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Ross & Craig do it again (SEO site Audit)




Ross: Hello everyone and welcome to another SEMrush live webinar. You've joined us today because we've got a very, very special guest. None other than 18 years SEO service, the Scottish mafia number one, Craig Campbell. How you doing, Craig?

Craig Campbell: All good mate, all good. Yourself? You're actually looking more tanned than me, just now; you're actually worrying me.

Ross: Which is unusual, because you're usually bright red. You usually look like a tomato with a body, right, because you're usually all around the world sunning yourself. We're going to be taking a bunch of websites that we've never seen before. We have 94 respondents, which is definitely a record for us with the guys at SEMrush. 

We're just going to be going through some of the processes that we would typically go through in order to work out what to optimize and how to optimize it. Craig, what one particular is your kind of big thing you look at when you're kind of auditing sites, from a technical perspective?

Craig Campbell: There isn't really one thing. I think I end up looking at a website and I end up going off in different directions. It's not as if I go, “Right, I'm going to just go for a SEMrush Site Audit tool and see what's broken”.

I don't always do it the exact same way. What I tend to do is look at the website itself first, and if I look at it, probably one of the first things I do is go and look at domain age. 

Sometimes you'll see the name servers and you go "Ah, right! So that's hosted here." There is no real crazy structure. Because you can tell sometimes by looking at a website it's just going to be garbage, and the whole thing needs to be ripped apart, and there's no point in doing much more after that. 

Ross: That's fair enough. Domain age, I'll be honest with you, it's interesting how SEO's come at things from completely different perspectives because domain age is something that I just categorically don't ever look at.

If the site's a year old, then it might get a bit suspicious, but I'm similar to you in that you can usually see from first glance at a website, it leaves little breadcrumb trails and little clues everywhere that lead to the next thing, to the next thing, to the next thing. 

When we're doing these audits, we're trying to work out what's actually going on inside of the business and is there any problems that we need to triage immediately. Have they done a migration and lost all their traffic? Have they had a penalty or has something changed next to an algorithm update, or something like that?

And from there, we can start piecing things together. Off that list we've got, have you got some that you want to start us rocking through?

Website #1: Top Level Domains and Website Performance Issues

Craig Campbell: I'm going to go for Guy Robertson Dentist, purely because I want to go in with a unique angle, as such. I don't want to go in for the same old, boring old crap. When I see someone using a .dentist domain name, I always believe off the bat that’s the wrong choice to make. 

That's just a personal thing. I'm not saying that no one with a .dentist domain name ranks or any other similar domain names, but for me, I'm just going, "He's off on the wrong foot." 

I've still yet to see people with .agency or any of these crazy domain names really dominate for anything that competitive. And until I do, then I'm not changing my mind on it, it's as simple as that. 

Ross: I missed it. All right, so this is a website. What does this guy do? He's a London-based dentist. Yeah?

Craig Campbell: Private dentist. The usual teeth whitening, dental implants, veneers, oral hygiene, and so on. Fairly standard looking website. It looks all right, for a dentist. It's not the best-looking website in the world as far as I'm concerned.

It does what it does, it's got his phone numbers and stuff. The first thing, as I said, I look at, is I tend to look at things like domain age. 

I have seen the name servers, and very quickly I've seen it's on Wix, which is not my favorite choice of website. Not because they're not a good company and all of that kind of good stuff. But for being in the UK and the server is in the US... what I would then look like after this would be site speed.

If we were going to go to a tool like Pingdom site speed tools, we will find that this website loads really slow.

Ross: I've noticed that as well, Craig, the Wix thing. They're fine to get sites up and running, but the problem is the way in which they architect it and the way in which they use JavaScript tends to be very heavy and very bloated.

First and foremost what I'm going to do is I'm going to open up the inspect elements. Let's run a Lighthouse audit. We're going to go to Audits. We're going to hit Run. 

What this is doing is it's looking at it from a mobile point of view. It's looking at it from a 3G point of view, and essentially it's saying, "Well, based on all of the things we can see and the different formats and how we're able to actually read this information, what's physically going on is going to give us these scores."

