performance Issues – One thing that may be keeping your site from ranking in Google news could be technical issues, so you might consider leveraging a tool to test performance: http://www.webpagetest.org/ and http://tools.pingdom.com/fpt/.
- Authorship/Google Plus Profiles – Consider implementing Google authorship as a means of increasing your SERP visibility and click-through rate.
Some of these enhancements can give quality content that wasn’t getting exposure better placement in the news listings.
Scalable Keyword Research
Similar to the issues you’ll face with information architecture and with tagging, you need to devise a strategy for implementing keyword research that can support several individual content pieces (often authored by individuals you’re not interacting with as you’re delivering the audit), so we typically try to do a couple things here:
- Research Keywords – You obviously can’t conduct keyword research for thousands of pages, but depending on the scope of the audit and what you’ve agreed on before hand, it may make sense to actually make specific keyword targeting recommendations for the highest level pages (the home page and the category pages, for instance).
- Teach Them to Fish – Alternatively, what will often provide a lot more value in aggregate is to make really specific suggestions for how they might research and incorporate keywords in content on an ongoing basis.
This second item can be a bit tricky, since you’re likely providing advice for journalists and professional writers who may have a jaded view of “SEO” and keyword targeting, so you want to be sure to:
- Give a really specific example of how this would work for an existing page on their site. This will allow them to see that you’re not “keyword stuffing,” but rather, just taking more popular terms into consideration and determining whether you can fit them into the copy naturally and logically.
- Stress that there’s no need to “force” variations that don’t fit or are illogical (and that actually this will be worse for SEO as it likely makes the article less sharable)
- See if you can find and reference a good, relevant example of a site that’s creating good content but also incorporating some relevant keyword variations (preferably in a closely related niche) so that they can see it’s not just C level content that’s well researched and optimized
As with any good SEO audit you want to try to structure things so that you’re not only making valuable recommendations, but you’re also putting the client in as good a position as possible to be able to actually implement and execute against your recommendations.
Relative Value Of CPMs & Other Actions
One thing it’s important to understand in any SEO audit is how the client actually makes money. With e-commerce sites, this is about sales and the margins on those sales; with lead gen sites, you may need to understand how valuable different offers are (request a quote versus sign up for a newsletter); and, with publishing sites it’s often important ask and understand if certain types of content are more valuable than others.
For instance, certain content series may have specific sponsors on top of site-wide banners, and as such, that content could be significantly more valuable (and worth more of your attention). Additional offers such as newsletter sign ups or e-Book downloads are also things you’ll want to learn about and try to quantify the value of if possible.
Obviously, you’ll have several other considerations in conducting an audit on a publishing site, but these are five that might not be items you’d necessarily think of if you’re primarily working on lead gen and e-commerce sites.
What about you: what other publishing-specific things do you look at in auditing publishing sites?
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.