The Elementary Digital Complete SEO Audit: Part Three – Off-site

Welcome back to the final section of our three part series on a complete SEO audit for your website. By now you should have hopefully got to grips with your technical SEO and any on-page edits you needed to do.

Next up, we’re going to cover the off-site elements that you need to worry about, both through link building and with social media.

Link Building – An Audit

link building audit

A backlink profile audit is essential to any SEO audit. Link building is the lifeblood of SEO, and having a good link profile can make the difference between page one and non-entry. Links play a significant part in your overall SEO profile and the search engine algorithms that calculate where you should be.

You may have, in the past, figured that all was well with your backlink profile. However, even if you aren’t going out of your way to build relationships to get links, you might be suffering from a little backlink blindness. You really need to be aware of what is going on when it comes to links from other sites.

Google can see the links that you are getting and so can you using Google Webmaster Tools. This means it is your responsibility to make sure that your profile is good. Apologising after the fact that you “didn’t realise” isn’t going to cut the mustard with the Google Web Spam team. They’re a crack team of dodgy website assassins and if you’re bad, you’re dead, no excuses.

You might have seen a move downwards following a Penguin release, or perhaps had a manual action warning in Google Webmaster Tools. This should be the encouragement you need to sort out your backlink profile with an audit. Google is telling you nicely to make some changes. You don’t want to see them when they aren’t asking nicely anymore. If you get a warning, you need to take action and quickly.

How Do You Carry Out A Link Removal Audit?

  • There are a number of steps in a link removal audit:
  • Existing backlink inventory
  • Analysis to determine if there are any bad links
  • Removing links manually
  • Link disavowal
  • Finding new link opportunities

1. Step One: Backlink Inventory

You can see your links on a number of websites – from Google Webmaster Tools for a simple list, to Open Site Explorer and Majestic SEO if you are looking for an insight into the sites that are linking to yours in terms of domain authority and trust metrics. Prepare yourself if you haven’t done it before, it can be a shock if your site has been online for a while!

You should look at all of the links to your site, not just the new ones. All of the links are important – even ones from years ago. Whilst we await real-time Penguin, updates are rolled out pretty far apart, with 14 months going between updates at one point, so no matter how old the link, do a thorough check. Any of them could be pulling your SEO score down and what Google deems to be spam now might not have been spam two Penguin updates ago.

2. Step Two: Analyse the Quality of Links

If you want to identify a bad link, look out for these suspicious traits:

  • Links from poor quality websites
  • Lots of non-branded links
  • Blog networks
  • Out-dated directory listings
  • Paid posts or placements
  • Sites that lack trust
  • Irrelevant sites

You can use an assortment of tools to find bad links, but you should also cast your eye over them manually. Look out for ones that make you suspicious; it may well be for a good reason. Visit the site that links to yours to get a feel for the validity of the link. The human eye is pretty good at spotting a bit of spam.

Ask yourself some pertinent questions about the link.

  • Does the site have a focus or is it all over the place?
  • Does the content fit naturally with yours?
  • Do the links make sense in context or is it part of a long list?
  • If it were your site, would you be happy with it?

It’s not very technical, but it works!

3. Step Three: Removing Dodgy Links

You should first try to remove any poor links from your profile manually – a disposable email address may come in handy here if some of the sites are truly dodgy! It’s long winded but worthwhile. You will have to do this anyway if you receive a penalty – it won’t be enough to disavow them. Once you’ve cleared as much as you can you can move on to the disavow tool.

The Disavow tool from Google is what you need to remove bad links from your profile, but you use it at your own risk as Google make very clear. Removing bad links can help you with any downward slides you may have seen after a new Penguin update, but being too aggressive with it can be just as harmful as a bad link. You might think a link is pants, but Google may actually like it and you could harm your rating. If you don’t know what you are doing, it could cause no end of trouble.

Here is Google’s guidance on the subject. I can’t say it enough: you must also try the traditional route of removing links – by asking webmasters directly. Only then should you try the disavow tool.