The thing that you really want to care about is these metrics here. So things like First Contentful Paint is very important. It's essentially the amount of time between when the page actually loads and the first thing can actually be seen on the screen. Another biggie for me is time to interactive.

It's taking 15.9 seconds to become fully interactive. That just feels wrong. So, what we're going to do is we're going to jump into the network tab, and we're going to see the waterfall of things, here. So when we click on "Network," this is what we call a critical rendering path. You can essentially see every single thing that's been loaded up and the order in which it's being loaded up. You look down here at the bottom left, it says, "129 requests." 

Now, Craig, you've built many websites in your life. Why do you think they're calling 129 separate requests for what's essentially text and a couple of images? That feels totally unnecessary, right?

Craig Campbell: Yeah, of course. Obviously, I'm not a web designer...I've dealt with many projects, but having that amount of requests is just insane.

The job is to make sure that you get the least amount of requests as possible, to keep your site speeds as high as you possibly can. Common sense would tell you that those figures are obscene. Even from when you compare that to even just getting a random WordPress template off of ThemeForest or something and slapping it up in WordPress, it's not going to have that amount of requests. 

Ross: The red bar means code that's not fired. The green bar means code that's fired. Of all that code that's blocking the page from doing anything, the biggest one there, 93.5% of it just isn't used to make that page a thing. 

The reason being, you've got to think of what Wix is. It's a website builder that looks at every different type of website under the sun, so it needs to have things on there that will care for all those different things out of the box.

They're not customizing it and pulling it at the code. It's just one core thing, one size fits all.  Anything to say about the navigation, Craig?

Craig Campbell: It's a bit much. It's very 2008, if you like. 

Sensible Website Structures, Keyword Research, and Website Builders 

Ross: From a UX perspective, I would jump in there and say, well, a couple of things. The text logo is larger than your navigation. I'm trying to click on the nav and it's not letting me go anywhere. There are some pages that are acting like real top-level nav and some that are not. 

Here's the interesting thing about this. I've just clicked on extended bio, and you'll notice that the URL is just /extended bio. This entire site is built on a completely flat structure. Surely if it was under Guy Robertson, it would be /Guy/extended bio.

I would seriously look at how this content is put together and siloed. How do you typically approach that when it comes to picking how to put together a navigation?

Craig Campbell: I know people have all got their different ways and different methods and stuff, but very simple, straightforward, no messing about. As far as I'm concerned, it's just to keep it easier for Google to understand, as well. As you say, flat structure, it's just all over the place. I just try and keep everything boxed together where I can.

Ross: The other thing I'd look at is structured data. I go to the structured data testing tool. Core product pages should have product-based schema on them. There is no schema whatsoever. That needs to happen first and foremost, not even product-led schema, just schema that says who you are and that you're an actual business.

I don't know if you can hard code that stuff in with Wix. I prefer to have it coded in at the template level. You can use Tag Manager to implement it via JSON-LD. For those who are wondering what I'm talking about, you can go to schema.org, and then dig into all the different schemas that you can actually apply to the site.

This one's clearly done its keyword research because it's got all the Q&A stuff. How are you doing your keyword research, Craig? Are you using tools or anything like that?

Craig Campbell: In terms of keyword research, just the usual ones. SEMrush, I use a couple of others. I'm not going to lie. I always like to compare data. 

Any paid campaigns, any history. I think in terms of keyword research, there's loads of different places you can get data from, but looking at your competitors and, which is one of the purposes SEMrush is built for, is obviously the basic place to do it. 

Ross: Simon Cox has just come in, Craig, and he's asked ... "Businesses love it because they can get a site up quickly and cheaply. What are Craig's and Ross's favorite alternatives to get a business manageable site up quickly?"

Craig Campbell: WordPress, it's the obvious answer. I think that's what everyone else is using. People say 40% of websites worldwide are WordPress. I think in this SEO industry, in terms of businesses getting websites up quickly, I would say that it's probably 70, 80, 90%. 

