It's no secret that SEOs face many challenges, as evidenced by our "The State of Enterprise SEO" survey. As a member of our Professional Services team, I know first-hand of the teams that struggle with everything from resource allocation to prioritization of tasks after an SEO audit.
You see, in SEO, attention to detail is critical to success. From poorly written page titles or meta descriptions to an unnoticed search engine algorithm update, search visibility, traffic, conversions and revenue are impacted when SEOs fail to pay attention to the "little things".
In order to reduce the overall impact, our team developed what we refer to as "Micro Audits", or small SEO site audits to assist teams in identifying core issues, responding to these issues before they happen, and helping to minimize present and future risk.
These fast and easy website audits are game-changers for our clients as they receive a detailed explanation of issues and how to fix them. This saves tremendous amounts of time and lets enterprise SEOs and digital marketers focus their resources on sections of their site that drive the most organic traffic and therefore value for their business.
Benefits of Micro Audits
Micro Audits allow us to identify and explain in detail any issues our clients’ sites have that are hot-topic concerns among SEOs as well as provide solutions that they can easily communicate across various teams. While a regularly-scheduled, full-site, technical SEO audit focuses on the site as a whole, Micro Audits are designed to notify teams of the following:
- How to utilize the seoClarity platform for further analysis
- The types of custom crawls we recommend clients take advantage of for the core areas of their sites.
Micro Audits focus on both technical SEO items as well as on-page optimizations -- the key is that the topic offers clients increased performance as well as prevents site's from key critical changes, challenges or updates.
Below is a list of some of our most recent Micro Audits delivered to clients.
Micro Audit Type #1: HTTPS
Our team created a Micro Audit around HTTPs in order to ensure that our clients are prepared for the July 2018 update in which Google announced that all sites that haven’t migrated to HTTPS will all be listed as “not secure.”
In September 2016, the search engine revealed HTTPS as a ranking signal. A couple of months later, it started marking pages that collect passwords or credit card details without the SSL encryption as non-secure.
But soon, Google will begin marking ALL non-HTTPS sites in a similar way.
And this change might have significant consequences for brands. After all, sites labeled “not secure” might experience decreased click-through rates. Not to mention that the label might also spark negative brand sentiment.
As a result, many organizations have moved their sites to HTTPS promptly. However, some still experience various issues connected with the migration.
This particular Micro Audit helps us to identify and help eliminate them before they affect our client’s click-through-rates and search visibility.
Our analysis discovered that while most clients have already made the migration prior to January, major brands as well as smaller sites overlooked many critical changes including:
- Updating their robots.txt file to reference https as opposed to http
- Problems with analytics tracking for https
- Internal links not updated to https and thus not passing link equity and value
- Loading of critical third-party assets
- Absolute URLs that are referencing http as opposed to https throughout source code, and many more.
By providing a thorough analysis, tips on how to create custom crawls to identify core issues as well as solutions assists our clients in identifying issues before they happen.
Micro Audit Type #2: Structured Data
Structured data helps Google classify and understand a page’s content. It also provides a broader semantic meaning and context behind the content, helping pages rank better and boost their organic click-through rate.
But it can also impact voice search. In one experiment, Martin McGuire discovered that Google uses reviews and ratings schema to determine what information to display to a voice search.
But why Structured markup for voice search? Martin makes a strong point in the article:
“[…] when it comes to voice search results from technologies such as Google Home, sometimes only a single and the most relevant answer will be provided. This means that competition for that top SERP position will become even greater.
Having the most highly rated reviews, an updated address and all content marked up correctly is what will determine this result.”
Now, most sites experience little or no problems with the structured data but so many miss out on the opportunity to boost their results with it.
Our Micro Audit helps identify not only the common issues with schema but also suggests ways to use structured markup to increase voice search visibility.