4. Step Four: Find New Link Opportunities

While bad links are bad, good links are great! You should also take the time to find new opportunities on your audit. Look for sites that inspire confidence, that write on topics close to yours and that are trusted with high domain authority. These will help boost your rankings and provide you with an excellent backlink profile in the long run.

Remember, link building has gotten a bad rap but it is essential to any SEO campaign. Getting rid of bad ones is all well and good, but you need to keep on building new ones all the time. Keep creating content that people want to link to, and you’ll keep on doing well when it comes to your SEO.

Social Media Audit

social media

A through social media audit can help you to identify opportunities and weaknesses in your social media campaigns. By conducting an audit, you can see what is working for you and what isn’t – and therefore do more of what people want. Social media analytics are easy to work with and easy to get better numbers on, as long as you are willing to put in the time to know exactly what is happening on any of your social media pages.

1. Step One: Create a Social Media Spreadsheet

Unlike the last exercise where all your links could be found in one place, all of your social media pages are disparate. Creating a spreadsheet will help you to identify all of your social media pages, who has ownership of them, and if there are pages your company created ages ago that no one has looked at since that day.

Once you’ve compiled passwords and handles, ask yourself if you have spread yourself too thin over the networks. Does each site have its own person handling the work for the page? Does that person have the time to grow that profile and boost engagement?

2. Step Two: Spot the Inconsistencies

Make sure that your profile pictures are all the same, that your handles all match where possible and that the bios are all right. Try to have the same handle across the network of social media sites so that people don’t get confused when tagging you. Even though each social network might be used in different ways, it’s important that all info is kept ‘on brand’.

3. Step Three: Document your Activity

Examine what sort of posts you are making on each network. Analyse which posts are getting engagement and take a look as to whether it’s the right sort of engagement. It’s all well and good getting retweets but if they’re from people who aren’t your target demographic, then chances are you won’t be gaining any loyal customers.

Ask yourself three questions about each network.

  • What is the goal with your posts on this network? Awareness? Traffic? Sales?
  • What content are you posting?
  • Who is your target audience? Why?

Through auditing your current social media setup you can take a look at your social media campaign strategy and see what works. If you have abandoned social networks, close them down. Put the time into the ones that you are actually using and plan an effective strategy.

4. Step Four: Track Growth

Using social media analytics is essential to your audit. You can see how successful your growth has been month on month. You need to keep track of your statistics so that when you conduct an audit, you have the information to hand.

Examine which networks have grown the fastest and what you have done to encourage this, which ones aren’t faring too well, and set goals for where you want to be in the next month – and then the next year.

5. Step Five: Track Engagement

There’s more to social media than just followers. Keep track of the engagement you are getting on your spreadsheet too. Facebook and Twitter both have in-site analytics which help you monitor which posts are getting likes, retweets and clicks.

Ask yourself:

  • Which network has the most successful engagement stats and why?
  • Which month is the most popular?
  • What are the targets we can set each week?

6. Step Six: What’s Next?

The audit is just the first stage. Like how conducting a backlink audit informs the next stage of link building, social media audits can inform your next social media strategy.

Here’s what you need to do after you’ve completed your social media audit:

  • Do more of the posts that get people talking – work out what it was that people liked and run with it.
  • Use older content that worked again in a new way – don’t do more work than you need to – people will respond positively again and you can then use it to convert people, whether to sign up to a newsletter or make a sale.
  • Data-driven content – examine all your analytics to ensure that data is guiding your further growth.
  • Keep track of successes – screenshot your successes for inspiration and to drive you on if you have a bad day.

A strategic social media campaign is one that is run based on facts, not just imaginative ideas. They are important too though!

There you have it – a complete SEO audit from A to Z. Hopefully you can use these posts to successfully drive your site up the Google rankings to great organic exposure. Good luck!

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of Caphyon, its staff, or its partners.

Author: Owen Radford

Owen is the online marketing manager at Elementary Digital, a Leeds and London based digital agency specialising in WordPress and Magento websites.

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