Unless you're obviously going for a big eCommerce store, and stuff like that. Then you're going to look at alternative options, but for cheap, low-cost platforms to get businesses started, definitely WordPress, in my opinion.

Ross: Yeah, I'd have to agree with you. The only out of the box solution that I like as an eCommerce one is Shopify. It's definitely got its downsides. You don't have any real access to the robots.txt. Crawling it is very challenging, because they throttle it a lot of the time, but Shopify I rate. Have you ever used Squarespace or anything like that?

Craig Campbell: Nope, stay well clear of them. Don't get me wrong. I've dabbled with them back in the day. I've had people come to me in the past when I used to do client work, saying, "Oh, I've got this Squarespace website," and you have a look at it and you're just like, "No chance."

They may have improved, and I know a lot of them do improve, so some of it may have improved, but I'm a creature of habit. If WordPress is working, I ain't budging. 

Ross: Someone's asking, what about Joomla? I'll be honest with you, I've not looked at Joomla for over 10 years. Have you used Joomla recently?

Craig Campbell: Years and years ago. Long, long, way before WordPress came out I was using Joomla. Not sure I've actually seen anyone use Joomla in the last 5, 10 years. It's just more painful for someone to get changes and stuff done. You're at the beck and call of the guy who built it basically, so that's why I stay clear of that, as well.

How to Repurpose Video Transcripts and Rank for Them

Ross: We've got a guy, someone called Intuitionology. "Should I embed a YouTube video into a webpage, also include the video transcript underneath it, from an SEO perspective? Assuming Google is able to scrub the video for the keyword, or do I just do a blog?"

Craig Campbell: When I do a podcast or whatever it may be, as I get it transcribed, and then I release it as a blog post, try and use the content to rank well, and go ahead and add some internal links, a header, H2 tags, and everything else, as you do. And what I'm finding, now I'm still doing a bit of testing on this, but somehow Google is still finding that as duplicate content. I don't think it's ranking as well as something I would maybe write with my own hands.

I might be wrong on that, but there's something not quite right with it. Transcriptions, from an SEO point of view, I think Google might be on to it. As I've said to you many times, Ross, I used to do the whole stealing people's videos, transcribing them on Rev, and using it as content, and all that kind of stuff. I'm not entirely sure that that's as effective as it once was.

Ross: I'd have to agree with you, especially if it's put in a format that looks like transcription. We do a lot of video. We'll do three or four videos every week, and when we upload them to YouTube, it auto transcribes it. Even with my accent, it understands it relatively well. If they're all transcribing things with the machine, it would stand to reason that if there's a page with just a video, they do actually know what's on there.

Interestingly, however, I track rankings of everything that I mentioned, then. For example, we do a lot of stuff for SEMrush. We do a lot of Weekly Wisdom videos and Melissa at SEMrush transcribes all that stuff beautifully, but it actually turns into a proper blog post with screen captures and images, and we internally link to it, and then there's comments and stuff like that. That does rank, weirdly.

Craig Campbell: Yeah, it's not a direct rip. What I'm doing is trying to direct rip and do the lazy thing. I think what you said hits the nail on the head, is make it not look like a transcription. Someone putting a bit of graft in and linking stuff up, and optimizing it. 

Website #2: Optimizing On-Page Content and Removing Inefficient Code

"How many sites are we auditing?" We're going to do three. Now, Ross, I would like to talk at this one, because this is a friend of mine's website that's been submitted. And I'd like you to give your perspective on it because I know a bit more of the background and the history on it. The website that we're going to be auditing next is Boomtown Bingo.

It's a gambling affiliate website. It's owned by a mutual friend that Ross and I have both got and it does reasonably well. It gets decent traffic. It's a WordPress website. It's got tons of pages, competitive niche, they're doing stuff that they maybe shouldn't be doing in terms of certain backlink strategies, and stuff like that, or they have done in the past. 