Micro Audit Type #3: Hreflang
The hreflang tag is added to sites in order to provide search engines with the preferred version of your site to display to searchers by language or region. In order to add an hreflang tag, your site must have multiple versions of the site, each targeting a different location or language and the hreflang tag is then used to indicate to Google that there are duplicate versions.
We found that most sites and brands are utilizing the hreflang tag but in most isntances are not using the tag correctly. In fact, we’ve noticed first hand that sites without the hreflang tag implemented had lower rankings and poorer search visibility. Most recently we saw US sites beginning to appear more frequently in search results internationally as well as International sites appearing in search results for additional countries.
What’s more, the effect of errors in hreflang implementation goes beyond just displaying the wrong domain version in the search results. We’ve noticed Google listing pages displaying prices in a wrong currency (EUR vs. USD for US customers). As a result, those customers couldn’t purchase their desired items, at least not without changing the currency first.
This UX flaw, however, could easily lead to a greater bounce rate, poor quality signals, and lower rankings as well.
That’s why we’ve designed a Micro Audit that helps identify potential issues with the hreflang implementation.
Some of the issues we commonly identify when performing this Micro Audit include:
- Multiple English language sites that contain the same content without a canonical pointing to the preferred EN versions,
- Sites that are missing reciprocal links (if you reference hreflang on US site to Australia site then Australia site must have hreflang pointing to the US, etc.).
- Mismatches between a canonical tag and the page’s URL that affect the hreflang tag directly,
- Pages with noindex tag that prevents Google from seeing the hreflang tag.
- Language encoding metadata is not matching the page it is on.
- Missing or wrong x-default.
Micro Site Audit #4: Pagination
Pagination helps sites provide a much better user experience:
- Ecommerce stores use it to make browsing lists of products easier.
- News sites split articles into separate pages to simplify the reading process.
- Forums divide discussions into pages to help manage long threads, and so on.
But to help ensure rankings, send visitors to the first page, index content on subsequent pages, and crawl links plus consolidate the link equity, pagination must be done correctly. While pagination has been around for years, our team continues to uncover various methods in which teams apply canonical tags but also in how Google perceives and ranks paginated content.
Some of the most common errors this Micro Audit revealed for our clients include:
- Having one URL listed as an on-page link and another page listed in hreflang tags or canonical tags.
- Not creating a stopping point on the last and final page.
- The page referenced in rel=prev/next is different than an actual page in navigation links.
- Having canonical pointing to page 1 as opposed to the self-referential canonical (pointing to the page it’s on), among others.
- Broken links and missing redirects
Micro Audit Type #5. Mobile Page Speed
As of July, Google will finally use mobile page speed as a ranking factor. And it openly admitted that pages providing the slowest experience will see their rankings affected.
While many websites optimized mobile performance prior to January of this year, many websites still have not optimized their sites for mobile page speed.
Common issues include websites that fail to render under 2 milliseconds on mobile devices. Many haven’t reduced image size, optimized 3rd party scripts or implemented browser caching. While some companies have launched AMP pages, they still have issues preventing them from availing of the technology fully.
Which means that soon, the Google’s Speed Update might negatively affect their search visibility.
This Micro Audit helps to identify all issues affecting the mobile page speed, provide a detailed explanation for each, and suggest solutions or workarounds.
Let me tell you what I believe is the biggest benefit of conducting Micro Audits: saving a ton of time while speeding up greater results.
Being an SEO professional for the past 16 years, I am always surprised by the amount of articles and LinkedIn posts by SEO practitioners who are not defining ROI or who claim that SEO issues cannot be resolved in a couple months time.
Instead of trying to identify issues among thousands of pages, SEOs need to focus their attention on key areas that drive the biggest results first. An SEO audit tool or silver bullet won't automagically solve your site's issues, but with the help of the aforementioned Micro Audits, teams can communicate and deliver on key challenges and reap greater incremental monthly results.
Remember, it's sometimes the "little things" that wind up having the greatest impact on your site's overall health and success.