By Alexander Kesler
No digital strategy is perfect; and, all too often, there are issues that can go unnoticed for long stretches of time. Decreased traffic, drops in rankings or conversions, and low sales and ROI are all problems signaling that you need to audit your digital strategies.
An audit can encompass your whole digital strategy or only fragments of it, depending on your focus and budget. However, any audit you perform must begin with examining your business strategy and its objectives:
- Are your business objectives clearly defined?
- Are long-term and short-term goals clear?
- Are they mirrored in your digital strategy and digital marketing initiatives?
Answering these questions will help you determine which parts of your digital strategy need to be revised.
A successful audit will result in insights concerning the status of your digital strategy as well as actionable steps for improvement. Here are the major areas you should look at – along with resources on how to perform an audit of any of them.
Technical and SEO Audit
The technical and SEO audit is mostly about analyzing how the technical aspects of your Website are performing and determining which elements can be optimized to improve search engine rankings. Even Websites with high-quality content can experience poor search engine rankings due to technical issues such as slow site speed and lack of mobile or on-page optimization.
Elements of your Website you should audit include
- Site crawlability and indexability
- Site architecture
- Site speed
- Internal linking
- Mobile optimization and AMP configuration
- Redirects, 404s, and other response codes
- On-page optimization
- Duplicate content
Getting started with a technical audit can be intimidating – use a checklist to cover all important aspects and make sure you have all the tools you need. To take this a step further, consider these five must-do technical SEO audit items in 2017.
Keyword Analysis and AdWords Audit
Keyword optimization and management of AdWords campaigns is a difficult craft to master. Without a proper keyword strategy you’re not likely to reach your target audience. When performing a keyword analysis and an AdWords audit, inspect the following components and all their sub-elements:
- Account structure
- Campaign settings and themes
- Networks (search network and display network settings)
- Location settings (proper targeting, excluding irrelevant locations, bid adjustments for locations)
- Device and language targeting
- Ad schedules and delivery method
- PPC ads (copy, URLs, ad rank, disapproved ads, etc.)
- Keywords (bids, quality score, average position, etc.)
- Ad extensions (sitelinks, location extensions, review and call extensions, and others)
An AdWords audit can be overwhelming due to the sheer number of elements you need to pay attention to. Start with these four critical areas to consider when performing AdWords audits.
Landing Page Analysis
Your landing pages are where conversions occur. If your conversion rates are low or falling, you should stop and examine what’s causing this suboptimal performance. Maybe your landing pages are not properly designed and optimized. Questions you should ask yourself when looking at your landing pages and their performance are:
- Are all key elements of the landing page present? This includes compelling copy, a valuable offer, a strong CTA, smooth design, brand-aligned imagery, and a simple and effective lead capture form.
- If so, do your landing pages convert? How much, and under what circumstances? Answering this will require you to perform tests to find which elements might be getting in the way of higher conversion rates.
Begin by scoring your landing page using this 15-point landing page audit checklist. Even well-performing landing pages can benefit from an audit. Have a look at Hubspot’s recent landing page tests that increased their contacts by 69 percent.
Strong backlinks are one of the top Google ranking factors. However, unnatural or problematic backlinks and outbound links can be the cause of significant drops in search engine rankings – or even penalties. Performing a link audit will allow you to analyze all backlinks on your site and take the necessary actions to disavow any bad links associated with your domain.
In addition to auditing site links, you should audit your link strategy to see how you can get even more high-quality Websites to link to your site. Growing your Website’s link profile is fundamental for SEO success. There are many ways to create an effective link strategy. In fact, The SEO Project has more than 180 tried-and-tested link building strategies you can use to improve both the amount and type of links to your site.
Excellent content converts long after it has been created. To make sure it continues to serve its purpose, you need to periodically review your content assets and strategy. Ideally, your content audit will help you determine whether you should remove, keep, improve, or consolidate your content.
Before you begin this audit, you need to have a clear understanding as to why you are conducting it. Is it to spot optimization possibilities (e.g., with an SEO focus) or to assess the quality and depth of the content? When you are ready, perform your audit using this handy step-by-step guide or this free content audit template.
Social Media Analysis
Analyzing the performance of your social media strategy should help you provide answers to the following questions:
- Are you using social media channels in an optimal way?
- Are you getting new followers? Are followers engaging with you? How?
- Are your social media efforts aligned with your objectives and goals?
- Are your channels effective in promoting your content and bringing in traffic and leads?
Investing in UX yields significant returns, so you should always be looking to improve the experience users are having with your digital properties. A UX audit can show you how your users are interacting with your Website or app, and what elements are needed to enhance their experiences.
This UX Audit Guide will provide you with all the basics and tools you need to get started with your audit. Once you’re done with that, have a look at the The State of UX in 2017 for additional inspiration and good insights into how UX is evolving.
Auditing Should Be an Essential Piece of Your Digital Workflow
Auditing is a fundamental digital marketing practice that seeks to yield as much data as possible about the current state of your strategies.
Whether you perform one or all of the above audits, the goal is to get a better sense of your opportunity areas. Beyond that, if you turn auditing into a habit, you will drastically reduce the issues you have to fix and raise the bar of your digital strategies.
Alexander Kesler is founder and president of inSegment, Inc.