The problem for me with Boomtown, and this is just a personal opinion of mine, and the guys won't mind me saying this anyway, is the guys are so into SEO, and they go to so many different conferences and meetups and everything else, that they don't ever just settle for one strategy. They keep changing their mind all the time. But I'd love to hear what you would look at in that Ross, and any kind of other problems.

Ross: All right. Clearly, a gambling website dedicated to bingo. There's some weird, unnecessary JavaScript going on there. Straightaway, there's going to be some speed stuff that we can start doing.

First things first. I appreciate the home page is where all of the equity goes, but I wouldn't be wanting to split that up like that at all. I'd be wanting to properly structure it out.

Now, I don't really go for a lot of this EAT stuff, it's good that they've got things like privacy policy and cookie policies. What I would love to see in this 'About Us' page is...some interesting stuff about the business itself. 

Okay, so he's only wrapped three parts of his navigation in schema. That will need to be updated. If he's using Yoast for schema, which it looks like he is, he'll need to edit that and fix that.

I know for a fact Yoast only introduced proper schema into their plug-in over the last six to eight weeks. He's probably put that on and just hit go for everything. What I would suggest is setting that up properly. That would be one of the big ones to go for first. 

Let's look at the content quality, and run it through cloud natural language to actually see what the entities are that are coming out of it because it looks like it's got a lot of keywords smashing through it. So what was the page actually about? This is about Bingo Besties review. 

What we're seeing here is the actual content. The top entity inside of that text...is a website. That's obviously not ideal. And the second one is Dragonfish, which has not a lot to do with it. But the third, spins Bingo Besties, Google knows that's an organization. 

What I'd be looking to do is maybe change and optimize the copy so that the way in which they're weighting the page is probably more that the main entities with the highest salience are the product, the reviewing, and the type of product it is.

Just from a user experience, we can have a look at site speed and things like that, but it's actually quite fast. Well done to them for that. 

The way in which images are served might be something to look at. They're throwing up 302s. Some of them are webp, some of them are not. He's running HTTP 2, not HTTP 1, which is great. Webp is an advanced format for images that serves them much faster. But I would seriously look at how all of that sort of stuff is being served. 

He's got a CSS file, which only 3% of the code in CSS is used, which is obvious. He could probably just hand code this with no CMS. That's the other thing I'd say. I'd have a look at your CSS and rip that down, as well, and just disavow. 

Craig Campbell: I think you've hit the nail on the head with a lot of this stuff. 

Important Google Analytics Metrics & B2C Website Design Tips

Ross: Let's do one more. I feel I've done a lot of talking there, I think you should bring another one up that we can have a look at. We'll answer some questions while you're picking a URL. Denise Tench, "Which Google analytics statistics do you consider to be actually essential to report back to an SEO client (SME every month)?"

It depends what kind of site it is, if it's a lead gen site, obviously the amount of leads and then on the back end of their CRM, the quality of those leads. So get them to score them, give them a cash value, then type that back into your analytics if you can. If it's an eCommerce site, revenue and there's pre-requisites to revenue and leads obviously. 

Things like bounce rate and all that Craig, do you deal with anything like that or is it not really something that crosses your path? 

Craig Campbell: In terms of when you're reporting to a client and stuff, I think the key metrics that I think people should focus on are rank and traffic and conversions. I think there's too many people dig around and talk too much about meaningless data.

Now, as an SEO we can argue over the smaller data points and stuff like that but when you're reporting to a client, I think it's a dangerous game and you need to try and keep it very simple. Keyword rankings and conversions is all I'm really interested in if I was to do any client stuff. 

Ross: She's also said she's a wedding photographer so it's lead generation. Local is going to be really important to you.

Jock Stender, "Can you recommend a how-to guide for designing a B2C website, general architecture, layout et cetera.? I'm familiar with WordPress, JavaScript, HTML et cetera." 

Craig Campbell: Yeah Kurt Philips, Convertica. Is it Convertica or does he call himself CRO guy. I think he calls himself both actually but Convertica or CRO guy are probably the best at that. 

