There are two kinds of site audits every SEO should be adept at. First there’s the full-blown, top-down, all the bells and whistles, everything-and-the-kitchen-sink audit. This audit is comprehensive and includes support, explanation and documentation to help a client understand why you recommended certain changes as well as how to implement those changes.
The second type of audit is the mini “we’re going into code freeze in 14 days and need to get something done before then so we can bump up Christmas sales” audit. This audit is stripped down to the bare essentials, and all supporting documentation and instruction is typically left out. The idea is to create a task list for the it department with the promise that you’ll explain it all later.
Clearly, due to time and resource constraints, you can’t expect a client to completely rework a Web site’s architecture overnight. So what do you suggest in the
mini audit? What can be done quickly and easily and yield results right away?
>> Title Tags:Assuming we’re working on a B2C retail site, you can manipulate your title tags by providing a formula that puts the company name, product name and product category into the order you like or even into a sentence. This is often a simple change in a template.
>> Meta Description Tags: This works the same way as title tags. Existing data can be manipulated to craft a stronger sales message to increase the click-through rate on your client’s natural listings.
>> Header Tags:Product names and category names are the key. If a product page is selling a fuzzy blue widget, then there should be an H1 tag defining the product name as the most important element of the page. Once again this is a simple template change and minor edit to a CSS file.
>> Image ALT Tags: You can potentially kill two birds with one stone using ALT tags. First of all make sure that the ALT attribute for a product image is the product name rather than a product ID number or SKU. Second, if the navigation for the site is image-based links, the ALT attribute will act as link text so you can get the same effect as internal text links without having to make a client redesign anything.
>> Canonicalization: Does the
non-www version of your client’s Web site redirect to the www version of the Web site? If not, this is a simple fix with three lines of code in an .htaccess file on an Apache-based server or a couple of check boxes on an IIS server.
>> Product Descriptions: Quite often when working with some larger brand-conscious clients you will come across product descriptions that, when taken out of the context of the page, don’t mean anything. “A splash of luxury adds life to any wardrobe.” Is that a scarf? A belt? A necklace? Adding one or two words to many product descriptions can aid your SEO efforts immensely while keeping the brand police happy at the same time. “This leather belt is a splash of …”
So there you have six items that require relatively low levels of it resources and time. In many cases you could implement the first five in a day to a week, depending on the complexity of the CMS/technology being used to generate the site and the availability of someone on the it team to actually do it. Item six is more time-intensive but a good copywriter should be able to buckle down and power through several hundred descriptions in a matter of days.
The additional bonus to this kind of quick-hit mini audit approach is that results for a little amount of work are often tremendous and help sell through the bigger, more complex ideas, like reworking a site’s architecture, which will show up in the full audit down the road.
Todd Friesen is vice president of search at Visible Technologies. (firstname.lastname@example.org)