Ross: I would start with if you go onto SEMrush's Keyword Magic tool and start from big head terms all the way down. Ultimately, design it for the user and start from mobile and work out the way, do not start from desktop and build down the way. 

It very much depends on the use case and what the type of site is but google the term “atomic design” and start from there. They look at designing a button and designing a form and then designing a page and building it out that way, instead of typically what most designers do is start with a canvas and build down.

Website #3: Large Enterprise Websites and the Importance of Technical SEO

Craig Campbell: What I'll do is I'm going to talk quickly about the next website. The next one I found that I'm going to talk about, is discountpartysupplies.com. Birthday party supplies, kids party supplies. It's a party supply website and what the interesting thing I found about this is, obviously, targets the US market as you can see here. 

Doing really well; they've been around since 2012. Good steady growth but as of January 2019, things have really kicked off. What I find interesting, Ross, is most people would look at this kind of report, see that they've ranked for 23,905 keywords. Albeit, tons of them are on page two and below but we can see this, which I found quite interesting. 

Errors, warnings, notices, now I've only crawled 500 pages in terms of speed but obviously, websites that rank really well can still have massive underlying issues. 878 internal links are broken. Where would you start on a website like this? Obviously, it's a big, big website, it's got 23,000 keywords ranking. It's just a big juggling act. 

For a website of that size, when you look at those kind of notices, errors, warnings ... You look at this and you go, "Wow, this website does need a bit of work on it." We can obviously see websites that we audit and they still have problems, yet it can still rank. And obviously the debate is, how important is technical SEO? 

What I'd be curious to know, if you got a website like this Ross, is what things are you looking for to get the quickest impact? What is important and what's not from a technical point of view? Because there's obviously so much misinformation out there where people obsess over very small things.

Ross: I'd need to speak to the owners, and I'd need to understand where all their margin is and all their different products. I’d need to get access to Search Console and GA. 

What you want to do guys is, inside the sheets or inside the data schedule, you want to wrap up all of the traffic. Just seeing individual keywords, just because they rank for those terms, it drives traffic, it doesn't necessarily mean that a, it's profitable or b, they even convert. I'd want to look at that first and see where all the money is the first and foremost. 

I'd also want to start comparing it to any major algorithmic updates, and I'd want to understand all the link building work they'd done up until now. Now, assuming I've got all that, and we now know the areas to start having a look at, I look at hygiene first so: can the crawler access you and understand what's on the page? So poor reports and broken links are just classic because that actually affects the user experience as well as affecting the search experience. 

Next one would be organization, are the canonicals all correct? Because that's a real problem if you're pointing power into the wrong place. I'd then be looking at structure, so I'm looking at how the page is structured itself, I'm looking at schema, I'm looking at presentation, anything that actually is in the search. Can we improve these guys click-through rates by getting them review snippets, rich snippets, all that sort of stuff.

Things like site speed because it's eCom, would probably come right at the top of the list. If it was horrific, so the first thing I'm doing is does it load in under two seconds? 

It's really just about following the money trail and where I find where the cash comes from, I'm looking at the inputs in and out of where they make their money and how I can fix that first. Making a business case for them so I can say, "If we were to fix x, y and z, we project that will be an extra $10,000 a month from this product and here's the reason why." That's my 60-second how to approach enterprise tech. 

Craig Campbell: I think that was a great way to finish it off was being presented with something that where do you start very quickly and following the money trail is the perfect way to put that so that was a great answer mate. Just quickly I want to answer Jessica Tinker. "Will either of you be speaking at any SEO conferences in the US?" 

I'll be there, April 2020 at Terry Samuels event, Spring SEO training. Some great speakers, great event. Get along, tickets just went on sale today. We are sadly out of time, Ross. It's that time. But it went too quick again. 

Ross: Yeah, absolutely.

Craig Campbell: Thank you to everyone else for watching as well and I'm sure if there's any takers, we'll come back again and do the same in the future. 

Ross: All right. Brilliant. 

Craig Campbell: Cheers.

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